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Bayelsa PDP governorship primary: Averting the landmines

Published by The Nation on Sun, 14 Jul 2019

SINCE the release of election timetable by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), for the conduct of governorship election holding on November 16, 2019 in Bayelsa State, the political atmosphere has become more electric than ever before.The stakes in the forthcoming primary election are much higher than at any other such exercise in the history of Bayelsa PDP, with some new entrants and old war horses competing.Among these are former Managing Director of NDDC, Chief Ndutimi Alaibe, Mr. Kemiebi Okoko, a businessman, Architect Reuben Okoya, Former Commissioner in the Alamieyeseigha administration, Joshua Maciver, an ex-Niger Delta agitator, Senator Douye Diri, Talford Capolo and others in the line-up.On the whole, one does not need a spiritual surgeon to know the uneasy calm pervading the atmosphere. There is no doubt, the Turo-Orua born governor of the state, Seriake Dickson, presides over the process like Melchizedek, the biblical king of Salem and the chief of El Elyon, who brings out bread and wine to bless whom he chooses to bless. Yet, virtually all the aspirants lobby and look forward to his endorsement except few aspirants who defy all that and prefer to be independent.Like the Niccolo Machiavelli who wrote the book, the Prince, the political script written by the governors Restoration political family which had been under wrap is beginning to unfold. The new Machiavelli in town according to sources close to the Creek Haven seat of government, say he had promised over thirty persons that they would take over from him as governor.The governor has not also hidden his disposition in polarising the party between his faction, known as the Restoration Team, and the other faction known as the Green Movement associated with loyalists of former president Goodluck Jonathan. As a matter of fact, the Green Movement was where Dickson first cut his political tooth and came to limelight.If a prophet had told Jonathan, A.J. Turner and others that their political godson will one day develop eagle wings and lion teeth to bite and feed them humble pie, their response would have been utter disbelief.Today, the stark reality is starring them in the face. The Green Movement is grappling with the unimaginable power game, where their erstwhile school boy has dumped them to form his splinter group. You may call it ingratitude, but they were forewarned about this political tragedy.The Restoration Team has become a thorn in the flesh of the Jonathan political family. Yet, in his bid for re-election in 2015 but for the ex-president who had just lost the presidential election, Dickson was almost defeated by former Governor Timipre Sylva. Today, like Apostle Paul said what he feared the most has come around.To the surprise of all, shortly after his re-election, Dickson was the first person to haul an insult at Jonathan. It was on the occasion of marking the creation of the state and independence of Nigeria, where he openly said the Jonathan presidency was a waste to the Ijaw nation and the Niger Delta, that it did not attract any meaningful development to the area.That singular remark coming from a man who could not have become a governor without Dr. Jonathan, marked the height of ingratitude and provocative show of disrespect. The former president refused to join issues with him and took it with a calm sense of equanimity.One obvious fact was that Dickson was only laying an avalanche of landmines to destroy a party he rode to power. That is the character of a governor who wants to impose his preferred choice of successor on the people of Bayelsa.That is why, it is the consensus of vast majority of Bayelsans and the PDP in particular that any candidate emerging through Dickson will lose the forthcoming election in the state. They have several reasons in arriving at that conclusion.One, the administration brought lots of hardship on the populace, as no viable empowerment programme was initiated to reduce the frightening statistics of unemployment in the state. Such was the astronomical rise in crime that at a time, under his watch, people resorted to even stealing soup pots on cooking stove and gas.The government promised creating employment opportunities through investors they claimed they were bringing by opening foreign office in USA, UK and South Africa. For the about eight years of the administration, no single investor has been brought to Bayelsa, not to talk of attracting public-private partnership.The opening of such foreign offices took a toll on the treasury and indeed became conduit pipes for waste of scarce resources which could have been used for network of roads across the state.Due to lack of ingenuity, the government has resorted to creating cheap employment in the civil service by employing thousands of people when the administration is winding down with only few months to end.Even at that, the recruitment process was characterized by nepotism, such that over 70 percent of those employed were his kinsmen and women, at the expense of the rest of the geo-political composition of the state. It is so bad that his successor will contend with heavy wage bill.Another