By Levinus Nwabughiogu
At the last count, 13 persons have obtained the expression of interest and nomination forms to vie for the ticket of the All Progressives Congress, APC, ahead of the December 5 Bayelsa State governorship election. Prominent amongst them is a former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Mr. Timi Alaibe.
His entry into the race may have altered the equation. It may also rattle incumbent Governor Seriake Dickson. Sunday Vanguard was present when Alaibe returned his expression of interest and nomination forms to the APC National Headquarters on Thursday.
Perhaps, the import of his legacies at the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, had never dawned on him until Monday last week. On that day, his people from Bayelsa State stormed the National Secretariat of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Abuja to purchase the expression of interest and nomination forms for the governorship election in the state for him.
As a former Managing Director of the NDDC, Mr. Timi Alaibe spent time and deliberately articulated programmes and polices that rubbed off positively on the nine states of the Niger Delta.
And just when he had thought that he was done with public service especially after his stint at the NDDC, his people reached out to him to render more service.
That was exactly the message Senator John Brambaifa, who represented Bayelsa West in the Senate between 2003 and 2007, dropped on Monday when he led a group of Alaibe’s supporters to obtain the expression of interest and nomination forms for him. That message was remarkable. Candidates seeking political offices, in most cases, wait for no one to call them. They advertise themselves, their wealth, rented crowd, etcetera when picking expression of interest and nomination forms. But here you had people who came to pick the forms for their candidate. Smacking a nostalgic thought of how representative democracy started in the ancient Greek, one thing became sure of the development: Alaibe has got a demonstrable endorsement of his people who prefer him to Dickson and, indeed, any other aspirant for the Bayelsa governorship.
Again, the development signposts danger for both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and incumbent governor. How? Prior to now, Alaibe, Brambaifa and, of course, many of the teeming supporters that made it to the APC secretariat on Monday used to be in the family of the PDP as Bayelsa was almost 100 percent PDP. But that is not the case now. To them, change has come and Bayelsa must embrace it. With their exit, PDP and Dickson have been left in the cold.
Brambaifa said after obtaining the forms for Alaibe: “We have decided to buy the forms for him and present him to our people as the most favourable candidate because he will be the best to take the mantle of leadership in Bayelsa.
“APC guidelines do not stop anybody who is a member of the party from contesting an election. Even if you joined yesterday, you have the same right to contest the election as somebody who joined two years ago.
“Don’t forget that Alaibe has a track record of achievements when he was in NDDC. At that time, he managed nine states. I don’t think one state will be a problem for him. So, we are confident that he stands the best chance to pick the APC ticket and win the election scheduled for December 5″.
The former senator, who is also a grassroots politician, having previously superintended over the affairs Sagbama Local Government Council as an elected Chairman, also fired back at Dickson who was quoted as calling the defectors hungry politicians.
He said: “Dickson is not a candidate of the APC and he has a right to his opinion, but I want to assure you that there is nobody, including Dickson himself, who can stand the APC candidate Alaibe; there is nobody in APC or anywhere else in an election in Bayelsa. So, whatever he is saying, that is his own personal opinion and that is a political statement.”
Alaibe heeded the clarion call. Three days after, he led the group to return the forms at the secretariat.
Unlike other aspirants who returned their forms in vexing razzmatazz, the NDDC boss, on Thursday, silently entered the APC National Secretariat to drop the forms. But for the eagle eyed journalists who cover the party’s activities, he would have left unnoticed. But the journalists insisted he should say a word.
And just like Brambaifa posited on Monday, Alaibe echoed that Bayelsans were tired of visionless leadership.
He said: “You were here when the elders of Bayelsa came to purchase the forms, asking me to contest the governorship of the state. In answer to that call and following my acceptance, I have come here to submit the expression of interest and nomination forms.
“We as Bayelsa people are tired of accidental leadership. We are tired of visionlessness and you know that I come with a lot of experience, goodwill, integrity and reputation. As one of the major oil producing states in this country, Bayelsa has not been able to see structured development in terms of infrastructural development and even in terms of environmental development as “consequence of oil production.”
Reminded that he has always faced opposition by some elements in his former party which forced him to step down for Dickson in 2011, Alaibe said he was a loyal party man who was not desperate to become governor even though his people crave for him.
Basically, the former NDDC boss submitted that he stepped down for the governor to show his worth, not knowing that Bayelsa would have paid the steep price for cluelessness and under development.
“I am a party man and that is what I have always been. I have had cause to step down for people by following party directives those days. So, I am a party man but, in spite of how we try to support them, the leopard and his skin refused to change; you can not give what you do not have”, he said.
Alaibe also dismissed the insinuation that Bayelsa had a difficult terrain which challenged physical development, stressing that he had built roads, schools and shops in the state before.
“It is like talking about Netherlands, city of water, and you can see infrastructural development. If you know what to do, let us not use the excuse of terrain, that is deceit, that is not the problem. How does the excuse of terrain make you not to resolve the drainage problem in Yenagoa town?
“How does the excuse of terrain make you not to clear refuse? It is leadership we are talking about, leadership with vision, leadership that gives direction, leadership that knows critical issues of infrastructural development and empowerment, leadership that connects with the people, that is what is absent and that is what we want to fix”, he said.
Meanwhile, the APC governorship primary election has been slated for September 19 just as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has scheduled the election for December 5. It is left to be seen what the days would bring forth. But then, Bayelsans appear to have chosen change against ineptitude and godfatherism.