A week away from the November 16 governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States, the parties are already consolidating their chances, write Emmanuel Addeh and Ibrahim Oyewale A ll things being equal, a week from today, the people of Bayelsa and Kogi States would file out in their large numbers to decide for the state, persons that would lead the state for another four years.
While in Bayelsa, the incumbent governor, Seriake Dickson has served out his constitutional two terms and would not be seeking re-election, his Kogi State counterpart, is billed to come back, having just served his first term.
As it is with most elections, the journey thus far has been fraught with a lot of misgivings from the various contending interests in the respective states.
From the crises that attended the primaries of both parties and the efforts at reconciling the aggrieved persons, the election of November 16, is though assuming shape not to the extent of showing clearly who might get what.
Thus, with the elections just a week away from today, this state of the parties in the two states reveals, where and how each of the parties stand in the emerging equation even though the pictures may not be as distinct as expected.
Bayelsa in Last Minute Pitches
Despite their largely colourless campaigns, further imperiled generally by last minute cancellation of schedules and sudden postponements, the two major political parties in contention for the Creek Haven, Bayelsa’s seat of power, are gradually winding up what would at best pass for poorly funded and badly executed drive to win votes of the electorate.
But, the ‘show must go on’ phrase in show business, which literally means that regardless of what happens, a plan must be seen to a logical conclusion is the force holding down the election of Saturday, November 16. So, this coming week, the campaigns will rev to a halt even though they have been largely uninspiring with no specific programmes and policies while they lasted.
In all, it’s mostly been a duel between two mudslingers, namely the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), which has also failed to elevate political discourses beyond the usual ‘ my father’s farm is bigger than your father’s’.
As the drive by each of the two big parties to persuade the electorate to vote them ends this week, the question that has also remained unanswered is: “Where are the other 44 other political parties cleared to contest the poll by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) aside the PDP and APC?”
A noticeable highlight of the engagements of both parties have also been the near absence of Timipre Sylva, believed to be the godfather of David Lyon and who almost singlehandedly picked him to run for the top seat, from the campaigns while former President Goodluck Jonathan has stayed away from that of the PDP.
While Jonathan’s body language remains confusing, with some of his close allies returning to work for Senator Douye Diri, the PDP’s standard bearer; Sylva seems to have been very engrossed in his new appointment as the Minister of State, Petroleum, which is keeping him away from playing active role, publicly in the APC campaign.
But how do the candidates stand and what are their chances. As it is, the contest is a straight one between Diri of the PDP and Lyon of the APC, with the rest having gone into oblivion, except the Accord Party candidate, Ebizimor Diriyai, who has shown some flashes of brilliance, especially in the open debate organised for all the candidates, which was conspicuously shunned by Lyon of the APC.
Diri and his backers, chief of which is Governor Dickson, continue to list his ‘exposure’, experience in government, his passion for the Ijaw cause as some of his biggest assets and keep characterising the opponent, Lyon, as lacking the experience needed to govern Bayelsa.
The Diri team also casts aspersions on the perceived inability of the APC candidate to communicate or articulate his views in public, a weakness that has become very pronounced since the campaign began.
Dickson and Uche Secondus, the National Chairman of the PDP had maintained that the APC leader in the state, Sylva, should publicly apologise to the people for picking a man like Lyon, who to them should go and contest for councillor’s seat before attempting to do a task as complex as that of the governor of a state.
“I will like David Lyon to go to Ijaw National Academy and interact with the students there. Let him tell them his life story, because everyone has a story. For example, I started out as a policeman. I worked my way up by dint of hard work.
“All of us come from very humble beginnings. I was a party member, then national legal adviser of the Alliance for Democracy (AD). We shouldn’t write anybody off, but the matter he’s coming for is a serious one. Let’s know his views” Dickson recently said while trying to diminish, nay de-market the APC candidate.
In contrast, he positioned Diri as educated, enlightened, focused, prudent and one, who would not be intimidated to do the bidding of anybody outside the Ijaw interest.
Born 60 years ago, Diri from Kolokuma/Opokuma, attended the College of Education, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where he got his NCE. He also attended the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, and obtained his Bachelors of Education degree in Political Science in 1990.
He’s been a teacher, first National Organising Secretary of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), Executive Secretary, Centre for Youth Development in Bayelsa State, Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Chairman of the PDP Disciplinary Council, Bayelsa, Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House, Principal Executive Secretary, member Federal House of Representatives and currently a senator.
However, in response, the APC loyalists retorted that those who had spoken ‘big grammar’ as governors in the past, including the incumbent were not able to develop the state even though they were largely educated. So, it is not out of place these days to see t-shirts with inscription like ‘who grammar epp’, loosely translated ‘ grammar or fluent English will not help develop the state.
Grammar aside, Lyon’s biggest political benefactor, Sylva feels that no other person has been more suited for the job than his protégé, adding that the transformation of Bayelsa would be obvious in Lyon’s first 100 days in office.
“We are bringing security. Armed robbery and killings are taking place. The unfortunate thing today, is that after ransacking your house, they (thieves) ask you for your pot of soup. He (Dickson) has so impoverished Bayelsans that they have forgotten that there’s money in this state. Today, people are only looking for food to eat.
“The David Lyon we are bringing is a security expert. He’s an empowerment and development expert. In the first 100 days, Bayelsa State will start seeing changes. Let me assure you that David Lyon will give you jobs”, Sylva opines.
Lyon was born on the 20th December 1970, in Olugbobiri Community, Olodiama clan, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area.
