The candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the Bayelsa State governorship election, Udengs Eradiri, has expressed sadness over the incidence of vote buying and selling that characterised Saturday’s poll.
Eradiri, who spoke to journalists in his country home, Agudama-Ekpetiama, also lamented that he was fooled into contesting the antics of the people.
He said, “Well, I think, first, I am disappointed. I am disappointed not on the process alone, but on the people themselves – because I thought the people understood now that everybody has seen the nakedness of poverty, the neglect, and the incompetence of leadership, and that would define the voting pattern.
“But, I was fooled, I was fooled. People don’t care. About the educational situation, people don’t care. About the economy people don’t care. All the people care about is the money in their hand. And that’s why I feel very sad, probably because I misjudged the people before I decided to embark on this journey.
“I thought that with the people, in going through this process, they would have been able to express it in the ballot. Unfortunately, vote-buying was the order of the day and the people were encouraging it.
“Clearly, I was talking to somebody, and the person was telling me that she was ready to sell her vote to me and I said me, Udengs Eradiri to buy vote? I won’t do it.
“For one, I didn’t have money to buy votes. Secondly, I didn’t come to contest because I was looking for people to induce to be governor. I came to contest because I know that things are not right and I know that I can do it differently.”
On his campaigns before the election, he said all the while, the people were only interested in what they would get on election day.
“I am believing that if I am able to engage the people and they understand the issues – that’s why I rigourously campaigned from community to community, from local government to local government talking about the issues, organising town hall meetings to raise the consciousness of the people.I was just fooled over the emotions that were expressed during the campaigns.
“People are not interested in what happens in the society. People are just interested in what enters their hand, their mouth, their pocket and their stomach.”
On the peaceful election, he said: “So, the optics of it is that you go there, you see voting, it’s peaceful because people, of course, have expressed peaceful disposition. I have been moving around the community since yesterday talking to young people making sure any iota of violence is nipped in the bud.
Still on the issue of vote buying, he said: “But, behind the scene you see buying and selling of votes going on. Tallies. As you are voting, you are collecting your tally. You see people showing their votes to confirm.”
Eradiri also talked about a woman whose child he trained in a private university for four years who voted against him in order to receive N14,000 from an opposition party agent.
“And the one that pains me most is there’s a woman in my town community whom I trained her child in a private university. I’m so pained about it because she voted against me. I trained her child and she showed it to them to collect N14,000.
“I paid N400,000 every term for four years in Afe Babalola University. So, people don’t care about what they do. What they are after is money. And it’s a sad one for my state because for me, Udengs Eradiri, I wanted to prove that somebody can get up and do it. In spite of the inducement that somebody can say no to it and stand firm because you believe that things can be better.”
He also complained about how the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) mixed up the pictures of LP agents and their names to refuse them entry to polling stations.
“Yes, in our case, we filled the form for 2,244 agents. INEC last week, no, earlier this week sent us the list, printed tags and on the tags, especially four local government collation agents – they are our local government chairmen, so I know that it is you, but it’s your name, not your face.
“Then several units – they just mixed the faces. It was deliberate. So, we decided let us prepare a letter. So, I called the National Chairman and we sent him the letter to that effect. So, we have a received copy from INEC believing that these are errors that you committed because you printed.
“You didn’t ask us to print. We filled it in the portal, but when you printed to bring to us, the names were different. The names were different from the faces and when you scanned the back code, what is in the INEC portal is a different face and we knew the persons.
“So, we raised the concern and sent back those people with their voters cards that look, this is the voter card of the individual, but look at what you printed so that we don’t get there and they deny them.
He also blamed the poor showing of the Labour Party on the absence of his party agents at the polling units.
“Yes, that is the point. We didn’t have agents – the agents were refused in a lot of the polling units because this problem was deliberately put.”
But, he stressed he would not go to court to challenge the outcome of the election while placing blame on Nigeria’s electoral woes on the electorate.
“But, like I said, I didn’t contest an election to go to court and start doing all that nonsense. I particularly satisfied my conscience to show to the world.
“But, I know where the problem is. It is not in the political class, the problem is in the electorate. The electorate are not prepared. They are encouraging corruption in the system. They are encouraging the kind of electoral system we have. So, the problem is in the electorate.”