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Bayelsa/Kogi guber polls: Who wears the crown

Published by The Nation on Sun, 10 Nov 2019

On Saturday, November 16, 2019, six days from today, Bayelsa and Kogi states governorship elections would be held. SAM EGBURONU, Associate Editor; DARE ODUFOWOKAN, Assistant Editor; MIKE ODIEGWU in Yenagoa and JAMES AZANIA in Kogi, who have monitored the race for Bayelsa and Kogi states governorship elections, report that unresolved intrigues and other local issues will combine to make next weeks polls a battle royaleAFTER months of intrigues over the choice of political parties flag bearers for the next occupants of Bayelsa and Kogi states Government Houses, the die is finally cast. By Saturday, November 16, 2019, exactly six days from today, voters will cue at voting centres in the two states to elect the next governors.The Nation investigation shows that in spite of the tension caused by the prolonged intrigues in the two states over the choice of the candidates, especially for the two leading political parties, All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), stakeholders are eager to witness what they hope would be free and fair elections in the two states. The electoral umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in conjunction with the Nigerian Police Force and other security agencies has set in motion all the necessary precautions to ensure violent-free polls.But we learnt during the week that while the various interests in Kogi State chapter of PDP are believed to have resolved their differences in order to fight as a united family in a bid to dethrone Governor Yahaya Bello of APC, the same may not be said of the Bayelsa States chapter of PDP. Insider sources explained that besides unresolved disagreement over the choice of Senator Douye Diri as the partys standard bearer, the frosty relationship between former President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Seriake Dickson has not helped matters. As a result, informed observers are looking forward to a more intriguing contest in the oil-rich state.Even in Kogi State, where the contest seems to have been reduced to forces for continuity against forces against Bello, we gathered that the issue is now beyond assessment of Governor Bello. We learnt that powerful external interests may combine to also make the elections very absorbing.Diri, Lyon lock horns in BayelsaThe die is cast. The oil-rich Bayelsa State is set to make a political decision that will determine the future and direction of the state in the next four years. The big question is who will eventually succeed Governor Seriake Dickson, the first ever governor at the verge of completing two terms of eight years in the state'On November 16, about a week today, barring any unforeseen circumstances that could warrant the shift of the poll, the electorate will file out in their various polling units across the 105 wards in the state to cast their votes for their preferred candidates. According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), 45 political parties are in the ballot for the poll.But there are only two major contenders for the electionthe Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has been ruling Bayelsa since 1999 and the All Progressives Congress (APC), which has been in control of the federal government since 2015. It would not be far from the truth to say that the other parties in the race are pretenders, perhaps apart from the Accord Party (AP), whose candidate, Ebizimo Diriyai, has shown flashes of seriousness and brilliance including emerging as the winner of the governorship debate organised for candidates by the Push Africa Foundation (PAF). Therefore, the election is mainly between Senator Douye Diri of the PDP and Chief David Lyon of the APC.However, the processes that led to the emergence of Diri and Lyon have continued to define the campaigns ahead of the election. Diri, against all odds, was made a candidate by his godfather, Dickson. The governor stepped on different powerful toes within his party, including those of former President Goodluck Jonathan, to ensure Diris victory at the PDP primary poll.In fact, the wound inflicted on PDP by the candidature of Diri has not completely healed. A former Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Timi Alaibe, considered the most popular aspirant in the primaries, is still in court challenging the candidacy of Diri. Alaibe, who mentored Diri and brought him to mainstream politics, has shunned pressures mounted on him by Dickson to withdraw his case and throw his weight behind the PDP candidate. Alaibe, rated as the political powerhouse of Diris Kolokuma-Opokuma Local Government Area, has remained resolute in his quest to retrieve the PDP ticket from Diri.Besides, the just-concluded grand finale of the PDP campaign in Yenagoa showed the wound of Bayelsa PDP has assumed a gangrene proportion. Former President Goodluck Jonathan, expected to attend the rally, was conspicuously absent. He also did not send emissaries. Alaibe maintained loud silence while Dicksons Deputy, Rear Admiral John Jonah (retd), also