Intrigues and Dynamics of the Bayelsa Governorship Election

Seriake Dickson

By Sam Akpe

As expected, the heat is on. The small, neglected, but massively oil wealth-locked state of Bayelsa is once again exploding on all sides—not in violence but in political arguments. As stated by Salman Rushdie, a mature society understands that at the heart of democracy is argument. The main focus in this argument is about who takes over as governor of Bayelsa State from the incumbent, Henry Seriake Dickson. This question would have been easily answered by Dickson himself if certain former influential members of his party—the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)—who had earlier defected to other parties did not return late last year.

After eight years as governor of the state, Dickson—even if privately—must have decided on who would take over from him. But no sooner had these old members returned than confusion set in. Though happily welcome back by Dickson himself, it was clear that the governorship election which comes up in November this year was no longer a closed case. The gates had to be re-opened irrespective of who Dickson must have secretly considered to succeed him. At one of the events marking the return of these former party leaders, the governor issued some guidelines regarding the governorship bid. He told the returnees and even the old members who were nursing any governorship ambition to hold their brakes.

Governor Dickson made it clear that the focus at that time was on elections to the State House of Assembly and the Federal Legislature, and he was counting on the returnees to use their skills and experiences to deliver in their own different areas. Some of them did. The party lost one senatorial district to the All Progressives Congress (APC). Many reasons have been advanced by analysts for what has been described as a massive loss. Some have said that the party leadership imposed unpopular candidates in place of popular and acceptable ones. This, according to them, prompted members of the party to work against its success. Others believe the defeat demonstrated the resurgence of the APC in the state and a clear dangerous signal to the PDP leadership to either sit up or be defeated in the governorship election.

Still at the rally, Dickson had made a promise to the people regarding the governorship race, “I want to advise all the leaders—I keep saying that politics is a game that ambitious people play for the common good; but there is time for everything. I request that all our leaders—those who are here and those who are not here—that for now, there should be no other politicking. All the efforts and focus should be on supporting our party candidates in all the elections. Win the State House of Assembly election, win the House of Reps election. Win all the Senate election. When we finish that, we will consult. God is the one who makes leaders. Power comes from above. I too will call the whole state to pray. When we have prayed and consult, then He will show us the way.”

The prayer sessions have been called even when it looks as though argument, accusations and counter accusations have replaced prayers and consultations. These days, when you open the newspapers, what you see are stories meant to disqualify certain aspirants even before the consultation is concluded. Sponsored articles have replaced constructive criticisms that would sharpen arguments and guide the voters.

A few days ago, some national newspapers ran a syndicated story on why one of the aspirants in the governorship race, ‘Timi Alaibe, is already disqualified from the race because his local government has already produced a senator. The same article—whose source could not be completely hidden—also said something about the same aspirant jumping from one political party to the other and should therefore not be trusted. Though I am not very familiar with Bayelsa politics, there is need for clarification because when lies are repeatedly told; it may be accepted as truth.

First, if moving from one political party to another could disqualify someone from seeking election in Bayelsa State and being voted into office, then Governor Dickson would have been disqualified because he was a chieftain of the Alliance for Democracy before joining the PDP. But that has never been a criterion. What should concern the people should be whether the affected candidate has the managerial depth, required leadership qualities and intellectual capacity to occupy that particular office and make the best of it. So, those engaging in this argument of convenience seem to have exhausted all genuine reasons to attack the aspirant.

The second aspect is even more amusing. That is the assumption that Alaibe cannot contest for governorship because at present, he has a senator from his local government area. But history favours him in this regard. This is because there is no such precedence. First, when the late DSP Alamieyeseigha was governor, the senator representing Bayelsa Central Senatorial district who served during the two-term tenure of DSP (though terminated at some point) was the late Senator David Brigidi. Both of them were from same Southern Ijaw Local Government Area.

Second, when Timipreye Sylva was governor of the state, the senator representing Bayelsa East Senatorial District was Senator Inatimi Rufus-Spiff from same Brass LGA as the governor. At that time, nobody raised alarm against Sylva. Third, when our respected statesman, Goodluck Jonathan was President of Nigeria, the Senator representing Bayelsa East was Senator Clever Ikisikpo from the same Ogbia Local Government Area as the President. Fourth, at present, under Governor Dickson, the senator representing Bayelsa West Senatorial District, Senator Forster Ogola, is from the same Sagbama Local Government Area as the serving governor.

Can someone then explain why the emergence of Senator Douye Diri from Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area (who is equally rumoured to be in the governorship race) should foreclose the emergence of Alaibe as the candidate and Governor of Bayelsa State simply because they are from the same local government area? This is a faulty logic that can hardly fly in view of the existing history and precedence in the Bayelsa political dynamics. The concern of every PDP supporter should be the capacity to serve and the war-chest to withstand and crush the opposition.