The inconclusive governorship election in Bayelsa State must have come as a surprise to many Nigerians for a diversity of reasons. First is the strong showing of the candidate of All Progressives Congress, Chief Timipre Sylva.
Second is the level of violence that was unleashed on citizens during the election and not discounting the attack on APC chieftains across the state and third is the alarm and mob sentiments that incumbent governor Seriake Dickson has been throwing all over the place, despite evidence that it was the APC whose chieftains and potential voters were on the receiving end of the thuggery.
The results so far released by the independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) shows that the APC performed very well across the state and even in places considered as PDP strongholds such as Ogbia and Yenagoa. In fact it was clear to watchers of the election that the early results filtering out of polling stations showed the PDP leading in several polling units in Yenagoa and elsewhere only for the final tally to reflect something else. Still, the difference in declared votes between both candidates is narrow and the decider could be the results of the Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, which has about a quarter of the state’s voting population and where the APC has many of its key stalwarts, including Sylva’s running mate, Elder Wilberforce Igiri; former Secretary to the State Government, Alabo Gideon Ekeuwei; the state party chairman, Chief Tiwei Orunimighe; former militant leaders, Africanus Ukparasia a.k.a. General Africa and Paul Eris a.k.a. General Ogunboss, among others. It was an area the PDP knew would tip the scales of the election and virtually everything was done to mar the exercise in APC strongholds, Southern Ijaw especially. Some 120,000 votes are at stake here but it was the premeditated manner the thugs executed the rigging plan that says a lot of their motive.
Before elections were due on the morning Saturday December 5, thugs intent on murder had stormed the Ekeremor home of the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, and shot severally into his house. Sylva was also targeted at Odioma in Brass Local Government Area by armed thugs but vigilant security men repelled the attack.
One interesting fact is that it is only APC members that were targeted and suffered these attacks, an indication that the alarm raised by Sylva days to the election that the PDP was stockpiling arms and ammunition for violence was credible. Perhaps the party knew that without such intimidation it stood no chance against APC and Sylva, who has a strong grassroots network and is well respected as a former governor of the state. The protest by youths and women in Yenagoa against the results released so far and the cancellation of the Southern Ijaw elections speaks to this reality.
Dickson’s mob mentality has become so warped that he equates his victory with that of the Ijaw nation. In several places the governor has tried to pitch the election as a choice between the PDP as the Ijaw party and the APC as an invading force, rather than a referendum on his performance on office, which has been woeful to say the least. In desperation, during the campaigns, he tried to reach out to the people of the state, promising that he would deliver on the earlier promises he made and which have remain unfulfilled as his term in office draws to a close.
The Ijaw people are a fearless and upright people who cannot be associated with the scum that the PDP has become. The reports of massive looting that are unfolding daily under the watch of President Goodluck Jonathan cannot be a legacy to the Ijaw spirit of uprightness and if that is what people like Dickson miss as a result of the defeat of Jonathan in the March 28 2015 presidential election, then they must be rejected. It is indicative of the level of pillage that the Bayelsa State economy has been undergoing under Dickson and we must reject a situation where the resources of the state will be used to feed the greed of this visionless elite of the PDP. This is the crux of the current governorship election, where Dickson is determined to pull all stops to distort the voice of the Bayelsa people and the Ijaw nation. He must not be allowed to rig the vote of the people.
It is important that the Buhari regime and the security forces do not succumb to the intimidation of blackmail that Dickson and the PDP have been employing. Especially in the coastal states of Bayelsa, Delta, Ondo and Rivers, the engagement of criminals, thugs and ex-militants, masquerading as community leaders, to rig and inflate results has been a regular feature of the PDP and this should be checked through intensive policing, for the integrity of the electoral process and the results. They must ensure security for Bayelsans as we go to vote in the supplementary poll.
The PDP tactics have been to portray Bayelsa as its bastion and create a siege mentality that the APC is out to ‘capture’ the state. The truth is that Bayelsa people are disappointed that despite the massive support to the PDP during the Jonathan presidency, nothing was done to address critical issues of road infrastructure, pollution and environmental problems that are of concern to people of the state. Also, at the state level, the continuation of the mentality of government-by-revenue-allocation, despite the opportunities for economic diversification, do not bode a future of balanced growth under the PDP.
The results so far released should tell Dickson that his mob mentality and blackmail would not work and Bayelsans are the wiser that neither he nor the PDP represent their interests.
Dr Alata, the Director of Research and Strategy, AMAEBI FOUNDATION, wrote in from Yenagoa.