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Why Dickson could not sustain PDP’s grip on Bayelsa politics

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David Lyon

The refusal of Governor Seriake Dickson to avoid the perils of hubristic leadership has been blamed for the defeat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in last Saturday’s governorship election.

Many PDP stakeholders said Dickson would have escaped the hubris trap if he had heeded the advice of former President Goodluck Jonathan and other elders in the state to support the governorship ambition of former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Timi Alaibe, instead of Senator Douye Diri.
 
Dickson’s decision to back Diri caused mass defection from PDP to All Progressives Congress (APC). Most of those who defected were supporters of former President Jonathan and Alaibe. For instance, the defection of the former deputy governor, Peremobowei Ebebe, to APC was instrumental to the victory of the party in Ekeremor Local Government Area.

The Guardian gathered that one of the major reasons why Dickson refused to back Alaibe, who was said to be the most popular candidate in the PDP primary, was because Alaibe failed to support his senatorial ambition in 2006, but rather chose Senator Heineken Lopobori. A PDP chieftain who pleaded anonymity told The Guardian that the defeat of PDP became imminent after Dickson foist Senator Diri as the governorship candidate without recourse to the sensitivity of Jonathan, who warned him of the peril of his choice.
 
“We saw the defeat of our party, PDP, coming,” the chieftain said. “Governor Dickson felt he has the capacity to deliver PDP alone. So, others merely allowed him to satisfy his wish. Yes, the man said he could do it alone. Dickson has crashed the party. We warned him. Even President Jonathan warned him. He was not willing to look at the alternative options that were available and as far as he was concerned he had the capacity to win and we have all seen the result.”
 
In Ogbia, where President Jonathan hails from, PDP lost woefully not because the people hate the party, but they wanted to settle political scores with the governor who they accuse of slighting his benefactor.

In Southern Ijaw which is a major oil-producing area and where Lyon hails from, the people took the election as a special project to deliver their son in spite of Governor Dickson’s last-minute decision to make their kinsman, Monday Olobo, Speaker of the State House of Assembly. Voters told The Guardian in Southern Ijaw with 165,449 registered voters that they preferred governor to the position of speaker, which Dickson had offered them in September.
 
Another PDP leader in the state said another factor that hindered PDP was that APC leaders used security operatives to prevent PDP chieftains who are reckoned to be strong in certain areas from freely moving around during and after the polls. Though PDP was widely rated to win the state capital, it lost it to APC because of deep-seated frenzy against the incumbent administration.

 
“In areas where APC leaders knew that PDP was strong or where they will rather use the money to influence the process, security men were deployed to monitor PDP members and pin them down,” he said. “In Agudama-Epiye, three security teams were deployed to a PDP chieftain’s residence and was prevented from stepping out till after the election. He was tactically under house arrest. Even in Yenagoa which people had predicted that PDP would win, it lost to Lyon.”
 
An associate of Mr. Gideon Ekeuwei, who was a former Secretary to Bayelsa State Government in the administration of Governor Timipre Sylva, told The Guardian that he narrowly escaped being arrested by the military, which was deployed to Azuzuama community to arrest him and other PDP chieftains.
 
“When I arrived Azuzuama, materials had not arrived,” he narrated. “He was waiting for materials when he was informed to leave, that a gunboat was coming to pick up leaders of PDP.”
 
Governor Dickson had on Saturday night accused the General Officer Commanding the 6th Division òf the Nigerian Army of compromising security in favour òf APC against PDP. The governor alleged that the army was used to supervise and perpetrate heinous electoral crimes and irregularity in Bayelsa State. Dickson claimed that the army attached soldiers to all APC leaders in all the wards who terrorised people from one polling unit to another.
 
“The observers are everywhere and everyone knows what is going on,” Dickson said. “I call on the president to call the security forces, the army to do what is right. I call on the Inspector-General of Police to be true to his professional calling and direct the DIG and all police officers to protect the people of Bayelsa State.
 
“I do not want to be pushed to the level of calling them to defend and protect themselves. I would not want to do that but please, there’s so much a people can take in the hands of their brothers and sisters in the name of an election.” 
 
Following the overwhelming vote for Lyon in Ogbia LGA, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, accompanied by Lyon and other top APC chieftains, visited President Jonathan who they said deserved to be respected and honoured.

