In Bayelsa State, the political gladiators within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have started indicating interest to succeed Governor Seriake Dickson come 2020. OSA OKHOMINA examines the power play.
When Governor Seriake Dickson last year mocked those drumming the beat of succession for the seat of Bayelsa Government House also known as Creek Haven with the “early dance and eventual injury of the tiger”, many laughed, understanding that those candidates are too early.
But eight months to the end of the Gov. Seriake Dickson administration tagged “restoration”, many political gladiators from the all Progressive Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leave no one in doubt about their zeal to win their party’s governorship tickets as candidates for the 2018 election and be sworn-in on February 14 as the next governor of the state.
Recent declaration of November 2, 2019 as date for the election by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) also heightened the race for Bayelsa’s top seat.
In PDP, the ruling party in the state, zoning of the governorship ticket to the Central Senatorial District comprising of Southern Ijaw,Kolokuma/Opokuma and Yenagoa Local Government, has seen contenders, few of them big wigs and others considered pretenders, emerge on the scene.
Among the heavy weights are the former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Ndutimi Alaibe; philantropist and former coordinator of the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), Arch Reuben Okoya; Oil magnate, Beneibi Okoko; former federal permanent secretary for the Ministry of Power, Dr. Boladei Godknows Igali; and onetime freedom fighter and former caretaker chairman of Southern Ijaw Local Government, Joshua Machiver.
The immediate-past member of House of Representative and Senator-elect for the Bayelsa Central Senatorial district, Hon. Douye Diri, is also said to be in the race.
Most of the aspirants had tested the political waters by openly supporting and campaigning for the PDP during the last Presidential, national and State Assembly elections.
Some aspirants went as far as donating buses and served on the campaign councils in line with the call by the state governor, Dickson, for aspirants to serve the party, “before the party serves you. “
Subtle campaign groups have emerged among PDP aspirants. There is the Timi Alaine Movement (TAM) and there is the Orange Movement supporting the aspiration of Arch. Reuben Okoya.
The convener of the programme, Ekiyor Welson, said the Bayelsa Orange Movement intends to mobilise the people of the state towards development and democracy for prosperity.
He said, ” It is all about bringing the youths together and giving them a sense of belonging to be part of social and political engineering in Bayelsa space in 2019, it is basically our youths in the orange movement we are focusing to give them the right orientation”.
“It is going to be an interface between our youth, elders and political leaders, it is going to be a combination of leaders and youths for the next political dispensation.”
“At the end of the programme, every participant is expected to carry the message of Arch. Rueben Okoya to their various group, extending our base and support for him.”
For Alaibe, more than five political groups in the state have announced their readiness to prevail on him to join the governorship race, insisting that he is the most qualified to succeed the incumbent.
The five political groups are Timi Alaibe Youth Vanguard, Bayelsa State, Advancement Movement, Alaibe Support Group, Committee for the Development of Bayelsa State and Concerned Progressive Youths of Bayelsa.
In a joint statement, they declared that despite past political development, Alaibe is the most experienced and has the wherewithal to pilot the affairs for the benefit of the people, in line with strides already achieved by the countryman, governor Seriake Dickson.
The spokesman of the five political groups, Prince Peres Ogbogbo, noted that the giant stride achieved by Timi Alaibe during his reign in the NDDC and as presidential adviser on Niger Delta Affairs, has not been equaled by his successors and wants him to replicate same in Bayelsa State.
The groups boasted that they are ready to purchase the nomination form for him, irrespective of the political party platform he wishes to contest for the governorship position of the state, adding that they are ready to take the message to the nooks and crannies of the state at their own expense.
They further enumerated his achievements to include, construction of roads across the Niger Delta, electrification of communities and empowerment of the people.
Alaibe, popularly known as ‘the Principal’, has tested murky waters of governorship contest in the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state. He had in the past contested the governorship primaries against late D. S. P Alameiseigha, Dr Goodluck Jonathan in the PDP between 1999 and 2003.
Alaibe also contested on the platform of the Labour Party (LP) in the aborted 2007 governorship election in the state and contested the cancelled 2016 governorship primaries of the All Progressives Congress(APC).
His political clout, according to Governor Seriake Dickson, was again made known when he returned to the PDP with heavy weight from the APC including former state commissioners.
Apart from his supporters, notable chieftains, who defected to the PDP, with him were former Secretary to Bayelsa State Government, SSG, Gideon Ekeowei, onetime Commissioner for Youths and Sports, Chief Keme Prefa, ex-Chairman of Sagbama Local Government Council, Barnabas Edure, former Executive Secretary, State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB, Rhodesia Whyte, and former state lawmakers including Nelson Belief.
In his remarks, Timi Alaibe,during his return to the PDP, said: “By hosting us this way, the governor has added value to our return to the PDP. I must tell you that with this rally, pundits are ashamed because they did not believe that we were going to be received in this manner.”
“We left All Progressives Congress, APC, because they don’t keep to promises. You can see that their house is in chaos.”
“We are coming back to support you so you can continue to invest in other areas including what you have already done in the health sector like the diagnostic centre where a former president came to be diagnosed.”
