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Angst, Anxiety In Bayelsa Over LG Polls

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The conduct of the Bayelsa State local government elections fixed for August 10 is generating bad blood and controversy following the resignation of chairman of the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC), Dr Perekeme Bertola over the protest by the opposition parties against his replacement with Hon. Ball Oyarede. Osa Okhomina examines the fears by the opposition

In spite of the fact that it is taking the Governor Seriake Dickson-led administration over seven years to conduct a Local Government election into the existing eight local government councils, the administration seems to have failed to convince anyone that the August 10 council election will be free, fair and credible.

The resignation of the Chairman of the Bayelsa State Independent Electoral Commission (BYSIEC), Dr. Perekeme Bertola over alleged threat to his life by some unnamed members of opposition parties in the state and the appointment of a member of the State Assembly, Hon. Ball Oyarede, confirmed the fears of stakeholders about the poll.

Many of them told LEADERSHIP that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) -led by Governor Seriake Dickson lacks the will to give a level playing ground to the opposition parties to participate in any political contest in the state.

However, some members of the opposition parties, particularly the All Progressives Congress (APC), are clearly picking the loop holes in the conduct of the council election and approach the court to nullify the process.

Others in the PDP wondered why the governor insisted on party primaries for the emergence of councilors and Chairmen.

Already, tension is building up following the resignation of the Chairman of the the state’s SIEC and the claims that the opposition parties were responsible for his resignation. The resignation, which is coming 70 days to the August 10 date, has triggered controversy with some opposition accusing the ruling party, the PDP of a cover up to the plot of non-conduct of the election.

The former Chairman of the BSIEC, through his media aide, Mr. Tonye Yemoleigha, sited “threats to his life and immediate family” as reasons for throwing in the towel.

A source in the commission hinted that the chairman’s resignation may be connected to the fact that “Dr. Perekeme bowed to pressure from opposition parties to have the elections shifted by two weeks.”

According to our source, the shift in the date for the polls allegedly angered some power brokers in the State, who in turn wanted him out of of office by any means possible.

However, the chairman in his resignation letter dated May 31, 2019, thanked the governor for giving him the opportunity to serve, while expressing hope that his resignation would not affect the conduct of the polls slated for August 10.

Meanwhile, Bayelsa State Governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson, has accepted the resignation of the Chairman of the State Independent Electoral Commission (BYSIEC), Dr. Perekeme Bertola.

In a statement signed by the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, the governor thanked Bertola for his services to the commission, particularly for setting in motion machinery for the conduct of the August 10, 2019 local council election.

He said regardless of the development, the council election will still go on, as other members of the commission are in quorum to carry on with the business of conducting a hitch free council polls.

The statement noted that the most senior member of the commission will take charge in acting capacity, pending the appointment of a substantive chairman.

The statement expressed shock that members of the opposition parties will go to any length to harass, intimidate and threaten Dr. Bertola and his family all in their desire for him to do their bidding during the council election.

While wishing Dr. Bertola success in his future endeavours, it called on Bayelsans to be aware of the subterranean moves by members of the opposition to scuttle the planned council election, using different crude means but assured they will not succeed.

The governor, in his replacement forwarded to the State House of Assembly for confirmation, stated that Hon. Ball Oyarede will replace  Bertola.

The governor’s letter was read on the floor of the House during his emergency session on last week.

Reacting to the development, the State Chairman of the PDP, Chief Moses Cleopas, called on the state government to ensure the conduct of the local government elections despite threats by elements of the opposition in the state.

Cleopas said in a statement that no amount of threats should be allowed to truncate the planned conduct of the local government polls scheduled.

He added that information at the disposal of the party indicated that Perekeme was threatened by members of the opposition political parties so they can pull out of the planned conduct of the local government elections.

He stressed that some disgruntled elements in the opposition parties  who lack the capacity to win free, fair and credible elections were behind the nefarious plot to prevent the conduct of the local government polls in the state.

He however called on the police and other security agencies to investigate the alleged threats to the lives of the former SIEC boss and his family members  with a view to bringing the culprits to book.

He called on the people of the state to be firm and support the planned local government elections in the state.

His words: “It has come to the attention of the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Bayelsa State that the Chairman of the State Independent Electoral Commission, Dr. Bertola Perekeme, has resigned from his position.

“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.

“It is on this note that we call on the Government to proceed with planned local government polls designed to bring in Bayelsa’s next party chairmen and Councillors. It would be sad to accede to the criminal intent of these characters.

“We hereby call on the police and other security agencies to investigate this audacity being exhibited by criminals masquerading as politicians with a view to arresting them for prompt prosecution.

“As a party, we are preparing for the election with the intent to win. Only the unpopular and those with evil intent would be against the conduct of free and fair polls at the local government level in the state.”

