As the people of Bayelsa go to the polls today, SING Nigeria as a nonpartisan observer of the process hereby wish to present her pre-election observation position. Our findings from the observation of the pre-election environment point to a very volatile political environment, characterised by fierce rhetoric, threats of violence and actual incidents of violence.
Having tracked activities leading up to this particular election, even as we had done in past elections, we are worried about the sad turn of events in parts of the state. It is of concern to us that despite the trend of violence in certain flashpoints during previous elections in Bayelsa state, there was basically a recurrence of same, with varying reports on the number of those killed depending on which actor was doing the reporting.
As the people of Bayelsa go to the polls today, it is incumbent on the political parties to impress the need to shun violence on their teeming supporters, as the credibility of the election and mass participation remains the bedrock upon which a progressing society rests. The people being able to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote for the candidate of their choice without intimidation or fear of harm, must be the priority of all actors and stakeholders in the election.
We are concerned that the security agencies, as has become the practice during electioneering in Nigeria, have still not managed to fish out those responsible for the senseless killings that have characterized this election. The security agencies must reiterate and reassure the citizenry of their readiness and capacity to protect lives and property for the election to go on smoothly.
They need to beam their searchlights on the major flashpoints of violence with a view to defending the sanctity of life and the continued corporate existence of Nigeria as a country.
From our pre-election engagements, it is clear that there is a need for whoever emerges winner at the end of this election, to embark on an extensive and intensive conflict resolution effort to bring warring parties to focus on the business of governance.
Those with genuine grievances should have this grievances addressed by the stay to prevent reprisals in future and those found wanting should be brought to justice in accordance with the laws of Nigeria.
We continue to call for the Bayelsa state government to prosecute those who have been found to have been involved in acts of violence in the past, as our Election Violence report for the 2016 election has continued to gather dust in their archives.
The entire people of Bayelsa state must pull together as their collective survival is today being put to the test and it is indeed not too late to pass this test. Both the leadership and followership in the state must pull in the same direction to ensure that the ship of the state is not capsized to the detriment of future generations. #SINGSituationRoom #VoteAMust