An accredited election monitoring group for Saturday’s governorship poll in Bayelsa, Search for Common Ground (SCG) has condemned the deployment of hate speech during the current campaign in Bayelsa, especially the use of coffins by political parties.
Joy Baiye, Media and Communication Coordinator, Search for Common Ground, told journalists in Yenagoa, that the action was capable of heating up an already charged atmosphere as the election draws nearer.
Ms Baiye noted that as an organisation that works in the area of peace-building, the group was greatly concerned with the ‘bad development’.
She added that provocative actions of political party supporters and hate speech coming from the two major parties constitutes serious danger to the election and beyond.
“Instances are the carrying of coffins to campaign with inscription of another party’s name on it, the numerous verbal attack by the governorship candidates ,party supporters using online platforms to post derogatory comments about their opponents.
“These remarks are highly disturbing, elections come and go, therefore, no citizen or body no matter how highly placed should be allowed to jeopardise it’s conduct if democracy is to be safeguarded and strengthened. In particular, no election should cost the life of anyone in the state,” she said.
Baiye noted that her group expects the election to be one of the most closely contested in the state under the Fourth Republic, stressing that the potential for violence still exists.
The group urged the youths to resist any provocation to cause chaos before, during and after the election.
“We urge traditional and religious leaders, business community and the academic community to help in making the election peaceful.
“The Bayelsa Election Peace Committee should continue to engage political actors and relevant stakeholders across the state to ensure peace reigns in the state.
“Politicians, their supporters and youths should be orderly and avoid hate speech or spreading fake news either online or offline,” the group added.
It also urged security agents to be professional and neutral in the discharge of their duties.
Meanwhile, YIAGA Africa has highlighted the the plight of voters in some communities affected by flood and the issue of where they will vote on election day.
Samson Itodo, Executive Director of the group, who spoke in Yenagoa, stressed that there were threats that the politicians would weaponise the elections, especially along the waterways.
“In this reporting phase, there are highlights of challenge faced by voters in flooded communities that threatens their right to vote.
Some possible polling units affected are located in Kolokuma/Opokuma, Southern Ijaw, Ekeremor, Sagbama, Yenagoa LGAs.
The group submitted that the trading of PVCs and voter details, and other forms of voter inducement through distribution of money still prevails.
“Findings specifically disclosed ongoing buying and selling of PVCs in Southern Ijaw and Ogbia in Bayelsa state and Okehi, Ankpa, and Idah in Kogi state and distribution of money or gift items in all the LGAs in Bayelsa except for Kolokuma/Sagbama,Ekeremor”
It urged INEC to collaborate with the police to commence arrest of politicians going about requesting for PVC and voter details.
The group also called for better inter-agency collaboration and cooperation between both the INEC and security agencies towards the elections, especially on election day in black spots already identified in riverine areas.