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Bayelsa 2019: Dickson’s succession permutation beset by intrigues

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Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa

Chances are emerging that Governor Seriake Dickson’s political permutation to install a choice successor could be beset by unforeseen problems, which he did not factor into his calculations.

A major pointer to the unfolding political intrigues is the sour deal between the governor and the former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Tonye Isenah, who represents Kolokuma/Opokuma Constituency 1, where Dickson’s anointed successor and Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate for the November 16 polls, Senator Douye Diri comes from.

In June, against the wishes of majority of the members of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Governor Dickson had schemed against the emergence of the incumbent Speaker, Monday Obolo, who represents Southern Ijaw 2, for Isenah to emerge the Speaker of the state’s sixth Assembly.

Isenah who had once served as the chief whip of the House of Assembly and chairman of various committees, had promised to assiduously prevent any acrimony with the executive, to ensure the development of the state.
“I urge all members to work together to take Bayelsa to the highest pedestal. The legislative and executive arms are partners in every government. I believe, our duty is to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people,” said Isenah.

Pleased with the successful coronation of Governor Dickson’s preferred Speaker, the Commissioner of Information, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, said the emergence of Isenah was another clear evidence of the stable political space in Bayelsa state.

“The news of the inauguration of the leadership of the 6th Bayelsa State House of Assembly is very cheering and commendable. The Assembly has made the state proud by having a seamless transition, which is a huge feat. The Government of Seriake Dickson will be looking forward to a robust relationship with the new leadership to move our state to greater heights,” he said.

Unknown to the people of Bayelsa State, Governor Dickson and Isenah had struck deal that the later who hails from the same Local Government Area with Senator Diri will resign his position as Speaker in the event that Diri emerges as the PDP governorship candidate.

A top official of the Bayelsa State government who preferred anonymity, told The Guardian that those who attended the meeting when the deal was struck between Dickson and Isenah were the Deputy governor, Retired Rear Adm. Gboribiogha John-Jonah, Monday Obolo, who was compensated with the position of majority leader.

“When they came out of that meeting, Isenah was asked to brief other lawmakers what was agreed with the Governor. Isenah told the other lawmakers that he will step down after a while. But at the first meeting before this one, when Governor said he wanted Isenah as Speaker, Obolo stood up and told Dickson that he was not happy because his Local Government Area was being deprived of the position of the Speaker. But they had to calm him down” he said.

Isenah

So, when Diri emerged as the winner of the disputed PDP primary and All Progressives Congress (APC) had given their governorship ticket to Mr. David Lyon, who hails from Southern Ijaw, where even PDP members are torn between supporting their kinsman and the party, the governor was not too perturbed because there was nothing to suggest that an arrangement between him and the then Speaker may be difficult to implement.

“So since Isenah is from the same LGA with Diri, the Governor and the PDP in the state felt it was better for the Speakership position to be given to a lawmaker from Southern Ijaw, just as the director general of the Diri campaign is from same area”

Another source in the PDP disclosed that shortly after the party’s governorship primary, Governor Dickson travelled to Abuja and later sent for Isenah to join him.  Probably unaware that he has become a victim of immodest political ambition and already caught in the intricate web of vested interests, the Speaker who in June easily fell into Dickson’s baits was told that the time had come for him to relinquish his exalted position.

“ About three weeks ago, the Governor invited Isenah to Abuja and was asked to resign in view of the prevailing political exigencies and told he bluntly the Governor he will not resign. The Governor became distraught, stared at him in unbelief. He asked the Speaker why? He said; ‘your excellency, I won’t resign’ It was at this point the Governor told him to go and think about it. But he bluntly replied that there was nothing to think about because he will not resign. The Governor was surprised,” he said.

Governor Dickson, who took the former Speaker’s decision to defy him and PDP Restoration Consortium’s directives to resign from his position with equanimity, still persisted by mounting subtle pressure on him to resign, but to no avail.

Penultimate Thursday, Isenah was once again invited to the Governor’s residence in Bayelsa for a meeting. After the meeting, the former Speaker came out, appearing seemingly furious. Efforts were made by some of the Governor’s aides to appease him to no avail and he left.

Shortly after the meeting, Isenah was alleged to have posted on his Facebook wall: “Don’t push a loyal person to the point were he will have no option. Loyalty is not cowardice.”

Similarly, one of the former Speaker’s social media aide claimed that untoward pressure was being mounted on him to impeach the deputy governor. Due to the stir this generated, Isenah media aide refuted the allegation.

