BY OSA OKHOMINA
…….on the intrigues surrounding the recent controversia outburst by Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson, against the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Until lately, the Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson, was the ‘golden boy” of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a dependable political son of the former President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan.
Jonathan and Dickson shared political links that have been very beneficial to the sitting governor from his days as the state’s commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General , and as a two-time member of the Federal House of Representatives, and now, a two-time governor of the state.
While Dickson, in return, has been useful at keeping the flag of the PDP and the trust of former President support flying with appreciable projects in the three existing local governments of the state.
Also listed as a noble achievement and show of loyalty from Dickson to Jonathan was the governor’s recent involvement in the reconciliation efforts between the contending PDP factions led by former Borno State governor, Ali Modu Sherriff and former Kaduna State governor, Senator Ahmed Markarfi, respectively.
While many of Jonathan’s loyalists including the former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan were monitoring with cold and angry disposition, the Restoration team of Dickson left no one in doubt on his mission to restore order in the polity of the state with the support of Jonathan.
Dickson’s resolve for a new order during the last state and National Assembly elections in the state confirmed the fears of those acclaimed to be Jonathan’s boys, many of whom lost their return ticket during the polls. They were replaced by those believed to be members of Dickson’s restoration boys. Interestingly, this move reportedly had the blessings of the former president.
Still, the only survivor of Dickson’s tsunami was Senator Emmanuel Paulker, who nonetheless had to fight dirty, surviving a dramatic disqualification during the race for the governorship ticket of the PDP.
After his defeat, the need to ensure PDP retained its grip of the Niger Delta was important for the former president. He therefore backed Dickson and the rosy relationship continued despite the discomfort displayed by his loyalists.
Unknown to many political observers in the state and despite the performance of Dickson in terms of roads, education, health and other infrastructures, Jonathan’s men waited patiently for an opportunity to strike. And they saw one sooner than expected.
The governor who had gone on a working tour of the United States of America with fruitful discussions on need to harness the State Oil and Gasresources, purportedly misfired at the annual celebration of their hero, Major Jasper Adaka Boroh, who fought and died for the Ijaw struggle for self determination.
Dickson expressed the regret that the six years administration of ex- President Goodluck Jonathan, describing the period as a wasted opportunity for the Ijaws.
Dickson said ministers and other presidential aides from Bayelsa were after selfish interests, thus losing the unique opportunity of attracting development to their domains. Dickson recalled that the persons who served in the Presidency for six years failed to work with him in the quest to bring development to the state.
Instead, he said they were preoccupied with “devilish plot” of unseating him and installing another governor in his stead.“They suffered from the Bayelsa-Ijaw disease of pulling-him-down syndrome,” Dickson said.
The governor lamented that similar scenario was playing out in the current administration at the federal level, where ministers and aides from the state had refused to use their positions to assist his government’s developmental efforts.
He added: “It is true that we are celebrating Boroh, but ask yourself whether you are doing your bit. Boroh came, saw and did his bit and has gone. I and my team have come and we have taken up the battle from where Boroh stopped and we are doing our duties.
“Each of us must examine ourselves and to be frank we have not done very serious examination in this state and in the Ijaw nation. We cannot blame God. God has been very merciful and kind to us particularly of late.”
The outburst of Governor Seriake Dickson was taken in bad taste. For many of Jonathan’s loyalists, the reference to Jonathan’s six years amidst open attacks from opposition at the national level is a clear betrayal of trust by the state governor.
Chief Diekivie Ikiogha, who was the Chief of Staff to the Governor Seriake Dickson and a former member of the inner cabinet of Jonathan’s men before he jumped boat and defected to the All Progressive Congress (APC), lambasted Governor Seriake Dickson, for criticizing the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Ikiogha said Dickson lacked the moral pedigree to lampoon persons who served under Jonathan’s administration or to claim that the state was suffering from a pull-him-down syndrome. He said Dickson’s remarks were uncharitable and most unfortunate.
He told the governor not to anchor the failures of his government on the administration of Jonathan. Besides, he said if Dickson claimed the administration of Jonathan was a waste to the Ijaw nation, the governor being a product of the administration was also a waste to the state and the Ijaw nation.
He said among the persons he personally introduced to Jonathan, the governor had benefitted more than every other persons from the generosity and benevolence of the former President.