“Being a former president of the country and a past governor of the state, Jonathan remains an asset to the state and his inputs will always be needed to advance the course of governance in Bayelsa,” Sylva noted. “As such, it was important for us to introduce the governor-elect to him and seek his support and guidance in building a better Bayelsa.”

Meanwhile, Jonathan has urged Lyon to make the welfare of the people of the state his top priority. According to him, as the former president, he remains a father to all Bayelsans, and his doors would be open to all citizens irrespective of their political affiliations.
 
“I urge you to make the welfare of Bayelsa people a top priority and carry all of them along irrespective of the party they voted for,” Jonathan stated. “Elections are over now; so, I want you to see yourself as the governor of all and not only to the sections that voted for you. This is the way to move Bayelsa forward.”

Chairman of Niger Delta Civil Society Coalition (NDCSC), Anyakwee Nsirmovu, also urged the governor-elect, David Lyon, to ensure that deficit in leadership and existential corruption with impunity that has characterised Bayelsa State politics must be avoided to enable the ordinary people to benefit from the revenue accruable to the state from oil proceeds.

He explained that the defeat of Dickson’s administration should indeed mark the end of an era of open and extreme poverty in the midst of abundance and bad governance. Nsirimovu said Governor Dickson’s disastrously performance and disgraceful exit from office should serve as a warning to all political actors that they could not afford to shun transparency and accountability in a participatory democracy. 

“Political power is truly transient,” he stated. “Let’s watch and see if David Lyon with his 352,552 votes has learned some lessons to the benefit and yearning of ordinary Bayelsans and their livelihoods since the creation of the state.”

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of Finance and Administration-designate of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Maxwell Okoh, has blamed the inability of Governor Dickson to determine who succeeds in the office to his own failure. According to him, “This is a complete failure in his own case. He was blinded by arrogance, disrespect to elders in his party, coupled with his selfish ambition.”

He said the victory of Lyon marks a new beginning in the history of Bayelsa State.

“This is so because Bayalsans, in the past eight years, has been crying, suffering and yearning for change. Thank God, by his grace, Bayelsans have spoken through the ballot and that has given our party victory. Nigerians and indeed the entire world can hear and feel the voices of genuine and resolute Bayelsans who demonstrated their aspiration by voting out the PDP-led bad governance in the state at the just concluded governorship election.

“Bayelsans should expect good governance. There are basic things which every good leader has to do to impact on the people and to make them happy. I understand that in the last eight years, pensioners have not been paid and civil servants have suffered salary cuts. The power situation the state has been in a terrible state. The situation has been really bad. I use to be a commissioner in the state some years ago; I didn’t have a generator in my house because there was steady light in the state. But today, rather than our power situation improving from the 40 megawatts we left behind to 110 megawatts that we were set to generate, the situation has gone down to zero per cent!”

Okoh said he regretted that since the inception of the state, there has not been the sustainable provision of pipe-borne water as well as other basic amenities required for the sustenance of life. He expressed delight that the victory of APC in the governorship election would further boost the relationship between the state and the Federal Government, which has been frosty.

However, a former Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Chief Olabode George, has blamed the party’s defeat on the shoddy job done by the electoral umpire and also implosion in PDP.

He said, “The outcome didn’t surprise me because I have said it all over; there is the need to overhaul INEC if this country must make any sense out of its electoral process.”

He condemned the deployment of security agents for the elections, saying it was a pre-planned arrangement to rob PDP in Bayelsa. On the internal implosion, George said the current managers of the party needed to do more, “otherwise the managers cannot convince Nigerians to vote for the party in any election. You see how we lost a bright opportunity to retake Ogun in the last general elections and how INEC robbed us in Osun and Ekiti States.”

However, PDP is hoping for a redress through the courts. The party is banking on the spate of violence that permeated the two elections. In this, George remains optimistic that PDP, if well-coordinated and made to speak in one voice, might have a good case to present at the election petition tribunals. He recalled how Dickson was crying foul while the election was ongoing and also the violence recorded throughout Kogi during the two exercises.

In a similar vein, a member of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Chife Ebenezer Babatope, blamed INEC for the defeat of the party in the two elections. Like George, the former Minister of Transportation said, “INEC is actually due for a change because the current one has outlived its usefulness.”


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