As the 2019 elections draw closer, uneasy calm pervades the Confluence state, as the electorate is gripped with fear of the unknown, occasioned by the recent politically motivated violence in the state, which seems like a rehearsal for possibly deadlier attacks during the elections proper.Stakeholders in the state have also expressed apprehension over the turn out of events, describing it as a prelude to what may happen.
They are worried that things are really falling apart, as the central senatorial district can no longer hold together.For a section of the state that earnestly yearned for power to shift after over the two decades of monopoly by Eastern senatorial district, sheer providence had given power to the central on a platter of gold.The sudden death of late Prince Abubakar Audu, while coasting to victory as the All Progressives Congress’ (APC) candidate in 2015, cleared the coast for Governor Bello’s nomination, to replace Audu.
Bello, however, won the supplementary election and became the state governor, thereby breaking the jinx.Ever since, Kogi Central had become another hotbed of political maneuvering, as the governor is not leaving any stone unturned to secure his constituency for APC.Many opposition politicians from the zone are being wooed into APC to expand its horizon for victory in 2020.Some prominent politicians from the district actually dumped the PDP for the APC. Hence, a grand reception was organised to receive the decampees at a mega rally in Lokoja recently.
Since then, the polity has never remained the same. However, the senatorial district has continued to remain a PDP’s stronghold, especially as Ahmed Ogembe, the senator representing the district, won election on the platform.
Political analysts said so long Ogembe remains a PDP stalwart, and with his antecedent of being a grassroots politician, the ruling APC would never be comfortable, especially as it was gathered that he had turned down several overtures to jump ship.
So, it was not a surprise, when unidentified thugs invaded Afims Hotel, venue of his empowerment programme for women, mostly widows, to unleash violence two Saturdays ago. Many of the women sustained injuries. The senator was lucky to have arrived the venue a little after the mayhem.
Also, the programme he organised to empower his constituents turned awry, as suspected political thugs attacked his supporters and several beneficiaries.Reliable sources disclosed that the violence disrupted the event, where Ogembe was billed to distribute items to more than 1,000 women drawn from the district’s five local government councils.
The Guardian gathered that the hoodlums stormed the venue brandishing dangerous weapons as early as 8:00 a.m.And shortly after the incident, the state government allegedly issued a statement proscribing all political activities in Kogi Central, citing security challenges.But in a bid to send strong statement to his attackers, Ogembe went on to hold the event at the same venue after the attack and the beneficiaries were not disappointed at the end.
Addressing his supporters and beneficiaries of his empowerment initiative, the senator initially absolved Governor Bello’s administration of the attack. He expressed regrets that some persons have become willing tools for enemies of the state.He advised those behind the attack to desist and find other means of showing support for the governor, rather than creating problems. He said the issue had been reported to appropriate authorities for investigation.
In what seemed like a well-orchestrated design to send jitters down the senator’s spine, the suspected hoodlums allegedly launched another attack on some houses belonging to the senator the following day.Other houses torched were those of a former member of the House of Representatives, Abdulkarem Salihu, the state PDP financial secretary, Jude Sule, and the PDP chairman in Okehi, Adinoyi Aroke, as well as that of the party’s youth leader, M. Haruna.
The previous attacks took place at a hotel in Okene, while the fresh one happened in Okene, Okehi and Adavi local council areas.An eye witnessed told The Guardian that the suspected thugs invaded the area with dangerous weapons, and shot sporadically into the air before launching the attack.Ogembe later said in a statement that those behind the attack were coordinators of a killer squad being trained to harass, intimidate and unleash mayhem on members of opposition party in the central senatorial district.He said: “We are not only calling on security agencies to effect their arrest, we are also asking for their prosecution, because we have enough evidence to sue those behind the crime.
“After they tried severally to stop the empowerment programme from holding, and were resisted by youths and a team of security men, they later in the night sent thugs to destroy the houses and belongings of PDP members.”He said the threat to his life forced him to embark on a night journey to Abuja, and that the governor’s reluctance to issue any statement condemning the attack after 24 hours showed that he was fully in the picture.
Meanwhile, the state PDP has condemned the violence. The party’s state Publicity Secretary, Bode Ogunmola, alleged that the thugs, who were obviously sponsored by the ruling APC in the state, harassed PDP members and destroyed their properties.According to the executive director, Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution, Idris Miliki Abdul, the new development in Kogi central needs quick intervention by relevant stakeholders before it gets out of hand.
The immediate past state deputy governor, Architect Yomi Awoniyi, said the attack on Senator Ogembe and Honourable Abdulkarem Salihu both of the PDP by persons yet to be identified portends great danger for the polity going forward. He said: “The two gentlemen are very strong PDP stakeholders in Kogi Central senatorial district. The early incursion of violence into politics in the central this time is showcasing what is likely to happen, when the elections proper are afoot.
“It is most unfortunate that this is happening and it must be condemned by all decent citizens of our state. I call on the governor to ensure that security apparatus is deployed to enable these unidentified assailants to be caught and brought to book.”He advised PDP supporters in Kogi Central to remain calm and not take the law into their hands, but allow security operatives to do their work.He indicated that the resurgence of rebranded PDP is giving a lot of people the jitters.“I know that the PDP is poised to achieve greatness again and my sincere hope is that the PDP faithful across each senatorial district will remain steadfast.
“PDP’s strength is evidenced by the way new converts are coming in to the fold. A lot of our stakeholders are finding their voices,” he said.
A former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, who was also an acting governor, Honourable Abdulahi Bello, said the attack on Ogembe and his supporters was shocking in the sense that, the intent of his empowerment programme was for public good and as such, disrupting him was somehow strange.
“I personally abhor criminality and or any kind of anti-social tendency and, therefore, urge all concerned to exhibit high level of restraint and ensure they uphold respect for the individual’s rights of Association under our constitution. The attack and counter-attack was unfortunate and unnecessary,” he said.
The Ebira Youth Congress (EYC) observed that return of political violence to the central is a matter of grave concern, as the situation was gradually degenerating into a horrible state.Though the Central senatorial district had been notorious for politically induced violence, all that fizzled out with former Governor Wada’s no nonsense posture to thuggery. In recent times and in spite of Governor Bello’s effort to tackle them, the issues of insecurity and political violence have reemerged.
Still in the central senatorial district Mallam Abdulmumin Yaqub, a labour leader and his friend, Mallam Ibrahim Otaru, were allegedly gunned down at the former’s home in Ozuwaya, Bariki Ward of Okene Local Government Area around 7pm last November.Abdulganiyu Aduki, an artisan was killed around 7:30pm on October 31 2017 at Nagazi in Adavi Local Government Area.
Similarly in Kogi East in the evening of December 18 2017, Chief Arc. Gabriel Aduku, former state Minister of Health also escaped assassination attempt, as some gunmen numbering six invaded his house in Anyigba. Senator Alex Kadiri, an APC leader from Kogi East was attacked at his Odu ward, where he was holding consultations with his political associates.
And in Kogi West, the senator representing the district, Dino Melaye was attacked by unknown thugs with stones, pure water sachets and other dangerous weapons, including charms during the Kabba Day celebration. He, however, escaped while some of the thugs were arrested and taken away in prison vehicle.