The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, abruptly called an end to a stakeholders’ meeting in Yenagoa on Wednesday as an argument between political leaders threatened to boil over into physical violence.
INEC had organised the meeting as part of its preparations for the governorship election coming up on November 16 in Bayelsa State.
In attendance were INEC officials led by Mr Yakubu, security officials including the Deputy Inspector-General of the Police (Operations), Abdulmajid Ali; community and political leaders, including many governorship candidates.
The argument was ignited by the Chairman of the Bayelsa State Elders Forum, Francis Doukpolagh, who said many people were displaced from some communities in Nembe Local Government Area by violence during the 2019 general elections.
He said since the elections, the people were yet to return home, calling for the assistance of the authorities to get them back to their communities.
Mr Doukpolagh said some residents in Peremabiri and BasabirI communities affected at the time were still living in neighbouring communities.
But he was interrupted by other community leaders who told him to speak on behalf of Bayelsa and not for his own political gains.
The confrontation led to a violent exchange of words as many of the stakeholders approached each other, shouting “Sit down and keep quiet.”
In the face of the tumult, Mr Yakubu abruptly brought the meeting to an end.
The candidate of the United Patriot Party, Kenny Sotonye, told PREMIUM TIMES that the antagonists were members of the two major parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). He said the confrontation has roots in the previous elections in the state.
“The national ruling party (APC) chased the persons (agents of other parties) in their communities in order to take charge for their party.
“We the opposition parties do not want such, we want people to come to vote with their conscience and vote with there interest,” Mr Sotonye said.
The governorship candidate for the All People’s Party (APP), Samuel Izibeyamadu, described the incident as a shame to democracy.
He said such incidents had become a tradition in the politics of Bayelsa State.
“What we saw here is a show of shame and this has been the tradition in the state,” he said.
“Even the military has found it difficult to curtail the scourge here when it comes to elections
“In the last elections, a deputy commissioner of Police was beaten up by a particular party for allegation known to them.
“If the military and other security personnel cannot bring calm to the state elections, there is no need for fielding candidates to be part of the elections,” he said.