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Bayelsa: Automatic Ticket Rejection Sparks Tussle For Assembly Seats

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OSA OKHOMINA examines the emerging drama within some constituencies in Bayelsa State, after the no automatic ticket declaration by Governor Seriake Dickson, for PDP aspirants ahead of the party’s primaries for the State Assembly polls.

When the Bayelsa State Governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson met, last month, with stakeholders within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and political appointees, many pundits thought it was one of those routine meetings bothering on their welfare. They were however shocked when Dickson announced that there will not be automatic ticket for anybody within the PDP, including those that are incumbent in the State House of Assembly.

According to him, the PDP will only support a popular candidate who is supported by the people. This is unlike their emergence in 2015 where they were hand picked and got party tickets despite protest from their people.

The governor also asked his aides interested in contesting for elective positions to resign, collect party expression of interest forms and commence consultation with their people, “If the people accept you, you may emerge candidate of the party, “ he added.

Dickson’s directive which was agreed to by the PDP in Bayelsa State, has thrown the contest open with strong contestants challenging those known to be the governor’s favourites.

It was however gathered that since the directive was handed down, some key members of the State House of Assembly, have been in a dilemma of sorts. Most of the assembly members are jittery because they may lose the party ticket, either on account of rotational policy in their area or poor performance in office.

But while some political observers perceive the governor’s decision on issue of automatic tickets to be a ruse, others contend that if such is the case and automatic ticket is used to impose candidates on the people, PDP would be made to pay dearly.

Already, the people, at stakeholders meetings that are ongoing as directed by Dickson, have shown their direction ahead of 2019.

Concerned Members of the PDP, In Brass Local Government Area, particularly at constituency 3,  triggered controversy through a protest letter they sent to Dickson over the alleged plots of a 3rd term bid by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Abraham Ngobere ahead of 2019.

The PDP members, made up of elders, youths women and other stakeholders in the constituency announced their rejection of what they termed a 3rd term bid by the deputy speaker, insisting that the seat must be zoned to ward 8 to avoid crises but ensure  equity, balance and fairness in the zoning arrangement in the area.

The PDP stakeholders, in the letter dated August 19, 2018 and signed by the chairman, Chief Gijo E-Orimiegha; secretary, Orlando Peremoje; and the vice chairman, Hon. Daniel Inuwei Williams, among others, they said the decision to reject the 3rd term aspiration of the Deputy Speaker was taken after due consultation on the need to sustain Brass constituency 3 as the stronghold of the party.

The letter to the governor read in part, “ Your excellency, as you are aware, Brass constituency 3 (Akassa) is the PDP strong hold presently having the only state house of Assembly seat in the whole Local Government Council. Hence we cannot afford to loose it to other political parties because of one man’s interest. It is also expected to note that, this group or other groups that may arise is not against the persons of Hon. Abraham Ngobere, the present Deputy Speaker but vehemently opposed to the 3rd term tenure.

“We therefore on one mind, one spirit and in one accord make bold our demands that, we the concerned members of PDP from Brass constituency 3, having consulted among stakeholders with representation from all the four wards including chiefs, elders, youths and women groups, have offered to reject and vehemently oppose any third term bid from any quarter regards the State Assembly seat for Brass constituency 3.

“That the State House of Assembly seat for Brass constituency 3 (Akassa) be zoned to ward 8 in the interest of equity, fairness and justice. And that this group in agreement with all the peace loving people of Brass constituency 3 (Akassa) has endorsed and adopted the person of Hon. Daniel Otaribara Precious for the Assembly seat. And the criteria for the choice include to allow for the principle of sense of belonging in the polity and process of governance. “

“To create a balanced system of fairness and justice in governance. To correct the age long imbalance and neglect of ward 8 in terms of appointment and elective positions.”

The situation is not different in the Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the State, where there is a show of  rejection to 4th term aspiration of the State Assembly Speaker, Hon. Kombowei Benson.

Benson, who had served as member of the State House of Assembly in the last 12 years and emerged Speaker in the last eight years, was reported to have confirmed his decision to seek for a 4th term as Assembly member, following claims of being prevailed upon by his constituent.

But LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that though he was alleged to have decided to seek for governorship and later House of Representatives seats, his decision, during the stakeholders meeting, threw the party into disarray as other aspirants kicked against his claim of endorsement by his rivals.

