Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The Bayelsa governorship election is now less than two weeks away, but there are already ominous signs that the contest will not only be tension-soaked, but might again, lead to loss of lives just like previous polls in the state.
In the Presidential, National and State Assembly polls held earlier in the year, not only were some residents maimed, but at least five persons had their lives cut short, even though it appeared that less was at stake than the impending governorship election scheduled for November 16.
During the poll, Seidougha Taridi, a leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Southern Ijaw and a Government House photographer, Reginald Dei, were brutally murdered. A Deputy Commissioner of Police, Kola Okunola, was lucky to have escaped death in Brass when he was attacked by youths suspected to be loyal to the opposition in the state.
In the build-up to that same election, Braye Embikoro, said to be a loyalist of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was killed in Tungbobiri, Sagbama, while 26-year-old Kenneth Adebo, another APC supporter, was shot dead in Nembe-Bassambiri. Months after, persons who were displaced during the violence have not been allowed to return to their homes.
Till now, there’s no record that the perpetrators of those killings have been made to face the law, which according to close observers, emboldens future culprits.
Again, tension is already building. Allegations of unprovoked attacks , at least on two occasions, on members of one of the big parties, in the last few days, have continued to ring. The cycle of violence is even more surprising, given that the state prides itself as mono-cultural, almost mono-lingual and largely monolithic community of Ijaw people, one of the few in the Niger Delta with such peculiar history.
Less than 72 hours ago, the PDP condemned what it said was a serious attack on its members and supporters in Nembe by thugs suspected to be loyal to the opposition APC.
The PDP members and supporters were said to be on their way to the campaign rally of the party in riverine Akassa, Okpoama and Twon-Brass, mainly seen as the stronghold of the APC, but drove into Igopiri instead of Nembe city to board their boats.
The party’s campaign council said its members were immediately rounded up by a group of APC youths who descended and inflicted bodily harm on some of them and also dispossessed them of their phones and other personal effects.
Jonathan Obuebite, Spokesman of the PDP campaign, noted that the “mindless and unprovoked attack was a direct affront to the peace resolve of the PDP and all its members.”
Sounding a note of warning, Obuebite stressed that the ‘political maturity’ of the PDP and its candidate, Senator Douye Diri should not be taken as a form of weakness.
“If steps are not taken to avoid any further attack, no party will have the opportunity to freely campaign again as political violence is not the monopoly of anyone or party,” the PDP warned.
The attack came just a few days after an alleged similar one on a Special Adviser to Governor Seriake Dickson, Owoupele Bobolayefa, who the suspects, the party insisted were putting on fez caps and T-shirts of the APC during the bloody encounter.
“The armed thugs numbering five who were wearing branded T-shirts of the APC, and the party’s face cap, laid an ambush for Owoupele at a car wash at Opolo, Yenagoa, where he was attacked around on Thursday.
“We wish to condemn in the strongest possible terms, the primitive penchant of the APC in Bayelsa State for needless aggression and violence as their strongest point in the ongoing political contest in the state,” the party said.
After the initial arrest of three persons and their release a few hours later, the police have remained mute on what really transpired and what they intend doing to stop future occurrences, going forward.
But Doifie Buokoribo, the APC Spokesman in the state, described the accusation as reckless, stressing that it was strange that any member of the party would be decked in uniforms bearing APC logo and then proceed to carry out such an action.
“We consider the accusation reckless, irresponsible and provocative. It is unthinkable that any true APC member will wear APC-branded T-Shirt and cap to embark on such a nefarious act.
“We insist that if indeed there was an assassination attempt on an aide of Governor Dickson, it is a PDP family affair. Our party should not be dragged into it,” the APC said.
The opposition party in the state accused the PDP of trying to foster panic in the state to prepare the ground for a state government-sponsored violence ahead of the November 16 governorship election.
The brewing tension is despite several representatives from the United States, European Union and the United Kingdom, who have visited the two major contenders, Douye Diri of the PDP and David Lyon of the APC on the need to ensure a decent campaign devoid of violence.
It’s still early days yet, but if the trend continues, the view of many observers is that more lives will likely be lost in the build-up to the poll and as usual everyone will do what they know best: Simply move on.
Tension is already building. Allegations of unprovoked attacks , at least on two occasions, on members of one of the big parties, in the last few days, have continued to ring. The cycle of violence is even more surprising, given that the state prides itself as mono-cultural, almost mono-lingual and largely monolithic community of Ijaw people, one of the few in the Niger Delta with such peculiar history
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