kept his distance.Other notable aspirants, who contested against Diri at the primary poll, like Ambassador Boladei Igali, also failed to show up. It was also disturbing that the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, whose state shares close affinity with Bayelsa, also stayed away from the rally. Among all the South-south governors, only Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, who reportedly came late to the gathering, attended the event. The rally, however, attracted crowd of party members with the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, governors Aminu Tambuwal, Sokoto State; Bala Mohammed, Bauchi State; Emeka Ihedioha of Imo State boasting that Bayelsa remained a PDP state.In fact, ahead of the election, Bayelsa PDP has shed a lot of weight following decisions of key stakeholders to abandon the umbrella party. Most defectors blamed their decisions on the choice of the partys candidate and running mate, Senator Lawrence Erwujakpor.They were particularly angry that despite the hullabaloo that led to the emergence of Diri, Dickson still ignored all entreaties to balance the polity by giving the running mate slot to Bayelsa East Senatorial District, especially Ogbia, the local government area of Jonathan. They felt that the choice of Ewrujakpor, who hails from Sagbama, the same local government area with Dickson, the outgoing governor, was a selfish calculation defiling all sound political permutations, to pave the way for Dickson to retire into the Senate and replace his kinsman.Many resignations hit Dicksons cabinet as party faithful dumped their positions and began their exodus to the APC. Angered by the development, many Jonathans foot soldiers and Alaibes loyalists also left the party for the APC. There are strong indications that many PDP leaders are warming up to join the APC. But the fear of defection is not as strong as the mutual suspicion that most people in the party are willing saboteurs.In fact, the frosty relationship between Jonathan and Dickson has not helped matters. Jonathan and his family, including his wife, Patience, felt slighted at the way and manner Dickson cornered everything to himself. Recently, the body language of Jonathans family was revealed when Lyon and his campaign entourage visited Eunice, the mother of the former President.The mother of the former President granted her blessings to Lyon in Otuoke, her community in Ogbia Local Government Area. Lyon was led to the home of Eunice by Ogbia leaders and Jonathans kinsmen, including a grassroots mobiliser and former Chairman of Bayelsa Environmental Sanitation Agency, Chief Robert Enogha, who recently left the government of Seriake Dickson to join the APC.The APC candidate, who exchanged pleasantries and held brief discussions with Madam Jonathan, bowed before the woman for prayers and blessings. Jonathans mother, who spoke in Ogbia dialect, was seen beaming with smiles as she received the candidate and his team.But Dickson voiced his frustration recently when he interacted with Ogbia stakeholders. Dickson told Jonathans kinsmen that he visited the former President on 15 occasions, out of respect, to compare notes with him and to agree on a candidate to support collectively which unfortunately did not happen during the transition period.Dickson, who described the former President as his elder brother and leader, noted that he was deeply appreciative of the mutually beneficial political alliance and relationship spanning over 17 years between the two of them. The governor dismissed the insinuations of a frosty relationship between him and Dr. Jonathan, saying that the report was the handiwork of self-centered politicians on a mission to use the former Presidents name to cause mischief.Dickson also fought back to counter the effect of resignations in his cabinet by engaging in appointment spree. He has appointed over 100 new aides to counter the effects of the resignations. In one fell swoop, the governor announced the appointments of 60 new aides. The governor at several fora dismissed the defections in his party as a non-issue. He recalled that he still won his second term in office in 2015 despite hundreds of PDP members leaving for the APC. He insisted that the defectors were pursuing federal appointments and contracts.He said: Those who are writing about the defections from our party; let me make it clear that in our government, we have over 3000 appointees. The resignation or defection of ten appointees out of the appointees is too small a number to cause a negative effect on our party and its chances in the election.Come to think of it, each of you, the G32, you have between 10-14 appointees under you, and if you multiply 32 by 14, you have the sheer number of grassroots appointment. This does not include the 105 councilors, eight local government chairmen and their deputies and several others. So, how many are the other party compared to us. They cannot defeat us, it is not possible.Undoubtedly, the APC has been profiting from the actions and inactions of the PDP. Like Diri, Chief David Lyon was drafted into the governorship race by the Petroleum Minister