Saturday, September 28, 2019 1:00 pm
Here are the factors that will come to play between the PDP and APC in the coming Bayelsa governorship election in the state
Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
The battle for who sits on the exalted chair in Creek Haven (the Bayelsa State seat of power) in Yenagoa, is already intense, prelude to the completion of the second tenure of Governor Seriake Dickson on 14 February, 2020. The primary elections for who bears the flag for each of the two political parties, the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) have been won and lost. Senator David Lyon, supported by former Governor and Petroleum Minister,Timipre Sylva, emerged APC candidate, while Senator Douye Diri devotedly backed by the incumbent Governor Seriake Dickson won for PDP.
However, in a related development, Timi Frank, a former APC Deputy National Spokesperson, said the PDP flagbearer in the state is weak and cannot defeat his APC counterpart warning that PDP would regret its decision for allegedly handpicking an unpopular candidate in the state. Frank subsequently congratulated the candidate of the APC in Bayelsa state, David Lyon, ahead of the elections. In a statement in Abuja on Friday, 6 September, Frank who is a former deputy national publicity secretary of the APC, claimed that the APC’s candidate is better placed to win the governorship election.
On the other hand, Senator Douye Diri emerged the PDP candidate for the Bayelsa governorship election. Diri scored 561 votes to beat his rival Timi Alaibe who got 365 votes the in primary held on Tuesday, 3 September at Gabriel Okara Cultural Centre, Yenagoa. Declaring the result, Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba, chairman, party’s electoral committee for the state, said Keniebi Okoko came third with 142 votes. No fewer than 21 governorship aspirants contested to be the party flag bearer. Diri was a member of the House of Representatives from 2015 to 2019, where he represented the people of Yenagoa/Kolokuma/Opokuma federal constituency of the state. He was later elected as the Senator representing Bayelsa central senatorial district during the 2019 general election.
On the part of APC, David Lyon emerged as the governorship candidate. Lyon polled 42 ,138 votes to defeat five other aspirants in the primary election of the party conducted by the APC Bayelsa State Governorship Primary Election Committee, chaired by the Yobe State Governor, Mai -Mala Buni. Lyon is believed to be the preferred choice of the Minister of State for Petroleum and former Governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva .
The collation officer for the poll , Senator Emmanuel Dangana, who declared the results in Yenagoa, said Diseye Poweigha came second with 1 ,533 votes while Maureen Etebu got 964 votes . Also , Ebitimi Amgbare polled 633 votes and the immediate past Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development , Heineken Lokpobiri, scored 571 votes while Preye Aganaba got 354 votes. It is yet to be seen how the battle of who occupies Creek Haven, Government House, will be fought and won.
Since the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), announced that whoever would win the governorship elections would be declared on 16 November 2019, numerous aspirants signified their interest in occupying the seat, first by getting their parties’ tickets in the only hegemonious Ijaw State in Nigeria. The battle is among all the registered political parties. But the PDP and APC stand out as parties of choice with promising political ladders to climb and occupy the governorship seat. Based on the history of both APC and PDP in the state, there is this political calculation that any person either of the two parties throws up as the flag bearer stands the chance of becoming the next governor of the state.
The first civilian Governor of the state, the late Diepreye Solomon Peter Alameiyesiegha (29 May 1999 and 9 December 2005) once said:”Politics is the only viable and lucrative industry in Bayelsa state, everything unimaginable like,the good, the bad and ugly are thrown into the ring during elections.” In other words, Bayelsa politics is a serious business. Huge capital and material resources are invested into the murky game. Even though outcome of the political chessgame will be premised on who wins in the elections to be conducted by INEC, the process of throwing up candidates by the different parties during their primaries, if not well handled (the primaries were concluded) was capable of either galvanizing or scattering each of the parties ahead of the main duel to be conducted by INEC.
At the last count, in PDP, the ruling party in the state, about 21 persons jostled to secure the party’s ticket to contest for governorship seat against the candidates of other parties. According to available records, the list of some of the aspirants who indicated interest include: the immediate past Director-General, Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission, Dr Franklin Osaisai; Mr Keniebi Okoko ; a former Chairman of the state PDP, James Dugo; Chief Great Joshua Maciver; and the Chairman of the state Land Use Allocation Committee, Mr Joseph Akedesuo.
Others were the Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral John Jonah ( retd.); a former Secretary to the State Government, Ambassador Godknows Igali; a former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Ndutimi Alaibe; Geoarge Ikoli, grandson of nationalist Ernest Ikoli; Chief Reuben Okoya; the current SSG, Mr Kemela Okara; and the Chairman, Bayelsa State Board of Internal Revenue, Dr Nimibofa Ayawei.
There were fears before the primaries that factors that might make or or mar the chances of the party were: the overbearing influence of Governor Dickson and other political godfathers, like the immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan.