Ikiogha, who asked Dickson to leave Jonathan and his administration alone, argued that Dickson had unfettered access to Jonathan but failed to use his connections to attract federal projects to the state.
Apart from that he said the governor was also once in Abuja as a member of the House of Representatives but spent all his time and resources fighting the then sitting governor of his state.
Ikiogha insisted that Bayelsa under Dickson was bugged down with insecurity, unemployment and hardship occasioned by the governor’s refusal to pay workers’ salaries. According to him Dickson would go down in history as a man who had an opportunity to make a difference but failed his people.
Ikiogha, who was a former Chief of Staff in Dickson’s government, said Bayelsa was the only state in the South south still owing workers’ salaries and asked the governor to account for all the funds including the Paris fund he received from the Federal Government.
He said APC warned the people about the devilish intentions of Dickson but that the governor deceived them by claiming that PDP is an Ijaw party. Ikiogha said Dickson has driven the party to a point of irredeemable failures in the state insisting that Bayelsa had moved many steps backward under Dickson.
The furor caused by Governor’s purported outburst was however denied by some of his loyalists, the State PDP, the umbrella groups of Ijaw elders and youths.
Senior special assistant to the governor on Niger Delta Youth Matters, Mr Kenedy Tonjo-West, denied the reported criticism of Jonathan’s six years administration, describing the relationship between the two ijaw leaders as cordial.
Tonjo-West said the criticism ascribed to Governor Dickson on Jonathan’s six year tenure as a waste was false. He said that those behind the rumors were up to a mischief to cause disaffection between the two leaders.
He said that Dickson expressed disappointments over the progress made by the region in the past six years by leaders of the region at various levels of leadership,“The governor in his speech at 2017 Isaac Boroh Day celebration berated leaders from the region for their poor performance and lack of support to his administration and that they had wasted the past six years in bickering”.
“There was no mention of Jonathan and they have failed because the Niger Delta region is now more united and Jonathan is a leader that Dickson respects and they have a wonder relationship. Gov Dickson re-echoed that feelings of the majority of the people and the fact remains that a lot of leaders have not worked to attract development to the region and those affected are well known”.
“You know we have a proverb that an old woman is not happy whenever you talk of dry bones, and that is what we are seeing,” Tonjo-West said.
He said that efforts at causing disaffection between Dickson and Jonathan was not in the interest of the Niger Delta region and advised the people to close ranks and support their leaders.
Similarly, a former Chief Whip in the old Rivers State House of Assembly, Chief Thompson Okorotie, also expressed concern over the continued attack on Dickson which queried the performance of Bayelsans who have held public offices at the national level in the last six years.
According to him, most of those painting the governor in bad light because of the remark were not even present at the Isaac Boro Day event and only read reports in a section of the media that were clearly biased and unprofessional.
Okorotie said Dickson built his speech from the moral questions raised by King Mosi Agara, the paramount ruler of the late Boro’s Kolokuma clan who asked rightly if privileged Bayelsans were keeping the dream of the departed hero alive.
He observed that it was based on that premise that the governor also expressed concern on the level of contribution from those who have represented the state, an attitude that has translated to several missed opportunities for the state.
Okorotie said, “I was present at the event at which the governor of Bayelsa State, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson spoke about Boro and the significance of Boro day anniversary. The views expressed by the governor on the years of wasted opportunities which included six years at the helm of affairs of the country was not intended to disparage the person of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
“It was rather intended to call us to duty to ensure effective utilization of the opportunities we have had and still have to serve the nation and the Ijaw ethnic nationality. The views of the governor are widely shared by the vast majority of Bayelsa and others in the Niger Delta”, the Bayelsa Elders Forum member concluded.
The PDP and Prominent Ijaw Elders also debunked claims by some politicians in the state over alleged raging feud between former President and the governor.
While the State chapter of PDP describing the claims as an attempt by some dubious persons to cause disaffection between the two leaders, the umbrella body of Ijaw Elders under the aegis of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) blamed detractors for twisting the governor’s speech, adding that the video, audio clips and the testimonies of notable Ijaw sons and daughters in attendance confirmed that Dickson did not make derogatory remarks about former President Goodluck Jonathan as being made to be believe by detractors.
