Bayelsa 2019: Peace still elusive in APC, PDP after contentious primaries
Prospects of resolving the conflict that arose from acrimonious primaries in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) remain elusive forty-eight days to the Bayelsa State governorship election.
Aspirants in both the PDP and APC governorship primaries in Bayelsa State have described the processes as a messy business, due to vested interest expressed by both Governor Seriake Dickson and his predecessor cum Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva.
Both former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Mr. Timi Alaibe (PDP) and former minister of State for Agriculture, Heineken Lokpobiri, (APC), who have considerable followers in their respective parties, are still grieved that their seemingly best opportunity to fulfill a lifelong ambition to become the governor of Bayelsa State has been thwarted by tainted primaries processes.
Amid claims that the PDP primary was held against a backdrop of mistrust, perversion of the party’s rules, which has fuelled broad disaffection, Governor Dickson has set up a ten-member reconciliation committee headed by Senator Inatimi Spiff to facilitate dialogue, address grievances, work out a consensus, and strengthen the PDP against an aggressively encroaching APC.
The governor’s action is predicated on the obvious fact that the party is still fundamentally polarised – and unless critical political grievances are resolved, PDP risks sliding out of power.
“We have just come out of a hotly contested gubernatorial primaries and as it is in life, there are always people who will have one or two grievances about their government, the flag bearer and even about the running mate that he has on his own nominated, all of these are normal things, which we must deal with at this time.
“And because we know we want to keep every PDP leader, every aspirant and every supporter in the PDP family, we have set up this committee. That’s the only way we can remain strong and big and maintain our position as the foremost election-winning party in this part of our country. We don’t want one single well-meaning PDP leader to leave to APC,” he said.
While Dickson, who sponsored Senator Douye Diri’s emergence craves for lasting peace in the PDP, significant threats to stability and prospect of the party retaining power remain. In particular, the insistence of Alaibe to pursue his lawsuit challenging the conduct of the primary and President Goodluck Jonathan’s reluctance to congratulate Diri, remain indicators of perilous times ahead.
Out of the 20 aspirants that contested the Bayelsa State PDP primary, only Alaibe who came second during the keenly contested primary has gone to court to seek judicial redress over the manipulated processes that led to what he described as an unacceptable outcome of that election.
In suit no: FHC/YNG/CS/99/2019, against the PDP, Senator Diri, the INEC, all elected local government chairmen, vice-chairmen and councilors of the PDP, three ad-hoc delegates allowed to be delegates at the elective State Congress of the PDP in Bayelsa State held on September 3, 2019, Alaibe wants the court to void the emergence of Diri based on non-adherence to the 1999 Constitution; the Electoral Act 2010, the PDP constitution and election guidelines, by the State PDP in the conduct of the Ward Congresses, inclusion of local government council officials in the delegates list and the procedure for inclusion of three ad-hoc delegates.
A source close to Governor Dickson told The Guardian that Alaibe’s decision to challenge the inclusion of the newly elected council chairmen, vice-chairmen, and councilors in the delegates list contrary to the provisions of the PDP Constitution, has been a source of a nightmare to Governor Dickson’s clique.
The Guardian was reliably informed that Governor Dickson has tried to call Alaibe and even sent people to appease him but to no avail. Alaibe, who is considered the most popular of all of the aspirants is said to be shell-shocked and unable to come to terms with the fact that he lost the primary due to, what he called “overt manipulation of the process.”
“Governor Dickson is optimistic that Alaibe is a good man who would not want to see Bayelsa fall into wrong hands. Dickson is apprehensive about the lawsuit by Alaibe. He knows that if Alaibe does not join them in Diri’s campaign that they will face a serious challenge, though Dickson has his plan on how to neutralise the APC, he needs everybody on board”
“Dickson had confided in some persons that if the process was allowed to be transparent, Alaibe would have defeated them. The governor said he is angry with Alaibe for leaving the party in 2015 when he needed him most. Diri has tried to reach Alaibe too, but to no avail,” he said.
Similarly, former President Jonathan, who is alleged to have supported Alaibe, was yet to formally congratulate Diri, who had visited him after the acrimonious primary. It was gathered that Jonathan remains displeased with Dickson’s decision to ignore the general consensus by elders of the PDP in the state who presented Alaibe as their chosen candidate.
It was gathered that Jonathan and other elder statesmen who paved the way for Dickson’s ascension in 2012 are aggrieved that if winner to the primary had emerged through a credible process, the party would have been more fortified and it would have been a lot easier to prevent those who might otherwise want to play the role of spoiler during the November 16 governorship.
