Nathan Tamarapreye, Yenagoa
The Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidate for the House of Representatives election in Ogbia Federal Constituency of Bayelsa, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, has described the conduct of the Feb. 25 election as flawed.
Speaking at a press conference in Yenagoa, Iworiso-Markson said there were lots of irregularities in the conduct of the election and was therefore surprised that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), went ahead to declare a winner.
According to him, the “obvious electoral malfeasance”, that took place was allegedly perpetrated by some officials of INEC in connivance with security personnel and agents of the ruling party in the state.
“The House of Representative election in Ogbia on Saturday fell short of expectation on so many levels. The late arrival of electoral materials to most polling units triggered a chain of events that resulted in a series of anomalies which comprehensively compromised the integrity of the elections.
“With the late arrival of INEC officials and materials, election proper commenced very late in most polling units, as late as 2 pm and voting in some polling units continued till late into the night which gave ample room for manipulations. The late commencement of voting coupled with the doctoring of the BVAS in most of the polling units created heightened tension among willing voters.
“In ward 11 unit 7 in my community, the BVAS was already preloaded with 158 votes even when no single vote had been cast. It took the effort of vigilant voters in the unit who challenged the INEC officials with several calls made to the Electoral Officer in charge of Ogbia to remedy the tampered BVAS. After a long wait with no solution to the compromised BVAS, the election in unit 7 was cancelled.
“The problem of preloaded votes in the BVAS was not unique to unit 7 alone. Similar discoveries were later made in some units at Imiringi, Emakalala, Kolo, Akipleai, Ogbia Town, Otueke, Emadeke and other polling units in several communities across the federal constituency. Unfortunately, voters in the aforelisted communities were not vigilant enough to challenge this electoral fraud”, Iworiso-Markson.
Iworiso-Markson lamented that other glaring electoral malfeasances were witnessed in Saturday’s polls in Ogbia ward 11 and 12 and indeed in all the other wards with the use of fake agents deployed by the ruling party in the state.
He said that regrettably, both INEC and the security agencies on duty failed in their duties to stop these fake agents who freely and unashamedly engaged in vote buying for their respective parties, where votes were exchanged for wrappers, machetes, rice and dollars.
“The dollar rain in Ogbia on Saturday was effectively deployed to induce poor hapless voters who already suffer from multidimensional poverty occasioned by years of neglect by the same leaders who seek to continually force themselves on the people.
“In ward 13, particularly in Otueke, there were reported cases of over-voting perpetrated by the party in power in the state. The massive electoral fraud that took place in Otueke as reported by our agents on ground made the collation of votes stretch into the wee hours of midnight.
“The question on the lips of everyone is: why did INEC collate the ward results of Ward 13 at Otueke and not at the ward headquarters at Otuaba? Results are collated at the ward headquarters and Otueke is not the ward headquarter of Ward 13. We have it on good authority that ballot papers already pre-thump printed were smuggled and included among the original ballots of valid votes which were then escorted by agents of the ruling party in the state from Otuaba the ward headquarter to Otueke for final collation.
“Similarly, in Ward 5, three units in Emadeke were cancelled after repeated complaints were made to INEC regarding overvoting and other electoral malpractices. It took the extra vigilance of our ward 5 coordinators to stop the broad daylight robbery.
“We are calling on INEC to revisit the results entered in favour of the PDP in Otueke, Imiringi, Elebele and Otusega. We have every reason to believe that results in the aforementioned communities are doctored and skewed to favour the candidate of the PDP. Most of the INEC ad hoc staff and the security agencies were complicit to this monumental electoral fraud,” Iworiso-Markson said.
He further alleged massive vote buying, overvoting, and fake unit agents presented by the PDP with the aim of buying votes and compelling voters to vote for their party.
“We noticed that in some wards there was voting by unaccredited voters, high jacking of polling materials to a private polling unit in ward 9. Also, people voted with voters’ cards of different identities, among others” he said.
The SDP candidate said steps have been taken to write to INEC to furnish the party with details of the unit-by-unit results across the 13 wards with other relevant documents to enable the party carefully study the results with the help of forensic experts.
He added that once this is done, it will guide the SDP on the next step to take in their quest to restore sanity in the electoral process.
Iworiso-Markson thanked his teeming supporters across the 13 wards that make up Ogbia federal constituency, saying despite the threats and intimidation, they stood by him solidly and voted for him.
“The 3, 352 votes recorded for the SDP are genuine votes by those who are tired of the misrule and bad leadership Ogbia has been subjected to over the years. I will forever cherish and salute the courage of those 3,352 voters who dared to make a difference.
“Their place in Ogbia’s history will not be forgotten even as we will continue to march on in our quest to seek for justice and restore our beloved Ogbia back to reckoning as it was in the good old days of our father and political icon Chief Melford Okilo”, he said.