That we may have free, fair and credible Bayelsa governorship poll

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On Saturday, November 16, 2019, the people of Bayelsa State will, through their votes, decide the person and party to lead them for another four years. Like Bayelsa, the game is getting hotter even in Kogi State, ahead of the governorship elections.

Primaries have been concluded, and preferred candidates chosen by political parties. Though there are many parties in the race to the government house, the contest in Bayelsa will mainly be between the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

However, having scaled through the keenly contested party primaries, Senator Douye Diri of the PDP and Chief David Lyon of the APC still have issues to contend with as regards reconciling aggrieved members within their parties, who felt shortchanged in the primaries that produced them. But this has almost become a normal occurrence in recent Nigerian politics.

The real deciding factor is how well the APC and the PDP are able to convince Bayelsans to give them the mandate of occupying the government House after the election. In this regard, some have said that the PDP, in spite of initial bickering about the choice of a successor, and the state Assembly crisis, may be at a vantage position. They predicated their optimism on the fact that Dickson had done a good job, protecting the people, and developing Bayelsa, like his predecessors, who were also PDP Governors. PDP is a more popular brand in the state, having ruled for close to 20 years.

More so, apart from riding on the back of Dickson’s achievements, Diri has also been a people’s man, having served as the pioneer Organising Secretary for the Ijaw People’s Congress, as a Commissioner, House of Representatives member, and currently the Senator representing Bayelsa Central in the National Assembly.

Under the former President Goodluck Jonathan administration, he also served as Principal Private Secretary and Deputy Chief of Staff, respectively, in the state. Of course, he had been a teacher, a profession that some say connects him strongly to the grassroots.

The APC candidate, Lyon, is also a well known businessman with interests in the oil and gas industry, who some refer to as a philanthropist, even though others are quick to point out some downsides, which are not unconnected to his business interests. Lyon hails from Southern Ijaw and was endorsed by the Minister of State for Petroleum and leader of the party in Bayelsa, Mr. Timipre Sylva. He joined the governorship race after Sylva stepped down, following his ministerial appointment.

However, with the conclusion of the party primaries and the emergence of the candidates of the various parties contesting in the forthcoming election, more interesting occurrences are expected to unfold in the run-up to the poll.

The most important consideration, however, is how to ensure a credible and peaceful election in the state. Given the hindsight of the history of election violence in the state, it becomes imperative that concrete steps be taken by appropriate authorities to put in place measures to check such an occurrence during the November 16 polls.

The election is important for the two parties. The incumbent Governor would most likely want his preferred candidate to succeed him, both to consolidate on his achievements and to ensure the state does not slip away from the grasp of the PDP.

On the part of APC,  winning the election has been described in some quarters as a “do or die”.  Adding Bayelsa to Edo, the only state the party presently controls in the South South, is definitely a top concern at this point in time. Political watchers have also taken pronouncements of APC stalwarts that the election would be a walk over to mean that the ruling party at the center, may be planning to silence opposition with federal might.

However, it is ok for parties to express confidence the best way they can, what would be harmful to democracy is when the country fails to learn from shortcomings in past elections like the Osun election, and anomalies are treated like the norm in this century.

Law enforcement agencies must satisfy the expectations of the people by ensuring that lives and property are protected and no party is given preferential treatment in the area of respect for law and order.

Parties involved must be civil and avoid attacks that can lead to loss of lives or property and make their campaign issue based. The Independent National Electoral Commission should also, as a matter of priority, address the grey areas of previous elections so that at the end of the day, there is a clear, not controversial winner.

All parties must also ensure that they abide by the Electoral Act, the 1999 constitution, INEC’s Regulations, during the elections. Particularly, Sections 95 and 96 of the Electoral Act forbid violent conduct and use of hate speech by candidates during campaigns.

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