On his part, Dickson said: “ APC didn’t know the value of Chief Alaibe and all these wonderful political leaders. I feel sorry for them. Our brothers and friends, in the new Bayelsa State that we have been creating, we believe in brotherhood, oneness, and unity.
“I keep telling everybody that the disagreement of the past belongs to the past. All the mistakes of the past belong to the past. As governor of this state and leader of our people, my concern is the future.’’
While Alaibe’s return has since sparked insinuations of a political agreement that may see him get the PDP ticket, others have stated that in the absence of a free and fair environment for all governorship aspirants to contest may spell doom for the party if not well managed.
Still, some watchers of the party in the state are already positing that Alaibe, known for his ability to build structures and fund it, may build another party to contest the poll if he does not get the PDP ticket.
Other pundits however argue that his recent return to PDP marks his final political voyage, noting that PDP is, in this dispensation, the most viable platform for him to secure the top seat. For those who canvass this argument, aver that having ran in 2007 under the Labour Party which was not considered a force in the state, he would be wary of contesting such a tough election with a party that does not have clout to see him to the finish line.
There is also the permutation that with the PDP Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and Dickson’s support, the shot at the party’s ticket might be sure for Alaibe. In some quarters, Alaibe’s return to PDP was said to have been linked to Atiku’s ambition. They are both said to enjoy a long standing political alliance which dates back to 1999.
Despite several denials and play acting by former President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan and Dickson, all is not well between them politically.
While Dickson is full of smiles and good words about his predecessor, Jonathan whenever PDP bigwigs from the national level visit the state, the opposite seems to be the case when internal state issues about party comes up.
A case was the issue of alleged anti-party charges levelled against Jonathan and his kinsmen from Ogbia Local Government. This allegations were made by groups who always emerge from thin air to make frivolous allegations of anti-Party charges against him.
Some Ogbia elite, while defending the former President have pointed accusing fingers at some of the governor’s close aides. But Jonathan, being an elder statesman has always kept his silence, and distance from state party issues.
While many are expecting a tussle between loyalists of Jonathan and Dickson on who becomes the party’s candidate, others argue that the former president may have decided not to interfere in allowing Dickson decide the trajectory of who succeeds him.
However, the likes of Arch. Reuben Okoya, Dr. Boladei Godknows Igali and Beinebi Okara, who are known Jonathan men, may have Dickson’s Restoration forces to contend with ahead of the primaries.
Still, many loyalists of the former President argue that the silence of Jonathan on the ‘doings’ of Dickson is based on an agreement reached before his emergence in 2012.
They claimed that despite the series of alleged blackmail, sponsored propaganda by appointed aides and controversies of disrespect, Dr Jonathan remained committed to the agreement.
As it stands, the governor holds the aces on who and which local government will produce the next governor of the state.
But stakeholders have been speaking on how the next governor of the state will emerge.
Typically, Dickson had declared that only God and the popular votes of the people of the state will determine the choice of his successor as governor in 2019, saying power only comes from the almighty God.
According to the governor, who spoke during the annual lecture series organised by the members of the Federated Correspondent Chapel, he disclosed that while he will seek divine intervention on who succeeds him, his successor will have the electoral stamp of the people and “it will be a defining moment in the history of the State.”
He said , “Only God almighty will determine my successor. I believe that indeed power comes from God. I will most likely seek divine intervention on who succeeds me. The divine choice of the person will thereafter have the stamp of the people on whose votes the person will emerge. So, it is going to be a defining moment for the State in 2019.
“The last governorship election in 2016 is still fresh in the memories of Bayelsans. It was more than an election, it was a war. The 2019 Governorship may not be any different. The stakes are high as some persons are desperate to capture the State regardless of how unpopular they are among the people. In their desperate bid to launch a deadly come back, they have begun to gradually disrupt security architecture in the state. This they have done by using their privileged positions against the people.
“ In 2019, they are expected to be more daring but as always Bayelsans know them and in line with true Ijaw spirit, the people are ready to repel every attempt to circumvent to their will. “
Also speaking at the event, Senator Barigha Amange, a former federal lawmaker, who represented Bayelsa East Senatorial District, said that only free, fair and transparent electoral processes, within the party and during general elections would ensure the people’s governor which is acceptable to the majority in Bayelsa will emerge.
The senator said that achieving the people’s governor in the forthcoming election will ensure that the much desired development from the grassroots will spread across the state, he explained that the people’s governor was the person elected by the people to perform the executive functions on the peoples’ behalf.
“The people, therefore must be involved in the selection and election processes. This involvement of the people must start from the party primaries to the general elections.
“So, for us to have a people’s governor, the process for the primary and general elections must be free, fair, credible and transparent. It must not be a governor that emerges through imposition or vote-buying,” he said.
Chairman of the occasion and former Secretary General of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), Engr Charles Ambaiowe, said a critical check should be taken on people’s character, capacity, competence, courage and conscience.
Ambaiowe urged for rigorous enlightenment of people from the grassroots in order to cast their vote to the candidate of their choice.
The Guest Lecturer and former Principal Secetary to Former President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr Braeyi Ekiye, said for a people’s governor to emerge, they must be proper political education for the electorate.
“The people’s governor can be elected through the efficient use of PVC and not selling of vote. The people’s governor must be able to focus on people oriented projects and economic development,” he stated.