Bayelsa political observers believed then that APC ,which is the main opposition party might also lose if it should follow the path of godfatherism in picking its flag bearer. The feeling was that Bayelsans would reject such a person at the polls because of the allegation that political godfathers have constantly pillaged the commonwealth of their state, leaving them bare. On the flip side, it was also believed that now that a former governor of the state, Timipre Sylva, who is the leader of the party in the state, had become the Minister of Petroleum, the APC in the state has gotten a boost to engage the ruling PDP in a good contest.
On the side of the APC, these politicians made their intentions known for the primaries: the immediate former Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri; and a businessman and party leader , Prince Preye Aganaba. It was learnt that Sylva, who was sworn-in as Minister by President Muhammadu Buhari, was backing another chieftain of the party, David Lyon, for the governorship ticket of APC. Six aspirants obtained the party’s N22.5million expression of interest and nomination forms and Lyon, who is a key player in the oil and gas industry and major financier of the APC in the state, was listed as one of them. Others were the former Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Frankland Briyai; former Commissioner of Police, Deseye Poweigha and Chief CK Amgbare.
Among all them, it was believed that the entrance of Lyon, who hails from Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, (he was in Abuja to submit his nomination and expression of interest forms at APC headquarters) somewhat changed the political calculations of both APC and PDP. The reason is not far to seek. Lyon is not only from Southern Ijaw local government which has the largest voting strength, he is also a man of great means.
There are certainly some factors that would come to play during the election in the state. One of them is the importance of zoning of political offices. There has been this argument that out of the eight local governments in the state, only one has neither produced a Governor nor a Deputy Governor. The first governor, DSP Alameiyeseigha, hails from Ijaw South Local Government of the Bayelsa Central Senatorial District. His deputy, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan from Ogbia Local Government of the East Senatorial Zone took over after Alameiyeseigha was impeached . He won the PDP ticket for re-election but was given the Vice Presidential ticket in 2007.
The exit of Jonathan threw up Chief Timipre Sylva, who is from Brass Local Government Area in the Senatorial District. After Sylva came the incumbent Governor Dickson who hails from Toru-Orua in Sagbama Local Government Area of Bayelsa West Senatorial District.
Observers of Bayelsa politics were, before the primaries, watching to see if Dickson who is about to leave office, would consider zoning before choosing the party’s candidates. Advocates of zoning are pushing the argument that among the eight local government areas in the state, Southern Ijaw, Ogbia, Brass and Sagbama have produced Governors in the persons of the late Alameiyesiegha, Jonathan, Sylva and Dickson respectively. In time past,Nembe, Ekeremor and Yenagoa have produced deputy governors in the persons of Rear Admiral John Jonah (retd), Chief Peremobowei Ebebi and Chief Werinipre Seibarugu respectively, while the Kolokuma-Opokuma has not produced neither a governor nor a deputy. Political sentiments may be played up that Kolokuma-Opokuma Local Government area should be allowed to have a shot at the highest position in the State. That would have been to the advantage of Ndutimi Alaibe who hails from there but from the PDP platform. The setback however is the low voting strength of the local government area. The factor of two strong political camps woven around the ex – President Goodluck Jonathan group and that of the Governor, Seriake Dickson actually came to play on who becomes flag bearer in PDP.
In the public, the Governor and the former President appear to be in cordial relationship. But the truth is both of them are poles apart on who determines the next Governor and the power sharing formula for political positions in the state. This underlying disagreement is being kept from public knowledge.
Speculations were rife before the primaries that while the Dickson caucus was said to be queuing behind the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Kamela Okara, and his Internal Revenue Board Chair , Nimibofa Ayawei; Jonathan ’s caucus was believed to be solidly behind Timi Alaibe. It claimed that to whittle down political chances of Alaibe that the Dickson caucus decided to balloon the number of aspirants.
As the political calculations went on between the two solid camps of Dickson and Jonathan, observers warned that the earlier they put their house in order the better for the party to keep its winning record or it might carelessly prepare the groundwork for APC to produce the next Governor. In the end, Senator Douye Diri won the primaries.
APC on the other hand has it problems.The issues that stuck-up like a sore thumb were internal squabbles and the lack of a father figure as rallying point for dedicated members. Reports had it before the primaries that key stakeholders including Sylva , Lokpobiri, Aganaba and elected national assembly members of the party were having difficulty in chosing an agreeable mode of producing the flag bearer of the party.
Political pundits warned that almost exactly what played out in Rivers State APC was about repeating itself in Bayelsa APC, which culminated in prolonged court cases that barred APC from fielding candidates for any elective posts during the 2019 elections. Sylva’s camp was said to be insisting on the direct primaries for the selection of candidates , the Lokpobiri and Aganaba camps preferred the indirect primary method. The fear among some members of APC was for the nagging issue of mode of selection or election of candidates be resolved quickly so that the grounds could be set to produce candidates that would slug it out with the PDP at the polls. When the primary election held for APC, David Lyon carried the trophy.
However, APC really has a lot of work to do to upstage PDP, which has been in total control of power in the state since 1999, and under which platform the state with the least number of Local Government councils areas in the country produced a Vice President, Acting President and President.
-This story was first published in the September/October edition of TheNEWS hard copy