By Samuel Oyadongha
NOBODY had the inkling that the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) would suffer a humiliating rout in the hands of the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC) as witnessed in the just concluded governorship election in Bayelsa State where the former had been in control in the last 20 years of democratic rule.
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At best, a close race was predicted between Senator Douye Diri of the PDP and his main rival, Chief David Lyon of APC especially when the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the results from Sagbama and Nembe local councils.
Dickson delivers Sagbama
Sagbama LGA is the home base of the outgoing governor, Seriake Dickson and Senator Lawrence Ewhrujakpor, PDP’s deputy governorship candidate. The PDP was adjudged to have polled 60,339 votes while APC scored 7,831 votes.
Sylva’s Nembe falls for APC
In Nembe, which is the stronghold of the former governor of the state and Minister of State Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva and Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, APC’s running mate, the APC clinched the council scoring 83,041 votes as against PDP’s 874 votes. The people of the council area put aside their political differences to rally round the APC because of the Sylva factor and their disenchantment with the ruling PDP citing the treatment meted to the current deputy governor, Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John-Jonah, retd, who was denied the ticket.
Incidentally, the area was rocked by violence few days to the governorship poll in which members of the PDP were brutally attacked during a botched campaign rally. Several lives were lost and properties destroyed with voters apathy anticipated in the area. Instead the people reportedly came out in their large numbers to rally support for one of their own, Chief Sylva, who though was not on the ballot, is considered as the leader of the APC in the state.
As results from other councils were being collated, it became clear that the opposition party was poised to dislodge the PDP from the Creek Haven, the seat of power in the predominantly riverine state.
Battle of Kolokuma/Opokuma
Lyon’s APC also showed strong presence in Kolokuma-Opokuma LGA which is considered a traditional PDP stronghold, though it lost to the PDP which polled 15,360 votes as against 8,934 votes. KOLGA could perhaps be described as the most peaceful council in the state with a sophisticated population of voters. KOLG is the council area of Senator Douye of the PDP. With a total number of 50,447 votes, observers had anticipated a situation where the people of the area would come out en mass to rally behind one of their own, Diri the candidate of the PDP but instead the area witnessed a widespread voters’ apathy ostensibly due to Timi Alaibe factor.
Also, the APC dislodged the ruling PDP in its traditional stronghold of Southern Ijaw which is perhaps one of the largest councils in the federation. The vast stretch of marshy area is one of the largest oil and gas producing enclave in the state but has remained one of the most backward and underdeveloped.
Interestingly Chief Lyon is from the heartland of the council and the average person from the area saw him as the person to bring the much desired development to the area.
The PDP and Dickson permutation of ceding the Speakership of the State House of Assembly to the council area some weeks to the governorship election so as to shore up the party support base in the area did not sway votes in favour of the party as according to the people the governorship position which one of their own David Lyon is contesting is the magic wand needed to launch their neglected council on the fast lane of development.
It was therefore boost to the APC candidate when INEC announced that he polled 124,803 votes in the area as against PDP 4,898 votes. This was more than double the votes PDP got in the area in 2015 governorship election.
Lyon is also considered as the largest private employer of labour in the state with over 6000 youths reportedly engaged by his surveillance security outfit, Darlon Security and Guards with vast interest in the swamp area of the state and this may have worked in his favour.
But there were reports of violence in some of the PDP dominated areas where election materials were allegedly snatched by suspected thugs with the aid of soldiers.
Yenagoa LGA another strong base of the PDP fell to the APC in what some locals described as the climax of the anger of the people against the slow pace of development within the capital city. The APC polled a total of 24,607 while PDP scored 19,184 in a council where the total number is put at 199,895.
Ogbia which is also considered a strong base of the PDP and council area of former President Goodluck Jonathan also fell to the APC tsunami. The people of the council area had always voted for PDP governors’ right from Alamieyeseigha, Jonathan, Sylva and Dickson. But when it comes to Diri, they made a volte-face as according to analysts, Dickson who is Diri’s sponsor did not show enough respect to Jonathan. Dickson they insisted did not consult with the former president about Diri’s candidature. He was said to have ensured Diri’s emergence in a primary designed to favour him knowing that Jonathan was interested in a different candidate. He was also alleged to have sidelined the statesman in choosing the running mate to Diri, an affront the people felt was taken too far on their kinsman.
It was therefore not surprising when the Ogbia speaking folks known for their bloc votes threw their support behind the APC just to spite the Dickson’s Restoration family. The APC polled a total of 58,016 votes as against PDP13,763.
In Ekeremor council area, which is the stronghold of Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, the immediate past of Minister of State for Agriculture and a chieftain of the APC who is challenging the primary that produced Chief David Lyon in court, the APC put an end to the PDP domination polling 21,486 votes as against the latter’s 18,344. Incidentally, many had expected the PDP led administration which is constructing a mega road project to the predominantly riverine council but the reverse was the case.
Also in Brass LGA, another stronghold of the Sylva, the APC reinforced its rising popularity by clinching 23,831 votes as against PDP 10,410 votes.
Besides, the overbearing influence of the Army and the purported connivance of the INEC, which allegedly skewed the poll in favour of the APC, mother nature to a large extent also played a role in the widespread apathy witnessed during the poll as several parts of the state especially the fresh water zone was flooded leaving thousands of families displaced.
Also, the internal wrangling that rocked the ruling PDP in the aftermath of its September 3, 2019 primary is also believed to have work against the interest of the party during the governorship poll. Some of the aspirants and other stakeholders were not impressed with the process that produced Diri.
The former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Ndutimi Alaibe, seen as a formidable candidate to fly the PDP flag and loved across the state, came second in the primary designed to favour Diri, Governor Dickson’s anointed candidate.
Alaibe was among those who took exception to the process that threw up Diri and chose to challenge Diri and PDP in court. The bad blood caused by the primary was infectious as even some appointees of Dickson began to throw in the towel one after another. The party was hit by gale of defections with many of its stalwarts quitting.
Apparently unruffled by the ominous turn of events in the party, the leadership of the PDP in the state boasted that the party would win the November 16 governorship poll with or without those defecting to the APC.
The state chairman of the party, Moses Cleopas had in a statement said the Bayelsa people and followers were not with the defectors, who according to him, lack the requisite character, principle and integrity. He boasted that the PDP won convincingly the 2015 guber poll in spite of the defections and would repeat same feat without such “unstable character.” But instead of the umbrella to entrench its hold on Bayelsa in the heart of the Niger Delta and epicentre of tropical rain forest, the broom is now set to take the centre stage in the days ahead ending twenty years reign of the PDP.