By Samuel Oyadongha
The confirmation that the next governorship poll in Bayelsa will hold on November 2, this year, by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has sparked off permutations on the likely successor of Governor Seriake Dickson.
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and main opposition All Progressive Congress, APC, are upping their games in readiness for the battle for the soul of the oil-rich state.
The PDP has been the dominant political party in the predominantly riverine state since the return to civil rule in 1999 and has prided itself as the party that produced the first Ijaw man as vice president and president of the country and as such deserved the continued support of the Ijaws.
Though the PDP won five of the eight National Assembly seats, its dominance was fiercely challenged by the APC which clinched three positions among them former President Goodluck Jonathan’s East senatorial district and Southern Ijaw federal constituency, the biggest council area with enormous voting strength, an indication that the coming governorship election could swing either way.
Political pundits in Bayelsa where politics is the main industry and everything revolves around Creek Haven believes that the outcome of the November 2 poll will be determined by the popularity and acceptability of the candidates fielded by the PDP and APC.
They argued that the imposition of candidate by any of the parties could spark a flurry of defections and realignments that could spell doom for the affected party.
It will be a delicate balancing for the ruling party considering the array of candidates reportedly eyeing to its ticket. There is also the Jonathan and Dickson factor in deciding who flies the PDP’s flag.
Aware of the tricky task ahead, the PDP, on Monday, held an expanded state executive council meeting and warned its members against any act capable of robbing the party of its “deserved” victory in the coming elections.
The meeting which had in attendance Dickson; his deputy, Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah retd; the party chairman, Moses Cleopas; and other prominent members ratified the reports of the disciplinary committee set up to review the activities of some of its members during the last general elections.
A statement by the Director of Strategic Communication, Governor’s office, Chief Nathan Egba Ologo quoted Dickson to have warned members against anti-party activities. He stated that for Bayelsa to maintain her position as a stronghold of PDP, there is a need for members to put aside their differences and work for the success of the party in the coming election.
Killing fields of North-west: They killed my husband, our three children in my presence – Zamfara survivor
APC lacks structure –Dickson
Dickson disclosed that in the coming election the party would be contending against the Federal might including security agencies and the opposition party, APC which he said has no structure in the state.
His words: “There are two systems that will clash again in this governorship election. The state system which I lead with our teaming supporters and the federal system that will be deployed in this election. As a result, the old way of playing politics must change.
“Bayelsa is a stronghold of PDP. We are going to prove that again with our voters’ cards in the forthcoming governorship election. We cannot be intimidated by the heavy presence of security operatives and political thugs. They failed in the past and they will fail again this time around.”
Dickson who commended the activities of some of the party faithful during the last general elections said their efforts would be adequately rewarded.
The APC, on the other hand, will not be under intense pressure as the PDP since everything about the party revolves around Chief Timipre Sylva, a former governor of the state who from his body language is also interested in contesting the November 2 election.
Likely contenders for PDP ticket
Though the former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has not publicly indicated interest to contest the governorship election, he remains one of the most loved and experienced personalities being tipped for the exalted office.
Alaibe, it would be recalled, contested for the PDP ticket in 2003 and was prepared to challenge for the ticket in 2007 but was prevailed upon to withdraw from the race as Jonathan went on to win the ticket. However, Jonathan was later elevated as the vice presidential candidate of the PDP thereby paving the way for Sylva who came a distant second in the party primary that could have been a two-way horse race between Jonathan and Alaibe if he had defied the decision of the then power brokers in the party not to contest. He moved to Labour Party and later the APC where he contested the cancelled 2016 governorship primaries of the party before being wooed back to the PDP where many believe he rightly belongs.
The former banker is believed to have the requisite war chest and wide contacts to prosecute a successful election. He is also considered to have the support of the people due to the plethora of projects executed in rural communities of the state and other parts of the region during his stint at the NDDC as well as his role the presidential amnesty programme for Niger Delta ex-agitators.
It is however left to be seen whether the incumbent governor or former president Jonathan will be disposed to his ambition if he chooses to throw his hat in the ring. But the fact that his Kolokuma-Opokuma local government area has not produced a governor since the advent of the democratic rule may count in his favour.
Okoko is a scion of the famous academician and minority rights activist, Prof Kimse Okoko, former President of the apex Ijaw socio-cultural organisation, the Ijaw National Congress, INC. The young Okoko is a renowned entrepreneur/industrialist. An indigene of Obunagha in Yenagoa local government area of the state, who seats atop a multi-billion naira investments in the oil and gas industry, is seen as fresh air to the politics of the state. He is a trained economist and political scientist from the University of Port Harcourt and Carlton University, respectively.