It was gathered that by penultimate Friday, Isenah had assured Governor Dickson he was going to resign last Monday. It was on this basis that last Friday, he called a meeting of his staff to inform them that last Monday will be his last day in office as Speaker. In furtherance of this, the former Speaker last Sunday also went to his church in Odi and held a thanksgiving.

An official of the Diri campaign team told The Guardian that by last Monday everyone felt Isenah would adhere to the terms of the agreement reached with the Governor and other stakeholders to resign, but to the surprise of everyone he reneged.
“We still felt that by Monday last week, Tonye will resign. Obolo supporters had finished preparation for celebration, only for Isenah not to resign. The House sat last Monday morning, but there was no issue on the order paper. Normally, if you want to adjourn the House, somebody will move a motion and it will be seconded and the Speaker will adjourn the House. But when he finished addressing the House he told his colleague that the House will adjourn sine die. He banged the gavel and took the mace away. He said the reason for the adjournment was because the House had not gone on recess,” she said.

As Isenah, escorted by the Sergeant at arm and five opposition lawmakers, walked out of the legislative chambers, suddenly several youths stormed the Assembly shooting sporadically and snatched the mace.

Meanwhile, the other 18 other PDP lawmakers, who felt Isenah had reneged on the agreement with Governor Dickson, stayed back and sent for the Yenagoa council legislative arm’s mace, sat and impeached him and elected Monday Obolo.

Isenah, who was forced out of office in a bruising leadership contest with Governor Dickson had been accused political treachery, which is not a new phenomenon in the treacherous politics of Bayelsa State.

Some have accused Isenah of being sponsored by some fifth columnists within and outside the PDP to settle personal scores with the outgoing Governor, whose influence is gradually diminishing. Others are of the view that the former Speaker might merely be trying to make himself relevant in the political equation of Bayelsa State.

There is no doubt that the Bayelsa State politics is in a state of tumult and how the whole unfolding political intrigues would turn out would be determined by time.

The subtext in the disquiet in the Dickson Restoration consortium is that many feel the Governor’s decision to foist an unpopular candidate on the party, will adversely affect the fortune of PDP in November.

There are those in the Governor’s camp who felt the party should have gone for bookmakers’ clear favorite, former Niger Delta Development Commission managing director, Mr. Timi Alaibe, seen by many in the state as an affable politician.

Some political observers are quick to cite Isenah’s post on his Facebook wall about Diri’s alleged stinginess as a good omen for the state because he won’t fritter the state funds.

“Everybody sounds like they detest corruption, here we have someone who will not squander public funds and same people will say we don’t want a stingy man to be our governor and refuse to check the meaning of stingy in the lexicon. My happiness is that, nobody has said Senator Douye Diri is not competent to be our governor, but that he is stingy, meaning our funds will be managed prudently. Please my people, in developed countries, public funds are not to be toyed with but rather channelled towards development and that is what we need in our state and Senator Douye Diri symbolises that. SDD Frontiers Loading,” said Isenah.

While his remark might be innocuous, political observers argue that the seemingly sarcastic scathing remark was an indicator of crack in Dickson’s camp.

In a season of political intrigues, some political observers think that the Governor, who failed to heed the advise of former President Goodluck Jonathan and other elders of the party that masterminded his emergence as governor to back Alaibe, should have a taste of political backstabbing through the actions of Isenah.

While the tensions between Dickson and Alaibe who is challenging the emergence of Diri in court show no sign of cooling down, Isenah is insisting that he remains the authentic Speaker of the State legislature.

Isenah, shortly after he was ousted said since the beginning of the 6th Assembly all other Houses of Assembly had gone on recess, even the National Assembly had gone on recess and are back, but himself and his colleagues have not gone, hence his decision to adjourn sine die.

“I have adjourned the House sine die as we have gone on recess. If the House has been adjourned sine die, nothing can be done in that House that would hold ground again. I presided over the House as the authentic Speaker and adjourned sine die. Anything that happens in that House without me reconvening the House is an illegality. The House of Assembly is an institution, a different arm of government that needs to be respected”
“The principle of separation of powers needs to be respected as well. That proceedings for the House of Assembly has been adjourned, any member who stayed back to do any illegal thing is on his own. The Sergeant –at- Arms escorted me out of the chambers, meaning that House stands adjourned. That means nobody can reconvene the House expect me”

“I never had any arrangement with anybody to resign.  At the appropriate time, I would address Bayelsans and tell them what transpired. I never had an arrangement that I am going to resign in three months. Let them show me any document to that effect, where I said I was going to resign.  I want Bayelsans to note that the Bayelsa State House of Assembly is an independent arm of government that should be respected,” he added.

Groucho Marx must have been speaking to Bayelsa politicians when he said: “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”


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