Bayelsa and Kogi “are not easy states” when it comes to conducting governorship elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said.
The INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, said this, on Tuesday, in a meeting with the Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council in Yenegoa, the state capital.
Yakubu who spoke with other electoral delegates from the state, also said the attitude of the political class in both states have remained a challenge.
He expressed his concern on the two states.
”Today, it is exactly 31 days to the kick-off of the offseason election in both Bayelsa and Kogi, The eyes of the entire country and the world would focus on both elections for a number of reasons.
”This coming election would be the first major elections since the conduct of the general elections that would help us to improve on forthcoming elections.
”Secondly, and to be very candid with you my royal fathers, Bayelsa and Kogi are not easy states when it comes to conducting major elections, particularly governorship elections.
”The challenges is not only geographical in terms of the terrain and, therefore, it has an impact on electoral logistics, but another big challenge is the attitude of particularly the political class which has been a major concern to the commission.
”We are all witnesses what happened in the party primaries for the nomination of candidates. Now campaign for votes has commenced, and would continue for one month until 24 hours to the elections,” he said.
Yakubu also disclosed that INEC would be conducting state constituency elections in six polling units in Brass LGA on the election day.
”In addition to the Bayelsa election, we are also conducting state constituency election in Brass Local Government on the same day, the election should have been concluded long ago but for litigation over the number of polling units where the supplementary election should hold following the disruption of the process on March 9 this year.
”The commission concluded that we needed to go back to six polling units. One political party and his candidate said it should hold in ward 6 in Brass in the entire polling unit, these matters dragged on through the courts then to the Supreme Court.
”And finally the apex court decided that the commission was right in conducting the elections in six polling units; so the election would hold in six polling units,” Yakubu explained.
The INEC chair restated the commission’s commitment to conducting free and fair elections in the states.
”INEC has no candidate and anyone who emerges after the elections, would be in the hands of the people alone,” he said.
On vote-buying, he appealed to the traditional rulers and people of the state to ensure that they desist from the menace.
“Democracy should not be bought in the open market,” he said.
He added that the commission is committed to ensuring that the election starts as early as 8 a.m. and had engaged over 10,000 ad-hoc staff.
Yakubu in an exclusive interview with newsmen in September said it would deploy 24,000 ad-hoc staff for the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections on November 16.
Meanwhile, the chairman of Bayelsa Traditional Rulers Council, Alfred Diete-Spiff, assured the commission that the coming elections “would be smoother and hitchfree compared to the past.”
”We traditional rulers during elections and other forms of exercise, we maintain that form of neutrality and as much as you are watching the election we are also watching you.
”We as Royal fathers are neutral, you can be rest assured we do not carry any party cards and we comport ourselves in the highest decorum, we believe whatever government comes in would be given our fullest support.”
He also asked INEC to speak with the army “to control their troops in their conduct on election day to avoid voter intimidation”.
”During the last election, we observed a few things which we found disturbing, the military presence was huge. You would need to appeal with the army, in particular, to try and contain their men so they do not go off their duties and scare out the people off the polling units.”
He also called on INEC to ensure it allows the displaced persons which are largely populated in Southern Ijaw, Brass LGA’s to vote so they would not be disenfranchised.
Diete-Spiff also called on INEC to improve logistics while transporting sensitive materials to different LGAs.
He advised the commission to call on the air force to assist with helicopters in distributing the materials to the riverine areas and the creeks.
”Secondly, one or two areas are not quite approachable with quite a number of the population in IDP camps in Yenagoa and others.
“You should go visit these places and see the need of the displaced population so they are allowed to go back to vote.”
The Ibenanaowei of Ekpetiama Kingdom, Bubaraye Dakolo, called on INEC to do more “in ensuring that the electorate collects their Permanent Voters Cards”.
He said a lot of PVCs have not been collected in the state “because of the long-distance”.
He advised INEC to employ more hands in delivering the cards to the electorate.
”A lot of them stay at a long distance. Many spend at least N10,000 transporting themselves to the commission’s secretariat. This problem has made politicians to ‘sponsor’ (influence) theelectorate,” he said.
Iro Gambo, INEC’s director, voter registry, on Monday, said 923,182 voters were registered in Bayelsa, but only 867,088 voters had collected their cards.
Gambo said the PVCs were made available for collection in all the local government areas in the state between April 2017 and August 2018.
“In all, the number of uncollected PVCs are 33,974,” the director said.