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Dickson’s senate ticket revives PDP, APC rivalry in Bayelsa West

By Leo Sobechi (Assistant Politics Editor) and Julius Osahon, (Yenagoa)
01 September 2020   |   4:25 am
The recent automatic ticket handed the immediate past governor of Bayelsa State, Henry Seriake Dickson, by the state chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has revealed the intrigues by the party and its rival opposition All Progressives Congress

Henry Seriake Dickson

The recent automatic ticket handed the immediate past governor of Bayelsa State, Henry Seriake Dickson, by the state chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has revealed the intrigues by the party and its rival opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) over Bayelsa West Senatorial seat.
Starting from the build up to the governorship poll, through the apex court ruling that upturned APC’s victory and recent tribunal judgment that nullified the governorship poll, a lot has happened in quick succession to reveal the hidden intents of the major political players in the state.
Prior to the tribunal verdict, which upheld the arguments of paperweight Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party (ANDP), that it was unlawfully excluded from participating in the poll, Dickson was accused of fielding Governor Duoye Diri and his deputy, Lawrence Ewruhjakpor, to create opening for his possible retirement to the Senate.

And at the threshold of the announcement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that it would conclude all by-elections by October 31, the tribunal ruling came amid speculations that APC wants to create an enabling environment to make the senate seats competitive. 

Reinstating incumbency
PERHAPS, it was in the understanding of the perceived plots by APC that Governor Diri swiftly filed his appeal against the tribunal judgment, even as APC supporters in the state continued to spread the notion that Diri was not allowed to appeal.
But renouncing the claims as lacking in substance, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Diri, Daniel Alabra, told The Guardian by telephone that nothing of such existed, stressing that the governor filed his notice of appeal without any objection. 
According to the notice of appeal filed on his behalf by a legal team, led by Chris Uche, Diri prayed the Court of Appeal to set aside the majority ruling, which invalidated the governorship poll by upholding the minority opinion of Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, the chairman of the three-man tribunal.

The governor informed the appellate court that the chairman of the Governorship Election Tribunal, Justice Sirajo, “clearly appreciated the law and correctly applied same to the facts and rightly dismissed the ANDP petition.”
As the crux of his argument, Diri noted that INEC did not hold any election on February 14, 2020 contending that there was no ground for the 1st respondent’s petition, which was filed on February 26, 2020, “more than five months after the declaration of results.”
He added that the complaint of unlawful exclusion should be based on an election date and not the declaration of results, stressing that ANDP’s petition was against its exclusion from the exercise that held on November 16, 2019. 
Laying out the grounds of his appeal and cleverly imputing ANDP’s petition as an afterthought, Diri’s lawyers stated: “The cause of action of the 1st respondent crystalised on November 16, 2019, the election day. From the date, the 1st respondent had 21 days within which to file a petition against its alleged unlawful exclusion from the election…
“The 1st respondent’s case is not hinged on the nullification of votes of APC candidate, David Lyon, nor on the declaration of results by the 2nd respondent (INEC) on February 14, 2020, nor on the return of the appellant as Governor of Bayelsa State, but on its alleged unlawful exclusion from the election held on November 16, 2019.
“The 1st respondent’s petition is statute barred (being) in breach of the provisions of Section 285 (5) of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution as amended.”

Return of Dickson  
WHILE Diri’s appeal could reinstate PDP’s incumbency, the decision of the state chapter to hand Dickson automatic ticket puts the governing party in pole position to clinch Bayelsa West Senatorial District by-election scheduled for October 31, 2020.
Citing due respect to the former governor, The Guardian gathered that stakeholders and top political actors on the PDP platform from Bayelsa West declined from picking the party’s nomination form for the Senatorial District.
It would be recalled that Dickson had earlier picked the nomination and expression of interest form for Bayelsa West Senatorial District, just as he explained through a statement by his Media Advisor, Mr. Fidelis Soriwei, that his decision to join the contest for the vacant senatorial seat followed overwhelming endorsements and calls on him by critical stakeholders to fill the vacant senatorial seat.

Observers of the undulating power game in Bayelsa State say they are not surprised about the outcome of the decision as it has long been known that the former governor had perfected plans to get into the senate after serving as governor for eight years.
Having successfully frontloaded his allies as governor and deputy in the last gubernatorial election, the former governor did not hide his ambition to represent Bayelsa West at the upper chamber of the National Assembly, having served at the lower chamber before his election as governor.
Speaking while confirming Dickson’s automatic ticket, the state PDP Chairman, Chief Solomon Agwanana, said the people of Bayelsa West Senatorial District are unanimous in the position that Dickson has the capacity, the pedigree and indeed the tested voice to provide effective representation the zone seriously needs at the Senate.
Agwanana said the people have implicit confidence in the capacity of the former governor to exploit his vast experience and potential in the interest of the Senatorial District, the state and the entire Ijaw nation. 
Unlike Bayelsa Central, which has five aspirants jostling for the PDP ticket, Chief Dickson seems ready for a coronation poll after his ticket was procured by a coalition of stakeholders and his aspiration without any strong dissenting voice. 
The chairman disclosed that apart from his track record in the National Assembly as a former member, Dickson’s sterling performance as the first ever two-term Governor òf Bayelsa State would put him in good stead for effective representation.
He reiterated that stakeholders of other political parties in the Senatorial District should come on board to join the popular preference for Chief Dickson as the next Senator for Bayelsa West, adding that PDP and the people of Bayelsa West are prepared to return Dickson on October 31, 2020.
And in a bid to set the ball rolling for a victorious outing, Senator Diri inaugurated the PDP Senatorial Campaign Council for Bayelsa West with political icon, Chief Fyneman Wilson as chairman. 
The embattled governor said Dickson emerged as the choice of all stakeholders in reward for his sacrifices and service to his people, remarking that the political leaders have opted to support him, because he committed his all to the service of Bayelsa and his people. 
Diri stated: “I believe that the former governor has served his heart out and for that reason everybody that matters in Bayelsa West politically has decided to say that this is where we will remain, come sun, come rain. 
“It is also a period of reflection in that the former governor, our leader, has done meticulously well to serve our state and to serve his senatorial district.
“If he has not done well, all of these elders and leaders will not be gathering here to be inaugurated to be part of the team to send our former governor to the National Assembly.
“I commend the former governor for the services he has rendered to Bayelsa and her people. And we are excited to see him launch his campaign to continue those services at the National Assembly.”
Governor Diri had, at his inauguration as Dickson’s successor on February 14, 2020, described his election as a miracle, particularly given that his imposition by the former governor triggered the defection of certain PDP movers and shakers to APC.
The mass defection seemed to have paid off when INEC returned Lyon, the APC standard bearer as winner on November 26, 2019, until the Supreme Court invalidated APC candidacy and returned Diri as the rightful person to be inaugurated as governor.
Consequently, should Dickson coast home to victory on October 31 and get a seat at the Red Chamber, he would most likely describe his own miracle as a gamble that was made right by fortuitous circumstances.

