Some grassroots leaders in Bayelsa State have expressed fear that the All Progressives Congress’ threat to boycott the August 10, 2019, over Peoples Democratic Party’s alleged plot to rig the polls, may affect the party’s chances in the November 13 Governorship Election, reports Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu.
AS Bayelsa State prepares for this year’s August 10 Local Government Elections, some members of the leading political parties in the state, especially the main opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC), are wary that the outcome of the election would be a pointer to the result of the November governorship election. This fear has mainly informed the reaction of party supporters and other stakeholders and has, as a result, raised the political tempo.
In fact, since April when Bayelsa State Independent Electoral Commission first announced that the state’s local government elections will hold on July 27, 2019, the state’s political theatre has garnered more steam.
Dr. Bertola Perekeme, the former Chairman of the state’s electoral commission (BYSIEC), while announcing the July date then had assured that the elections would be free, fair, credible and conclusive.
“We shall uphold all tenets of democracy and ensure that the process is fair and seen by all to be so,” he said.
Probably as a response to, and acknowledgement of, the rivalry between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the main opposition, the All Progressives Congress (APC) over control of the state, Perekeme said his commission will work in synergy with all stakeholders and hold regular consultative meetings to ensure a hitch-free election exercise.
Even with the assurance, it was observed that the tension at the grassroots has continued to rise even as the two leading political parties accuse each other of trying to manipulate both the LG and the governorship elections.
The fear heightened when Perekeme later announced postponement of the election to August 10. Some insiders had alleged then that the sudden postponement was informed by some disagreement. This was however denied by officials of Bayelsa State Independent Electoral Commission (BYSIEC).
But instead of abetting, the tension over the conduct of the election peaked late last month, when Perekeme suddenly resigned his position as the Chairman of Bayelsa State Independent Electoral Commission. In the resignation letter, dated May 31, 2019 and addressed to Governor Seriake Dickson, Perekeme said he had to leave the office because of fear over his life and that of his family members. He however thanked Dickson and the Government of Bayelsa State for giving him the opportunity to serve in that capacity. He however expressed hope that his action will not jeopardize the planned grassroots polls.
Accepting the resignation, a statement signed by the state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson, said Governor Dickson accepted the resignation and thanked Perekeme for his services to the commission, particularly for setting in motion the process to conduct the August 10 local council election.
To allay the fear of many; the government, through the statement, also said the local government election would still go on notwithstanding the resignation of BYSIEC’ boss.
But the state Chairman of PDP, Chief Moses Cleopas, in a statement, called on the state government “to ensure the conduct of the local government elections despite threats by elements of the opposition” in the state..
“Investigations our party conducted into this sudden development revealed shockingly that Dr. Perekeme and members of his family were threatened by members of the opposition political parties who lack the capacity to win any free and fair electoral contest in Bayelsa,” he said inviting the police to investigate the matter.
Coming barely ten weeks to the state’s local government election, analysts feared that the sudden resignation of BYSIEC’s boss may be a bad omen as it further confirmed the feared desperation over the control of the 105 councillorship seats and eight local government chairmanship seats in the state.
According to James Abowei, “The desperation here today over the local government elections is borne out of the popular belief that the outcome of the council election will be a pointer to how the leading parties would fare in the November governorship election.
The confusion over the polls took another turn at the middle of this month, when APC, expressing disagreement with the state government’s handling of the LG polls, said it would boycott the August 10 exercise.
The Publicity Secretary of the party in the state, Doifie Buokoribo, said “the poll was a ploy by the current administration of Governor Seriake Dickson to use the council election to plant his men, who would rig the forthcoming November 16 governorship polls in favour of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“Dickson’s dramatic decision to hold local council polls a few months to the end of his tenure indicated that the governor had a hidden agenda,” he said, adding, “APC would not waste it’s time to take part in an election that would be conducted by an electoral umpire chaired by a card-carrying member of the PDP.”
He also alleged that the short notice for the election released by BYSIEC was also part of the grand plot by Dickson and the PDP to compromise the council polls.
“The rules are rigged against us in the APC and we don’t stand a chance.
“For us, the pertinent question is: how come that for close to eight years, Dickson did not deem it fit to conduct local council election?
“When he is about to go; that is when suddenly he remembers to conduct local government election. I mean, he has an agenda.
“He wants to use the council chairmen to compromise the forthcoming governorship election. That’s one of the ways the PDP is trying to rig the governorship election.
“We are not going to be part of that and we will have nothing to do with it, by participating in the local council election,” Buokoribo said.
Recent reports said APC may not be the only opposition party that has threatened to boycott the LG polls. About 76 other political parties are said to have threatened to boycott the local council election if the Dickson administration did not remove the new Chairman of BYSIEC, Ball Oyarede.
The parties, under the auspices of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) in the state, led by Eneyi Zidongha, recently told newsmen that they had given the governor three working days to sack Mr. Oyarede.
According to them, “Oyarede was a member of the immediate past fifth Bayelsa Assembly, representing Ekeremor Constituency One on the platform of the PDP.
“Perekeme, erstwhile Chairman of BYSIEC, who resigned on May 30, is now a candidate for Ekeremor Local Government Chairmanship seat under the platform of the PDP,” they complained. The group also wondered why Dickson suddenly decided to conduct a council election at the tail end of his administration.
Governor Seriake Dickson, had kick started the verbal exchanges, when he accused the APC of planning to boycott the council election because the party lacked the capacity to win any election in Bayelsa State.
He made the allegation through a statement by his Special Adviser on Media Relations, Fidelis Soriwei, when he said “APC lacked the popularity and the capacity to challenge the PDP in any election under his leadership.”t.
It its reaction, the APC, in a statement by its State Publicity Secretary, Doifie Buokoribo, said, “If PDP is the main house, the BYSIEC is the back house. In the past two months, this electoral outfit has had three chairmen.
“All of them are card-carrying members of the PDP. The first one is now a candidate for the same election he was scheduled to conduct.
“The second one just rounded off his tour of duty as a member of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly under the platform of the PDP.
“The incumbent served as a local government council chairman under PDP,” he said.
FEAR IN APC OVER BOYCOTT THREAT
But some sources at the grassroots in Bayelsa State told The Nation during the week that most of the APC leaders at the grassroots are worried that the reported decision of the party leadership to boycott the council polls may not be in the interest of the party.
A ward leader in Ekeremor Local Government, who begged not to be named, said the decision to allow PDP to install their candidates unopposed is dangerous. He advised the leadership of the party in the state to take another look at the situation, arguing that APC has what it takes to contest the election and win in most of the local governments.
Another party chieftain in Brass Local Government Area, who said it would not be wise to be quoted said, “I think boycott is what PDP wants. They know that APC will win, so they are doing everything to use their party members as electoral umpires but I can tell you that even with their tricks, we will win. I don’t think we should allow them to emerge unopposed. That will not help us during the governorship election. It is obvious PDP is trying to rig the election and if we, out of anger boycott, they will conduct a kangaroo election and claim to have swept the polls.”