ALL eyes are on Bayelsa State as a section of the state returns to polling stations to cast their ballots in tomorrow’s run-off governorship election.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had rescheduled the inconclusive December 5, 2015 governorship poll between incumbent Governor Seriake Dickson of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, and his predecessor, Timipre Sylva of the All Progressives Congress, APC. The election is taking place in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area and some pockets of polling units.
Tomorrow’s run-off election in the oil-rich state is crucial for some reasons. The result will be a game changer because South Ijaw is expected to deliver the bulk votes. Apart from the political stature of the two gladiators, former President Goodluck Jonathan is a Bayelsan. For the electoral umpire, INEC, it is yet another litmus test of its ability to conduct a free, fair and credible election. The poll provides another opportunity for PDP and APC to affirm their political superiority.
The circumstances that compelled the run-off were tempestuous. Not only was the December 5 election marred by violence, the two contenders were engaged in open recriminations.
There were exchanges of wild criminal allegations and malicious name-calling from both camps. Lives were reportedly lost and victory was already being claimed even when the exercise was inconclusive.
Ahead of the run-off, the political temperature in the state has leapt skyward as the two sides are still talking tough. That is why we are calling on INEC to ensure a hitch-free exercise. Sensitive and non-sensitive materials should be deployed early enough to stave off the kind of controversies that characterised the December election.
Other logistics and personnel required should also be in place. There should not be excuses for avoidable inadequacies.
In our plea for peace, we urge the candidates to shun tendencies and utterances capable of inciting their supporters. Irrespective of what is at stake, no electoral victory is worth the blood of any Bayelsan no matter how lowly placed. We appeal to the political class in the state to desist from making inflammatory and tendentious statements that may further hike the palpable tension in the air.
Similarly, we enjoin the electorates in Southern Ijaw and other polling units across the state to be of good and orderly conduct. Any incitement to an orgy of violence or call to arms should be ignored outright. If governance is indeed rendering service to the people, no politician is worth dying for.
From the security agents, including the police DIG, AIG, three commissioners and five thousand men deployed by the Inspector General of Police, we demand absolute neutrality. Other security agents such as soldiers, naval as well as air force personnel and plain clothes operatives should maintain the peace and avoid being compromised or tainted.