worrisome issue that has battered the image of the ruling party, is the indiscriminate and provocative dismissal of people from the civil service, only to replace them with his kinsmen mostly of Toru-Orua and his maternal relatives from Delta State.Besides the heavy debt profile incurred by the administration, for the almost eight years, the government could not provide potable water for the state. Recently water scarcity hit the Yenagoa metropolis because vendors who are mostly of Hausa-Fulani stock went for Sallah celebration. This is indeed the shame and burden of the failed government.The governments lack of attention to workers welfare is another sore point. For almost eight years workers were not promoted. Even when they reluctantly conducted promotion exercise workers were not given the salary due them, while arrears were denied them. It is against this background, the PDP has a lot of issues to contend with in the forthcoming governorship election campaign in the state.In the face of this stark reality, if Dickson imposes any candidate on the party, by circumventing a credible, free and fair primary, PDP will certainly meet its waterloo as the aforementioned activities of the governor have already impacted negatively on the fortunes of the party.This is where frontline contestants like Keniebi Okoko, Ndutimi Alaibe, Reuben Okoya and others with a track record of credibility and political muscle have added value to the electoral process to restore the image of PDP.These candidates are leading lights of the state and will bring a lot of goodwill and support across party lines. It is unfortunate that, the ambition of the governor to impose his preferred choice is further threatening the dwindling fortunes of the party. If the national leadership of PDP fails to stamp its authority in enforcing the conduct of free, fair and credible primary, the consequences could be anybodys guess.The denouement played out on Sunday 7th of July, 2019 when the self-styled Restoration Caucus of the PDP, held a nocturnal meeting to commence the process of selection of a candidate.Against the sensibilities of Bayelsans, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Matters, Chief Fyneman Wilson, who spoke on behalf of the Restoration Family announced that the selection process would be reduced to only members of their group. He further reduced the selection process to just three aspirants with a caveat that others were free to pick the nomination form to contest. The aspirants are: Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Kemela Okara, the governors Chief of Staff, Mr. Talford Ongolo and Senator Douye DiriBy this singular act, candidates who are not part of the so-called Restoration Caucus were shut out of the race like lepers who are not qualified to mingle in a party where people have paid their dues in terms of commitment and loyalty. Names like Alaibe, Okoko, Okoya, Joshua Maciver, Dr. Godknows Igali, Dr. Osaisai, Dicksons deputy, Rear Admiral John Jonah (rtd) and others now have no place.The writing on the wall is clear that the center will not hold. The Bible says what portion have we in the House of Jesse, to your tent oh Israel. This is imminent and will cause a huge setback for the PDP in Bayelsa.Interestingly, the same thing played out a few weeks ago, when the state chapter of PDP printed only eight nomination forms for the eight LGAs concerning the conduct of council elections. It was ridiculous to the extent that no primary election was conducted for the purpose of free and fair contest.This has already caused disaffection and total disappointment among party members. In same manner, the election of the pan-Ijaw social-cultural organization, the Izon National Congress (INC) was aborted by thugs allegedly linked to the Restoration government whose preferred candidates were on the verge of being rejected at the election.The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), election was not left out. The same undue government interference has polarized the once peaceful and united pan-Ijaw youth platform.Also, the state chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) were not left out as the governments meddlesomeness led to the emergence of two of his kinsmen. Only recently the Yenagoa branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) resisted the governments attempt at imposing its own candidate.The question that is begging for answer is: What does Dickson want' Some people hold the opinion that it is a deliberate act by the governor to destroy the PDP and find a safe haven in the APC, to avert the dragnet of the anti-corruption agencies.After all, reports about his plan to defect to the APC some months ago were rife. Whether these were true or not, time will tell. However, the Dickson-led Restoration governments acts of omission or commission have laid a formidable landmines against the PDP.This is the time, the national leadership of the party must rise up to assert party supremacy to rescue the PDP from the clutches of the governor, or else they should prepare for the funeral of PDP in Bayelsa. The time to conduct free and fair primary election is now. A stitch in time saves nine.Boyo-Boyo a public affairs analyst wrote from Yenagoa
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