Some members of the opposition parties under the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), who reacted under condition of anonymity, described the “excuses of threat to life by opposition parties” put forward by the immediate past Chairman of the Bayelsa State Independent  Electoral Commission (BSIEC) as laughable.

According to one of the CUPP members, “the excuse is laughable and the PDP should come out with the truth that the raging internal war among members of the ruling party is responsible for the shift and resignation of the umpire. They should name the opposition parties responsible for the threat.”

According to our source, the shift in the date for the polls allegedly angered some power brokers in the state, who in turn wanted him out of of office by any means possible.

However, the chairman in his resignation letter dated May 31, 2019, thanked the governor for giving him the opportunity to serve, while expressing hope that his resignation would not affect the conduct of the polls slated for August 10, 2019.

The over 74 political parties existing in the state rejected the preparations for the council election and the appointment of a new BSIEC chairman over his alleged card carrying membership of the PDP and member of the State House of Assembly.

Meanwhile, the aggrieved political parties, under the aegis of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) and the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), said the rejection was based on the fact that an umpire of BYSIEC, which is supposed to be an independent body to conduct a free and fair elections into the Local Government Area Council in the state, has been eroded and therefore not acceptable by the opposition parties in the state.

The opposition parties, in a communique issued last week after an emergency meeting and signed by the Chairman of IPAC, Eneyi Zidougha and Chairman of the CNPP, Golden Agagowei, declared that “It is our believe, that the Governor of Bayelsa State who is a lawyer and former Commissioner of Justice in the state, a former parliamentarian and now governor, knows better, that this is against the Electoral  Act of 2010 as amended.”

“If the government decides to go ahead with the appointment of Hon. Ball Oyarede as BYSIEC Chairman, as leaders of the various opposition parties in Bayelsa State, we have no option but to boycott the entire process of the Local Government Area Council elections in its totality.”

“We therefore advice the government on the above premises to look for a more capable hand, preferably from the academia to be appointed to head BYSIEC with urgency in other to meet with the schedule time table for the Local Government Area Council election.”

On the alleged threat to the life of the Former BSIEC as reasons adduced for his last week resignation, denied any involvement in the issue of alleged threat, “we the opposition Political Parties in Bayelsa State wish to state that we have no issue or problem with the resignation of the BYSIEC Chairman, Chief (Dr) Bertola Perekeme, since his statement is on personal ground and due to threat to his life and family.”

“However, in response to the recent statement by the PDP Chairman, Mr. Moses Cleopas who made a statement accusing opposition parties in the state as criminals who do not have the capacity of winning an election and that we are the ones threatening the life of the just resigned BYSIEC Boss, Chief (Dr) Bertola Perekeme and his family.”

“As the leaders of the opposition party in the state IPAC/CNPP, we will not condone with such an accusation by the PDP chairman, we take an exception to the statement as law abiding citizens of Nigeria, the statement is a clear intention to blackmail the opposition parties in the state and we advise he should not use his privileged office as the PDP chairman to insult, and disrespect the opposition parties in the state which is capable of causing disaffection in the harmonious working relationship existing between the government  and the opposition parties in Bayelsa State.”

“Our finding reveals that the erstwhile BYSIEC Boss, Chief (Dr) Bertola Perekeme has the ambition of becoming the Chairman of Ekeremor Local Government Council Area and also nursing the future ambition of becoming the Governor of Bayelsa State which is the genuine reason why he resigned his appointment”.

“However, we are calling on the security agencies to do proper investigation on the said statement made by the PDP Chairman on threat to life, as we disclaim this statement and assure the general public that no opposition party chairman threaten the life of the erstwhile BYSIEC Chairman.”

Also at another meeting, the opposition Political Parties accused Governor Seriake Dickson of not carrying out consultations before imposing Hon. Ball Oyarede as the new chairman Bayelsa state Independent electoral commission.

However, opposition parties in the state have accused the governor of playing partisan politics, stating that Hon. Oyarede is a PDP card carrying member who has not completed the final valedictory session in the house before he was appointed.

They argued that there is no way Hon. Oyarede will not Carry out the bidding of the governor by unilaterally picking PDP candidates in the local government elections, adding that they need an impartial umpire as chairman.

The parties also insisted that Cloepas Moses, Chairman, PDP, Bayelsa state must tender unreserved apology for the unwarranted insult bestowed on opposition parties.

In another development, the five political parties that took BYSIEC/government to Court has said that the duo cannot conduct local government elections because there is a pending matter in court.

Hon. Faye Bob-Manuel who spoke to our reporter in Yenagoa said that without withdrawing the case it will be illegal for Bayelsa Independent electoral commission to conduct elections.

He said, under pre-trial the court asked BYSIEC to settle the matter out of court, stressing that they have not seen any positive move on the side of the government.

Continuing he said, by law a matter that is in court cannot be allowed until there usva final verdict or else there will be a court injunction.

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