TRACKING>>Bayelsa stakeholders have asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to reschedule the November 2 governorship election scheduled to hold in the state.
The stakeholders who were at the commission’s headquarters said the date clashed with the day fixed for annual Thanksgiving Day, in commemoration of the creation of Bayelsa State.
The delegation, which comprised clergymen, traditional rulers and opinion moulders, was led by the Bayelsa State deputy governor, Rear Admiral John Jona, who stood in for the state governor, Seriake Dickson.
Admiral Jona told the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu that various interest groups have raised concern when the commission fixed November 2 for the governorship election.
He said that the Nov. 2 fixed by INEC for the election coincided with the date set aside by stakeholders as annual Thanksgiving celebration for the state which was created on Oct. 1, 1996.
“The Christian community approached the governor to plead with you to reconsidered the date for the election.
“We are also concerned that if the election is fixed on that day, it is possible that it may affect turn out of voters.
“It is on this note that the governor specifically selected all major stakeholders to be here.
“Here we have first class traditional rulers, clergymen, Bayelsa Council of Elders,” the deputy governor stated.
He disclosed that the event had been held for the pass seven years, and is backed by an Act of the state Assembly.
“We want everybody to be in the mood, come out and vote as required by INEC. Any other date that is fixed that will not clash with this day (November 2) will be good for us.
” The plea that we are making is that the wish of the people of Bayelsa is also respected.
“As a listening commission, we are very hopeful that the plea will be taken in good light and likewise granted,” Admiral Jona added.
Prof. Yakubu, however, promised that the commission would consider the request and make public its decision on Friday.
“We maintain an open door policy and all stakeholders are free to request for an audience with the commission on any matter they consider important for the improvement of our electoral process,” he stated.
The INEC Chairman recalled that immediately the timetable and schedule of activities for the Bayelsa and Kogi Governorship elections were released on April 9, the commission received a letter from Bayelsa State government drawing its attention that November 2 every year has been designated as Thanksgiving Day in Bayelsa State.
“The state government has appealed to the commission to reconsider the date for this reason.
“The Speaker of the state Assembly, religious leaders and other stakeholders made a similar appeal to the commission.
“Today, all the stakeholders are here to further reiterate their appeal.
“We have listened to you. At the next meeting of the commission, your appeal will be examined and the commission’s decision will be announced by Friday this week,” Prof. Yakubu assured.
He, however, appealed to all stakeholders in Bayelsa and Kogi States to ensure that the forthcoming governorship elections were devoid of hate speech, intimidation of voters and INEC officials, vote buying and violence.
He noted that cases of bombing and arson led to the destruction of election materials and INEC facilities in the last governorship elections in the two states.
“I urge you to appeal to your supporters to ensure that the creeks and waterways, the hills and forests, urban and rural areas, the polling units and collation centres are free of thugs who unleash mayhem that turn a simple democratic process into needless bloodletting.
“I want to assure you that for our part, the commission is committed to a free, fair and credible process.
“We will deploy early, adhere to our guidelines and regulations and ensure a transparent and prompt collation and declaration of results,” he said.
Prof. Yakubu also appealed for rancour-free primaries for the nomination of candidates and deplored the acrimonious party primaries witnessed in the 2019 general elections, which he said, resulted in numerous litigations.
“So far, primary elections conducted by political parties in 22 constituencies across the federation have been upturned by the regular courts of Law on account of improper party primaries,” he added.
Prof. Yakubu disclosed that the commission would soon commence prosecution of those arrested by the security agencies in the 2019 general elections, adding that their case files have been prepared by the Nigeria police.