and former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Timipre Sylva.But unlike Diri, whose campaign is being driven by Dickson, making him look like an appendage of the governor, Lyon has been allowed by Sylva to own and drive his campaign. While Dickson has been holding live media chats and issuing statements on the election, Sylva has yet to publicly interfere in Lyons campaign process. Most people believe that the strategy of Sylva detaching himself from the APC campaign is a plus to the party as it has created air of neutrality around Lyon.Despite his popularity, Lyons emergence also caused some bad blood in the APC. He is facing litigations from a former Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, and a founding member of the APC, Preye Aganaba, two frontline aspirants in the direct primary election that produced him.In his suit, Lokpobiri has asked the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa to declare him the winner of direct primary election and to issue an order stopping Lyon from parading himself as the candidate of the APC. The court has fixed November 14 to deliver judgment on the matter.The former minister has, however, appealed to his supporters to vote for APC at the election. Lokpobiri, who spoke when he paid a courtesy call to the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, said he had nothing against Lyon and had never described the candidate as incompetent.He said: Im here to pay a courtesy call on the National Chairman. Im a very strong member of APC and I came today to formally tell our Chairman and to speak to Nigerians, in particular, the electorate in Bayelsa, that all of them should vote for APC, regardless of what will happen in the matter that is fixed for judgment on Nov. 14, 2019.I told my supporters, even before I came for this visit, that no matter what happens; I will remain in APC, having served as minister under this administration. There is no way, because of the outcome of the governorship primary, that will make me to leave APC.We are working and campaigning at different levels. I always advise that anybody that has grievances, the only place to go and resolve those grievances is the court. So, whatever that is happening in the matter that is pending in the court is not an infraction on any part of our partys constitution, he saidAganaba has also approached the Federal High Court seeking a declaration annulling the primary election that produced Lyon. The party chief is contending that the election never held in the state as scheduled by the party at the national level. APC members are anxiously waiting for the outcome of the two suits.Despite the litigations, Lyon has enjoyed popular movement in the state. He has suddenly become a household name as crowd of people are naturally drawn to him wherever he goes. It is, however, left to be seen how the crowd that troop out in Lyons campaigns will be translated into votes at the poll.Consolidation for prosperity versus Better Bayelsa The two catch phrases belong to Diri and Lyon. Diri is promising to consolidate on the achievements of the outgoing Governor Seriake Dickson. Throughout his campaigns in all the rallies, the PDP candidate insisted that Dickson had laid the foundation for a prosperous state and that he would build on the foundation to bring prosperity to the people. He is quick to mention projects in the health, education and infrastructure.But Lyon has maintained that the government wasted huge revenue that had accrued to the state close to eight years. He said despite all the money the people had become poorer following harsh policies in education such as increase in school fees; lack of payment of pensions and gratuities; lack of electricity, water and other basic amenities.Lyon said the poor performance of the PDP administration had brought insecurity and prevented investors from coming to the state. He said his team, when elected, would correct all the mistakes of PDP. In fact, he said his priority was to provide all the lacking basic amenities, restore electricity, bring security to enable investors come to Bayelsa. He vowed to reactivate the bursary policy suspended by the state government and to pay all the arrears to students.On November 16, the people of Bayelsa will decide whether they want to continue with the consolidation of Dicksons projects and policies by electing Diri as their next governor or try something different, a project Better Bayelsa as promised by Lyon and his APC.Is Dickson alone in Bayelsa'Following the conspicuous absence of former President Goodluck Jonathan and the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, at the grand finale of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship campaign in Bayelsa State last Wednesday, tongues are wagging again over efforts made to reconcile Governor Seriake Dickson with some leaders of his party within and outside his state as the November 16 gubernatorial election inches closer. To some observers of the politics of the oil-rich state, the absence of some PDP chieftains at the mega rally is a sign that all is still not well between Dickson and some of his partys