Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Government and people of Bayelsa State have called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to shift the governorship election scheduled for November 2.
They said the date clashed with the state’s thanksgiving day.
Deputy Governor, John Jonah, who made the call when a delegation visited the commission in Abuja, yesterday, said the state has celebrated November 2 as thanksgiving day since seven years ago.
He equally urged the commission to consider any other day other than November 2 to enable the indigenes celebrate their spiritual day, expressing fears that conducting the election on the thanksgiving day will affect the turnout of voters for the poll.
“When the governorship election schedule for Bayelsa and Kogi states were released, the governor wrote to the commission through the Secretary to the State Government, indicating that the stakeholders would want to have a meeting with the commission. When the letter came accepting that you want to receive us today, it was communicated to him but he was unable to make it to this place. He sent us appointing me to lead the delegation.
“We consulted stakeholders in the state when INEC fixed the governorship election for November 2, various interest groups raised objections on the issue. When Bayelsa was created in October 1996, shortly after the celebration, the clergymen dedicated the state to God. When this government came in place, the issue of thanksgiving came up again, resulting in the governor asking the clergies to suggest a date.
“They agreed on November 2 and in keeping with that, the date was accepted and an executive bill was sent to the House of Assembly and subsequently passed into law and for the past seven years, we have been observing the date as a thanksgiving day for the state.
“So, when report came that the same day has been chosen for governorship election, the clergies met again and advised the governor that it will not be out of place to meet INEC to reconsider the date because of its relevance to the state.
“We considered two things after the release of the election schedule. One is that INEC has right to set a date but it won’t be out of place to plead with the commission by sending all the major stakeholders, including the traditional rulers, clergymen and council elders to Abuja to press for the reconsideration of the date for the election,” he said.
INEC’s Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, promised to meet with the national commissioners and decide on the appeal on Friday, just as he disclosed that the commission has already resumed prosecution of electoral offenders.
“I welcome you all to this meeting on the request of the Bayelsa State stakeholders, led by the deputy governor.
“The government has appealed to the commission to reconsider the date for this reason. We have listened to you. At the next meeting of the commission, your appeal will be examined and the commission’s decision will be announced by Friday, this week,” he said.