By Japhet Alakam
Politics as a game is supposed to be played in a friendly way, but the tendency to win elections at all costs better known as “do or die” attitude of today’s politicians has turned it to a great threat to Nigeria’s democracy. Despite the more than 16 years of return to democracy, the politicians have continued to treat elections as war, oftentimes, political opponents boast about “conquering” the incumbent’s seat, or they will “take over” power by any means possible with the aid of what they call “Federal might”, or the power of “Abuja forces”, and this has affected the smooth conduct of elections in the country.
The issue has been a re-occuring decimal in Nigeria, but what happened during the December 5, 2015, Bayelsa state governorship election, when the incumbent Governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) sought for re-election for a second term was nothing to write home about. What was the political situation in Bayelsa like, what were the challenges and the travails that Governor Seriake Dickson faced, how did the main opposition party in the state APC fight, especially after their takeover of the federal seat, which changed the power dynamics and the tone of electoral politics and how did Dickson overcome the storm to remain at the government house, these and other issues are what Daniel Iworiso-Markson, Dickson’s Chief Press Secretary offered in a book titled Bayelsa’s Landmark Election: How Dickson Deployed People Power to Defeat Federal Might, a detailed even if impassioned account of the nature of electoral hostilities of 2015.
Segmented into four parts with an appendix for easy understanding, the author as an insider who was very close to the battle field in the 330 page book published by Image Heart Concept Ltd, highlights some of the salient issues that took place before the victory song by Dickson.
The author in part one with seven chapters takes a critical look at the primaries, how it was conducted in the two major parties, the PDP and APC, the different power play, skirmishes and other forces that transpired before the two flag bearers were nominated. For Dickson of PDP, the intrigues within the PDP, was authored by those who opposed his interest in having a second term in office. But all in all, it was a good primary as people looked at his record and as the only person to retain the seat for the party in the state. The APC primary was a different ball game as it was turned into a theatre of war. Timipre Sylva had to battle it out in a rough way that led to the cancellation of the first primary and organization of another one before his eventual emergence.
In Part two, with seven chapters, the author gives a detailed account of the various campaigns by the parties. The strategies deployed by Dickson, his grassroots method that took him to all communities including the creeks, and his achievements under the umbrella of his well articulated Restoration Agenda, his vision to continue on his records, the role his media team played as well as other factors. While Timipre Sylva, allegedly reminded every one that he had the support of the Federal Government; with his slogan codenamed “Operation Take over Bayelsa.”
In Part three of nine chapters, which can be described as the real battle ground, the author looks at the different slogans by the two combatants, change versus continuity, the true change agent and the election or war. The preparations by INEC and the difficult geography of the place, the peace accord by INEC which all the parties signed for a peaceful election. On the other side, the preparation by the police and others, as it turns out, on the election day, many ugly scenes were recorded causing INEC to cancel the election in Southern Ijaw declaring it inconclusive. A new date for the re-run was fixed and the re-run conducted amidst tight security and at the end Seriake Dickson of PDP was declared the winner.
The last part with four chapters discussed topics like the victory lap, the post mortem, beyond victory and sharing the spoils, learning the lessons, where the author narrates what took place after the election- how APC candidate Timipre Sylva rejected the results and went from the Election Petitions Tribunal to the Supreme Court and in all Dickson’s victory was affirmed at every level. The author made an evaluation of issues about the election, the candidates and other issues, and also assessed the issues as it concerns the future development of democracy in the state and Nigeria.
The book may be dubbed controversial because of the angle the author wrote from, even with the foreword by Governor Peter Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State. But, in all it is a very detailed assessment of how Dickson survived a war in an electoral democracy and how not to go for an election in a country.
Written in very simple English language for easy understanding and laced with some iconic images, the book is a very valuable material for students of politics, politicians as well as researchers. I recommend it.