Last week, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won all the eight councils in Bayelsa state local government election having enjoyed a near-seamless challenge from the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) which boycotted the exercise. Joy Emmanuel writes.
It seems obvious some may say that the PDP has tightened its grip on the layers of power in Bayelsa state. The party has ruled the state from the inception of the fourth republic in 1999 and seems unprepared to relinquish power at all levels. In fact, within the party itself, some are of the view that Governor Seriake Dickson has tightened his grip on the ticket of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) ahead of the party’s primary election to produce its candidate for the November 16 governorship poll, it was learnt Monday.
The going by the victory of his candidates in the election, he thus controls the majority of PDP delegates and therefore it would be apparent to all that were he to favour any of the party’s aspirants such could with relative ease emerge the fly bearer. His preferred governorship aspirant would therefore have an edge over others and positioned him for victory at the internal poll of the party.
The successful conduct of the weekend’s local government election by the Bayelsa State Independent Electoral Commission (BYSIEC) was said to have put spanners in the works of other major contenders for the ticket outside Dickson’s Restoration Caucus of the PDP.
It was learnt that the winners of the election, who are all PDP candidates, swelled the number of delegates waiting for Dickson’s directive on whom they should vote for in the party’s primaries.
Following the results of the local government election, Dickson was said to have added eight local government chairmen, eight deputy chairmen and 105 councilors elected from all the wards in the state to his list of delegates.
Most of the aspirants especially a major contender outside Dickson’s camp were said to be unhappy that all their plans to stop the conduct of the local government election till after the governorship poll failed woefully.
A source and chieftain of PDP, who spoke in confidence, said there was nothing anybody could do to stop Dickson from ensuring that his anointed aspirant wins the PDP’s ticket.
“As it stands now, the party’s ticket is in the hands of Dickson. Anybody, who wants it but is not in the good books of the governor should go and reconcile with him all kiss his aspiration on the platform of the PDP good bye.
“Initially a major contender tried to stop him from conducting the local government election. This contender would have stood a slim chance if he had succeeded. But having failed to stop Dickson, the governor remains unstoppable in delivering the ticket to any of his anointed candidate.
“Forget it when you hear that the governor does not have an anointed candidate. It is just a political gimmick to calm down the political space. There is no governor that doesn’t have an anointed candidate and Dickson will not be an exemption”, he said.
When reminded that the national leadership of the PDP could stop Dickson, the source laughed and said such could only be done at the peril of the PDP in the state.
“How will they stop him? Is it to arm-twist him and collect the ticket? It will lead to the implosion of the PDP in the state. The major mistake most of the aspirants have made especially the one who usually runs from one political party to another is their lack of presence in the state before now.
“Most of them were not on ground. They only run to the state whenever there is an election. They contributed nothing to the growth of the party and its leadership. Those in power now including most of the delegates regard them as opportunists,” he said.
It was further gathered that one of the major aspirants outside Dickson’s caucus was already weighing the option of moving his supporters to another party as his plan B insisting that he must be in the ballot at the governorship poll.
Prior to the local government election, Dickson told the eight chairmanship candidates, their running mates and 105 councillorship candidates that after their victory in the local council elections, they would become automatic delegates for the PDP governorship primaries.
Dickson said some persons in the party were jittery at the new statuses of the PDP candidates ahead of the internal election and had done everything possible through the court to stop the local government poll.
He warned that electing a non-restoration governorship candidate would spell doom for them as such persons would dissolve their offices after winning the governorship poll.
The Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, while hailing the successful conduct of the election commended Dickson for instituting a new democratic culture in the state and raising the bar so high for others to emulate.
Iworiso-Markson appealed to the people of the state to elect the right successor to Dickson, whose emergence would have a positive effect on them and the state.
He added that such person must have the competence and capacity to deliver and called on the people to insist on engaging the aspirants, listen and scruntinize all of them to ensure they have such qualities that will bring about a greater Bayelsa.
He said: “Such engagement will make them have informed decisions on who that person is. At this critical period of our development what we need is a principled, bold and courageous leader to protect the collective interest of the Ijaw nation and this point has been made severally by Governor Dickson.