The PDP and the Ijaw National Congress (INC), in seperate statements issued yesterday by the Bayelsa Chairman, Sir Cleopas Moses and the Chairman (Central Zone) of INC, Kennedy Odiowei agreed that no politician can cause disaffection between the two leaders.
Moses asserted that Dickson’s unalloyed loyalty and respect for the former president remains intact and cannot be doubted as it has over the years become stronger by virtue of his commitment and disposition.
He explained that the governor’s remark was purely aimed at calling on Bayelsans holding public offices within and outside the state to work together and drag meaningful development to the state through effective collaboration with the state government for the collective good of Bayelsa and the Ijaw nation.
The Bayelsa PDP boss called on members of the party in the state and the general public to disregard the antics of the self-seeking politicians and armchair commentators who are only out to celebrate evil.
The statement, by INC chairman, Odiowei, admitted that though the Ijaw elders have failed to bring together sons and daughters of Ijaw ethnic nationality, especially notable politicians from the various political parties during the 2017 Isaac Adaka Boro’s Day held in Yenagoa last week, the comment by Governor Henry Seriake Dickson at the event as a “food for thought.”
The INC expressed concern over the over present position occupied by the Ijaw nation in the country, despite its contribution to Nigeria’s economic growth.
According to the INC,” it was high time Ijaw sons and daughters came together and put aside their political differences and fight for the collective interest of the region rather than allow any black leg to cause disaffection among them.
“It is high time Ijaw land occupies her right of place in the Country and to achieve this, our leaders must come together and this was the message that Governor Dickson was trying to pass across during the last Boro day celebration.
“However, it is sad to note that instead of appreciating the efforts of the governor of Ijaw homogeneous state, the detractors for their selfish reason decided to twist the message in order to cause crisis in the region”, INC emphasised.
The statement reads: “We members of the INC have admitted our failure. We have left what is to be done or undone. The governor’s statement has woken us up from our slumber. It is our responsibility to join forces with our leaders irrespective of their political parties to ensure a rapid development of the region.
“This region has suffered neglect by the successive administrations in the region and this narrative can only be changed by our coming together as a formidable people.
“Our political leaders should lead well, our ministers and other appointees should use their positions to attract good things to the region. We should copy good things from the people from the other region that hold the same position at the state and Federal levels.
“This is what Governor Dickson was drawing our attention to and we should take it serious. We should not allow detractors to cause disaffection among our leaders, especially President Jonathan and his closest ally, Governor Seriake Dickson. Governor Dickson, as a former legal secretary of INC and Governor of Bayelsa state has taken the mantle of leadership of ijaw nation to the next.”
Peace initiative fails
But there is a twist to the whole saga as there seems to be breakdown in attempts by Dickson to reach out to Jonathan to explain his position on the issue of “wasted sisx years”.
Sources from both camps hinted that Dickson had on two occasions, attempted to meet the former President at the Bay Bridge area home of King A.J Turner and Jonathan’s Otuoke country home. But failed on both attempts.
Some watchers from the state are amazed at the perceived “cold shoulder” treatment handed to the state governor. They are of the belief that the former president should hear from the governor before making judgement on the issue.
Ripple effect on Dickson’s successor
As it stands, Dickson has positioned himself as a de facto leader of the PDP in the Bayelsa State.
Aside from those tagged “Jonathan’s men” allegedly fanning ember of division between Jonathan and Dickson, the key political block of the PDP at the State House of Assembly, State Executive Committee, National Assembly caucus and others are loyal to the governor.
Political observers however believe that the outburst of Dickson against Jonathan might be a plot to set the stage for the battle on who will succeed him in 2019.
Unlike in the past, Jonathan is no longer president of the country nor in charge of the political power at the centre. The decision to choose the next governor will be arrived at during a round table and not a unilateral decision of Jonathan.
A political observer in Bayelsa State, Ebiowe Brown, said though the decision of Dickson’s successor should be made between the two leaders, he argued that the outburst by Dickson may be a counter plot by some cabinet members of Jonathan’s camp to anoint a candidate for the Jonathan’s approval without Dickson buy in. He said “In the past decisions on who emerges have always started with squabbles and attempt to intimidate Jonathan to agree with their choices.
“This is the first attempt to set the stage for negotiations on who succeeds the governor in 2019. I hear that Dickson has over four choices and is planning for Senate seat, so in a way the outburst is expected.”