‘Defections to APC in Bayelsa is only a storm in a tea cup’
AS political gauge increase in Bayelsa State preparatory to the December gubernatorial election, incumbent governor, Henry Seriake Dickson has expressed optimism that his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stands in good stead to win the poll.
This is despite the fact that a sitting State Chairman of the party, Col Sam Inokoba (rtd) and several other chieftains including former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi Alaibe and Senator Henieken Lokpobiri, dumped the PDP for the rival All Progressive Congress (APC).
Being the home state of the former President Goodluck Jonathan who carried and still carries enough influence in the political scene and having been in the grip of the PDP since the beginning of the present democratic dispensation in 1999, Bayelsa is expected to be the stronghold of the party.
Even with the APC broom sweeping the country’s political space, the PDP in Bayelsa is expected to be one of the last states to be counted on the side of the opposition but events in the last two weeks are giving ominous signals that all is not well within the PDP family.
Last week, a mammoth crowd gathered at the Samson Siasia Stadium to witness the National Chairman of the APC, John Odigie-Oyegun as he welcomed the new defectors who joined the former governor Timpre Silva and others to further weaken the PDP structure.
While Odigie-Oyegun expressed delight at the “quality of defectors”, Inokoba whose tenure had been dogged by some long standing controversy, said Dickson had mismanaged the goodwill of the people of the state thereby destroying the trust the people had in the PDP.
According to him, “the Labour of our fore fathers has been rubbished. Bayelsa restoration has become retrogression. Bayelsa PDP has become a Fuji House of Commotion. Instead of development, we have witnessed disrespect to the elders in the state.”
Against this background is the allegation that a prominent member of the former first family may be throwing her weight behind an APC candidature, a development that seems to have foreclosed the PDP, despite the arrays of political office holders in its camp, winning the coming election.
But Dickson, who described the whole issue of APC warming up to take over the state as “a mere storm in a teacup”, said there was no way the PDP would lose the state “because our party is not only the only visible party in the state, we are very much on ground and very strong too.”
The governor, who has not formally declared his intention to seek a second term of office, said the coming gubernatorial contest “is no big deal because we have witnessed more turbulent periods before, even at our coming in for this first term. In each of these turbulent periods, the will of God and the people always prevail.
“During the last State Assembly polls, which we won convincingly, we had to spread our strength to all the state constituencies. That one certainly tasked us more than what we are going to do in the governorship election. It is no big deal.”
He said the fact that the party in the last general elections cleared all the available seats from the presidential poll to the House of Assembly seats, is enough to tell “those dreaming of winning the state that they are only in a fantasy land. They are in the land of dreams. They better wake up to the reality of the situation.”
The governor who spoke in an interactive session with reporters in Lagos said apart from the unrivaled strength of the PDP in Bayelsa, his administration “has raised the bar of governance to a level that has not been attained before. Our great strides in education, which was in total comatose when we came on board, and on health, which has placed it among the best in the country, are enough reasons for the people to vote for the PDP.
“The truth of the matter is that these people who are against us and against the progress of the people of Bayelsa, never thought that we could get to this high level of governance. So they want to truncate our march to greatness. I know our people will resist them.”
Dickson lamented the current economic downturn in the country which has reduced states’ allocations from the Federation Accounts considerably saying “if not because of that, our state would have been the envy of its peers across the country by now.
“Bayelsa now receives less than 25 percent of what we were receiving when we first came in but despite that, our stride in education delivery is unrivaled. Even when the state was getting jumbo allocations, there was nothing these people, who are now castigating us, could show for the huge allocations. But now, not minding the meager resources, our people now see the difference.
“If I was the one with access to the billions that they had when they were here, Bayelsa would have been turned to a far better place. But they squandered our commonwealth through mismanagement.
“For instance, the monthly wage bill when we came in was more than N6 billion. We carried out an audit and discovered that over N2 billion was been siphoned from the treasury to private pockets. We blocked that and our wage bill is now N4 billion.”
Speaking on the allegations of opposition from the former first family, he said enjoyed far cordial relationship with the former president and his wife, just as he enjoined Nigerians to await his memoirs where real details of battle he fought when he was running for governorship in 2012 would be clearly stated.
“What I know about the former president is that he remains my elder brother and my leader, and we are working closely. If there is anyone who believes and who is supportive and understand the imperatives, the reasons why I should be re-elected, it is former President Jonathan. He believes I have done well and I am doing well for our state and for our people,” he said.
Dickson said the former president was equally aware that he was his no 1 supporter from beginning to the end when he was in power, pointing out that all that was being said about the sour relation between him and former president was speculations and rumours he would not like to react to.
Commenting on the gale of defection that had hit the state chapter of PDP, Dickson, while describing it as blackmail, propaganda, political betrayal and show of ingratitude, said the concern was that those involved were the ones who had benefited immensely form his government and the party.
According to him, a lot of them are currently handling huge contracts, which he said they didn’t beg to get but “they were sought out to be given those contracts as part of my efforts to make sure that we have an all-inclusive government where everyone will have a sense of belonging.”
He said all those that left the party have nominees who occupy government positions even at cabinet level stressing, “they didn’t come begging for those jobs, we sought for them. Alaibe has his nominees in government even as we speak, all of them.”
He however stated that their acts of betrayal would not make him relieve their nominees in government of their positions adding that it would also not dissuade him from doing good things as it only showed the capacity of people for doing evil.
Dickson, who said the reason why the defectors were rushing to APC, contrary to other excuse that they were not paid for contracts they executed for government, was to position themselves for federal appointments as Bayelsa had never been in opposition camp until now, insisted that he had been good to all that defected through quality leadership as he did not see them as enemies.
He said, “The reason they are positioning themselves for the federal appointments is because APC is at the centre now. I am not in a position to get those appointments for them. This is the first time that our state would be in opposition and I think the allure of Abuja is too strong for them to ignore.”
Dickson however said that in spite of what had taken place, Bayelsans from various constituencies in the state have been endorsing his second term, even in places where he had not visited, including Alaibe’s homestead.