“The issues are too clear for our understanding and appreciation of our current situation in the midst of struggle to dominate the smaller ethnic groups by the larger ones. And the struggle had been a long one.
“So in this regard, the next governor of the Ijaw nation must necessarily be courageous and ready to defend the Ijaw nation at all times without pandering to political whims or external influence or without being able to take decisive position on issues.”
13 aspirants, one ticket
At the moment no fewer than 13 aspirants have indicated interest to contest for the PDP ticket for the November 16 governorship election. Among them are the erstwhile NDDC Managing Director and former Presidential Adviser on Niger Delta Amnesty Programme, Chief Timi Alaibe; Senator Emmanuel Paulker; young entrepreneur, Keniebi Okoko; Reuben Okoya; former Ambassador to the Scandinavian countries, Boladei Igali; Chairman, Board of Internal Revenue, Dr. Nimibofa Ayawei; Senator representing Bayelsa Central, Senator Douye Diri,; Glory Kemeagbeye; Chief Fred Agbedi, member representing Sagbama/Ekeremor Federal Constituency; Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government, Kemela Okara; Nuclear Scientist, Franklin Osaisai; Joshua Maciver; Benson Agadaga, President of the Ogbia Brotherhood; and former Bayelsa state Deputy Governor, Peremobowei Ebebi among others
Method of primary, APC’s many headaches
Few weeks ago, stakeholders of the party were invited for a crucial meeting where the issue of what method should be adopted for the conduct of the primary. The meeting could not come to a definite conclusion on the mode to be adopted for the primary election for the emergence of the party’s candidate for the November governorship poll.
Respective camps of the aspirants and some stakeholders had accused the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) headed by Jotham Amos of attempting to foist the direct primaries methods of the stakeholders. He was strongly resisted as the meeting ended abruptly even as some claimed that the direct method was adopted while others insisted no such agreement was reached at the meeting.
So, rather than strengthened its unity and set the party on course for the November poll, the failure to adopt a commonly acceptable mode of the election tended to further divide it along diverse lines and interests.
According to keen watchers of political developments in the state, allies of the trio of minister designate, Chief Timipre Sylva, who is former governor of the state, immediate past minister of state for agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, and a founding member of the party in the state, Engr. Preye Aganaba, are the forces pulling at the party and is seriously threatening the unity of the party ahead of the November 16 governorship election.
For instance, a member representing Ekeremor constituency 2 in the state House of Assembly, Wilson Dauyegha, recently accused the party chairman of trying to force to sign a document purportedly confirming that the stakeholders’ meeting adopted direct primary method for the election of the party’s candidate for the November poll. I saw his action as undemocratic and I undertook a reasonable action to protect democracy,” he said adding that he had to invalidate the piece of paper by getting it torn.
In this regard, political watchers are expecting no little storm as the primaries approach from the two leading lights in the contest for the party ticket: Lokpobiri and Sylva’s candidate- Eng. Preye Aganaba.
Between Lokpobiri and Sylva
Though former governor Timipreye Sylva is now minister designate he still has eye for the governor’s seat. Some say he may have been ‘taken out of the state’ to pave way for Lopkobiri to have a smooth sail, however, his loyalists would not have anything to do with the former minister of state for agriculture.
They reason that since Slyva has very strong structure in the state and in fact controls the party structures he should determine who gets what and when having worked assiduously to ensure that APC remains relevant at a time some were still rollicking with the ruling PDP. Nonetheless, Lokpobiri has a clout of his own, is determined and has to demonstrate his seriousness picked the party expression of interest and nomination forms and had gone ahead to inaugurate his campaign council.
He has appointed a strong campaign team headed by a former two-time member of the House of Representatives, Hon Warman Ogoriba, director general of the Lokpobiri Campaign Organisation (LCO), who hit the ground running by urging the party delegates to look no further than Lokpobiri because he is the ideal candidate to fly APC flag in the 2019 Bayelsa governorship election.
