With the PDP primaries for the 2019 gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa and the main election around the corner, there is an interesting uncertainty about who takes over the mantle of leadership from Governor Seriake Dickson. This task of picking a credible successor is made more difficult by key political characters in the state who insists it must be done their own way.
Interestingly, many think it should have been logical to expect that a former Governor of Bayelsa/former President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan and Dickson would join hands to tackle the knotty issue of succession in Bayelsa with ease.
It is very important to note that leadership of the party in the state is worried by the decision of some key actors to embarrass the party by pulling their resources and weight behind opposition candidates of the All Progressives Congress and the Action Democratic Alliance in the last elections. Even with that, the PDP still cleared 20 out of the twenty-three state constituencies where results were declared. The leading party in the state is still battling to retrieve the rest and also the House of Representatives and the Senate seats which it believes was given to the APC by the Independent National Electoral Commission contrary to the realities on ground.
As the state marches closer to the November 16, 2019 gubernatorial election, there is a brewing crisis of trust and bottled anger among top chieftains of the PDP against moves by some people in and outside the state of Bayelsa to scuttle the fortunes of the party that has held sway in the state since 1999 when a new democratic dispensation was enthroned.
Checks and interactions reveal that this may not be unconnected to the fact that the PDP leadership set up a panel to investigate the conduct of party leaders and members during the last election with a view to taking disciplinary measures against identified culprits. Be that as it may, the report of that panel is still being expected as the party is caught in a game of the ostrich, not willing to disrupt its internal cohesion by punishing people, who naturally, should have played the father figure.
Many leaders of the PDP in Bayelsa are visibly sad that the natural leader in the state did not live up the high expectations of his status, but rather kept to himself when the party came under a heavy attack from forces loyal to the federal government and the APC. The point is that a man who deliberately refused to paddle the canoe by coming out in full force to condemn the murder of a Government House Photographer, the kidnap and embarrassment of serving senior police officer and a party Chieftain in Southern Ijaw, coupled with the obvious brazen acts of impunity at Nembe Bassambiri, may not be in the best moral position to decide PDP’s candidate in the governorship election.
Another interesting factor that is working against this former state governor and his perceived followers is his known reputation for turning against his political associates. The observers of the Bayelsa political environment are won’t to believe and attest that his political family is on the feasible route of collapse and extinction due to his selfishness and ingratitude.
There is an obvious understanding in the state that the lack of firmness and decisiveness was at the root of the disintegration of his political movement, the Green Movement which he formed alongside his associates as governor.
Besides this genuine concern, a good majority of PDP stakeholders are not inclined to align with a candidate thrown on the party by Jonathan going by his recent history with the state PDP. The Stakeholders are of the view that it would be repugnant to the concept of justice and fairness for some people to make sacrifices over the years to build a solid party only to yield it to perceived political hackers, hirelings and paid singers.
Checks reveal that this is a shared viewpoint by all operatives and leaders of the PDP Restoration Team led by Dickson. The Governor told an excited meeting of PDP stakeholders in April that he would support somebody from the Restoration Team to emerge from the primaries and move on to fly the party’s flag in the November 16 election.
It is worthy of note that quite a number of government officials have indicated interest in participating in the primaries, easily not in the open but restricted to the social media. Characteristically, the members of the Restoration Team are waiting to anchor their ambition on the endorsement of the governor who is understood to be in firm control of the party and all its structures from the unit to the state level.
The comment by the state governor and his declaration that it was conceivable and politically expedient to begin the search for a successor from the Restoration Family which controls over 80 percent of the Bayelsa PDP has ruffled some feathers. A critical eye on this comment and the insistences of party members against an imposition from outside the Restoration Team may lead the PDP on the direction of confrontation.
Thoughtfully though, some of the players in the political arena who belong to the household of some interested people and those who are not in the Restoration Team may have been ruffled by the position of the Restoration Team. While the current campaigns can be said to be skeletal in Bayelsa, some of the aspirants have embraced the media to openly announce their endorsement by Jonathan, thereby indicating that they have not got the support of the governor. These characters view Jonathan as the only lifeline for their ambition because they lack the political grassroots followership and popularity to pursue a successful campaign.
The multiplicity of aspirants jostling to take over from Dickson has put the PDP and its leadership in a very tight corner. A top member of the State Executive of the party lamented that a particular leader invited many of the aspirants to indicate interest in the governorship with the intent to deepen confusion ahead of the election.
Dickson has never failed to say it loud and clear at every opportunity that the person who succeeds would be a decision that would be made after several consultations by him and the leaders within and outside the party, so that the legacy projects he initiated are not derailed or sabotaged. It is the party’s view that the former President should easily agree to the decision for the interest of continuity, party, cohesion and strength.
This position is anchored on the fact that PDP in Bayelsa takes directives from only one man – who is the governor and whose firm grip on the party is impenetrable. Keen observers of the political situation in Bayelsa are of the understanding that it would strengthen the PDP further if the governor and the former President agree on the issue of the successor.
As the struggle for the heart of Bayelsa plays out, it is indeed a reality that no candidate would emerge in PDP and emerge victorious at the polls in Bayelsa without the tacit support and collaboration of the Restoration Group anchored under the leadership of Dickson.
––– Ogombirari writes from Nembe Bassambiri in Bayelsa state