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December 17, 2015

Like California, Like Southern Ijaw

Like California, Like Southern Ijaw


By Josef Omorotionmwan
THE  impression has been created in many quarters that INEC may have changed its name to the Inconclusive National Electoral Commission. Of course, if it is by coincidence that the two gubernatorial elections so far conducted under the new INEC leadership ended up being inconclusive, it must be a serious coincidence.

In Kogi State, we saw how the death of one of the candidates at the middle of the election introduced a lot of confusion into the process.

Understandably, in Bayelsa State, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, left no one in doubt as to its desire to retain its position as the occupant of Creek Haven, the seat of power. On the other hand, the All Progressives Congress, APC, was locked on the fierce struggle to break the PDP hegemony and prove to Bayelsans that there is a viable alternative to the PDP. In its determination to dislodge the PDP from Creek Haven, the APC relied heavily on the massive support it enjoys in Southern Ijaw Local Government.

At the close of business on Saturday, November 5, PDP was leading at the poll with a margin of 33,154 votes, having won in six of the declared seven Local Government Areas, scoring 105,748 votes against 72,594 votes of the APC.

However, the result of the poll from Southern Ijaw with a total of 120,827 registered voters was still awaited; hence the exercise was extended to Sunday.

While Gov. Seriake Dickson and the PDP were leading, Southern Ijaw was waiting to pull a California on them. In the United States, presidential candidates know that whatever lead they have means nothing until the massive votes from California arrive.

California, which occupies an area of 441,013 square kilometres, is in the extreme West coast of the U.S. It is the last State before the Pacific Ocean. Because of its distance from the centre, the votes from California would invariably arrive last.

Similarly, Southern Ijaw Local Government is the biggest council area in Bayelsa State and it is predominantly riverine, with most of its communities far-flung, thus making effective policing difficult because of the tricky and risky topography of the creeks.

There is an incontrovertible fact that cannot be removed from the Southern Ijaws – they are highly aware politically. By and large, they have block-votes and they are unidirectional. Whoever they support wins. Because of the difficult terrain, the votes from the area normally roll in last.

Many meddlesome interlopers went to work by Sunday, December 6. The State Returning Officer, Prof. Zana Akpagu, maintained, and quite rightly so, “We have yet to receive the results from Southern Ijaw Local Government Area with 120,827 registered voters. As a result of this, I, as the Returning Officer, cannot return on this election until the results of the Local Government are received”.

Meanwhile, the State Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Barito Kpagih, jumped into the fray to announce, “There were reports that the election in Southern Ijaw was substantially marred by violence, ballot box snatching and hostage taking of election officers… Consequently, the Commission has decided, in the interest of the integrity of the process, to cancel the governorship election in Southern Ijaw….”

We search, but in vain, where the REC derives the power to announce the cancellation of a gubernatorial election or part thereof. For all we know, that power is vested in the State Returning Officer. This is where we agree essentially with the APC flag bearer, Chief Timipre Silva, that the election in Southern Ijaw has not been cancelled and that the results should be announced so that whoever is dissatisfied can proceed to the next bus stop – the Election Petitions Tribunal.

Essentially, Governor Dickson serially walked the electoral law on its head. Which candidate would, at the middle of an election, call out the citizenry in violent protest of the election, simply because failure was staring him in the face? He knew, or he ought reasonably to have known, that inciting the citizens against the Federal Government and other constituted authorities is in itself a treasonable felony!

And what was His Excellency doing in Oporoma, headquarters of Southern Ijaw, on Election Day, in utter defiance of the restriction of movement order, until he was chased away by APC supporters?

Whatever the sores were, there is preponderant evidence that this was not the first time the good people of Southern Ijaw were voting massively for a candidate of their choice. Those who have benefitted from the massive votes of the LGA in the past certainly have no moral justification to pitch their voice too high if the same people now have reason to vote against them.

There is no escaping the inevitable conclusion that, regrettably, elections in Bayelsa State are usually volatile. In terms of shooting, violence and other sundry associated irregularities, can anyone, in all conscience, point to what happened in Southern Ijaw that did not happen in Ekeremor, Nembe and Sagbama Local Government Areas?

For those of us who are aqua-phobic, anyone who wants to go and verify the results from Southern Ijaw may not even live to blame himself. We hear the sharks are no longer as friendly as they were in the days of Jonah.

Essays of this nature should have some predictions. If you order a dozen re-runs in Southern Ijaw, the results will not tilt otherwise. Ruefully, we may only succeed in losing a few more lives.

In a situation where we lack enough wisdom to do, wisdom consists in not doing at all. Since time is of the essence, we have no choice but to accept what we now have. And there is perhaps no better way of asking God to give us the courage to bear what we cannot change.

It only remains for us to appeal to the conscience of Bayelsans to begin to embrace elections for what they are – the only democratic means of deciding for themselves those who govern them! They yield no room for violence. Those who approach elections in the spirit of do-or-die, invariably die without doing.