Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes that though it appears that Peoples Democratic Party is in disarray in Bayelsa State, no one needs a soothsayer to discern that it will close ranks in the decisive moment to retain power in the November 16 governorship election
The first of the off-season elections, following the last national elections holds in Bayelsa and Kogi states on Saturday, November 16, as voters decide who will govern the states in the next four years.
While all eyes are on two states, Bayelsa recommends itself for special attention, because of its peculiarity. Bayelsa is the home state of Nigeria’s immediate past president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. The state is one of the leading producers of Nigeria’s oil and gas wealth. Over 70 percent of Bayelsa is made up of water. With just eight local governments, Bayelsa has a unique distinction.
Bayelsa has become a force to reckon with in national affairs and politics mostly because of the achievements recorded particularly in the last eight years in social and economic development under a clear-headed leadership. In a national environment blighted by abysmally poor leadership, Bayelsa has pointed the way to how the great possibilities in the country can still be actualized.
The November election is one whose outcome will determine whether the state will march decisively forward and continue to epitomize our collective hopes and aspirations or suffer a regression.
By all serious accounts however Bayelsa has in the last eight years turned the page and is set to consolidate its achievements, confirming the winning streak of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as a dominant entity since inception of the 4th Republic in the state and as a party rooted in the people and their communities. Such an outcome will thus revalidate the popular view that all politics is local, a reflection of the strong bond between the party and the good people of Bayelsa State.
Governor Seriake Dickson has stamped a series of high profile development projects that has transformed the landscape of Bayelsa. In terms of individual transformation, a teeming number of Bayelsans bear testimony to the positive impact Dickson has made in their lives.
To be sure, there is much talk about the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC). Indeed even as past evidence suggests that some trouble makers may be banking on a game plan that is not entirely ingenious. True, the APC has made some undeniable inroads into Bayelsa, winning a senatorial and House of Representatives seat in the lat national elections, but the governorship election is a different kettle of fish, if truth be told.
As things stand, to the unwary, it may appear as if PDP is in disarray because of the apparent break in communication between the party (in the state) and the likes of former President Jonathan and eminent party members like Time Alaibe, but when the chips are down, no one needs a soothsayer to discern that Jonathan can’t turn his back on the party that gave home global recognition. Alaibe too has said he is going no where else. In that sense, last minute reconciliation is possible, as the door is still open.
The people of the state will resist and reject any plans to subvert their democratic will or turn back the hands of the clock. This happened in 2015 and it may be again this time.
Mapping out the unassailable position of the PDP in this crucial election is important. For those who are conversant with the politics of the state especially since Governor Seriake Dickson came on board, the PDP candidate, Senator Douye Diri is primed to win in November. Without doubt, PDP remains the party to beat in Bayelsa State.
It has an unmatched organizational structure and has an enduring legacy of the best representing the people’s hopes and aspirations. Without the requisite structure, there is no party per se because political parties rest on structures to build membership and followership, which in turn constitute the strategic blocks from which the votes are derived on election- day. Unlike the APC, PDP is better organized, with solid structures across the length and breadth of Bayelsa State and this will make a huge difference when the chips are down in November.
Then there is the formidable factor of Governor Henry Seriake Dickson. His skills in political organisation and mobilisation consistently deliver results. Drawing on his formidable antecedents, he has been pivotal in organizing the party to become the winning machine we have today. From being an activist for many years to his foray into politics, he has paid his dues as a leading pan-Ijaw crusader and one of the most visionary leaders who have restored the state as a place of hope, pride and refuge for the ijaw people.
Over the years, the governor has built a remarkable network with strong bonds across board which he can draw upon at times like this.
The basic issues here are his values which in an environment populated by political buccaneers and carpet baggers many see as refreshingly noble and his conviction politics that has endeared the people to him. He is a leader who has led by example and has provided phenomenal leadership that has transformed the state . It will be difficult for the opposition to successfully undermine this trust. This is particularly because the antecedents of the main drivers of the opposition APC in the state are well known. Many of them were once in power in the state but left the people thoroughly disappointed. Though the governor is not the candidate, his leadership in the campaign remains a winning factor because of his personality as a grassroots mobiliser.
