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Fake news poses threat to Bayelsa governorship election—CDD

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THE Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has raised alarm over the activities of media hubs of All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in Bayelsa State shape the narratives of governorship election by sharing false information.

In a report titled: The Godson Turned Godfather: Governor Dickson & Bayelsa’s 2019 Election, the CDD described fake news as a potent security threat to the forthcoming election in the state.

The report which was released on Tuesday provides an overview of the electoral process and the dynamics of the political environment in Bayelsa.

The CDD noted that Facebook and WhatsApp are the two social media platforms most used to peddle fake news and misinformation in the state.

This is complemented by fake news entrepreneurs who circulate the information in markets, football viewing centres, motor parks and bars, the report stated.

“Fake news spread fast and is a potent security threat to the forthcoming election in Bayelsa State,” CDD said.

“Of particular concern is the deliberate attempt by the political parties to spread false information and shape the narratives before polling day. Both the APC and PDP in Bayelsa run media hubs dedicated to producing and disseminating misinformation and the spread of falsehoods.”

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The report also highlighted the tendencies for the poll to be marred by violence citing reported incidents such as the stockpiling of arms and weapons, assassination of PDP ward Chairman, Seidougha Taribi, and sustained and heavy gunfire on 30 September 2019 at the premises of Bayelsa State House of Assembly over its change in leadership.

These it said indicated a strong likelihood that electoral violence will be a significant feature of the election.

“The Pre-election violence witnessed is driven by the political contestations and brinkmanship precipitated by the outcome of the party primaries. The accusations and counter-accusations accentuate the threats of violence on Election Day,” the report said.

It further pointed out the recurrent bickering between the National Publicity Secretary of the APC and his counterpart from the PDP on alleged plans by either party to unleash violence on election day as capable of inflaming supporters.

The report, however, noted that the police in response have announced plans to deploy a total of 31,041 officers for election duty in Bayelsa.

According to the authorities, the report said, the deployed personnel will protect critical locations during the elections, including polling units, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) offices, the take-off point of sensitive materials as well as INEC offices in the state.

On the number of political parties contesting the election, the report revealed that a total of 45 political parties are contesting in the governorship election in Bayelsa State.

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This, it said represents a significant increase in the number of participating political parties compared with 2015 when just 20 political parties vied for control of the state.

On the number of women contesting for the governorship seat, the report noted that while no woman has either been elected governor or deputy governor in the history of the state, there are three women (7 per cent of the total) that will contest for the governorship while 13 (29 per cent of the total) are seeking to be chosen as deputy governor.

It, however, lamented that with the two leading political parties – APC and PDP-having no female members on the ticket and having won 98 per cent of the votes cast in 2015, Bayelsa’s two-decade wait for a female governor or deputy will continue.

The CDD in the report recommended that regardless of the outcome of the governorship election, what should be of utmost concern to Bayelsans is that peaceful and credible polls take place and reflect the will of the people.

It implored voters to shun violence and peacefully protect their votes just as it called on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)to address the incidents of vote-buying ongoing in the form of buying of Permanent Voters Card and also work to stem vote-buying during the elections.

The Centre also called on the leadership of security agencies and her men to maintain a non-partisan stance in the forthcoming elections.

“The security should refrain from being dragged into such sceptre as witnessed during the 2019 general elections,” CDD said.

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