Bayelsa Governorship: Dickson’s Dangerous Gamble, By Andrew Tamuno
Already, tension is high in Bayelsa with the various interest groups poised for an all out confrontation. Much of these discordant tunes are coming from the PDP, understandably because it is the ruling party – a distinction it has maintained for the past 20 years, since the advent of the Fourth Republic.
As the race for the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship ticket for Bayelsa State reaches its apogee, one of the glaring manifestation of the rampant perfidy in the polity is the disrespect being shown to former President Goodluck Jonathan by some elements in Bayelsa State.
The governorship primary in Bayelsa has brought Governor Seriake Dickson into direct and undisguised confrontation with some of the influential persons in the State who may share his opinion of following a prepared script that will return Dickson to the Senate once he is through with governing Bayelsa. Watchers of goings-on in the State believe Dickson should accord Jonathan, his erstwhile godfather and political mentor all due respect.
Things have gone so bad that those in government refused — during the last election — to co-operate with the former president on who should represent Bayelsa-East (the former president’s senatorial district) in the Senate. In so doing, they enabled the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to win the senatorial district. It is the same people who are now, accusing the Jonathans of playing “detrimental politics.”
As a sitting governor and a democrat, the best Dickson could do is to ensure a level-playing field for all contestants to prove their mettle and political strength, not allowing his surreptitiously sponsored sundry aspirants whose sources of money for acquisition of the party’s contest forms are questionable, to decide for him. It is curious to know whose money is being used to foot these wasteful aspirations? A gubernatorial form costs N20 million.
Despite assurances by key players in the PDP, the battle for who produces the next flag bearer of the PDP is a struggle among three blocs within the party. The three blocs are those of former President Goodluck Jonathan, the Restoration Caucus led by Governor Seriake Dickson and the independent aspirants not tied to any political group.
At the last count, 21 PDP governorship aspirants have procured the party forms for the race. Of this 21 aspirants, over half of this number belong to Governor Sieriake Dickson’s Restoration Group and the prominent candidates in the Restoration Group include: Kemela Okara, immediate past secretary to the state government; Douye Diri, a senator representing Bayelsa Central; Talford Ongolo, former chief of staff to Governor Dickson; Fred Agbedi, former director-general of the Dickson governorship campaign in 2015 and a member of the House of Representatives.
Asides these front runners, there are also other contestants from the Restoration Group, and including the chairman of the Bayelsa State Board of Internal Revenue, Dr. Ayawei Nimibofa; the deputy governor, Retired Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah and the former speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Kombowei Benson.
The other camps made up of the independents and those loyal to former President Goodluck Jonathan include the likes of Ambassador Boladei Igali; architect and former commissioner during the Diepreye Alamesiagha and Goodluck Jonathan’s government, Reuben Okoya; former Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) managing director, Timi Alaibe and Kienebi Okoko, an oil magnate.
Already, tension is high in Bayelsa with the various interest groups poised for an all out confrontation. Much of these discordant tunes are coming from the PDP, understandably because it is the ruling party – a distinction it has maintained for the past 20 years, since the advent of the Fourth Republic. The pressure is on the PDP to remain a winner, but in the last national elections, the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) broke into what used to be an exclusive PDP state, running away with one senatorial seat and other legislative seats in the House of Representatives and the Bayelsa State House of Assembly.
The only way to stave-off major in-fighting within the ranks of the PDP in Bayelsa State is to allow the choice of Kemela Okara as the compromise candidate, while President Goodluck Jonathan’s camp is compensated with the deputy governorship ticket so as to ensure party unity…whilst Governor Sierike Dickson waits for his turn in the 2023 race for the Bayelsa West Senatorial ticket.
Recently, the national leadership of the APC was reported to be in a liaison with Dickson. But the governor has since denied that he was hatching a deal with the APC.
Dickson has said different things at different times. Feigning complete denial of interest in who succeeds him, he has been considered as deploying deft manoeuvres behind the scene. Not too long ago, he pointedly attacked Timi Alaibe, who many believe is the only aspirant that can match Dickson, in every area.
The manoeuvres of Governor Sieriake Dickson are both interesting and dangerous.
He empowered and encouraged so many aspirants to come into the race from the Restoration Caucus and paid for their nomination form so they can butt heads while he perfects his plans.
He succeeded in crowding the space so the Goodluck Jonathan supporters and the independent candidates can have no space to play.
Sieriake Dickson had once been a member of Goodluck Jonathan’s Green Movement and having fallen out with Mrs. Patience Jonathan, he was to have been dropped for the 2015 race had Goodluck Jonathan won the 2015 presidential elections for the candidate of Madam Jonathan, Dudafa Waripamo Owei. However, fate smiled on Sieriake as Jonathan lost his 2015 presidential bid and he subsequently became the de facto leader of the PDP in the State and also succeeded in defeating his chief rival in the 2015 race, Timipre Sylva of the APC.
Following his victory, a no-love-lost relationship developed between Sieriake Dickson and his former boss and benefactor, Goodluck Jonathan as he set up the Restoration Group to champion his own political interests.
It is considered that Dickson premises his choice of Duoye Diri on the need to have him step down from his Senate position, so he can compensate a candidate from the South Ijaw area of Bayelsa Central Senatorial zone with the Senate ticket, so that the Southern Ijaw can be motivated to block past attempts at using their area to rig the elections in favour of the APC. However, there is palpable danger in having two serving PDP senators on the Bayelsa governorship ticket as this exposes the party to another possible loss of one or two senatorial seats, given that Bayelsa East was recently lost to the APC because of the fight for supremacy between the loyalists of Governor Sieriake Dickson and former President Goodluck Jonathan. Biobarakuma Degi-Eremenyo of APC emerged as the senator of Bayelsa-East in the last election, instead of the PDP candidate, while Preye Oseke of APC also emerged winner to represent the people of the Southern-Ijaw Federal Constituency in the Bayelsa Central Senatorial Zone, in the House of Representatives. These two examples show clearly that Dickson’s gamble is a very dangerous one for his party.
The only way to stave-off major in-fighting within the ranks of the PDP in Bayelsa State is to allow the choice of Kemela Okara as the compromise candidate, while President Goodluck Jonathan’s camp is compensated with the deputy governorship ticket so as to ensure party unity, while leaving the duo of Douye Diri and Lawrence Ewrudjiakpo, both as senators of the PDP currently representing Bayelsa Central and Bayelsa West in the Senate, while Governor Sierike Dickson waits for his turn in the 2023 race for the Bayelsa West Senatorial ticket.
Andrew Tamuno wrote from Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.