Observers differ on poll conduct
Olusegun Samuel in Yenagoa
The Labour Party (LP) candidate in the Bayelsa State governorship election held last Saturday, Udengs Eradiri had kicked against the emergence of incumbent Governor, Douye Diri, saying the election was held against the cardinal principles, laid down procedures and ground rules
He stated that democratic elections to offices especially that of the governor of a state must be free, fair, credible and peaceful.
This is as some election observers and political parties differ on their findings during the election that was characterised by vote buying, violence and outright irregularities that almost threatened to mar the poll.
While the LP and seven other political party totally rejected the results of the poll in many of the polling units and local government areas, a coalition of observers hail the conduct of the election as credible.
The seven party which include: the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the People’s Redemption Party (PRP), the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) National Rescue Mission (NRM) and the LP, all cited wide spread irregularities and vote buying as their reason for demanding a cancellation of the election.
Eradiri, who spoke with the journalists at his campaign office in Yenagoa, said his party and himself reject the processes and the results of the election.
He said the election was marred by massive and mind-blowing vote buying.
He said: ‘We were shocked that the state government converted all the polling units to market squares and business centres where votes were auctioned, haggled over, bargained for and purchased.
“The state government emptied our vault and carelessly deployed billions of our commonwealth to induced and compromise voters.
“Our state resources, which unconfirmed sources put at over N80 billion were used to intimidate our traumatised people, who have been impoverished by this government. The government of Douye Diri deliberately weaponised poverty and forced the people to sell their consciences for money at the poll.
“I consider vote buying a crime against humanity. I cannot engage in vote buying because it is a demonstration of lack of performance, unpopularity, incompetence, leadership failure and cluelessness on the part of the buyer. How can you bribe people to serve them?
I am surprised that this government resorted to vote buying because I have always emphasised on his incompetence. I am only shocked at the level it took the malfeasance to.
“This government bought each vote as much as N70,000 in some places. The state government has added another record to its bag of incompetent achievements making the November 11 Bayelsa election the most monetised poll in the history of the country.
“The process adopted at the polling units encouraged buying and selling of votes. It made it difficult for voters to even collect their money and still vote their conscience. Each polling unit was clustered by agents of the government, who gave voters tags, ensured they turned their ballot papers to show the thumb-printed party, compelled them to write their names before paying them.
“Officials of INEC and security agencies at the polling units were all compromised to look the other way. They were all bought over to do the biddings of the government and its party, the PDP.”
But in swift reaction, a collation of independent observers, in a press conference, believed that the election was marked by a high level of professionalism, dedication, and adherence to electoral guidelines by INEC officials, and applaud their commitment to upholding the principles of democracy.
They said the smooth conduct of the election is a testament to the strides made in improving the electoral process in Nigeria.
They, however, raised a deep concern over certain incidents of violence, particularly in Brass Local Government, during the election.
While unequivocally condemning the act as they undermine the democratic process and endanger the lives of citizens, the group called for a thorough investigation and prosecution of all individuals involved in electoral violence, irrespective of their political affiliations.
The spokesman of the coalition and the Executive Director, Sustainable Initiative for Nurturing Growth (SING), Olufemi Lawson, expressed dismay over the alleged involvement of the deputy governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Joshua Maciver, in instigating violence in Brass Local Government.
He said: “If these allegations are substantiated, we call for the immediate prosecution of Mr. Maciver in accordance with the law. Such actions should not go unpunished, as they set a dangerous precedent and erode public trust in the electoral process.”
“As we commend the successes of the election, we also urge relevant authorities to take swift and decisive action to address any shortcomings and to ensure that the electoral process in Bayelsa State continues to improve in subsequent elections.”
In company of the SING director was comrade Obu Deborah of Women and Youth Empowerment for Global Initiative, comrade Francis Eli of New Nation Foundation for Global Development, Amb. Phil. Badaki of Total Care for Peace and Development Initiative.
Others include: Comrade Sunny Elekwa of Citizens Right for Peace and Good Leadership Initiative; Comrade Ndubisi of Initiative for Rapid Development of Nigeria; Comrade Jude of Initiative for Youth Transformation for Positive Change; Comrade Angela of Women Right and Peace Protection for initiative for African, HRMEF Foundation, Peace advocate and voice for the common man and First massive Literati foundation.