Return of Alaibe and re-energised PDP in Bayelsa State
That was the view espoused by the state governor, Henry Seriake Dickson, when he served as head of the reconciliation committee put together by the party to harmonise disparate positions and interests in the wake of the leadership tussle in PDP.
As a political party, PDP went through a turbulent period shortly after it lost its leadership position in the country following its defeat at the presidential poll of 2015.
Similarly, Dickson and the party fought tooth and nail during the Bayelsa State gubernatorial election that took place seven months after the party’s loss of the presidency.
Posting an election triumph against the stiff challenge from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and its gubernatorial candidate, Timipre Sylva, was a herculean task for Governor Dickson, who was seeking a second and final term in office as governor of Bayelsa State.
Dickson had to remind Bayelsa electorate of the fact that PDP gifted the state with a Nigerian president in the person of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, despite the minority status of the state.
After several postponements due to inconclusive electoral process, Governor Dickson was decorated with a hard won victory for a second term.
Opposition faux pas
IF the incumbent went through ‘hell’ in his second term election, most people in Bayelsa said it would have been worse if not for the gargantuan political misstep by the opposition APC during its governorship primary.
In the eyes of the people, especially stakeholders of APC, the decision of the party leadership to impose Timipre Sylva on the party, instead of Ndutimi Alaibe, proved the undoing of APC.
Watchers of Bayelsa, nay Niger Delta politics, say that with his background as a technocrat, businessman and grassroots politician, Timi Alaibe would have easily defeated Dickson in the governorship poll.
Alaibe, who had a greater part of his career in the precincts of the Niger Delta, particularly in Warri and Port Harcourt, made a mark when he was appointed Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
He was first appointed in 2001 as Executive Director, Finance and Administration, during which he set up the administrative organogram that serves as the management guide for the commission.
It is believed that Alaibe’s elevation to MD helped him to make a network of contacts as well as build what later became a strong political structure that produced legislators and other political appointees, including the likes of Heineken Lokpobiri and the incumbent Bayelsa governor.
However, instead of reaping from his years of working the grounds for effective political action and electoral success, Alaibe was always sacrificed by the political establishment, either through disappointment or deceptive manoeuvre.
In the steps of Atiku
Alaibe started feeling the heat of his popularity immediately after Dr. Goodluck Jonathan rose from the office of deputy governor to become president.
Not only was he axed from the presidency as special adviser on Niger Delta, his earlier attempt to become PDP governorship candidate was botched by the powers that-be.
Even when he joined the Labour Party (LP) to contest the governorship again in 2011, it took a phone call to lure him out and ultimately botch his ambition to govern the state.
It was said PDP leaders, both in Abuja and Bayelsa, believed that with him on the ballot as LP candidate it would be near impossible for the PDP candidate, Dickson, to win.
Having spent himself dry in serial governorship contests, Alaibe was once again lured into joining APC with the false promise of a sure governorship ticket.
The popular sentiment was that given his political clout and abiding goodwill among the people, especially the youth whose lives he touched, Alaibe was the surest way to announce the acceptability of the ruling APC.
APC leaders in Abuja reasoned that it was necessary to use Alaibe to win the governorship in former President Jonathan’s home state to rub in the fact that the party was not limited to the North and Southwest geopolitical zones alone.
With hefty delegations and great ornamentation of promises of support with federal might and campaign funding, Alaibe acquiesced to joining APC shortly after the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari with enough time to ready himself and his supports in the party for the November 2015 gubernatorial election processes.
However, no sooner had he joined APC than the party began preparations for its maiden national convention to produce substantive national working committee of the party.
In the warp and woof of intrigues and negotiations, including zoning of offices, former Bayelsa governor, Sylva, who became governor after Jonathan’s elevation in 2007, became a contender for the position of national chairman, which was zoned to the South/South.
But based on the incubus of investigation for corruption by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Sylva, who was initially intended as compromise candidate between Chiefs Tom Ikimi and John Odigie-Oyegun, was shunted aside in preference for Oyegun.
Having been displaced from the national chairmanship quest, Sylva was promised the governorship ticket as compensation.
That development signaled a new low for Alaibe’s chequered plan to replicate his managerial acumen and visionary leadership as governor of Bayelsa State.
After suffering another political hiatus and lounging in limbo for close to three years, Alaibe decided to retrace his steps back to PDP, from where he began his political odyssey.
Alaibe’s return to PDP came at an opportune time. First, PDP has regained some measure of strength and stability from the resolution of its leadership squabble. And his return was celebrated in the quarters where it mattered most: Bayelsa State Government House!
Although Governor Dickson expressed unqualified joy at the development, some politicians in PDP grumbled, wondering why Alaibe should be received with open arms and fanfare back to the same party he abandoned.
Yet those conversant with the political travails of the Opokuma-born politician noted that each point of his exit was predicated by one form of injustice or intrigue, even as they praised his decision and courage to return to PDP.
And quite like the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who acted on former President Jonathan’s suggestion that he could make a big mark in the 2019 presidential poll if he rejoins PDP before the party’s December 2017 convention, Alaibe could be said to have deployed political tact.
Sustaining PDP’s invincibility
GIVEN the prevailing political circumstances in Bayelsa State, especially when virtually every politician that horned his skill under his tutelage have occupied one elective office or another, it is obvious that Alaibe is about the only vibrant politician in the state to maintain the party’s winning streak.
Should PDP walk the talk of Dickson and field Alaibe as its governorship candidate in the November poll, APC would be defeated before the ballot is cast, irrespective of what happens on February 16, 2019.
The combination of personal clout and strong political platform must have informed Alaibe’s return to PDP, because the party is well rooted in Bayelsa and just as the people fought off the APC in December 2015, doing another electoral battle with the former NDDC’s MD on the ballot would require a political armada to dislodge.
Above all, most beneficiaries of his good gesture would be more than willing to requite his goodwill and power him to the expected electoral triumph.
There is no doubt that having traveled around different parties; Alaibe would engineer a mass momentum that could equate the national consensus being built by the former Vice President, Atiku.
Renewing Niger Delta pacifism
Alaibe’s return to PDP has an added advantage also to the Niger Delta, because he actually set the template for the amnesty programme established by former President Umaru Musa Ya’Adua.
Regardless of what partisan apologist may say, the Niger Delta armistice is a product of PDP’s creative political cum economic management.
At a time that militants were blasting oil pipelines and causing much economic loss based on low oil production, Alaibe enunciated the peaceful approach.
He not only maintained that part of the ways of addressing the nation’s structural disequilibrium lies in peaceful resolution of the militancy, but also showed leadership in the implementation of a non-violent scheme.
It was to Alaibe’s credit that the issues of serious consideration of a marshal plan approach to the development of Niger Delta region came into the regional programme.
As a former member of the Niger Delta Technical Committee, should Alaibe become governor, the possibility is high that he would affect the mentality of other governors as well as governance in Niger Delta.
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