Yenagoa — In a major upset that has changed the political landscape in the South-South of Nigeria, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has increased its visibility in the region by winning the governorship contest in Bayelsa State where its standard bearer, Mr. David Lyon was declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In the governorship election contested by 45 political parties, Lyon scored 352,552 votes to triumph against his major opponent, Senator Douye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who scored 143,172 votes. The margin of votes between the two contestants stood at 209,380 votes
The election which held in 105 Wards and 2244 Polling Units, spread across the eight local governments of the state was blighted by late commencement of the electoral process; incidents of violence, ballot box snatching, over voting and sporadic gunshots. Bayelsa has a disturbing history of electoral violence, which reared its ugly head again in the 2019 governorship contest.
The election produced many surprises. In Ogbia local government, home of former President Goodluck Jonathan, the PDP suffered a setback, losing to the APC with a wide margin. The party which was previously in opposition in Bayelsa state also won in Yenagoa, Nembe, Southern Ijaw and Brass.
Of the results from seven local governments declared at press time, the APC won in five, leaving the PDP trailing in two.
The PDP lost Ogbia local council to the APC just the same way it happened during the National Assembly poll when the party also picked a senatorial seat from Bayelsa East. Jonathan had declined to campaign for Diri, the PDP candidate or congratulate him after he won the primaries due to alleged unresolved issues with Governor Seriake Dickson.
The result showed that the party won the poll with 58,016 to a paltry 13,763 by the PDP in the former PDP stronghold. However, the PDP protested the poll in that area, accusing the army of direct involvement in manipulation of results.
In the home local government of Governor Dickson, Sagbama local government and in Kolokuma/Opokuma, where Diri hails from, the PDP made a good showing, garnering its largest number of votes of 60,339 in Sagbama. Dickson roundly won the APC beating the opposition which had a paltry 7,831 votes.
Aside Dickson, the running mate to Diri, the PDP candidate, Lawrence Ewhrujakpo also hails from Sagbama.
In volatile Nembe local government, where Dickson's Deputy , John Jonah, who was aloof throughout the period of the election, hails from, the APC won the area by polling 83,041 to the PDP's 874. Jonah's younger brother, leader of the popular Otita Force, had earlier defected to the APC.
Nembe is the same area PDP members who were on a rally last week were reportedly attacked. At least six persons, including a police inspector died in the incident.
Senator Diri was announced winner in his own Kolokuma/Opokuma. However, the result looked unimpressive with just 15, 360 to APC's 8,934. Timi Alaibe , who is currently in court against Diri, hails from the area and is perceived to have influenced the votes against Diri.
The Minister of Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva, who is also the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Bayelsa, won his local government, Brass in the governorship election which took place on Saturday. The APC won the mostly riverine area with 23,831 to the PDP's 10,410.
Aside Sylva, a stalwart of the APC who is a House of Representatives member , Israel Sunny-Goli, also hails from the area.
Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, also fell to the APC, with the party winning the election with 24, 607 to the PDP's 19, 184. This was despite the efforts of Mr Keniebi Okoko, a PDP stalwart and former governorship aspirant, who won all the units in his area in Gbarain.
The Returning Officer for the election, Prof. Faraday Orumwense, received the results from the Local Government Collation Officers.
As for Southern Ijaw, the home of Lyon, the APC candidate, the PDP was roundly defeated with over 120,000 votes. The party scored an inconsequential 4,898 to succumb to the APC's 124,803.
In Ekeremor, the APC again showed its newly found winning streak in Bayelsa with the APC garnering 21, 489 to the PDP's 18, 344.
Senator Heineken Lokpobiri who is in court against Lyon, had earlier asked his supporters to vote for the party irrespective of the last judicial outcome.
Bukola Idowu, Executive Director, Kimpact Development Initiative, whose organization has conducted a study known as the Nigerian Election Violence Report (NEVR), noted that there was no reduction in the incidents of violence from what happened in the last general election in Bayelsa state.
On the Governorship Election Day, field officers of Kimpact reported 10 incidents of violence in Yenagoa, three in Ekeremor, six in Southern Ijaw, four in Nembe and two in Ogbia. Some of them include death and destruction of electoral materials.
Also, Addressing newsmen as INEC began to announce collated results on Sunday, Diri accompanied leaders of the PDP including Governor Bala Mohammed, Chairman of the PDP Campaign Council for Bayelsa state and the party's National Vice Chairman for the South-south zone hinted at a rejection of the result which he said was doctored by the APC in collusion with the Nigerian Army.
The Bauchi governor also alluded to a matter which his party brought before the court challenging the eligibility of the APC deputy governorship candidate, who allegedly told a lie on oath. The APC governorship ticket was also challenged in another suit by Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, for failure of the APC to conduct a proper primary.
Both matters were decided at the trial courts against the APC and its candidate, a few days to the election, but appealed both judgements under circumstances that are still not clear and retained its place in the governorship contest.
Bala said, "Ordinarily, if this is a law abiding country, the APC is not supposed to be on the ballot. That party has no candidate in this election as far as we are concerned. All the votes credited to it should be declared void."
Giving credence to the allegation against the Nigerian army, Diri wondered if soldiers have become part of the electoral process.
He said, "We have very credible information that the Nigerian Army aided and abetted the opposition to change results, that we were poised to win."
In its report, the Election Working Group of the Nigeria Bar Association supervised by Mazi Afam Osigwe made some recommendations including:
1. Governments and the law enforcement agencies must develop the political will and muscle that would enable them bring to book all persons and/or parties including members of any security agency who are involved in any form of electoral offences as was
recorded during the elections.
2. Security agencies deployed for election duties should be alive to their responsibilities by apprehending persons who break the law or perpetrate any form of electoral malpractice. Security agencies should not form part of the criminal disruptors of election processes or aid and or condone same by their wilful refusal and or failure to take any action to prevent the commission of electoral offences.
3. Personnel of security agencies at national and state levels must always exhibit neutrality and professionalism in carrying out their election-related assignments in order to engender a peaceful environment for the smooth conduct of elections. Respect of the law by security officials should be promoted and enforced.
4. Adequate protection must be provided during the elections exercise for the Electoral officials and the general populace particularly persons who come out to exercise their voting rights.
5. INEC must put in place measures that guarantee free and unhindered access to the polling units for every citizen.
6.We must devise a way of not making our elections do-or-die affairs. There must be a way of letting politicians know that winning elections must not be at the cost or expense of human lives and limbs and that not winning an election does not result or lead to the end of the world. The spike and brazenness in incidents of electoral violence and commission of electoral offences over the years is most alarming and deplorable.
7. Transmission of results generally, including but not limited to, from the polling units to the collation centers, should be improved upon. Electronic transmission should be adopted. If the electoral system is automated, the chances of rigging, destruction of ballot papers or result sheets will be eliminated. Automation will also reduce cost of election as a lot of paper and transportation costs will be avoided.