He attended Saint Gabriel’s State School Olugbobiri and then community secondary school, before proceeding to Rivers State College of Education, where he obtained the National Certificate of Education (NCE). He’s currently an oil and gas security contractor to a major international oil company operating in the state.
On the surface, discounting the nuances, it appears easy to pontificate on where the strongholds of both parties are in the eight councils. For the APC, Brass, where Sylva comes from, Southern Ijaw, where Lyon hails from and Nembe where the APC has a foothold might be their best bets.
For the PDP, it might well be Yenagoa, the state capital, Kolokuma/Opokuma where Diri, the PDP candidate comes from, Sagbama, Dickson’s home council and Ekeremor, where Senator Lokpobiri hails from. But Lokpobiri victory is currently in court against Lyon over the APC ticket. Ogbia, Jonathan’s council, appears more of a battleground, at least on the surface.
In Kogi, It’s Pervasive Tension
Barely one week to the governorship election in Kogi State, all the contending political parties had revved their electioneering particularly, the two major political parties – the APC and the PDP, seeking to wrest power from the incumbent occupant of the Lugard House.
In the past two weeks, the political landscape in the Confluence State has been fully charged with political activities in line with the timetable reeled off by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) towards the successful conduct of free, fair, credible and above all, conclusive gubernatorial election in the state.
Prior to the commencement of the campaigns, the 23 political parties contesting the number seat in the state, INEC had assured Nigerians that the Commission was ready to discharge its constitutional responsibility to conduct free, fair, credible and conclusive governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States respectively.
National Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, restated the commitments of the electoral body to delivering credible election in the two states.
Yakubu, however, expressed concerns over the actions and utterances of some political actors, saying they were inimical to the fragile peace being enjoyed in the states and implored politicians to play by the rules.
Earlier, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Professor James Apam, also said the Commission was ready to conduct peaceful election, saying INEC had already commenced the election process in Kogi.
As a result, he said INEC had already issued permanent voter cards to about 10,000 eligible voters at the time with about 160,646 unclaimed PVCs.
Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi and flag bearer of the APC, stated that as the chief security officer of the state, he had sworn to an oath to protect lives and property, stressing that all the reports that emanated from the state during the last general election were not the true reflection of what happened in the State.
The PDP candidate, Musa Wada, called on security agencies to look into certain allegations, like the one concerning a chief alleged to be training a private army in the state, adding that his ambition was not worth the blood of anybody, and that “if we are practicing democracy, there should not be no room for militarizing election in Kogi State.”
Thus as, the two major political parties continued to strategise and outwit each other, the race has also been reduced to a two -horse race in confluence State.
At the flag off of the APC campaign recently in Idah, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole ignited the campaign for Bello’s reelection bid.
Osinbajo, who presented the APC flag to Bello, expressed optimism that he would emerge victorious in the election and appealed to the electorate to come out en masse to vote for Bello and his running mate, the Deputy Edward Onoja.
Oshiomhole, in his remarks, described Bello as a tested and trusted politician, who has performed excellently during his first tenure, adding that the party’s candidate has passion for the sustainable development of the state and would not disappoint the people.
Director General of the Campaign Council, Senator Smart Adeyemi said with the show of love from the eastern people, it was crystal clear that the party would garner nothing less than 70 per cent of the votes.
Also, During PDP’s campaign kick-off at the Confluence Stadium, Lokoja, Secondus said that the party was ready to recapture the state come November 16. He explained that the incoming PDP administration would move the state out of the wilderness.
He appeal also called on the people of Kogi West to vote massively for Senator Dino Melaye to return to the red chamber of National Assembly, adding that Melaye was an international man and must not be allowed to go into oblivion.
Governor Dickson, who spoke on behalf of seven governors of the party, called for peaceful election in Kogi State and stressed that election was not war. He also said Kogi under the incoming PDP administration would emancipate the people of the state.
Wada, on his part, pledged to put smiles on the faces of the people of the state if voted into office. He said he and his running mate, Samuel Bamidele Aro, would revive every segment of the economy in the state.
Former governor Idris Ichalla Wada, who was on campaign tour of Dekina local government area, urged the electorate in Kogi to come out to vote for Wada, while appealing to members of the PDP to work assiduously to ensure the victory.
But pundits, and civil society organisations have continued to express concerns over the possible break down of law and order before, during and after governorship election in the state, based on early warning signs observed since the commencement of campaigns, especially with respect to hate speeches and attacks on personality rather than issues.
A political scientist and social analyst, Folorunsho Babatunde Akolade, berated the ruling the two parties for not telling the electorate what they have achieved and what they intend to do to improve the standard of living of the common man in the state.
“Rather, what we observed was incitement, ethnic sentiments and threat to lives and property of ordinary citizens of the state.” Also, civil groups like the Search for Common Ground, Yiaga African and Conscience for Human Rights and Conflicts Resolution had observed that the utterances of the political actor and their supporters could instigate violence.
They lamented that using ethnic sentiments had already heightened tension and therefore called on security agents and the media to prevent the breaking of law and order in the confluence state.
Sadly, the two major ethic groups in the state the Igalas and the Ebiras are currently on each other’s nerves. But the coalition of umbrella Development Associations has called on leaders to discourage those using ethnic sentiment to score political points.
National Presidents of Ebira Peoples Association EPA, Mr. Adeiza Abdulrahman, Igala Cultural Association ICDA, Mr. Abubarka Sodiq and Okun Development Association ODA, Mr. Femi Mokikan, jointly addressed the newsmen in Lokoja, saying there was need to build bridges across the geographical divides of the state, using the instrumentality of associations.
The Coalition believed that the move was critical to promoting peace, unity and understanding without which development would remain a mirage.