Polling closed early in most of the polling units in the Off-Cycle Bayelsa State Governorship Election on Saturday, and action moved to the collation centres after votes counted and pasted on walls around the polling centres.
Reports generally spoke of peaceful elections. But there were isolated cases of violence, particularly in Olugbobiri in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area and Ekeki in Yenagoa Local Government Area, where gunmen snatched ballot materials before voting commenced.
In Yenagoa, the state capital, election materials and personnel began to arrive the polling units from 8.30 am. But turnout was generally low, about 30 percent in most of the polling units.
Most of those who turned up to vote were women and youth. But, there was a sore point in the entire process. Voters were generally looking forward to selling their votes.
Two female voters had actually approached our correspondent to ask for who was giving money to voters. “Any show?” one of them, a 59-year-old woman at Ekeki Central Motor Park had asked our reporter.
She went on to justify her stance by saying that she did not really have a candidate in mind but that anyone of them that could give her some money would have her vote.
Another woman, Helen, a 60-year-old, who said she was coming out to vote for the first time, said during the campaigns she was not given anything. “They didn’t even give me their polo or rice. E no reach me. Dem no dey give me o!” she said.
A first time voter, 20-year-old Glory, who came to the polling unit at the Bayelsa Medical University, after voting was pushed around by her mother looking for a party agent to “settle” her.
The vote buying was encouraged by the fact that most of the candidates did not quite appeal to the voters so that voters did not mind selling their votes to any of the candidates.
Agents were stationed in a way that voters showed them where they voted and afterwards, they took the voters to a corner where cash changed hands. It was open and the police were there and did nothing.
Voters got between N5,000 and N20,000 per vote from APC and PDP agents.
Niger Delta leader, Alabo Nengi James, who saw it all at Amarata Primary School field where six polling units were located lamented the situation to National Point. “It’s a very sad story,” he said.
“Even security agents posted to the polling units were seeing it and looking away. It really created a slur on the credibility of this election,” James said.
He however had acknowledged the peaceful nature of the polling and the efficiency of INEC’s devices like the BVAS machine that effectively accredited the voters.
Mr. Sylvester Okoduwa, the South South Zonal Coordinator of the Transition Monitoring Group, who also condemned the buying and selling of votes, told National Point that only the eradication of poverty and gainful employment of the people will change the trend.
An electoral officer was kidnapped the day before the election at Sagbama local government area while 12 other election personnel were involved in a boat mishap the say day. The incidents cast gloom over the elections, which is expected to lead to the election of a governor that will be in office for a term of four years beginning from February 14, 2024.