In Bayelsa, The Scheming Heightens Ahead Of The Governorship Election
Governor Henry Seriake Dickson had taken over from Chief Timipre Sylva in the first year of his second tenure after the Appeal Court sitting in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, upturned Sylva’s victory and ordered a fresh election in state.
The defunct Action Congress of Nigerian (ACN) governorship candidate, Prince Ebitimi Amgbare, had challenged the victory of Sylva, then of the People Democratic Party (PDP) at the Election Petition Tribunal.
Not satisfied with the ruling of the tribunal, Amgbare proceeded to the Appeal Court, where judgment was given in his favour.
Bayelsa is a peculiar state with a peculiar terrain and political orientation. The narrative of the political growth of the state since 1999 has been that of endless agitations.
All the governors that had ruled the state before now have been served a share of the deep-seated bickering, resistance of government policies and deliberate criticisms.
On each of these occasions, the sitting governors ended up being offered on the altar of political sacrifice, the only exception being Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who providence shot to national limelight.
The storm in Bayelsa’s political space has started gathering again, as politicians in the state strategise ahead of next year’s governorship election.
The political cloud is thickening with hate, dissatisfaction and indifference against the government, and the trend is disturbing. It is almost becoming a tradition, with the potential of portraying the polity as unstable, given the people’s penchant for always calling for the head of an incumbent governor towards the tail end of every administration.
None of the governors that had ruled the state has ever successfully completed the constitutional two tenures in office. The people have never celebrated their governors and their tenures have always been aborted half way, either by commission or commission.
It is yet to be seen if the Dickson administration would survive this trend.
No doubt, Bayelsa has a history replete with aborted administration and youth restiveness, which in the past portrayed the corporate image of the state in bad light.
Bayelsa certainly need some measure of sustainability, in terms of good governance and execution of people-oriented project and programmes that would enable Bayelsans to enjoy the dividends of democracy.
Already, there is apprehension amongst politicians in the state, as agitation against the Dickson administration is becoming intense and the perception of his style of governance depicts a gulf between the government and the governed.
There is the general complains of poor social welfare and the usual political benefits to party members and politicians.
The governor had on several occasions told the people that the policy and politics of his administration was intended to serve the best interest of the people and the state.
The Dickson administration policy focus, especially on fiscal discipline, transparency, accountability good governance, due process human capital development and sustainable development are all targeted to building the strong institutions the state need.
With the vibrancy he brought into governance in the early years of his administration, the governor promised to be one of the best that would governed the state, and majority of the people seemed not to have tagged along.
Given this scenario, one is tempted to ask if Dickson can break the second term jinx in the state.
Already, a group, under the aegis of Network for Bayelsa People’s Forum (NBPF), has expressed fear over the possibility of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) returning Dickson as its flag bearer in the election.
The group’s Chairman, Ibipa Oweiza, in a statement in Yenagoa, lamented that Dickson has squandered the goodwill of the party in the state, saying majority of the electorate were already yearning for change.
The group believes that if PDP insist on fielding the governor as its candidate in the election, it should as well consider it a lost race to any opposition political party.
According to them, going by the trend in the country, as witnessed in the last general elections, any attempt to impose the governor on the people would lead to mass decamping and anti-party activities.
The leadership of the group added that they were particularly worried about the governor’s penchant to instigate controversy, which they alleged was already tearing the party apart.
“Two months ago, the governor caused the suspension of Col. Sam Inokoba, the state Chairman of the party, against wise counsel.
“This action has already polarised the party in the state,” Oweiza said.
He continued: “Recently, Dickson instigated a sectional leadership of the party to institute investigation and probe of very senior party members, including a serving senator, Emmanuel Paulker, and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Domestic Matter for anti-party activities with the deliberate intention of fanning the embers of discord.
“The governor is doing battle from all flanks within the PDP family. The party may lose the next governorship election if Dickson retains its ticket.
