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Political tension mounts in Bayelsa, Kogi ahead of guber polls

By Leo Sobechi (Assistant Politics Editor) and Adamu Abuh (Abuja)
07 August 2019   |   4:20 am
Three months to November 16, 2019 when Bayelsa and Kogi States’ electorate go to the polls to elect governors that would pilot their affairs for the next four years, the two major political parties...

[FILE PHOTO] Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa.

Three months to November 16, 2019 when Bayelsa and Kogi States’ electorate go to the polls to elect governors that would pilot their affairs for the next four years, the two major political parties, All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are troubled by similar and identical challenges. In Bayelsa State, where PDP enjoys the power of incumbency, it is grappling with differing tendencies, particularly those represented by supporters of Governor Henry Seriake Dickson and those showing loyalty to former President Goodluck Jonathan.

In Kogi State, Governor Yahaya Bello believes that his power of incumbency is absolute. Not only is that sentiment challenged by the existence of factions in his party, APC, but also the same presidency cabal that gifted him with the governorship in 2015 seems arrayed against him.

Within the two states, a single thread that runs through the parties is the yearning for restitution for the political mischiefs and mistakes during previous election cycles. For instance, ex-President Jonathan’s supporters believe that given that Timi Alaibe was tactfully displaced to pave way for Dickson’s emergence as governor in 2010, the 2019 governorship should be used to compensate Alaibe for that mischance.

Similarly in Kogi, while supporters of late Prince Abubakar Audu hold that their principal was shortchanged in the transition process after his demise, they insist that APC should use the November 16 poll to redress the oversight by rewarding his eldest son, Mohammed Abubakar Audu, with the ticket.

Also within the main opposition PDP in the state, tendencies loyal to immediate past governor, Captain Idris Wada, maintain that he was not only robbed of victory in the 2015 gubernatorial poll, but should also take advantage of the right of first refusal to contest the election.


Meanwhile, as Wada’s supporters continue to push for his emergence as consensus PDP candidate, a former governor, Ibrahim Idris, is said to be working behind the scenes to impose one of his sons as the standard bearer of the party. Although most PDP stakeholders in Kogi State point to the recent example in Ekiti State to push back on Ibro’s antics, a lot depends on how the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) decides to handle the situation.

Prevailing circumstances in the election environment in the two states show that how far the two main political parties are able to resolve the various issues before, during and after the governorship primaries would determine their abilities to influence the outcome of the November 16 polls to their advantage.

Kogi: Desperate incumbent versus divided opposition
Governor Yahaya Bello does not seem to factor in the element of luck, which worked in his favour during the 2015 make-up election and the backing of the presidency in his determination to get a second term in office. The governor has been reaching out aggressively to some critical camps that had reared their heads in opposition to his second term.

One of the governor’s successful forays was the seeming softening of the initial hardline posture by the APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who had asserted that the ruling party’s ticket could only go to performing governors, stressing that there was no room for automatic governorship ticket to anybody under his watch as national chairman.

But after a series of events, including a simulated protest at the APC’s national headquarters and interventions by some governors elected on the party’s platform, Oshiomhole began some acquiescent manoeuvres. One of such seeming backtracking was on the issue of direct primary, which the national chairman had declared as method of selecting whoever would fly the APC flag for forthcoming poll in Kogi.

Not long ago, the national leadership of APC announced the likelihood of adopting the indirect method during the August 29, 2019 governorship primary in the state. That position, which came as a major breakthrough for Governor Bello, helped the governor in his efforts at enlarging stakeholders’ support for his reelection. Perhaps, buoyed by that auspicious development, the incumbent was said to have ‘energised’ some governorship aspirants to enable them purchase the APC expression of interest and nominations forms, which cost N22.5 million.

But, while some aspirants in APC rode on Bello’s goodwill to purchase the forms, members of the faction loyal to Amedu, which filed a case in court alleging that governor’s faction, headed by …that was inaugurated by immediate past national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, did not emerge according to the APC constitution.

Yet, in a very astounding move, Hadi Ametuo, made an about-face and made efforts to unilaterally withdraw the case, citing need to reconcile the party ahead of the November 16 governorship poll.

