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Bayelsa guber: Who will win APCs ticket

Published by The Nation on Sun, 21 Jul 2019


As All Progressives Congress in Bayelsa State prepares for the primaries ahead of the November 16 Governorship Election, Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu and Jill Okeke report on the issues and the intrigues that will determine the candidate of the major opposition party in the state even as concerned supporters call for agreement on the voting method for the August primary electionEven before last Tuesdays stakeholders meeting where All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders in Bayelsa State tried to agree on the modalities of electing the partys standard bearer, observers have been anxious to know who the main opposition party in the state would elect in the August 29 primary election to fly its flags for the November 16 Governorship Election.Investigations conducted by The Nation shows that this unease is borne out of the understanding that the main opposition party in the state today stands the chance of dislodging the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) if it could put its house in order and elect a capable and generally acceptable candidate for the election.DISAGREEMENT OVER VOTING MODEThe concern over the partys readiness to work together in order to contend effectively with PDP in the November governorship election has become further ingrained in the minds of supporters as this weeks meeting of APC chieftains on the mode of primary election ended in deadlock. It was learnt that the supporters of the three most powerful patrons in the state chapter of the party, who are also the current frontline governorship aspirants, failed to agree on this most important issue. Officially, the current frontline aspirants for the governorship ticket of APC in Bayelsa are the former Minister of State for Agriculture, Heineken Lokpobiri and Prince Preye Aganaba. Although the former governor of the state, Timipre Sylva, who is also the leader of APC in the state, is yet to formerly declare interest in the governorship ticket, informed observers said his political machinery is already oiled for the contest.So, besides the presence of these three patrons at the meeting, their supporters, who came in large numbers, took diverse positions over the method of selecting the partys candidate. While Lokpobiris supporters and that of Aganaba said no decision was taken at the meeting, Sylvas supporters insisted that the party will adopt direct primary method.At a point in the crucial meeting held at the APC state secretariat in Yenagoa, the State Chairman of the party, Jothan Amos, could hardly control the rowdy atmosphere. We learnt that even State House of Assembly and National Assembly lawmakers elected on the platform of the party, who were also in attendance, could not save the situation as members of the State Working Committee at the meeting openly disagreed on the matter.Even some members of the State Working Committee, said an insider source, openly disagreed with the chairman on the method of election, thus creating a rather raucous scenario.Explaining the origin of the disagreement, the source told The Nation that the aspirants suspected that the State Working Committee may be pressured to force direct primary method on the party, so they came to the meeting prepared. Therefore, as soon as the chairman introduced the meeting, announcing that the stakeholders should adopt a direct mode of primary, they, including some executive members of SWC, objected vehemently. Some of them openly accused the chairman of flouting the constitution of the party, which according to one of them, demands that before the stakeholders meeting, the state working committee should have met to decide on the agenda. This, according to the executive member, was not done, a development that resulted in the stand-off.Notwithstanding the stalemate, Sylva and his loyalists insisted that the party has adopted the direct mode of primary election.Responding to the disagreement, Sylva said: This is not the way of the APC, something has crept into it. APC is a family. I have said it times without numbers that whoever wants to aspire can aspire and the party is to ensure that we win in November 16 Election.We should not start insisting on procedures; I cannot attend a meeting of party family and be insisting. This is a family meeting and you cannot be insisting. Contact your people in Kogi State, nobody called them from the national body to insist on procedure; it is a simple process and should not be a rancorous meeting, he warned.But it is a known fact that major aspirants like Lokpobiri have, right from inception, argued that it would be fairer to adopt indirect mode of voting so that members would not be cajoled by anyone to vote against their will. When he picked the first Expression of Interest and Nomination form for the APCs August 29 primary election, he openly urged the National Working Committee of the party in the state to adopt indirect primary to ensure that a governorship candidate that would be acceptable to all emerged.He reasoned that indirect primary is the most ideal for the state now as it is the most likely to produce free and fair primary election. A free and fair primary will produce a clear winner with the losers seeing no reason to challenge the results, he said.In line with his reasoning, majority of APC stakeholders condemned the claim by Sylvas loyalists that the party has adopted direct mode of primary election.For example, the Director-General, Heineken Lokpobiri Campaign Organisation, Warman Ogoriba, speaking after the meeting, said there was no discussion on mode of primary election. The meeting ended in a stalemate. The party chairman ought to have met with the state working committee members to agree on the meeting and the agenda before coming to hold the stakeholders meeting. But the chairman failed to do so and our constitution provides for that.A number of the working committee members opposed the meeting and when he came up with the issue of the mode of primaries, it didnt go down well with most of the stakeholders and that is the reason the meeting ended in a stalemate. No decision was taken because majority of the stakeholders felt that the chairmans approach was wrong, he said.WHO WILL FLY APCS FLAG'Although many names had been touted as possible aspirants for APC ticket in the coming election, it seems the final list would not be long after all. In fact, since APC released its timetable for Bayelsa and Kogi states governorship elections, fixing N22.5m for nomination forms; not many of the hyped aspirants have actually obtained forms.The national leadership of APC, in a statement by the National Organising Secretary, Emma Ibediro, while announcing the timetable for the governorship primaries in the states, said the sale of the forms would end on August 20, 2019 and that the last day for submission of completed forms would be August 21, adding that the screening of aspirants would hold on August 22 while the screening of appeal is scheduled