Friday, December 4, 2015 4:20 pm
All is now set for the people of Bayelsa to troupe out by their numbers tomorrow (Saturday) to vote for candidates of their choice in the governorship election that promises to be keenly and fiercely contested.
In all, 20 political parties presented candidates to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, with the sole aim of governing Bayelsa, one of the oil-rich states in Nigeria.
But of these 20 candidates, the major contenders are incumbent governor Seriake Dickson of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and All Progressives Congress, APC’s Timipre Sylva, who is also a former governor of the state.
As at about 11 am Friday, all roads leading to the State headquarters of INEC, located along Esuale Road, off Imgbi Roundabout, have been taken over by stern-looking operatives of the Police Mobile Force. Gaining entrance into the building itself was a herculean task as everyone allowed in are subjected to serious scrutiny and search by security operatives.
However, the situation changed much later when most visitors, including accredited journalists, among who was TheNEWS Photo Editor, were disallowed into the premises. Not even ad-hoc staff who were checking their names were spared.
Agents of participating political parties also littered the crowded premises. Commenting on INEC’s preparedness, Festus Mondibor, from Nembe local government area and an agent of Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), expressed satisfaction.
“So far, so good. They are trying their best for now and I’ am impressed and satisfied. For now, we haven’t experienced any challenge and we hope it will continue like that when we go to the field for the election proper tomorrow.
“We were supposed to leave with the sensitive materials for Nembe yesterday but unfortunately some issues came up . Some of the party agents were of the opinion that we share the materials here while others insisted that we do that at the place. But along the line, we both agreed that to avoid causing any chaotic situation over there, we rather share the materials here,” he said.
Speaking in the same vein, Prince Awotu Onepe, agent of the Social Democratic Party, SDP), said: “For once in life, INEC has proven that they can conduct a free and fare election. We are satisfied with their performance thus far. All sensitive materials were inspected and have been moved out since yesterday with the exception of the one for Nembe local government area which they are arranging to be moved out right now.
“ We pray and hope that we are going to have a free and credible election. The only area we are having problem is the area of the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), because we have information that some party members have flooded some areas with cloned cards. They specifically mentioned Brass local government area. But INEC has also warned the electoral Officers of all the local government areas to be on the watch out for these cloned cards. There is a way that when you slot the card into the Card Reader, it keeps rejecting it and you think the machine has problem whereas it is a cloned card.”
One of the local observers, Ezenwa Nwagwu, Chairman, Partners for Electoral Reforms and Co-Convener, Say No Campaign Nigeria, said they are fully prepared to monitor the election.
“Generally, we are very prepared. I think it is more interesting to have more and bigger citizen oversight,” he said.
Commenting on the political parties and INEC’s performance, Nwagwu, said: “ For Bayelsa, the warnings should go to the political parties because they don’t seem to understand that election is a game, they seem to see it as war. They are generally becoming territorial, saying this is my territory and nobody should come this way. But it’s not so.
“Politics is a competitive business, you allow your competitor to sell his ware and see if the people will buy because the ultimate judge is the people. That’s what am seeing, am seeing a territorial battle. And you know this is an election of pride; we have issues about ‘oh, we don’t want a former President to be disgraced.’ But let the people say so, that’s what I worry about. I wish the political class in Nigeria can understand that this is more about the people than about themselves and that the war mongering that characterises elections in this region, this should be halted for the benefit of the people.”
He lauded the electoral empire for promptly conveying all sensitive materials to the various local government areas. He however expressed fears that observers and journalists might not be able to get to all the local government areas to properly cover the election.
“In that area, INEC has been proactive enough, they ran away from bad weather. I understand that the materials came in on Monday and they got them in here on Tuesday, so they have moved them to places where they will be used. But like I said, it’s also a territorial issue. People are saying, if you take this materials to this place, you want to favour this person and all that.”
“More important is the fact that Observers must be allowed to do their job unhindered. We are told that politicians have hired all the boats, so your access to the boats to even ferry you may be difficult. Those are the challenges that this election will face. So in most cases, journalists and observers may not have access, may not be able to get to the polling areas because about 90 percent of the environment is riverine.”
A resident of Yenagoa, Augustine Berebor, a pensioner, also expressed optimism on the outcome of the governorship election. “We expect a very peaceful election tomorrow because we have more than enough security operatives and the mood of the people is good, they are in high spirit.”