RESIDENTS of the Bayelsa state capital, Yenegoa, have expressed readiness to vote despite fears of possible violence in the state off-cycle governorship election scheduled for Saturday, November 11.
While some bank on the heavy security presence in the state, others rely on their wits to avoid possible crises.
“This peace accord they’re talking about, I don’t believe it. I know tomorrow, there might be violence. But that won’t stop me, and I will come out. I won’t make it obvious who I am voting for and will be careful. But I will come out tomorrow.
“You know that this election is a dirty game. Sometimes, it is not the person you vote for that will win, Musa Ibrahim, a tricycle operator who plies the Kpansia-Tombia route. told The ICIR in Pidgin English.
Deborah Temerigha, a horticulturist along old Azikoro Road, also anticipates some form of violence at the polls but is banking on God for a peaceful process.
“Violence is what we don’t like. But I am coming out to vote. God knows how to give peace,” she said.
Gideon Ezekome, a trader at the Swali Market in Yenegoa, also told The ICIR that the possibility of election violence would not deter him from casting his vote.
“The way things are now, everywhere is peaceful. I pray that with the security personnel I am seeing in this area, everything will go smoothly. But I will come out fully and cast my vote no matter what,” he said.
Meanwhile, hundreds of women in the state gathered at the Police Headquarters, demanding peaceful elections for the second day in a row.
Some of the protesters who spoke to The ICIR said the protest was a call on the state Police Command to ensure a violent-free election.
“We want everywhere to be cool so we can vote well for our candidate. What we want is peace,” a protester, Janet John, said.
Although the Police dispersed the protesters with teargas, many of them remained by the roadside for hours.
“That we are protesting doesn’t mean that they should pour teargas on us. It is not good. We are not insulting anybody. We just want peace in all the eight local governments in Bayelsa. We have the right to say we want peace both in the counting of the ballot papers and no snatching of the ballot boxes. We want them to stop any person trying to make it violent.
We cannot go to the military because it is not their job, so we are taking it to the Police,” Ossai said.
The protesters also demanded the immediate removal of the state’s Commissioner of Police, Tolani Alausa, for more neutral operations of the command during the election.
The exercise has three major contenders, including the incumbent governor, Duoye Diri, vying for re-election under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Diri had served as Commissioner and legislator under both chambers of the National Assembly before becoming governor in 2019.
His emergence as governor followed the Supreme Court’s disqualification of the initial winner of the 2019 elections in Bayelsa, David Lyon, hours before his swearing-in ceremony.
The court ruled that Lyon’s running mate, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, forged certificates submitted to INEC, which nullified the joint ticket with which both candidates contested.
Following the ruling, Diri was sworn in as governor instead of Lyon.
Diri’s candidacy has been challenged in court following a suit stating that his running mate, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, had multiple names without any evidence the said names were all his.
Another major contender in the election is Timipre Silva, former governor and Nigeria’s immediate past Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, contesting under the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In October 2023, Sylva was disqualified from participating in the 2023 governorship elections by the Federal High Court in Abuja because he had been sworn in as governor twice.
Sylva was governor of Bayelsa state from May 29, 2007, to April 15, 2008, and from May 27, 2008, to January 27, 2012, when a court sacked him.
At the time of his removal, he was being prosecuted for corruption by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), who seized 48 houses from him.
Sylva recovered the 48 houses in what was described as a controversial ruling by the courts a few days before the APC 2015 governorship primaries.
Sylva’s candidacy has also faced other threats, as his running mate Joshua MacIver has been involved in court cases based on allegations of his previous conviction for murder and terrorism in 2006.
He has recently come under fire for making inciting statements during campaigns in the Twon Brass area of the state, urging his supporters to attack opposition supporters.
“On the 11th, don’t joke with anybody. If anybody misbehaves in Twon Brass, chase them away into the sea so they can die. Did you hear? Chase him so he can die. After all, he won’t be the first person to die.
“This time around, when we take it (governorship), we are taking it for final,” he said in Pidgin, a corrupted form of English Language.
A third force in the Bayelsa governorship election is the Labour Party candidate Udengs Eradiri. He has served as Commissioner in the state and was the president of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide.
Two female contenders, no PWDs
Of the 16 candidates in the race, only two are females. They are Mercy Kamelayefa Ogege, contesting under the Action Peoples Party (APP), and Nengimonyo Oguara, under the Action Democratic Alliance (ADP).
Ogege is the president of the Ijaw Women of Substance Worldwide, while Oguara contested in the 2019 governorship election in the state.
Two women are also vying for the position of deputy governor, including Lilian Ladebi Okoya, under Action Alliance (AA), and Doibo, under the Social Democratic Party (SDP).