© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Bayelsa polls: Voters say election is peaceful, despite episodes of violence, vote-buying, flooding
Voters: We are glad about peaceful poll
IN SPITE of pockets of violence and vote-buying observed by The ICIR during the Saturday, November 16 election held in Bayelsa State, the electorate has described the poll as relatively peaceful.
The voter’s turnout was high in places visited by The ICIR but election materials arrived late in most of the 1,804 polling units.
Voters, particularly in the mainland areas of the eight Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Sagbama, Ogbia, Kolokuma/Opokuma and some parts of Ekeremor LGA expressed surprise on the successful poll, contrary to the initial apprehension witnessed days to the election.
Despite the heavy downpour in Imiringi, Otuoke and other parts of Ogbia LGA, the voters remained resolute to exercise their voting rights. Pregnant women, physically challenged and aged persons defied the weather to stay through the voting process.
“When we first arrived here, there was an issue with the card reader. Fortunately for us, it was solved very quickly and voting started and went very well. There was no problem at all,” Winstone Abali (58) from Imiringi, Ogbia LGA told The ICIR.
“I’ll give the officials almost 90 percent success for the work done.”
Another voter, Esther Otobo, the 43-year old applicant described the poll as calm, even as she managed from being beaten by the rain at the balcony to the primary school used as a polling centre.
“Police presence really caused calmness, so the election has been peaceful,” says Otobo. “Though the rain interrupted the process for a while, the queue is still moving.”
However, she advised the electoral commission in subsequent elections to provide extra card readers in case a single Permanent Voters Card (PVC) reading machine fails in a highly-populated polling unit, the alternative could be adopted.
“It is very orderly and peaceful,” 59 years old Benjamin Okorodas, a resident who had lived in Ogbia for 11 years added. “The rain altered the process but it still went fine gradually.”
Flooded but not deterred
Despite flooded communities in Kolokuma/ Okpoluma local government area – Ward 6, Polling Unit 3 and 4, voters had to access the communities via canoes to access the polling units.
The same commitment was witnessed in other polling centres visited within the area such as Sampou.
“There is peace, we are happy people are voting,” says Canice M, a police officer assigned to PU 3.
The obviously excited police officer narrated how the security team had arrived night to the poll. This, he noted encouraged the voters with initial believes that the election was held Friday night until the electorate was rightly advised.
“We actually slept here,” Rebecca Michael, a female police officer swiftly added.
But, The ICIR observed a group of thugs loitered around the polling units with threats to disrupt the system but minutes after returning from the apartment of Diri Duoye, the gubernatorial candidate, there was sudden calm.
Meanwhile, at polling units under Opolo Townhall/community, Yenagoa there were reported cases of sporadic shooting by armed thugs to disrupt the election.
Violent attacks and ballot boxes snatching were also reported in Nembe and Southern Ijaw respectively.
“In Ward 12 and 13, Okpoama, Southern Ijaw LGA, some political thugs, led by the local government chairman hijacked INEC materials and disrupted the voting process,” a report Watching the Vote by YIAGA Africa noted.
With an exceptional strategy, party agents across most of the polling units visited by The ICIR induced the electorate with cash ranging from N2000 to about N7000. The style adopted was via signs and body language through a fixer.
For instance, in Ward 10, PU 9, Oluozi Obuware Quarters, Sagbama LGA, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) allegedly offered N2, 000 to influence voters. An eye witness, who pleaded anonymous said four persons he knows were offered the said sum each, adding that they might pay more persons.
“APC cannot win in Bayelsa state…PDPs are paying N2000 but APCs are not paying N1, 000. I have not seen anybody paid. They are only causing confusion here.”
“I have seen up to four people paid by PDP. They are still more”
In Otuoke, Ward 13, PU 39, Ogbia local government, voters either got between N5000 and N7, 000. But in other polling units within same community, it was N2, 000.
The ICIR observed how a party agent positioned himself by a bar spot and directs voters to the rear side of PU 39 to claim their rewards.