September 3rd 2019 is the historic date set aside by the Peoples Democratic Party to conduct the Bayelsa State gubernatorial primaries.

Currently, about 21 candidates have obtained the intent and nomination form to contest the election, out of which 95 percent were allegedly sponsored by the outgoing governor of the state, Henry Seriake Dickson, using the state government funds; a situation which is very worrisome.

Among the independent and strong contenders are former Managing Director of NDDC, Chief Ndutimi Alaibe, Mr. Keniebi Okoko, a businessman, Architect Reuben Okoya, Former Commissioner in the Alamieyeseigha administration, Joshua Maciver, an ex-militant and Niger Delta agitator, Dickson’s deputy governor Gboribiagha John Jonah, Dr Osaisai, Dr. Godknows Igali and few others in the line-up.

There is no doubt, the Turo-Orua born politician intends to preside over the process like the biblical King of Salem, who brings out bread and wine to bless whom he chooses to bless.

The governor’s restoration political family, which had been under wrap, is beginning to unfold everyday with anointed candidates earlier kept in the offing. According to sources close to Creek Haven, the seat of government of Bayelsa State, the governor had earlier promised over 30 persons to take over from him as governor.

He has not also hidden his disposition in polarising the party along his faction, known as the Restoration Team and the other faction known as the Green Movement, which is associated with loyalists of former President Goodluck Jonathan. As a matter of fact, the Green Movement, as a political family, was where Dickson originally belonged and cut his first political tooth which threw him forth to limelight.

If a prophet had told Jonathan and A.J. Turner and co; who at that time was of the Jonathan political kitchen cabinet that masterminded the candidature of Dickson to unseat a serving governor, that what is happening today will unfold, they would have doubted.  But Dickson, like a tiger, has turned around to feast on those riding on its back after devouring all the visible preys. As for Jonathan, Dickson now picks on him at random, using Ogbia loyalists in his caucus to unleash insults at him.

Today, the stark reality is starring at their faces eye ball to eye ball. The Green Movement political family is grappling with the unimaginable power game, whereby, Seriake Dickson, who was once their school boy, has become headmaster of the game, as he has dumped the Green Movement to form his splinter group called the Restoration Family.

The signals are ominous that so long as you do not belong to the Restoration Political Family, you are an “Obote man” who will be treated as political non-grata. You may call it ingratitude; the reality is that Dickson’s political benefactors were forewarned about nurturing his political rise by those who are abreast with his tendencies.

The Restoration Team has become a thorn in the flesh of Jonathan and his political family. Yet, in his bid for re-election in 2015 but for the Goodluck Jonathan political factor that had just lost the presidential election, Governor Seriake Dickson would have been history.

To the surprise of all, shortly after his re-election, Dickson was the first person to haul insults on Jonathan. It was on the occasion of marking the creation of the state and independence of Nigeria, where he openly said “the Jonathan presidency was a waste to the Ijaw nation and the Niger Delta, that it did not attract any meaningful development to the area”.

That singular remark, coming from a man who could not have become a governor without Jonathan, marks the height of rudeness and provocative show of disrespect. The former president refused to join issues with him and took it with a calm sense of equanimity.

One obvious fact is that Dickson was only laying an avalanche of landmines to destroy a party he rode to power. Dickson hasn’t hidden the fact that it is either his crony or nothing; that is why he hurriedly organised that sham in the name of a local government election, to boost his delegates list and invited them to a meeting to conspire against even the current Deputy Governor who has been the stabilising factor in his administration. Certainly, the road is rough.

That is why it is the consensus of vast majority of Bayelsans and the PDP in particular that any governorship candidate emerging through Dickson will lose the forthcoming governorship election in the state. This is a serious matter and they have several reasons in arriving at that calculation.

The Dickson-led Restoration Political Family and its activities have caused a lot of woes to the people of the state which he wants to perpetuate through the convocation of one of his allies. This is a huge burden that must be resisted by the PDP or else defeat is eminent. Indeed even an unknown candidate from one of those numerous mushroom parties will defeat a Dickson anointed candidate.

One, the administration inflicted unprecedented hardship on the populace, as no viable empowerment programme was initiated to reduce the frightening statistics of unemployment and the growing indices of poverty, culminating in astronomical rise in crime.

The deplorable internal roads in the state capital, Yenagoa, are begging for attention, despite the fact that he receives billions of naira every month from the Federation Account. For eight years the Isaac Boro express road has been under construction and will certainly remain so until he leaves office.

The recent audio tape that was recorded and leaked to the public, courtesy of the social media, is a clear manifestation of how dissatisfied the chairmen and councilors Dickson wants to use as his hatchet men are.   The man is like a drowning man who wants to catch an ordinary straw to survive. Some of the statements made in that tape are so disgusting that one cannot imagine if such a comment is coming from a governor.

Did Dickson build the Government House he is touting to be one of its kind with his personal investment? Did he build the schools and the hospitals with his father’s investment? How come he did not use the airport he built to convey the numerous visitors that came to unveil the new Yenagoa City to the state if it has been finished and truly ready for use?