His coming from Yenagoa LGA which like Kolokuma-Opokuma that has never produced the governor of the state may work in his favour.
So also is his philanthropic gestures. He is known to have paid fees for indigent students up to the tertiary level and provided books and other instructional materials for schools. During the 2018 destructive flood, he doled out hundreds of million naira to get relief materials for badly affected communities.
Okoko believes that one of the biggest problems confronting the state does not necessarily lack money but the poverty of the mind.
“Bayelsa as a whole needs to focus on education. Mental poverty is worse than financial poverty. If a mind is not developed and equipped, a man cannot give what he does not have.
“Our people are not completely exposed to good education systems. Our people are not well travelled like other tribes. The Ijaw man is determined to succeed, if you give the Ijaw man the right playing ground, he will perform, I can assure you,” he said.
Reuben Okoya is a trained architect and a close associate of former President Jonathan. He was the Coordinator of Abuja Metropolitan Management Council when Jonathan held sway at the presidential villa.
Though the Ekpetiama-born technocrat has not officially declared his intention for the plum office, he is believed to be the main sponsor of the group, Campaign for Development and Democracy in Bayelsa, CDDB, which has been galvanising grassroots support for him.
Igai, a former ambassador and retired top civil servant, is an indigene of Enewari in Southern Ijaw local government area of the state and a respected personality in the diplomatic circle. The former Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government is also an ally of Jonathan and is believed to have the ears of the latter. He is also a familiar face at the corridors of power in the state. His council area, it was that produced the first civilian governor of the state in the person of late Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, a factor that could count against him.
A former majority leader of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly is perhaps the first aspirant to indicate interest to succeed Dickson as Governor of the State in 2020.
The interest, according to Ereboh, was borne out of the need to improve upon the achievements of the previous administration in infrastructure, agriculture and purchasing power of the people of the state.
Ereboh, who served in the State House of Assembly in 2003 as the member representing Southern Ijaw Constituency I, told Vanguard that his interest in the Bayelsa governorship race on the platform of the PDP is to improve the fortunes of the people.
His words: “I am not new to governance. I believe in quality governance and continuity. Any successive government needs to improve and develop what others have achieved. It is called renewable development. There is the need to improve on the quality of education, agriculture and other infrastructure provided by the present administration. And even add new ones.
‘’These are decisions that will improve upon existing achievement and not bring it down. Look at Bayelsa, we have landed for agro-business. Bayelsa should not only be known for oil but should also be known for improved Agro-businesses. What is needed is to develop more infrastructures, provide amenities with security. Oil and security go hand in hand. Before you know it, lots of auxiliary companies will come up.”
But his being a native of Amassoma, the home town of late DSP Alamieyeseigha, the first civilian governor of the state may count against his ambition if the issue of zoning is anything to go by.
Although, he has not publicly indicated interest in the governorship race, the name of the serving Secretary to the State Government is repeatedly being dropped as a likely successor to Dickson. He is a lawyer and is believed to be a close ally of the governor.
However, he may have to contend with forces within his party who see him as being too elitist and straight forward in his approach to issues.
A former Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Okara contested the governorship election in 2012 on the platform of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, but lost to Dickson. His being an indigene of Boumodi in Yenagoa local government, an area which has never produced a governor might be to his advantage.
An ex-militant leader from the deep swamp of Southern Ijaw council has left no one in doubt about his desire to replace Dickson. He has since set up his office complex along the Isaac Boro expressway with his posters donning the sprawling duplex structure and being pasted at strategic locations within the state capital and its environs.
For the opposition APC, the field is not as crowded as that of the PDP, a development that might work in its favour.
Though he has not publicly made known his interest for the governorship race, he is nonetheless believed to be nursing the ambition to return to Creek Haven come 2020. Sylva, a former governor on the platform of PDP is today the leader of the APC and has strong control of the party. He was forced to leave the PDP and take solace in the APC after he was denied his constitutional right to vie for a second term in 2012.
An APC chieftain who spoke anonymously said he is confident that his boss, Sylva would grab the party’s ticket as no aspirant will be able to withstand his influence and financial power at the party’s primary.
Sylva has indeed proved that he is not a neophyte in the politics of the state as he led his party to outwit Jonathan and the PDP in their traditional stronghold in the East senatorial district to clinch the Senate seat and also snatched two House of Representatives seats as well as four seats in the state assembly.
The APC can no longer be dismissed with the wave of the hand as a party not on the ground as claimed by the ruling party.