According to him, “We are focused on what we are doing which is to make Heineken Lokpobiri the flag bearer of the party and go ahead to win the general election. We are not bothered about other aspirants or issues allegedly threatening the unity of the party. The APC is one big family and at the right time and at the appropriate we would meet and discuss”, he said following the inauguration of the campaign office at Opolo suburb of Yenogoa, the state capital.
APC zoning palaver
Another turbulent issue threatening the APC’s united front ahead of the primaries and ultimately the November D-Day encounter is zoning hiccoups. That it is a major obstacle is obvious going by the zeal and zest by which the Lokpobiri camp has attacked any suggestions in respect of respecting zoning structure in the state.
In fact, a chieftain of the party Osomkime Blankson only recently dismissed any notion that zoning should be a criteria for deciding who and where the party candidate should be and from where. Instead, he said zoning has never been a prerequisite for electing a governor in Bayelsa state since the return of democracy in 1999.
“I have been in the political scene for a long time, and being a stakeholder in the central senatorial district, I cannot remember any time stakeholders met and agreed that the office of the governor should be zoned to any particular part of the state.
“In all the elections we have been contesting since 1999, candidates from all local governments participated; so trying to sacrifice competency to zoning may spell doom to our democratic arrangement”, he said.
Similarly, the former Nigerian Ambassador to Venezuela and Third Republic Senator, Ambassador Felix Oboro, argued that were there to be such arrangement in the state not even as a party since the APC has yet to form a government, all the senatorial districts had produced governors, adding that the ideal thing was to give the other four local governments that had not produced governor opportunity to do so.
“If zoning policy is based on senatorial district, all the senatorial districts have produced governor, so we may lose the best candidate if we insist on this zoning that has never existed in Bayelsa politics.
“There has never been a time where stakeholders sat and agreed on zoning of political offices, rather, it is always given to the best. But agreement aside, zoning is actually a PDP thing, it is not constitutional, APC doesn’t practice zoning.”
Further cementing the argument, the Lokpobiri’s campaign director general Ogoriba also faulted those kicking against Lopkobiri’s ambition based on phantom zoning structure simply because he hails from Ekeremor, and stated that there was no time Bayelsa stakeholders sat down to adopt a rotational method for the governorship.
Like Ambassador Oboro, he said if even there were anything of such, all the senatorial districts have got their fair share of the governorship position, adding that it could be the turn of any local government area that had yet to occupy the office irrespective of its senatorial district.
“Many people talk about zoning and I laugh most times because I have been around the political scene for a while, precisely from 1989, 1999 till today and I can tell you with all amount of seriousness that there is no day that Bayelsa politicians sat somewhere and agreed that we were going to zone.
“Late Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha won in 1999 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party. So, the governorship started from the central. Alamieyeseigha left and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan came in from East and he handed over to another man from the East, Chief Timipre Sylvia.
“Timipre Sylvia was removed and then Dickson came from the West. If you look at it, all the three senatorial districts have taken their turn. It is not written anywhere that once they take their turn it must come back to Central or East.
“Anybody can contest and mind you at every point in time, other people from other senatorial districts were also contesting, so nobody sat somewhere and said zoning is sacrosanct. My take is, let the best person win and I believe that my candidate, Senator Heneiken Lokpobiri has what it takes to give Bayelsa development, growth and every other thing that Bayelsa deserves.”
Want of cohesion
From the ongoing some are wont to say that the APC appears to be a divided house ahead of its primaries and may have inadvertently conceded the lead to the ruling party the PDP, which though has its own headaches seems to have reasonably manage whatever conflicts there are within its ranks.
At the stakeholders’ meeting, the trio of Lokpobiri, Sylva and Aganaba were attendance with their supporters as were state House of Assembly and National Assembly members. The state executive members led by the chairman, Amos were told pointblank that his decision to adopt the direct primary method approach was wrong and not in tandem with the constitution of the party, insisting that before the stakeholders’ meeting, the SWC ought to have met to decide on the agenda. Notwithstanding the impasse, some of Sylva’s loyalists claimed that the stakeholders harmonized and adopted direct primary.
If the altercation that arose subsequently is an indication of trouble then one wonders what is!