Besides the heavy debt profile incurred by the administration, for the almost eight years, the government could not provide a single portable water for the state. Recently water scarcity hit the Yenagoa metropolis because water vendors, who are mostly of Hausa-Fulani stock, went on Sallah celebration.

In the face of this stark reality, if governor Seriake Dickson is allowed to impose any candidate on the party, by circumventing credible, free and fair primaries, then the party will certainly meet its waterloo as any person that comes from his so-called Restoration Team will be viewed as an extension of his draconian rule.

This is why frontline contestants like Ndutimi Alaibe, Keniebi Okoko and others should not rest but work to restore sanity to the electoral process. This will redeem the battered image created by the Dickson administration. These candidates are leading lights of the state and will bring a lot of goodwill and support across party lines.

If the national leadership of PDP fails to stamp its authority in enforcing free, fair and credible primaries, the consequences could be anybody’s guess.

Against the sensibilities of Bayelsans, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Matters, Chief Fyneman Wilson, who spoke on behalf of the governor, announced without mincing words that the selection process would be reduced to only members of the governor’s political family. It did not end there; the Political Adviser zeroed the selection process to only three candidates with a caveat that others too can pick the nomination form to contest. The candidates are:

  • Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Kemela Okara
  • The governor’s Chief of Staff, Mr. Talford Ongolo and
  • Senator Douye Diri

By this singular act, apart from constituting an insult on the people of Bayelsa State over their rights to choose a candidate of their choice, any candidate considered not to be part of the so-called Restoration caucus are naturally shut out of the race.

The writing on the wall is clear that the centre will not hold. This is indeed imminent and will cause a huge set back on the democratic credentials of the ruling PDP in Bayelsa State.

Interestingly, that is the same manner played out just few weeks ago, when the state chapter of PDP printed only eight nomination forms for the eight LGAs concerning the conduct of council elections. It was ridiculous to the extent that no primary election was conducted, while all other parties bothered not to contest the elections as the results were already in the pocket of the governor. This had already caused lots of disaffection and total disappointment among party members and the state in general.

In same manner, the election of the pan Ijaw Socio-cultural organisation, the Izon National Congress (INC) was aborted by thugs allegedly linked to the Restoration Government whose preferred candidates were at the verge of being rejected at the election.

The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) election was not left out. The same Government of Restoration’s undue interference had polarised the once peaceful and united pan Ijaw youth platform.

Also, the state chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) were subjected to government meddlesomeness and in the end two of his kinsmen emerged. Only recently, the Yenagoa branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) resisted the government’s attempt at imposing its own candidate as usual which marks the height of pettiness in public service.

Besides the merciless beating of aged retirees who were simply protesting against the non-payment of their pensions and gratuities, security men and thugs alleged to be linked to the state government attacked staffers of the state-owned Niger Delta University who were protesting against the indiscriminate and illegal termination of workers and poor funding of the institution, which resulted in the killing of some of the protesters. This is autocratic, tyrannical and without regards to any form of democratic values.

Dickson was also accused of dispatching his attack dogs to manhandle the foremost Niger Delta activist, Mrs. Anne-Kio Briggs, for protesting against the illegal acquisition of community land for the operational use of the controversial herdsmen in the state. It is still fresh in the minds of Bayelsans the role Governor Dickson played over the impeachment of former Governor DSP Alamieyesegha, in which he led thugs to carry a mock casket to symbolise the death of Alamieyesegha. Alamieyesegha never recovered from that act of betrayal. Dickson was eventually rewarded with appointment as Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice by the then Governor Goodluck Jonathan.

This tendency for violence is the reason many are of the view that the PDP primary election should be conducted outside Bayelsa State.

According to one Diepreye Aluku, a public affairs analyst; “This guy is very dangerous and I warned contestants under the PDP platform not to take his penchant for violence for granted. He will definitely rock the state with violence once the primary does not go his way and blame it on innocent persons; just the same way he is denying the broad day video and audio tapes in circulation over his reckless comments and blaming it on Undutimi Alaibe without any justification.” Such baseless and unsubstantiated accusation can only come from someone living in a world of alternate reality.

That is why it is not out of place to agree with the suggestion that the primary election should be held outside the state, the same way Taraba State did its primary in Abuja due to the looming violence.

The question that is begging for answer is: What does governor Dickson want? Some people hold the opinion that it is a deliberate act by the governor to destroy the PDP and find a safe haven in the APC, to avert the dragnet of the anti-corruption agencies, where it is widely believed that he has a lot of questions to answer over petitions against him.

After all, reports about his plan to defect to the APC some months ago were very rife. Whether these facts are true or not, time will tell. We pray he does not destroy the party before leaving. However, the Seriake Dickson led Restoration Government’s acts of omission or commission have certainly laid formidable landmarks against the PDP in Bayelsa State.

This is why the national leadership of the party must rise to the occasion by asserting the much-valued party supremacy to rescue the PDP from the claws of Dickson.

  • Okpese is a PDP elder and public affairs analyst

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