leaders.Of note is Jonathans absence, which according to pundits, has further lent credence to reports of a breakdown in relationship between the former President and his erstwhile political godson, Governor Dickson. Also, recall that the PDP Support Group in the state has accused former President Jonathan, and his wife Patience of not supporting the party both morally and financially as the next gubernatorial election of the state comes around the corner. The group claimed the Jonathans are working for the APC in the race towards the November 16 governorship election in the state.According to a statement released by the coordinator of the group, Isaac Ipidei, the former president has been accused of meeting with former governor and leader of the APC, Chief Timipre Sylva who is the current Minister of State for Petroleum. A number of the aspirants are traceable to him, his wife, his friend, King AJ Turner. In spite of this, they are constantly meeting with Chief Timipre Sylva. We wish to alert our national leaders that this unnecessary duplicity on the party of the former President is a threat to the party in the next election which should be stopped forthwith.His indecisiveness and the same confusion led to the partys loss at the center in 2015 when he allowed a solid cohesive national party handed over to him to disintegrate under his watch. It is unfortunate that he is back to his game. He has never supported the rebuilding of that party in Bayelsa, and he is now back to destroy it, the group alleged.Anxiety persistsHowever, Jonathan denied working for APC ahead of the governorship election. According to reports, while meeting with some PDP governors at his Abuja home recently, Jonathan denied the allegations. Sources claimed the former President wondered how he would be working for APC when he remained a frontline stakeholder and one of the fathers of the PDP' The source further confided that it was impressed on the former President the need to support the PDP candidate regardless of whatever differences existed between him and Governor Dickson.It was also said that the governors impressed it upon the former President that PDPs loss in the election would be a personal political defeat for him and will be used to determine his influence and relevance in his home base. At the end, he said that as an elder and party leader that he has no personal grievances against Diri or Governor Dickson. That he is having problems was the brain child of some politicians who want to cash in on his humility and political lifestyle, reports said.But some concerned party leaders and members are insisting that it was the same disagreement between Jonathan and Dickson that made the PDP lose the Bayelsa East Senatorial District and other legislative seats across the state, during the National Assembly poll early in the year. Otuoke, the hometown of former President Goodluck Jonathan, who is a PDP chieftain, is in the Bayelsa East Senatorial District. Besides winning a senatorial seat, the APC, also clinched two House of Representatives seats in the Southern Ijaw and Nembe/Brass.Nembe and Brass constituencies are also part of Goodluck Jonathans senatorial district. It was the first time the APC is winning the National Assembly positions in the state. A breakdown of the results shows that the PDP won three of the House of Representatives seat while the APC clinched two. Many pundits agreed with the argument that the APC benefited from the frosty relationship between Jonathans camp and the state governors camp within the ruling PDP even as the two political leaders continued to deny the existence of a crack.Fresh worriesGovernor Wike, Dicksons next door neigbour and fellow PDP governor, was also missing in action at the mega rally that was held at the Ox-Bow Lake Pavilion, Yenagoa, the state capital. His absence also strengthened insinuations that the Rivers State helmsman is not supporting the PDP enough in the race towards November 16. Not a few people see his absence as a confirmation of the bad blood between the two governors. Dont forget they differed over many issues dating back to PDP presidential convention held in Port Harcourt. There are also reports that they supported different aspirants in the race towards who the PDP presidential candidate should be, a source said.Former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and a PDP governorship aspirant, Chief Ndutimi Alaibe, also shunned the rally, giving indications that he is yet to be reconciled with Dickson and Diri. We need all hands on deck to humble the noisy APC in Bayelsa finally. APC cannot win here in Bayelsa. But for us to convincingly trounce Sylva and his fellow noisemakers, we need all our people to be committed. Alaibes absence is a bad signal, our source added.Nonetheless, the well-attended mega rally had in attendance five governors, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta, Emeka Ihedioha, Imo; Seyi Makinde, Oyo, while the governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. Dave Umahi, was represented by his deputy, Dr. Kelechi Igwe. Also governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal