Bayelsa Guber: Gladiators Face Hurdles

As Bayelsans are preparing to elect a new governor in the state come November 16, 2019, power brokers in the state are scheming to ensure that their preferred candidates sail through their various party primaries before finally occupying the Creek Haven.

Ostensibly, the two major political parties in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the All Progressives Congress, APC, are at the moment divided based on the interests within the parties.

While the PDP is divided between the political family of former President Goodluck Jonathan and the newly formed political family of the incumbent Governor, Seriake Dickson, otherwise called “Restoration Caucus”, the APC is also divided between the loyalists of ex-Governor Timipre Sylva and the immediate past Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, who is gunning for the APC governorship ticket.

Before Dickson became governor in 2012, he was a members of greater Jonathan family, a political family that brought him from the House of Representatives to become the governor of the oil rich Bayelsa State; but now as a governor, Dickson and his loyalists believe that it is time for them to build their own political house and control the politics of the state.

Dickson has already shown his support for the incumbent Chairman of the state Board of Internal Revenue, Mr. Nimibofa Ayawei, while almost all the key players in his government, including the Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral John Jonah (Rtd), Secretary to the state government, Kemela Okara and others have also bought the governorship nomination forms to challenge Dickson’s choice.

Also, ex-President Jonathan and wife, Patience, are said to have soft spot for the former Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Timi Alaibe,

With the Peoples Democratic Party fixing September 3, 2019 for governorship primaries in both Bayelsa and Kogi states, ahead of the November 16 election in the two states, some loyalists of ex-President Jonathan and incumbent Governor Seriake Dickson have devised several means to ensure that either Jonathan or Dickson’s political family produces the candidate of the party, and by extension produce the next governor of the state.

Before 2012, Dickson was a critical member of the larger Jonathan’s political family, but now as the governor, his loyalists believe that it is time he began to build his own political family, and that would be feasible if he installs the next governor of the state, and thereby open another cold war between the governor and his estranged political godfather in choosing the PDP governorship candidate ahead of November election.

Dickson has over the past seven years built his own political family popularly called “Restoration Team” with the belief that at the expiration of his tenure on February 2020, key government functionaries will come from the Restoration Team; and already, the Restoration Team has produced two out of three senators for the state, three out of five House of Representatives members and 19 out of 24 members in the state assembly.

 

Some PDP stakeholders in the state are of the opinion that the onerous task of getting Dickson’s successor should not only be left to key political figures in the state, who properly might have indulged in anti-party activities to undermine the party’s leadership in the past, especially when it comes to the fact that Jonathan outrightly lost his senatorial district and a federal constituency in the zone to APC.

 

During the last general election in the state, some touchy issues which have been left to linger enough put a question mark on the purported allegiance of some members and leaders of the party, especially in the Bayelsa East Senatorial District, where some party leaders were said to have worked against its interest, thereby depriving the PDP of a senatorial seat.

Already, the leadership of PDP in the state is said to be irked by the alleged actions of known associates of the former President during the last general election who were said to have sabotaged the party and backed the candidates of opposition All Progressives Congress and the Action Democratic Alliance in the state to win Bayelsa East Senatorial District, as well as Southern Ijaw and Brass/Nembe federal constituencies.

As the party prepares to retain the governorship seat, Dickson will once again put forward some of his strategies and front people from the Restoration Team to hold onto the governorship position. For now, Restoration Team is the strongest political configuration in the state.

Recently, Moses Cleopas-led PDP has set up a panel of investigation into the conducts of party leaders and members during the last election with a view to taking disciplinary measures against culprits of anti-party. Unfortunately, the report of that panel is still being awaited as the party was caught in a game of the ostrich, not willing to disrupt its internal cohesion by punishing allies of the former President who naturally should play the role of the father of all.

There is the prevalent belief around PDP circle that Jonathan’s lack of firmness and decisiveness when important issue arise in the party is at the root of the disintegration of his political movement, “The Green Movement”, which he formed to front his associate as governor.

Also, the seemingly overbearing influence of Jonathan’s wife, Patience, has not helped the former Nigerian leader’s popularity with the political crowd and its leaders in Bayelsa.

Very few Bayelsans, including those that are apolitical would jump at the idea of a Bayelsa being governed by a man who would hand over the state to the controlling influence of the former First Lady. Many Bayelsans are against the idea of Jonathan’s anointed candidate, Reuben Okoya because of his closeness to the former First Lady who may influence the government if Okoya succeeds.

Governor Seriake Dickson, while addressing party leaders recently, promised to embark on extensive consultations with key stakeholders of the state, including Jonathan, towards ensuring a peaceful and hitch-free party primary designed to produce the PDP flagbearer.

He stressed that anyone who should qualify to fly the PDP gubernatorial ticket must have the requisite qualities of courage, commitment, vision and guts to protect the interests of the state and Ijaw nation.

According to him, the candidate of the PDP should have the consciousness and capacity to play opposition politics in the country.

Dickson has already surmounted opposition in his Bayelsa West Senatorial District with his firm grip on political structure and could contain any threat to PDP victory there, but the issue of imposition may even implode the party before the main election if it is not addressed during the primary.

But, even as the game unfolds, one factor that may work against Jonathan and his followers is his perceived reputation to turn against his political associates. Keen observers of the Bayelsa political firmament say that Jonathan’s political family is on the fast lane of collapse and extinction because of perceived selfishness and ingratitude by men around him.

Apart from this concern, a good majority of PDP stakeholders are not inclined to queue behind a candidate thrown on the party by Jonathan, going by his recent history with the state PDP. Stakeholders are of the view that it would be repugnant to the concept of justice and fairness for some people to make the sacrifice over the years to build a solid party only to yield it to people who may not be on ground to deliver during the main election.

Interestingly, the two political leaders of PDP in the state, Governor Dickson and former President Jonathan have all kept mum at the moment about the touchy issue of the PDP candidate for the next election. While both leaders have held closed door meetings with no other person in attendance, the outcome of such deliberations are closely guarded secrets. Certainly, the enduring silence from those perceived as the anchor for the political ambitions of these aspirants have resulted in a lull in political activities across Bayelsa State.

According to Governor Dickson’s ally in PDP, who is also a member of the state executive committee of the party, the issue of who flies the party’s flag and becomes the next governor of the state will be decided by Governor Dickson himself, being the leader of the party in the state.

Certainly, as the state’s November 16 political calendar draws near, it is the inevitable reality that no candidate of PDP can win election in Bayelsa without the support of the incumbent and the Restoration household built on the fortress of leadership provided by Governor Seriake Dickson.