The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the All Progressives Congress, APC, have been accused unleashing terror on the electorates during the inconclusive gubernatorial poll in Bayelsa State.
The Executive Director of an Abuja-based group, Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights, CASER, Frank Tietie, made the allegation on Wednesday.
Mr. Tietie said what happened during the Bayelsa poll was the peak of violence that has characterized the conduct of elections in the country.
“Before the election, the candidates of the two dominant political parties, the PDP and the APC, had by their posturing created a tense atmosphere in the state,” he said.
“The violence was unleashed by supporters of the two dominant political parties in order to make the result of the election go their way.”
Mr. Tietie argued that with the scale at which supporters of the PDP and APC deploy sophisticated weapons during the election, it was utterly impossible for Bayelsa people to exercise their rights to elect their governor.
While he said his group had in the past decried the militarization of elections, he said the Bayelsa poll showed that without the deployment of the military, thugs hired by politicians would not allow proper elections to hold in the country.
Mr. Tietie, therefore, commended the Army’s “Operation Safe Conduct” for preventing widespread violence during the Bayelsa poll.
“Despite the skirmishes and the sporadic shootings which characterised the election on December 5 and 6, the violence was largely contained from spreading by the active efforts of the military,” he said.
“CASER commends the Operation Safe Conduct for the professional way it managed what happened when Governor Seriake Dickson appeared at Oporoma with his security details on December 6.
“It was the appearance of the governor that heightened the violent clashes between the military and other violent groups who wanted to attack the governor’s supporters.”
He argued that the presence of Mr. Dickson triggered heavy exchange of gunfire between rival gangs and the military, thereby leading to the inability of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conclude the election in the area.
Mr. Tietie held that it would be a great disservice to the nation to insinuate that the military took sides with any political party in the Bayelsa election debacle.
With the persistent violence during elections in the country, he argued that Nigeria would have to rely on soldiers to provide security to enable citizens exercise their franchise.
“It would be highly defeatist to democratic culture where citizens would be made to cower because of violent intimidation and consequently shirt their civic responsibility of choosing their leaders,” he continued.
“We must resist the temptation of denigrating the Nigerian military because it is a ploy to enthrone unsafe and insecure elections which would benefit the purveyors of electoral violence.”
He called for the proper kitting and motivation of the military and other security services in the country in order for them to safeguard the lives of citizens and their properties.
Mr. Tietie advised politicians, who, because of the promise of juicy political appointments and money, unleashed violence during elections, to turn a new leaf.
“Instructively, former President Goodluck Jonathan, whose state is now at the center of the election war had once warned that no person’s blood is worth the ambition of another.
“Therefore, the political war mongers in Bayelsa state must desist from denigrating the institution of the Nigerian military, saddled with the responsibility of protecting the largest democracy in Africa,” he concluded.