was present. They all declared their support for the candidature of Senator Douye Diri. Observers say the presence of the governors boosted the confidence of party members ahead of the elections.Also in attendance were the Secretary of the PDP Board of Trustees and former Senate President, Senator Adolphus Wabara and the vice presidential candidate of the PDP, Peter Obi, the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe and PDP National Women leader, Hajia Mariam Waziri. It was led by the National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, who came to Yenagoa with many National Assembly members, women leaders and scores of PDP youth leaders.Although the party leadership in the state continues to express optimism of winning the November 16, 2019 governorship election in the state, in spite of the gale of defections rocking the party ahead of the polls, pundits say Governor Dicksons inability to manage the outcome of the controversial primary election well may hurt his party at the polls. Scores of prominent PDP leaders in the state have left following their disagreement with the governor over the emergence of Senator Diri as the candidate.Aside Alaibe who is in court challenging the outcome of the shadow election, many allies and aides of Governor Dickson have also dumped the PDP campaign train as they resigned their memberships and or appointments and left the party in protest of the gubernatorial primary that produced Senator Diri as the partys standard-bearer for the election. A good number of them have declared their supports for APC and its candidate while others have refused to participate in the campaign efforts of the PDP.Defections scareFormer Deputy Governor of the state and an erstwhile strong ally of the governor, Peremobowei Ebebi, is one of the chieftains distancing themselves from Diri and his campaign efforts. While announcing his exit from the state chapter of the party, Ebebi said he was left with no other choice other than to quit after experiencing and enduring an excruciating period of a largely fraudulent internal democracy in the state chapter of the party. He accused the chapter of lacking respect for the partys constitution and due process.Earlier, the states Commissioner for Mineral Resources, Markson Fefegha, resigned. In his letter of resignation, Fefegha thanked Governor Seriake Dickson for assigning him positions in his administration, saying it was thankful to have traversed almost all the gamut of the state executive council. But observers said he left the government because he found it difficult to work for the electoral success of Senator Diri.Similarly, the Special Adviser to Dickson on Conflict Resolution in Oil and Gas Producing Communities, Chief Tiwe Oruminighe, resigned. He told Dickson in his resignation letter that he left because of the conflict of interest arising from intricacies characterising the 2019 election in the state.The Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Matters I, Stephen Diver and Dicksons Special Adviser on Power Development, Michael Ogiase, were also among the aides that resigned recently. While Ogiase failed to give reasons behind his resignation, Diver in his resignation letter complained that he was not comfortable with the new team chosen by the governor as PDP governorship candidate and running mate.Your tenure will come to its end in three months and consequent upon that, you have chosen a team to take over from you as governor and deputy governorship candidates on the PDP platform. I wish to make it clear to you that this team are not politicians of like minds with me and it is not part of my character to disagree with my boss on very important decisions that have to do with the future of our people and still remain in government to receive salaries and allowances. I hereby resign my appointment in your executive arm of government as special adviser on political matters I, he wrote.Other aides of the governor, including Erewari Igbeta, Special Adviser on Environment; Benjamin Ogbara, Director, Ethics and Compliance, Due Process Bureau; Lawrence Ebede, Special Adviser; Natus Zebakame, Special Adviser on ICT Development; Iniruo Ipogi, Special Assistant on Students Affairs; Chairman, Bayelsa State Sanitation Authority, Robert Enogha, and the PDPs legal adviser in Ekeremor Local Government Area, Omoro Ogei, also dumped the group. They made their resignations and PDP membership withdrawal known in separate letters addressed to the governor and the state chairman of the party.Enogha, in his resignation letter, specifically said he was withdrawing his membership of the PDP with so much pain as a foundation member of the PDP, which was truly democratic then. He added that he had lost confidence in the partys ability to uphold the tenets of democracy, hence the withdrawal of his membership. Although none of the appointees indicated that they were defecting from the PDP to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), Ebede on his own said he could no longer continue aiding and supporting the emperorship of the Restoration Party.
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