Based on results announced on Sunday by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Governor Seriake Dickson, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate is leading by a slim margin over his closest rival and candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Timipre Sylva.
The returning officer for the election and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calabar, Prof. Zanu Akpagu, presided over the results from only five of the eight local government areas of the state. Results from the five council areas saw Dickson beating Sylva in Kolokuma/Opokuma, Sagbama, Ekeremor and Yenagoa, while Sylva won only in Brass. After the announcement of the five local councils, Dickson led Sylva by 25,415 votes.
INEC has not announced results for Ogbia — former President Goodluck Jonathan’s council — and Nembe where elections were held on Saturday, stating instead that the results would be made public this Monday at 10 am.
The returning officer for Yenagoa said 16 polling units in the local council were cancelled due to ballot snatching, violence and attack on electoral personnel; that of Sagbama said elections did not hold in six polling units because of malfunctioning card readers and election violence; in Brass, the election did not hold in some areas owing to violence while election results were cancelled in six polling units due to over voting.
Similarly, in Ekeremor, the returning officer said there was cancellation in some wards due to ballot snatching, violence and over voting.
But the bigger headache was Southern Ijaw Local Government Area where the election was postponed to Sunday due to an outbreak of violence in the council on Saturday.
Despite the postponement, there was still mayhem yesterday in the local government, which is the largest in terms of the number of registered voters and is expected to determine the outcome of the election, as heavily armed Niger Delta militants in the area had a field day intimidating voters, party agents and INEC officials.
In the melee, about 20 members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) were held hostage by the militants at Ekowe police station in Southern Ijaw.
Also, soldiers on election duty at Oporoma, headquarters of the council, stopped the police from transferring APC thugs arrested with guns.
The thugs were believed to be working with an ex-militant leader, General Africa, who is from Olugbobiri.
But they were not as lucky in Opuama, Eniwari, Ekowe, Egbomotoru I and II communities, where security personnel escorting electoral materials were overpowered by armed thugs and all the electoral materials taken away.
According to reports, the Eniwari community was also invaded by heavily armed thugs, who fired sporadically into the air.
Reports also had it that one Major Sanni, who was the officer in charge of the alleged illegal operation in Southern Ijaw, said he was acting on the strict instruction of the Minister of Defence, Mallam Dan Ali, who incidentally was the same person who conducted the primary that saw Sylva emerge as the APC governorship candidate after the botched primary earlier conducted by Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State.
Despite the hijacked materials, INEC officials were seen forcing their ad hoc staff, including the corps members, to travel to various units around 6.30 pm to conduct the election.
Concerned that the election might take place in the dark as a result of lack of electricity, and the militants could have a free reign to create havoc, Dickson raised the alarm over the decision to hold the election after nightfall.
A media aide of the governor, Mr. Francis Agbo, alleged that INEC insisted on conducting the election in Southern Ijaw last night at all cost so as to rig the local government poll in APC’s favour and offset Dickson’s lead in the poll.
According to him, “INEC is insisting on conducting the election in Southern Ijaw this night at all cost to rig the place for APC so as to cancel Governor Dickson’s lead in the poll.
“So far, we have won in six local government areas, while Sylva won Brass. The eighth local government – Southern Ijaw – is where they want to take to cancel the lead.”
He said the governor had summoned a commission of enquiry to investigate the atrocities perpetrated by officials of state, whether federal or state government, to answer to the crimes against the people of Bayelsa State.
Equally, the senator representing Bayelsa East in the National Assembly, Senator Ben Murray Bruce, promised to head to court if more deaths were recorded in Southern Ijaw due to INEC’s insistence on holding the election in remote creeks in the dead of the night.
He said he was less concerned about which party wins the election, but was more interested in the wellbeing of the people who might be exposed to violence that could be unleashed by militants desperate to rig the election.
“There is no electricity in these areas that are very remote, so I have made it clear to the INEC chairman, the electoral commissioner in charge of this state, the IG and DIG that if any death is recorded again, I shall launch an enquiry and head to court to ensure that they are charged for murder,” he said.
In its reaction to the Bayelsa poll, the leadership of the PDP alleged yesterday that it had unearthed a plot by the APC to rig the election in the areas in which voting was rescheduled for yesterday in the state.
In a statement issued by the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, the party said it was alerting “all concerned that the APC and the military have connived to rig the elections in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State”.
“This rigging is being coordinated by the same Army Major who supervised the killings yesterday. The Major has handed most of the sensitive materials to APC agents to fill and return as results in the evening,” he stated.
According to him, the Southern Ijaw Local Government Area is the largest in the state and the APC wants to use this scheme to inflate figures in favour of their candidate.
Omolara Adegoke- Abuja
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