By Mbah Okemsinachi, Yenagoa
Ahead of the November 16 Bayelsa State governorship election, YIAGA AFRICA, a non-governmental organization has commenced its ‘Watching The Vote’ (WTV) project with about 550 election observers set to be deployed to the eghtlocal government areas of the state to monitor the pre-election, election day and post-election processes.
This was disclosed by the project director, Cynthia Mbamalu during an interview at the YIAGA AFRICA WTV media round table discussion at Matho Crystal Hotel in Yenagoa.
According to Mbamalu, YIAGA AFRICA would have 21 long-term observers deployed to observe election environment in the eight local government areas of the state and 500 stationary observers would be deployed to polling units on the election day, 21 mobile observers within the local government areas as well as eight LGA result collation observers stationed at the LGA result collation centers in the state.
The project director said the objective of WTV is to provide timely and accurate information about the election process to voters and stakeholders, ensure that citizens votes count by deterring fraud and manipulation during the conduct of election and collation of results, as well as to build citizens confidence in the elections.
She said, “The idea for the observation is one, to provide information to citizens and stakeholders on the conduct of the elections. We believe that for participation to be active and effective, you need to be informed. If the people are not informed, if they don’t know what happened in the electoral process, if they are not educated,they wouldn’t know how to engage; so the first thing is to provide information.
“But on the election day, Yiaga is also to provide accurate information because we would be deploying the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) which uses technology and ICT and it can help us provide information in near real-time, as it happened in the polling units.
“The second is to also expose and dictate electoral fraud and manipulation. With our observation, we can highlight places where there is indication of manipulation of fraud and we want to show that. And also, with our presence, we would also want to dictate the occurrence of those manipulations in the process.
“From the pre-election environment, we observe things like INEC preparatory activities, political party campaigns, activities of other institutions that work on election duty, activities of security agents and we also do some violence monitoring which will help us build an early warning system to prevent and mitigate against electoral violence.
“The third reason we are observing the election is to build confidence in the process. Election is beyond just a democratic activity or process but rather a portion of fundamental human right. If the citizens do not see the reason to come out and vote, it means that right is not being exercised and what we want is for our citizens to trust that their votes will actually count and that for it to count, you need to turn out to vote because at the end of the day, elections will be determined by those who turn out to vote.
“It means that consistently, fewer numbers of voters are coming out to vote and fewer numbers are determining our future and destiny for the next four years. So for us, building confidence in the process and also to let citizens know that, if you follow through and you have information, you should come out to vote because if you don’t come to vote, it will be easier for manipulation to be done in your absence.”