The candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the just concluded governorship election in Bayelsa State, Chief Timipre Sylva alleged yesterday that the state office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conspired with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to “rig” him out of the election.
Sylva, who vowed to challenge what he described as the procured victory of the PDP in court, said the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr. Baritor Kpagir, deliberately set up a machinery to ensure the return of the PDP candidate and incumbent Governor, Seriake Dickson.
He stressed that following allegations against the REC in the December 5 election, Kpagir lacked the legally required neutrality to go ahead and conduct the January 9 supplementary election.
The APC candidate, who spoke in Yenagoa, the state capital, added that the REC became an interested party when he jumped into the fray to accuse an unidentified governorship candidate of trying to induce hi with bribe.
Sylva said although the INEC national secretariat sent some RECs to the state for the election, the delegates arrived after Kpagir allegedly perfected his plot to return the Dickson.
He said most of the collation officers and other ad-hoc employees of INEC, who conducted the election, were relations of PDP members.
The governorship candidate said: “Well, as far as the REC was concerned, I did not just write petition, I did not just write for change of the REC, even the REC at some point descended to the arena and had to join issues with us, accusing a faceless candidate of offering him bribe.
“A REC like that, who is quarrelling with the candidate in an election, is allowed to conduct the same election? I have never seen this. It has never happened anywhere in Nigeria before. But unfortunately, I didn’t get a reprieve as you know.
“In that case, you don’t expect me to opt out of the election because they have refused to change the REC. I was forced as a candidate because if I said I wasn’t going to subject myself to the election, what were the options? I don’t have any options.
“INEC was the body to conduct the election, and I cried out to INEC over and over again to change the REC, but INEC refused to change him.
“What will I do? Of course, I went into the election unfortunately hoping at that time that the REC fortunately will have a change of heart. But you can see from the events that they were just ensuring that the APC lost that election”.
Shedding more light on the alleged processes that were put in place to “rig” him out, Sylva said the REC deliberately ensured that some areas in the local government areas he won in December 5 election were cancelled and arranged a rerun election that took place on December 6.
He alleged that the state INEC was set up as part of the rigging machine of the PDP, adding that the same commission returned the former President Goodluck Jonathan in the last presidential election.
“If you look at the event from the beginning on December 5, we won in a local government and they cancelled a section of that local government, reordered election the next day, almost without informing us.
“Meanwhile, there were other areas as well that were outstanding in the election. But those areas that they were interested in, they held a rerun on Sunday in those areas and then said that there was going to be a rerun for the other areas on January 9.
“Why didn’t they shift the rerun in those areas? You can see from the beginning that INEC was playing a game. This INEC in Bayelsa State was set up as part of the rigging machine of the PDP and I have said it over and over”, he maintained.
Sylva said as part of plans to frustrate the APC in the Southern Ijaw election, the state INEC ensured that materials meant for communities in the hinterland were distributed late.
He added that the commission, in collusion with the PDP, sent materials in nearby PDP strongholds a day before the election and sent materials in far areas of APC strongholds on the day of the election.
“How can they ever justify a situation where materials of the farthest community were sent last and materials to the nearest communities were sent first because they knew that the farthest communities were our strongholds.
“So clearly, there was a collusion between the local INEC and the PDP. Some people will say okay that they sent more RECs from Cross River and then you ask the question, when did those RECs arrive? The time those RECs arrived, the damage had been done”.
Sylva said when he pointed out the alleged anomaly in the appointment of the collation officers that conducted the poll, the REC said he wanted experienced people.
He said: “The SPOs had been appointed. The SPOs were mostly their people. When I made the case that the SPOs were mostly their people, the REC told me that the instruction was for him to use experienced SPOs. Experienced in the act of rigging an election?
“That means these SPOs should be SPOs that had conducted an election before and these elections were the presidential election, the House of Assembly election and you know the outcome of those elections. So, the same sort of SPOs that rigged the other election for them were used.
“We are contesting an election and I said from the beginning that I did not have confidence in the REC and the Administrative Secretary and I did not expect a free and fair election in the way they were going to preside over the election.
“I said so over, over and over and I reduced it to writing and we sent these petitions. Usually before an election of this nature, the INEC officials are switched. Sometimes, they send them to another state and bring another electoral commissioner from another state.
“This time, they decided to keep this team that was in place and set up by the PDP as a rigging machine. This was the same team that returned almost 100 per cent votes in Bayelsa to the former President. And we feel that these people could not have given us a free and fair treatment and we said it over and over again, but unfortunately, our cries fell on deaf ears”.
Sylva further accused INEC and the PDP of adopting a strategy of cancelling elections in the areas the APC won and upholding the results that favoured the PDP.
He said based on the 53,000 cancelled votes, the election should have been declared inconclusive since the figure was higher than the difference between him and Dickson.
The margin between the PDP and APC was 49,126.
“And as far as we are concerned, we are going to discuss with our lawyers”, he said.