By Clifford Ndujihe, Samuel Oyadongha, Emman Ovuakporie, Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Emem Idio
ABUJA—ABUJA—FOR the second time in two weeks, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has declared an election inconclusive.
The Commission, yesterday, declared the Bayelsa State Governorship election inconclusive, just as did in the Kogi election..
The sore thumb has remained the highly volatile Southern Ijaw Local Council of the state.
Elections could not take place in the area, last Saturday, unlike other parts of the state and the exercise was rescheduled for Sunday. In spite of the deployment of soldiers to the area, attempts to conduct the polls on Sunday met an impregnable wall, forcing the INEC, yesterday, to again, cancel the rescheduled exercise in Southern Ijaw over widespread violence, ballot box snatching and hostage taking of electoral officials.
The state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Baritor Kpagih, who disclosed this in Yenagoa, said a new date for a fresh poll in the area would be announced in due course.
His words: “You will recall that the Commission conducted governorship election on December 5, 2015. The Commission announced that the polls shall be continued in some local governments including Southern Ijaw Local Government Area on December 6, 2015.
“The results of the elections in all the Local Government Areas except Southern Ijaw have been collated.
“Reports of the election conducted on December 6, 2015 in Southern Ijaw LGA reveals that the election was substantially marred by violence, ballot box snatching, hostage taking of electoral officials including reports from political parties, observers — local and foreign — among others.
“This falls short of internationally accepted standards for credible election. Consequently, the Commission has decided in the interest of the integrity of the commission to cancel the election in Southern Ijaw. A new date for the conduct of the election in Southern Ijaw LGA will be announced in due course.”
Before the cancellation of polls in Southern Ijaw, results from seven of the eight local councils of Bayelsa had been announced. Governor Seriake Dickson, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, who polled 105,748 votes, is leading his closest challenger, Chief Timipre Sylva of the All Progressives Congress, APC, who got 72,594 votes with 33,154 votes.
According to the INEC updated register for the 2015 election in the state, there are 120,827 registered voters in Southern Ijaw Local Council.
Results from five councils – Sagbama, Yenagoa, Kolokuma/Opokuma, Brass and Ekeremor, had been announced on Sunday.
Yesterday, results from Nembe and Ogbia were announced. So far, Dickson won in all the councils apart from Brass, which was cornered by Sylva.
How Dickson won Nembe
In Nembe, which has 14 Wards, the PDP polled 10,768 votes while the APC had 6,974. The PDM scored 76 votes.
Nembe is also the home town of Dickson’s Deputy and runing mate, Gboribiogha John-Jonah, a retired Air Force officer.
According to the Returning Officer, Dr Samuel Ebiye of the Federal University Otuoke, the local council has 66,384 registered votes out of which only 18,799 were accredited.
Jonathan delivers Ogbia
In Ogbia Local Council, which has 13 wards and where former President Goodluck Jonathan hails from, the ruling PDP emerged tops with 13,051 votes, beating APC (9,106 votes). The PDM got 86 votes.
Announcing the results, the Returning Officer, Dr. Evans Eze of Federal University, Otuoke, said the area has 69, 253 registered voters, of which 24,532 voters were accredited. The number of rejected ballots was 880 and total votes cast, 23,358.
Police ban public rallies, procession
Before the results of the polls in Southern Ijaw were cancelled, the Bayelsa Police Command banned all forms of processions, rallies or demonstrations in the state.
Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of Training and Development and Bayelsa Election, Hashimu Argungu, in a statement said information at the command’s disposal revealed plans by some disgruntled elements to carry out illegal demonstrations, processions and rallies in the state capital.
“This form of conduct will jeopardize the ongoing electoral process. Therefore, the command warns the intending perpetrators to desist from such acts as it will deal decisively with any person or group of persons who wishes to engage in any conduct that will compromise the existing peaceful atmosphere,” he warned.
Argungu urged members of the public to go about their normal businesses, “as the security agencies are poised to guarantee the safety of lives and properties.”
Women protest in Southern Ijaw
However, women drawn mostly from Southern Ijaw Local Council, but cutting across all the councils of the state, yesterday, defied the ban on street processions and demonstrations to protest what they described as the widespread irregularities in the conduct of the rescheduled election in the council and called for cancellation of the exercise.
The protesting women, clad in black, bore placards with the inscription,”Leadership is about building and not destroying!” , ‘’INEC are you still independent?”, “Buhari are you still for everybody and nobody?” “No vote in Southern Ijaw wards!”
They moved towards the INEC collation centre, chanting war songs but were stopped by men of the Joint Task Force code named Operation Pulo Shield, the Police and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC.
The aggrieved women, led by the State Woman Leader of the PDP, Madam Faith Opuen, alleged that the decision of INEC to collude with the APC to disenfranchise the people of the state was wicked and unconstitutional.
She said though the decision to reschedule the election was normal, the refusal of INEC to put in place necessary machinery to protect lives and materials for the election invalidates any outcome of the election in Southern Ijaw.
PDP Reps accuse JTF of hijacking poll materials for APC
Meanwhile, the PDP caucus in the House of Representatives, yesterday, accused security agents of hijacking electoral materials for the governorship elections in Southern Ijaw in favour of the APC.
It specifically accused the JTF of chasing away its party chieftains and supporters from voting and facilitating rigging to favour the APC.
The PDP caucus, in a statement read by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Rep Leo Ogor, flanked by Rep Rima Shawulu said:
“The desperate attempt to kill and bury democracy and the right to choose by the APC-led government of President Muhammadu Buhari is to say the least, not just despicable, but also portends end for the nation.
“As it is already known, the people of Bayelsa braved the odds to go out and vote in spite of threat and boast of the APC that it will use security agents and soldiers to take over the state. Citizens were told that they should not bother to go out and vote because the election result had already been written in favour of the APC.
“The people of the State ignored the threats and handed over victory in the state to the Peoples Democratic Party despite the killings, mayhem, ballot box and result sheet seizing.”
The PDP governorship candidate, Gov. Seriake Dickson won in the following six of the eight local government areas, Yenogoa, Kolokuma, Sagbama, Ekeremor, Ogbia and Nembe.”
The PDP caucus said that the incumbent governor, Dickson, who is seeking for re-election only lost in Brass local government area which was won by the APC candidate despite the fact that election in the area was allegedly characterised by brutalisation of voters and snatching of ballot boxes.
According to the statement, Southern Ijaw was the only local government area that results were yet to be declared, adding, “APC stalwarts and leaders are openly provoking our members, boasting that the Army, Navy, Police and other security agencies are helping to write the results of the local government.
“They are also boasting that they are going to the churn enough votes for the APC to overturn the victory of the PDP in six of the eight local government areas.
“The President and his party should allow democracy take its natural course. We wish to remind the APC that if PDP had gone this desperate, the opposition would not have been in office now and democracy may have collapsed. The conducive democratic environment put in place by the PDP is being scuttled by the use of force to rig the governorship polls in Bayelsa which is clearly being won by the opposition PDP.
“The APC should refrain from such acts capable of creating conflicts and eroding public confidence in democracy. We condemn in strong terms the flagrant use of the JTF to chase away voters, stop people from voting and rigging in favour of the ruling APC.’’