Looking at the profile of the PDP candidate as opposed to the APC candidate. The rich public service and track record of Senator Douye Diri will, no doubt, stand him out in the perceptive estimation of the people in this election as against his opponent in APC. With respect to Chief David Lyon, running surveillance over oil rigs is no qualification to aspire to run the affairs of men. Unlike Senator Douye Diri, the APC candidate does not have the essential intellectual and other necessary capacities to be governor, who will be relating with diverse publics, not only on policy but in articulating the various interests of Bayelsa State locally and abroad.
There is the widely-held insinuation that the APC candidate’s emergence is a “set-up” to mastermind a hidden agenda. No one knew Lyon in the scheme of things in Bayelsa, even in the APC. He got his nomination form the last day, apparently as a reluctant candidate, who was forced into the race to check mate Heineken Lokpobori, the favoured APC governorship candidate in Bayelsa who was poised to win. There is no way Lyon could have been made a candidate. Of course, the people are already aware of the implications and would vote for the credible candidate presented by the PDP.
Again, more than a passing look should be taken at the issues being canvassed by the candidates in the course of the campaign based on the platform of the two major political parties in the state. The respective performances of both Senator Douye Diri and the candidate on the other side are clear pointers to where the people’s allegiance will lie. As many have attested, Douye Diri’s campaign messages are resonating more among Bayelsans because they are driven with the passion of consolidating the unmistakable achievements and remarkable success recorded by Dickson’s administration.
While there are fears that APC is likely to stop free education in the state and close down the model boarding schools which its candidate and party leader believe are “money guzzling” , Senator Douye Diri believes his administration will build on the Restoration Government’s free education policy as a major area of investment because he was part and parcel of the idea and continued investment in education(totally free) remains a deliberate policy to build the necessary human capital for Bayelsa State as basic asset for development. Similarly, Diri will continue with such legacy projects of the Dickson era as investing more on health, ensuring that the Health Insurance Scheme is reinforced, more hospitals built and equipped, more roads and other public infrastructure built and the state opened up more and more to facilitate trade and commerce. The situation won’t be different in a myriad other sectors: the completion and promotion of the large scale agric projects in rice and fish production started by the Dickson administration which Diri has vowed to build upon to promote jobs and advance his mantra of economic prosperity. He has made it abundantly clear that he will make security of lives and property a priority, further making the polity stable and reduce crime and criminality in the state. The Agge Deep Seaport is still also a priority because of its strategic importance to the state economy. A renewed Restoration Government in Bayelsa State under Senator Douye Diri envisages a great economic boom and prosperity when the Bayelsa International Airport at Amassoma is working to full capacity and the Agge port is also built and developed to full capacity.
He stands today as the heir and legatee of the resolute determination and hopes of the Ijaw people for a firm place in the Nigerian sun. Come the November gubernatorial election, Bayelsans will reiterate that commitment.
Bayelsans can look back and connect with lost opportunities in the past because those in government then were only interested in the allure of power which by such understanding was to throw money around and enjoy the best. Dickson has amply demonstrated that governance is serious business.
Diri is specific about his messages of reinforcing the values of the Restoration Government to accelerate socio-economic development in the state, but the APC candidate not surprisingly does not seem to have clear ideas about what he would do in specific terms other than saying he would “bring development”. What does this mean? People have noticed that the APC candidate is not even allowed to talk much directly at rallies and whatever he has to say is heavily scripted which many have seen as strange.
Why is it that it is the party leaders who speak more at rallies rather than the candidate who should be engaging the people on why he is running? Doesn’t the APC have confidence in the capacity of their candidate?Obviously there is a problem with capacity and this is a big issue in this election. Bayelsans won’t make the mistake of electing an incompetent governor in November and we can see an added reason why the PDP candidate stands out. The rally venues are getting filled to overflowing and the message is very clear: Senator Douye Diri is the answer, a man who has a pan-Ijaw perspective and who will protect the essential Ijaw interest, former Commissioner for Youths and Sports, Principal Executive Secretary to the state governor, member of the House of Representatives, Senator and now a formidable candidate of the PDP heading to a decisive election.
The people of the state will resist and reject any plans to subvert their democratic will or turn back the hands of the clock. This happened in 2015 and it may be again this time