A meeting between the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and stakeholders in Bayelsa State towards ensuring a free, fair and credible governorship election scheduled for November 16 ended in chaos Wednesday.
The meeting was held in Yenagoa and was attended by the INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu; the Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr. Muhammad Adamu, who was represented by the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Abdulmajeed Ali; Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Elders’ Forum Chairman, Dr. Francis Doukpola, and representatives of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The chaotic scene, which started when one of the APC representatives, Mr. Dennis Otiotio, shouted down his PDP counterpart, Doukpola, when he attempted to draw the INEC chairman’s attention to ‘serious violence’ during the last national and state assembly polls, brought the meeting to a sudden end.
Doukpola, a popular politician in the state had raised the issue of the people displaced in the 2019 general election, during the second round of comments/discussion session by leaders of political parties, when he was interrupted by Otiotio, who took exception to the mention of the name of a community in Nembe, where the voters are yet to return to their homes due to the violence that erupted in the area.
While expressing his reservation, Doukpola said the issue of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the state as a result of electoral violence in the 2019 general election was yet to be properly addressed by the electoral umpire.
According to him, “For me, the worst election we had in Bayelsa State was the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections. We had very bitter experiences as a result of that election.
“I regret to inform you that half of the communities in Bayelsa State now are in IDP camps; they are no longer in their communities simply because they belong to certain political party. All efforts to return those people to their communities so that they can exercise their franchise in the forthcoming election are not yielding any result. The name of the community is Basambri…’’
But no sooner had he stood up to speak when he was immediately interrupted by Otiotio, who earlier spoke at the meeting on behalf of the APC for mentioning the name of a community.
“You are lying. These are the elders that are destroying the state by not playing a neutral role,” the APC representatives shouted. After a long while of trying to restore peace without success, INEC chairman and his team hurriedly left the venue of the event with his security cover.
Earlier, the INEC boss had cleared the doubts of stakeholders, stressing that the commission does not have a candidate in the coming polls.
“What is the purpose of this meeting? Why have we called an INEC stakeholders’ meeting? First we would like to congratulate the stakeholders; the readiness of the commission for the elections, and to share with you some of our concerns and how with your support, we can deliver a peaceful free, fair and credible elections.
“Secondly, and more importantly, we are here to hear from you on how best we can work together to make the 2019 governorship elections in the state peaceful, free, fair and credible.
“We want to assure all stakeholders that the Commission is committed to a free and fair process. We shall maintain our integrity. As election managers, INEC is not a political party. We have no candidates in the Bayelsa State governorship elections. The choice of who becomes the next governor of the state is entirely in the hands of voters,” Yakubu said.
Also speaking, the IG, represented by Ali, assured the people that the police would do everything to ensure that the forthcoming election was free and fair.
“We want to advise political parties and their candidates to warn their supporters, and ensure that they conduct themselves in a peaceful manner,” he said.