The controversy plaguing the postponed elections into the leadership of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) continued yesterday when six aspirants declared themselves president of the council in Bayelsa State.
However, the alleged government candidate and former secretary of the youth body, Mr. Udenz Eradiri, was officially declared the new president of the umbrella body of Ijaw youth bodies in Yenagoa, the state capital.
Eradiri was declared president by the chairman and secretary of the electoral committee after they have been forced to flee the Samson Siasia Sports Complex venue of the election following protest by the delegates who alleged electoral fraud.
The youths went on rampage despite the heavy presence of men of the Nigerian army and police who were able to protect the election officials out of the venue even as the protesters took to streets in anger.
Even as the security agents were battling to contain the protest from turning violent, five other candidates at various locations also declared themselves presidents, as majority of the delegates protested to the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) press centre five kilometers away from the venue.
Also, stern looking and battle ready soldiers and policemen were deployed to protect the state Government House as the protesters moved in their thousands from the venue of the election.
The election, according to the protesters, was characterised by electoral fraud allegedly staged by the top officials of the state government with total number of voters exceeding the number of accredited delegates.
The protesting presidential candidates of the youth council including Elvis Donkemezuo, Jonathan Lokpobiri and Nengi Ikiba, declared parallel national executive councils of their own, claiming to have been duly elected and declared winners in the election.
Donkemezuo told journalists at the Marto Christo Hotel premises that he was duly elected in the presence of the past leaders of the IYC including Stanley Patrick popularly known as Ogbakiri.
According to Donkemezuo, "my election as President of IYC was secured through a landslide victory. I call on my supporters to be law abiding and urge other aspirants to come and let’s work together. For Ijaw nation to move forward, everybody must come together as one."
He also claimed that the state Governor, Seriake Dickson, had called him and congratulated him on his victory.
The Chairman of the electoral committee, Sunny Diri Tolofari, while declaring the result before journalists yesterday, said protests after any election was expected as not everybody is expected to win in an election, insisting that "the election was free and fair."
Meanwhile, the interim chairman of the Karu Baraje-led faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Chief Richard Kpodo, has expressed concern over the protest marches and the role of the state government in the conduct of the election.
He stated that it was unnecessary for the state government to meddle in the election of a youth body, adding that such action only serve to bring the government into disrepute.