for August 23.Today, barely a month to the deadline, only Heineken Lokpobiri has formally picked the form, making him the foremost aspirant now. Explaining why he is the first to show that level of commitment, Lokpobiri said Im the most prepared and the most experienced with parliamentary and executive experiences. I was the pioneer Speaker of Bayelsa State and two-term senator; I have quality people behind my aspiration.So, the current frontline aspirants for APC ticket include:HEINEKEN LOKPOBIRI A former Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, the first aspirant to formalise his governorship ambition on the ticket of APC by picking the partys nomination form, is generally acknowledged as a strong contender for the APC ticket in Bayelsa.Several factors seem to be in his favour. Such factors include the power of his grassroots campaigns and the quality of the promises he had so far made to Bayelsan electorate. Added to these is his continuous emphasis on the need to provide basic infrastructure in the state, even as he accused the ruling PDP government of poor performance. He lamented the rustic state of Bayelsa 20 years after its creation, promising that he will prioritise provision of basic infrastructure, which he said is missing. His particular attention to the local communities has, according to Hon Adolphus Owoupele, made him even more popular.Lokpobiri in a recent twit also wrote, Our communities dont have hospitals. Every child born should be able to live a reasonable life. I am a village man. We will ensure that hospitals in all the communities are equipped to tackle these diseases that kill our people.His strong criticism of PDP state government has so far raised the stakes in the ongoing campaigns on who would succeed Governor Seriake Henry Dickson. Some of the issues he and his campaign team have raised are today the major issues that may determine the voting pattern in the forthcoming election. As a result, some leaders and electorate call him the peoples conscience.Hon. Adolphus Owoupele, a grassroots politician in the state, highlighting some of the issues told The Nation, For some time now, we have not more than four days of light a month. We learnt that our state and another state are connected to Owerri grid. So, three states share one grid. As a result of poor power supply, there is no business, no investors in the state. We are talking of a state that collects N15 billion monthly from the Federal and yet no development. We all know that lack of development is the cause of high crime rate in the state. We lack good roads, hospitals and water. Every one relies on pure water from Aba, which costs N20 per satchet.Corroborating Owoupeles claims, Dr Alex Okubo Esemokumor, the Archbishop and President of the West African Bishop Forum said Bayelsan communities lack basic amenities today, so we need a governor that will change the narrative. We need a governor that will pay attention to the suffering communities, he saidOther factors that have made Lokpobiri the rave of APC at the grassroots level and which, according to Godswill Ogbotogbo, has also made PDP afraid of his emergence, include his informed campaigns on job creation and economic revitalisation of rural and urban Bayelsans, increase of the states Internally Generated Revenue (IDR) and prompt payment of workers salaries. He wonders why a state like Bayelsa, which collects a whopping N15billion every month, would owe workers salaries.Another factor in his favour is his experience and wide contacts. Perhaps more than most aspirants, he has what can be described as rounded experience. This is expected to help him to understand the workings of both the legislature and the executive. He was the first Speaker of Bayelsa State, a two term Senator and a former Minister.Sources close to Abuja said he enjoys the support of many APC leaders that matter. Perhaps it is in view of this that Lokpobiri advised the APC to pick a candidate that has no integrity question if the party desired to win the November 16 governorship election.So far, the only thing his rivals push out against him is the issue of zoning, which they say does not favour him. This is because he is said to be from the same zone with the outgoing state governor. But Ogbotogbo told The Nation that zoning may have its role in the polity, but that should not be the major criterion for choosing the next governor. Bayelsa is in such a terrible state today that what we need is an experienced and grassroots person that will liberate the people from the hands of PDP.Born March 3, 1967, Lokpobiri, a lawyer who holds a PhD, was the Speaker of Bayelsa State House of Assembly from June 1999 to May 2001. He was elected Senator in April 2007 on the PDP platform for the Bayelsa West constituency and later served as the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development.Judging from the depth and spread of his campaign, especially in the rural areas, and the fact that he has actually picked the nomination form, observers said Lokpobiri is the current major aspirant for the APC ticket.PREYE AGANABA Even before he formally picks the nomination form, Prince Preye Aganaba, who hails from Odi in Kolokuma-Opokuma Local Government Area, is one of the aspirants that have received wide media mention. A prince of the royal family of Aganaba of the ancient town of Odi, Aganaba studied Computer Engineering at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port-Harcourt.As a founding member of APC in Bayelsa State, Aganaba is well known in the states APC politics. We gathered that he also has age and possible support of youths and women as the major factors going for him. It remains however to be seen how these factors will come to play in the primaries.TIMIPRE SYLVA The former governor and leader of the APC in the state is yet to formally declare interest in the ticket of the party for the forthcoming election.Many observers said if he insists, it may be difficult to stop him, but many informed observers said his ambition and insistence on the ticket may mar the chances of APC in the governorship election.It would be recalled that Sylva, the former governor who was denied a second term ticket by the PDP in 2011, was the APC governorship candidate in 2015. His and his partys performance then was not quite impressive as APC won only Sylvas Brass Local Government Area in the election. In the 2019 general election, APCs performance is more encouraging as the party won one senatorial seat, two House of Representatives seats and four state legislative seats.As the party leader, sources said Sylva has massive machinery but that his candidacy may have to contend with many forces both within and outside the party.Taking cognisance of the many enemies that Sylva may have to contend with, informed observers are curious to see the outcome of the primaries if Sylva finally contests for the primary, especially if the other major stakeholders succeed in ensuring use of indirect mode of election as against the direct mode that Sylva seems to have endorsed.
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