However, not everyone is charmed by PDP’s decision to field Dickson again. As a result, a former Deputy Governor, Chief Peremobowei Ebebi’s decision to join the contest for the vacant Bayelsa West Senatorial District seat is generating heat and division among stakeholders in the state. While some political stakeholders have expressed discomfort with Ebebi’s decision because, according to them, his entry violates an unwritten agreement on power rotation between the two local government areas that make up the district, others have kicked against the candidature of Dickson, arguing that government must not be a family affair.

The latter group, led by former aides to the former governor of the state and Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, said they strongly believe that equality and fair play should be the watchword in deciding who occupies the vacant seat.

Bayelsa West Senatorial District is made up of Sagbama and Ekeremor Local Government Areas of the state. While Ebebi, a chieftain of All Progressives Congress, is from Ekeremor, Dickson, a leader of the Peoples Democratic Party, is from Sagbama. It was learnt that the positions of senator and member of House of Representatives in Bayelsa West Senatorial District are shared between the two LGAs.

It was gathered that top political stakeholders recently held a meeting where it was decided that the people of Ekeremor should not contest the vacant position in adherence to the existing agreement on power rotation since they already have the incumbent House of Representatives member. 

But in a release signed by Chief Bodi Arerebo and Chief Perekeme Kpodo, both former aides and elders of APC from Sagbama Local Government Area, said the endorsement of former Governor Dickson by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was a violation of an earlier gentlemen agreement. According to APC chieftains, Dickson had served four years at the House of Representatives and eight years as governor of the state, so he should give other people the chance to serve since it is not a family affair.

Arerebo added, “You see, that is the reason why some of us have added our voice to the numerous Sagbama and Ekeremor people that Governor Dickson should give a chance to others, to be honest and candid.

“Dickson, when he was in the House of Reps, his friend and in-law Lawrence Ewhrudjakpor, was with him. When he became governor, the same Ewhrudjakpor was with him. Then he sent him to the senate and he brought Ewhrudjakpor back to become deputy governor. He now wants to go to senate. Is it a family affair or something? It shouldn’t be.

“There is a zoning formula. He (Dickson) is the person that is breaching it. So, that is why we are saying that Ekeremor should produce the next senator.”

Bayelsa West Senatorial seat became vacant following the resignation of Senator Ewhrudjakpo from the upper legislative chamber to contest as running mate to Governor Douye Diri.

However, Arerebo’s position is contrary to what some political leaders from both local government areas agreed in a joint statement where it was said that Sagbama should complete the tenure of Ewhrudjakpo. That way, an Ekeremor person would start a fresh tenure in the spirit of the age-long agreement on power sharing or rotation in the area.

They argued that the former deputy governor, who has indicated interest in the Senatorial contest, is from the same Ekeremor LGA as Mr. Fred Agbedi, who represents the area in the lower chamber. They insisted that opposition to an Ekeremor candidate cuts across party lines, as the key political operators from the two LGAs continue to insist on the existing power sharing arrangement. 

Prominent APC politicians and coordinators in Ekeremor Constituency 1, in collaboration with APC Grassroots Mobilisation Sagbama/Ekeremor, have on many occasions condemned in strong terms the decision of Ebebi or any other person from Ekeremor to contest in the senatorial election. But Chairman, APC Mobilisation Group, Mr. Ebide Brown, claimed that stakeholders in the local government area would resist any unconscionable assault on the zoning arrangement.

He said it was unjust and unfair for an Ekeremor person to contest in the Senatorial election with Fred Agbedi occupying the House of Representatives seat in the National Assembly.

He said: “No candidate can undermine the tenets of the zoning arrangement and expect us to work for him. We have resolved not to work for any candidate from Ekeremor because it is wrong. The candidate of APC in the senatorial by-election should be from Sagbama since Fred Agbedi is in the House of Representatives now. 

“We cannot deviate from the zoning arrangement between Sagbama and Ekeremor. The zoning arrangement must be honoured for the sake of posterity and I expect my party, the APC, to do so. We cannot just go against the wishes of the people and count only on federal might to win election.”