An aide to the governor who pleaded anonymity told The Guardian that concerted efforts are on to resolve all grievances. He stated that the decision of Nimibofa Ayawei, who was the second most popular aspirant to accept the offer of the director-general of Diri’s campaign offers a glimpse of hope for the resolution of all issues in the days ahead.
“I can tell already there are serious moves at a very high level to resolve the issues. And Diri will not even want any issue, he has already said Alaibe is his brother; they are political allies, though they parted ways in 2012 when Diri decided to support Dickson. Dickson wanted him to join him in his campaign, Alaibe didn’t like it. But, this is the period of reconciliation. I believe the party will prevail on him to withdraw that matter. They will negotiate with him,” he said.
Alaibe had last week said some people have suggested that he should dump the PDP and accept the various offers by other political parties so that he would realise his vision of implementing the Blue Economy and Project Dolphin in Bayelsa State. Others too, have also advised that he remain in the PDP, seek justice and contribute to the complete reformation of the party. He has since chosen the later.
“My previous exit from the PDP was based on principles; my return was based on necessity. After considering every suggestion by stakeholders and supporters, it is, therefore, my decision not to join any other political party but to stay in the PDP and pursue justice until I achieve it. Thank you for your understanding and God bless you,” said Alaibe.
He explained that those who set out to play god and had underrated the collective resolve of his supporters not to be frightened out of the race with cheap blackmail are shocked at their tenacity. According to him, “we have shown them that we mean business and that we are too focused to be distracted.”
Another PDP governorship aspirant, who allegedly spent about N1.5b during the primary and would not to be mentioned has expressed concern that if the cracks within the party were not hurriedly mended through a negotiated settlement geared towards cementing political inclusion, then, the PDP will run into serious crisis because of the APC populist candidate, David Lyon.
Political observers believe that the strident attacks against Lyon by Governor Dickson and other PDP chieftains are a pointer that the ruling party is apprehensive about its ability to retain control of the Bayelsa State, which it has held sway since 1999.
A banker, Mr. Ejike Emmanuel told The Guardian that Lyon has a cult following in Bayelsa because the wealthy businessman had helped a lot of people in the past even across party line.
The attack against Lyon is understandable. He is from Southern Ijaw area of Bayelsa where a lot of people have argued Dickson’s successor should come from. That sentiment is strong. Prior to this time, Southern Ijaw had the highest number of registered voters in the state, but it has been overtaken by Yenegoa, the State capital, because of the high concentration of non-indigenes. But, when it comes to the actual voting, Southern Ijaw will still have higher voter turnout than Yenagoa.
“Lyon is popular. Up till today, he has not printed a single poster. People have been doing that on his behalf. His posters are all over the state; individuals open campaign offices for him. It is a very common sight these days to see people wearing his t-shirt, face caps. He does not have any political barrage since he has not held any elective position.”
Governor Dickson, during the inauguration ceremony of five new special advisers in Yenagoa, said the PDP will capitalize on the inability of APC to present a validly-nominated candidate whom he also described as a rookie, to have a smooth sail to the Creek Haven.
IT will be recalled that Senator Lokpobiri is in court to seek redress over the outcome of the APC primary that produces Lyon as the governorship candidate.
But Mr. Lyon’s media aide, Mr. Gift Ebiki, said the governor’s aspersion against the APC candidate is a pointer that the PDP is frightened by the soaring acceptability of the main opposition ahead of the governorship election. He further urged the governor to devote his energy to resolving the self-inflicted crisis that fragmented the PDP.
“That Governor Dickson would say APC does not have a validly elected candidate is the highest level of mischief. APC has a validly elected candidate, Chief David Lyon. Governor Dickson is not in a position to discuss APC matters; he should concern himself with his crisis-ridden PDP. His comments have further shown that the leadership of the state is behind some failed APC aspirants who wanted to cause confusion. But they have failed woefully this time because Bayelsans are more informed than they imagined,” Lyon’s spokesman said.
Similarly, APC Youth Vanguard (APCYG) President, Kune Inifie and Secretary, Ebibai Inegite, have taunted the PDP for being nervous about its imminent defeat in the November 16th election.
“It is obvious from statements coming out from Governor Dickson and the leadership of the PDP in the state that they are terrified about the soaring profile of David Lyon since he emerged our governorship candidate. Dickson, who refers to himself as an interested bystander, can no longer hide his political nervousness about the impending crushing defeat his party would suffer in the November 16 governorship election. It is clear that Dickson wishes his candidate and his party do not face David Lyon in the governorship election but, unfortunately for him, David Lyon is the valid candidate of the APC who is going to lead our party to victory and take over government from February 14, 2020,” they said.