Okechukwu Jombo writes that today’s supplementary election in Bayelsa will be a testimony to the might of Nigeria’s ability to secure itself by itself.
When the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, cancelled the election in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, SILGA, of Bayelsa State governorship election they said the decision was taken because of violence, the abduction of electoral officials and ballot box snatching.
As the election starts again today, many have asked if those logistics that were not in place have been taken care of by the stakeholders like Police, Civil Defence and INEC so that a repeat of what happened in the last time will not reoccur.
Suffice to say that the Bayelsa Police Command held a closed-door meeting with ex-militant leaders over the supplementary elections in Southern Ijaw LGA and 101 polling units across the state.
The Police Command had invited the ex-militant leaders based on intelligence on security threat against the conduct of the re-run election.
Spokesman, Bayelsa Police Command, Asinim Butswat (DSP), said, in Yenagoa, that the meeting held behind closed doors was fruitful.
Even though he did not provide details but sources in the Bayelsa Police command confirmed that most of the ex-militants leaders shunned the parley. The sources said only two ex-militant leaders, Pastor Reuben Wilson and Mr Joshua Machiver, were present at the meeting.
It was gathered that frontline ex-agitators like, Mr. Ebikabowei Victor-Ben known as Boyloaf, of defunct Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, Sgt. Wari Digefa, Silke Kiletorughedi (Young Shall Grow) did not attend the meeting. Also, Mr Africanus Kaprasia, known as General Africa, and Comrade Eris Paul, known as Ogunboss, shunned the meeting.
Investigations showed that the ex-militants leaders who played dominant roles in the December 5 gubernatorial elections saw the meeting as a ploy to arrest them and keep them out of circulation for the re-scheduled poll.
A group, Patriots of Ijaw Nation (PIN), attributed the poor attendance to the meeting to lack of trust in the motives of the Police. It alleged in a statement issued by its Publicity Secretary, Kesiye Newman, that Mr Ondo Gbekumo, who heads the Special Investigations Bureau of the command, is an associate of Governor Seriake Dickson, a candidate in the poll.
Said PIN, “The meeting was a plot to arrest and detain the ex-militant leaders till after the Southern Ijaw elections. We write to alert the general public, the Nigeria Police, the military, and other security agencies to a plot by Gov. Seriake Dickson, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“The plot is to cause mayhem with a view to achieving dry voting at the upcoming supplementary elections in the state.
“The conspiracy is so alarming that we have decided not to ignore it, particularly, because of the innocent lives that could be lost in the process.”
To this effect the inspector General of Police, IG, Solomon Arase seeing the militants were not repentant warned that the police would do everything to make sure that peace is secured in the state.
He said they are ready for anyone who would want to cause problem during the election.
In the rerun, which will produce the eventual winner, the candidates of the two frontline political parties will contend for no fewer than 100,000 votes in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area and 101 polling units across six LGAs in the state.
In the seven out of the results of eight LGAs declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission, the incumbent governor, Dickson, polled 105,748 votes as against former Governor Sylva’s 72,534, indicating that Dickson is ahead with 33,214.
Based on records from the INEC, SILGA has Permanent Voter Cards collection of about 70,000, while the accredited votes of the 101 cancelled polling units are slightly above 30,000.
With the cancellation, INEC declared the governorship election in the state inconclusive and a new date, January 9, was slated for the rescheduled poll in SILGA and the 101 units.
As the rescheduled election today, Sylva, who is trailing behind Dickson, thinks is poised he will secure an overwhelming victory in SILGA and the units to upturn the majority advantage of the PDP.
Sylva, who spoke through his campaign outfit, Sylva-Igiri Campaign Organisation, said he was confident of victory because the people of Southern Ijaw would vote en masse for him.
The former governor said, “We rely on the people because the people are our strength. Therefore, what we are trying to do once again, is to re-energise and reassure the people.
“We want to tell them that in spite of all the talks, especially concerning violence and all that transpired and with all the threats from our opponents, they should not be afraid to come out in the rerun.
“Because we need the number in order to overturn the majority advantage the PDP already has, it is very critical for us to ensure that the people come out.
So, what we are doing now is engaging the stakeholders, leaders of the various communities and various wards to get them to encourage the people to come out on the election day so that the people will vote for the APC.
“They should know that the more people that come out in Southern Ijaw the better our chances of getting victory over the PDP and the incumbent governor.
“Beyond that, there are also other areas elections will take place. There are over 100 polling units across the state in other local governments. We are also hoping to tap into those other opportunities to be able to help us to overturn the PDP majority.”
Sylva said he hoped the security agencies would create a level playing field for all, noting that the APC was seriously disadvantaged during the last time.
The APC candidate added, “We are also hoping that this time around, the security agencies will not only promise but will actually ensure that they create a level playing field for all the candidates.
“Our fear is born out of the fact that last time, we were seriously disadvantaged because some of the security agencies actively and openly worked against us in favour of our opponent.”
But Governor Dickson said Sylva was daydreaming, saying that he had lost the election ab initio.
He said going by voting arithmetic, the trend of voting and fear of mayhem given the experience of December 6, he doubted if the turnout of voters would be up to 40 per cent of votes recorded in other LGAs during the poll.
He, therefore, wondered how Sylva thought he could win after losing abysmally in six LGAs and with deficit of over 33,000 votes.
The governor, who spoke through his campaign outfit, the Bayelsa Restoration Campaign Organisation, said SILGA is the stronghold of the PDP and that the party would sweep it on January 9.He, however, appealed to the security agencies and the electoral umpire to give all the candidates level playing field during the rerun.
Dickson urged Sylva to swallow his pride and accept defeat, saying that even him (the former governor) and his party knew that the election in Southern Ijaw is a mere formality.
The governor said, “Going by the voting patterns in the state it is clear that election in Southern Ijaw is a mere formality. The election has already been won by the PDP and lost woefully by the APC.
“The Southern Ijaw is the stronghold of the PDP. Former Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha of his blessed memory was from Southern Ijaw. Also, Speaker, Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Kombowei Benson, Chief of Staff, Government House, Talford Ongolo, member representing SILGA in House of Reps, Mr. A. Daniel, are all from the area. If election is conducted in SILGA 100 times, I will win.”
He said the PDP had done exhaustive campaigns, reached out to different groups such as elders, youth, women and men were for the PDP and had vowed to vote for the PDP.
On the part of INEC and the federal government, this election will be a litmus test and failure to conclusively conduct this election will be a sign post of the ability or lack of it for the new administration and INEC chairman to conduct credible polls in the country.