Irked by Ametuo’s intrigues, his secretary, Tom Adejoh, Destiny Eneojojoh Aromeh (organizing secretary) and Noah Aku (Zonal Youth leader), approached the court, insisting that Ametuo lacks the authority to withdraw the case filed by the faction.

At the height of Governor Bello’s attempt to break the ranks of opposition, Ametuo had also written to the APC NWC informing the national leadership that the state chapter had resolved to adopt the indirect primary method for the governorship primary.

The faction, led by Tom Adejoh, the APC factional state secretary; Destiny Eneojoh Aromeh, (ex-officio member); Isah Abubakar, (Organising Secretary) and Noah Aku, (Zonal Youth Leader), in the revitalized suit, has urged the ruling party to avoid the mistakes of Rivers and Zamfara States.

Short of informing the party that Ametuo deceived the leadership by his bogus letter, the faction has through their counsel, Oluwole Aladedoye, written the APC legal adviser, urging him to guide the party right.

In the letter, titled “Notification of Suit no: FHC/Abj/CS/833/2019-Destiny Eneojoh Aromeh &Ors Vs. All Progressives Congress,” the petitioners advised the party leadership on the “Need to halt the indirect primary proposed for nomination of candidates for Kogi State.”

Part of the letter read: “We are counsel to the plaintiffs in the above mentioned matter, which has just been filed at the Federal High Court Abuja, today (July 18, 2019).

“We are by this letter forwarding to you a filed copy of the originating summons filed by our clients. This summons speaks for itself.

“We trust that as a seasoned legal practitioner with several years of active legal practice, you will appropriately advise your party on the need to respect court processes and halt any action on the proposed indirect mode of primary for nomination of the governorship candidate for Kogi State in the forthcoming election pending the determination of this suit.”

It is possible that APC leadership might on the strength of the new development rescind the decision on indirect primary, but the claims by some aspirants, particularly Sani Lulu and former Air Vice Marshal Salihu Atawodi, that they are anointed by the Presidency could prove unsettling to Bello and APC.

For PDP, the intrusion of former governor Ibrahim Idris, who wants to sponsor his son for the governorship, puts the party in serious jeopardy. Ibro’s insistence on fielding his son is hinged on the belief in PDP headquarters that he has a deep war chest to prosecute the governorship poll.

As such while most PDP stakeholders in Kogi believe that Captain Wada was the best candidate for the election, the Senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye, has thrown his hat in the ring, thereby compounding the challenges for the opposition party.

Against the background of those furzy situations in the two parties, it could be said that only after the party primaries that the picture would be clearer.

Bayelsa: Contriman’s contrivances
Governor Seriake Dickson has been setting what he said are the criteria that would inform the selection of his successor. The governor noted that he would only support an aspirant if “he is principled, bold and courageous enough to protect the collective interest of the Ijaw nation at all times and have a plan of action” to steady the course of development in Bayelsa State.

The ‘Contriman Governor’ explained that he decided to set the guide marks purposely because according to him, “the shoes I am leaving behind are very big; posterity will judge. Only very few of the people, who come to talk to me, have the interest of the state at heart.”

But while Dickson’s supporters insist that only a member of the Rescue Group would be supported for the PDP ticket, those loyal to former President Jonathan insist that only a battle-tested candidate could win the November 16 governorship poll in the state.

Sources said that following the failure of the two leaders to agree on a consensus candidate, they were compelled by the underground divisive campaigns to seek the intervention of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, as the first PDP president.

However, although Obasanjo was aware of the political considerations that informed the displacement of the former MD of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi Alaibe, the former president enjoined the two leaders to “talk to yourselves and reflect on the future of your state and the party.”

Dickson has indicated that further consultation would continue, including intercession prayers to ensure that a candidate acceptable to all interest groups emerges at the end of the day.

But while PDP is at it, the opposition APC seems to be putting its house in order. Sources disclosed that Governor Dickson decided on reaching out to the cabal to strike a deal aimed at ensuring the successful execution of succession plan.

Part of the plan was the appointment of his 2015 rival, Timipre Sylva, as minister-designate to ostensibly pave the way for the emergence of his preferred candidate, a senator, with which he wants to swap positions.

Despite the elimination of strong contender on APC platform, the PDP NWC is left with the challenge of resolving the clash of interest to avoid post primary recriminations, even as Heineken Lokpobiri, continues wide scale campaigns to spring a surprise at the polls.