The All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are a poised for a show of popularity today as bye-elections hold in six states.
The bye-elections, billed to hold in Bayelsa Central and West, Cross River North, Imo North, Lagos East and Plateau South senatorial districts and the Bakura federal constituency in Zamfara State, signal the first major test of popularity between two major parties after recent exchange of brickbats over defections and dominance in the country’s political space.
The legislative seats became vacant for different reasons ranging from death to victory in other elective offices contested by the lawmakers.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had suspended polls earlier scheduled to hold in October following the violence that trailed the #EndSARS protests in some parts of the country.
The commission fixed December 5 for the 15 pending state and National Assembly bye-elections.
In Bayelsa, the battle between APC and PDP had been intense over the Bayelsa Central and West senatorial districts which became vacant following the resignation of Senators Duoye Diri and Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, who emerged PDP governorship candidate and deputy governorship candidate respectively in the 2019 governorship election in the state.
While the APC candidate in the Bayelsa West senatorial bye-election is former Speaker and former deputy governor of the state, Peremobowei Ebebi, Chief Abel Ebifemowei, a relative of the first governor of the state, the late Chief Diepreye S Alameisegha, is the party’s candidate in the Central senatorial district.
However, immediate-past governor of Bayelsa State, Hon Seriake Dickson is PDP’s candidate for Bayelsa West senatorial district, while immediate-past PDP state chairman, Cleopas Moses is the party’s candidate in Bayelsa Central district.
In the build up to the election, court actions questioning the eligibility of some candidates were rife across party lines.
Meanwhile, the Police has announced restriction of movement in the local government areas where the elections will be conducted.
Addressing journalists yesterday in Yenagoa, the state Commissioner of Police, CP Mike Okoli, who said the movement restriction will be during the election period, added that students currently writing the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) examination will not be affected by the movement restriction.
He disclosed that 5000 security personnel have been mobilised for the election to ensure that the exercise is peaceful, while 10 mobile police units are to be deployed.
He said: “The deployment of police personnel started since yesterday, you know the terrain of Bayelsa is a riverine state.
“Most of them are moving through speed boats, gun boats and private hired commercial boats to far places like Southern Ijaw, Ekeremor, Sagbama, all those areas are riverine areas, and we have done adequate preparations to cover all the polling units.
“We are deploying 5000 personnel, out of that 5000, we have 10 police mobile units to cover the election, they will support those personnel in the polling units from distance, the unarmed men will be at the polling units while the Armed ones will be at distance away from the polling units.
“There will be vehicular restriction from 0600 hours to 1400 hours, when the exercise will be over, WAEC candidates will be allowed to pass through to write their examination.
“My appeal to the people of Bayelsa State is to give peace a chance to make sure they conduct themselves peacefully,” he said.
In Plateau State, the two major contenders for the South Senatorial bye-election are university don, Prof. Nora Dadu’ut of the APC, and a former Speaker of the Plateau House of Assembly, Hon George Daika of the PDP.
The bye-election follows the demise of Senator Ignatius Lonjang of the APC.
The six local governments councils where the bye-election will take place are Wase, Shendam, Langtang North, Langtang South, Mikang and Quanpan.
Prominent sons and daughters from the Plateau Southern zone who arrived in the state to participate in the election are the deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Ahmed Maje Wase; minister of Women Affairs and Social Develoment, Dame Pauline Tallen and the member representing Mikang, Shendam, Quapaan federal constituency, Hon Alphonsus Komsol, among others.
Plateau State government has announced the restriction of movement in the six local government areas.
According to a statement issued by the secretary to the state government, Prof Danladi Atu, all vehicular movements are restricted from 6am to 6pm today.
He however clarified that those on essential duties will be permitted to move around during the period of restriction.
Also, the electorate in Cross River North senatorial district will troop out to cast their votes to elect a replacement for the late Senator Rose Okoji Oko who died early this year.
However, there is suspense over who will emerge the PDP candidate following two conflicting court verdicts.
While Dr Stephen Odey was declared sole candidate of the party, Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, a member representing Ogoja/Yala federal constituency is also laying claim to the senatorial ticket.
In Zamfara State, INEC has distributed sensitive and non-sensitive materials for the Bakura State House of Assembly bye-election just as the state police command said it has deployed over 2000 personnel for the exercise.
The distribution of materials commenced yesterday at about 3:30 pm in Dakko and Nasarawa wards with fully armed security escorts.
The allocation of the election materials was being supervised by the party officials and security agents.
Commenting on the distribution process, Sen Hassan Nasiha of the PDP expressed satisfaction with the exercise, saying the distribution was hitch-free and transparent.
The APC representative, Abdullahi Abdulkarim, also lauded the distribution processes.
Meanwhile the national publicity secretary of PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, has alleged plot by APC to use compromised security agents and armed thugs to unleash violence during the election.
Ologbondiyan said, “We have been made aware of how, in its bid to perfect a siege on the constituency, crush the people and prevent them from exercising their franchise, the APC has brought in special forces of the IRT and STS, three DIGs of Police, two Police Commissioners, six Deputy Commissioners of Police, 10 Assistant Commissioners of Police and not less than 800 soldiers into the constituency.”
In Imo State, the Court of Appeal sitting in Owerri, the state capital, has ruled that Sir Frank Ibezim is APC candidate for the Imo North senatorial bye-election holding today.
The judgement sacked Senator Ifeanyi Araraume as APC flag-bearer for the bye-election which takes place in the entire Okigwe zone.
An appellant, Dr. C. C. Nwadigo confirmed that Ibezim was declared APC candidate in a unanimous judgement by the three Justices of the Court of Appeal.
He said the appeal court upheld Ibezim’s appeal, while setting aside the judgment of the Federal High Court earlier delivered on November 6, 2020.
Meanwhile, a Federal High Court in Abuja had disqualified Ibezim as APC candidate for the election.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a judgment disqualified Ibezim from contesting the election on the ground that he made false statements/declarations in the affidavit and documents he submitted to the APC and INEC wherein he presented falsified and uncertified photocopies of West African Examination Council (WAEC) certificate.
Justice Ekwo held that the WASC certificate he submitted “bears two different and irreconcilable names – Ibezim Chukwuma Frank and Ibezim Francis Chukwuma”.
The judge ordered INEC to remove his name from the list of candidates for the bye-election.
The judgement was on a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1229/2020 filed by Asomugha Tony Elebeke, with Ibezim, APC and INEC as defendants.
In Lagos, a twelve-hour restriction of movement between 6am and 6pm has been imposed in the five local government areas constituting the Lagos East senatorial district where the bye-election into Lagos East Senatorial seat and Kosofe constituency 2 elections will hold.
The state resident electoral commissioner of INEC, Mr Sam Olumekun, who disclosed this at a media briefing on the Commission’s preparations for the polls, said the commission is well prepared for the by- election.
He stated that the commission will conduct the election in compliance with COVID-19 guidelines, imploring the electorate to maintain social distancing at the polling units and as well, wear facemask to the polling units.
Olumekun stressed that electorate without facemask will not be allowed at the polling units, adding that branded facemasks worn by groups of people will also not be allowed at the polling booth.
Like other states, the tussle for the vacant senatorial seat in Lagos had resulted in legal battles between candidates of APC and PDP.
While PDP candidate, Babatunde Gbadamosi, has denied allegations of certificate forgery levelled against him by APC, he filed a lawsuit against APC candidate, Tokunbo Abiru, for possessing two voter cards.