“For the party to do well in the election, its should, as a matter of urgency, begin to shop for a popular and acceptable candidate, as Dickson has made himself and the party very unpopular in the state.
“The party is already in disarray and something must be done to salvage it,” he stated.
Oweiza, in the statement, pointed to the recent action of the governor over the alleged disruption of the proceeding at the Federal High Court in Yenagoa, the state capital in the case involving his preferred candidate in the just-concluded National Assembly election for Bayelsa West senatorial district, Foster Ogola and incumbent Senator Heineken Lokpobiri over who is the authentic PDP ticket holder.
He alleged that Dickson threw caution to the wind when he visited the court premises on March 30 when information got to him that the presiding Judge went ahead to fix hearing and judgment, which according to him, was without proper notification to both parties, even as the matter has been moved away from his court.
But the Greater Bayelsa Youth for Change (GBYC), a group of Bayelsa indigenes with at home and in the Diaspora, believed PDP and indeed the state have fared better under Dickson, who it said has succeeding in keeping PDP in the state more formidable, despite all odds.
The group, led by Abadi Timi, said at a media briefing in Lagos recently: “As at today, Dickson has so repositioned PDP in the state, which resulted in its April 11 polls’ victory with 20 out of the 22 announced results.
“This is more of a referendum of the Dickson administration, because he had inherited an entirely House of Assembly members dominated by Sylva loyalties.”
According to Timi: “Another area we looked at is Dickson’s cordial relationship with the labour, as exemplified by the recent Workers’ Day reduction of PAYEE tax by 20 per cent.
“The implication here is that being federal government taxation, Dickson will be paying the shortfall on their behalf.
“The workers fell short of endorsing him for second term, as he relates very well with each section of the state economy.
“By this action, the labour declared him the Most Popular Politician On Workforce and total support of his developmental efforts, provision of modern secretariat building, payment of salaries as at when due, and more.
“This has expectedly earned Dickson the needed popularity among women, students and artisans in the state at a time when most states of the federation cannot afford to pay salaries of their staff.”
On his part, Chief Peretimi Akari, Chairman of Bayelsa Grassroots Initiatives has stated that Dame Patience Jonathan’s unsuccessful effort to undermine Dickson backfired during the April 11 House of Assembly elections.
Akari, also speaking in Lagos, said his group has vowed to continue to expose all enemies of progress in Bayelsa, adding that Bayeslans have spoken with the results of the April 11 polls.
He stressed: “Though Jonathan speaks on the need for Bayelsans to continue working with Dickson for a continued developmental stride since assumption of office three years ago, his actions are contrary, as there has not been deliberate effort to support the state on infrastructural development from the presidency.
“Take a visit there and you will discover that all the projects in Bayelsa are state-funded.
“The truth is that the governor’s offence is bringing sanity to governance, as he started by cutting costs from Government House, put a stop to the inflation of salaries and getting the civil servants to sit up.
“That definitely did not go down well with the beneficiaries.”
Meanwhile, the Bayelsa Elders Consultative Forum (BECF), after an extensive meeting last weekend in Yenagoa, resolved to support Ndutimi Alaibe, a former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), if he eventually decides to contest the governorship scheduled.
Spokesperson of the Forum, Chief Prince Abeki, in an interview with The Guardian, explained that their decision was reached after a review of the polity of the state, which he said need re-engineering, saying only a candidate of Alaibe’s calibre would be able to undertake the task.
The elders, according to Abeki, regretted that after 16 years of governance by the People Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, there is little to show for it.
“The people of the state have not gotten what they deserved from PDP, both at the federal and state level. Our support for the party has not culminated in anything tangible.
“Our people want change. That is why we are going to offer them the candidacy of Alaibe, because that is what Alaibe represents, and we are pressurising him to accept to emerge as the choice of the people,” he said.
Even though Alaibe has not indicated interest to contest the election, the elders believe that it would be wise if he considers the plea of the people to join the race.
In Bayelsa, it appears the battle has begun, ahead of the election.