Benson told newsmen, after the meeting, that the people of Southern Ijaw Constituency 4 and some Assembly aspirants had endorsed him and stepped down for him to run for 5th term. About six other aspirants have however dismissed the Bayelsa Speaker’s claim.

One of the aspirants, Dr Michael Amaegberi, denied the claim that other aspirants have stepped down from forthcoming House of Assembly election in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area Constituency 4.

According to Amaegberi, the claim is malicious, ludicrous and intended to distract the public and particularly the good people of the constituency from the real issues surrounding the contestation for that seat.

He said “To keep the records straight, we wish to clarify that while Mr Speaker, Rt Hon. Konbowei Benson was speaking at the Constituency’s stakeholders meeting, he jokingly said Dr Amaegberi and another aspirant have in separate occasions agreed to step down for him during his ongoing consultations to contest for the seat for a record 4th term.

“It was a huge joke that our Principal promptly refuted on the spot even though he was not given the opportunity to address or debunk it the way he would have loved to.”

“Let us use this medium to further reiterate and REAFFIRM Dr Amaegberi’s resolve to effect positive change and provide purposeful representation for our dear constituency. Like he said in his declaration speech, his aspiration is anchored on three pillars: to rebuild trust, reestablish unity and rekindle hope in our constituency.

He said it will be foolhardy for anyone to think that he will step down for anybody no matter how highly placed or influential that person may be.

“The election is like a game or contest that only one person will win. Dr Amaegveri will only respect the will of the delegates or our people after the last ballot is cast,” he stressed.

An aide to the embattled Bayelsa Speaker, who pleaded anonymity, however said that the outburst of the aspirants is “wasteful and fruitless”.

The aide claimed that the Speaker was given an open ticket to choose between the House of Representatives and the return to the State Assembly.

In Brass constituency 2, a member of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Alfred Belemote Watson, who was elected on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), is also in a critical level.

Brass constituency 2 is the home community of the former Governor, Chief Timipre Sylva, and leader of the All Progressives Congress(APC).

Unlike in the 2015 State Assembly poll, the APGA member will contest on the platform of the PDP. Watson, a member representing Brass Constituency 2 is defecting to the PDP as the only elected official of the party in the state and due to alleged pressure and cases of exclusion from the largesse of the House.

Sources told LEADERSHIP Sunday that though the defection has been perfected, the official defection would be done when the governor returns from his visit outside the state.

It was learned that the defection by the APGA legislator was a strategic move to secure a second term ticket, to return to the State Assembly and ward off rising opposition from some aspirants that have indicated interest to replace him.

Among top contenders for the Brass Constituency 2 seat are the special advisers to the State Governor, Austin Adigio; Timi Amupo Agala; Esau Andrew from Odioma community.

While Watson’s efforts to defect to the APC was allegedly frustrated by some stakeholders of the party, it was gathered that Sylva’s rejection of Watson was based on his alleged disrespect to the leadership of the party.

Aide to the defecting lawmaker, who pleaded anonymity, confirmed the defection plan, insisting that the decision to dump APGA was after due consultation with the Brass Constituency.

However it was gathered that his popularity in his constituency 2 during the 2015 State Assembly election had waned. He was reported to have won due to his constituent disdain for PDP as party, due to the issue of relocating College of Education, Okpoama to Sagbama, the local council of the governor. With Watson defecting to the PDP, political observers, claim that he may be denied automatic ticket by the party and disappointed.

Brass constituency 1 which is controlled by the APC, through Hon. Sunny-Goli, may be the toughest area for the PDP.

An alleged attempt by the PDP, through its caretaker chairman, Hon Victor Isiah, to force a takeover of the constituency from the APC, was connected to cause of the death of two persons.

Already, the APC in Bayelsa State has sent a protest letter to the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, over the violent attack and killing of two members of the party in Twon Brass Island of Brass Local Government Council Area,accusing PDP of alleged desperation to take over the area in 2019.

The APC also accused the PDP of allegedly working tirelessly in consonance with some individuals and security agencies to allegedly unleash mayhem, threats, intimidation, unlawful arrests and detention of opposition members across the state.

The member representing constituency 1 in the State House of Assembly, Sunny-Goli, alleged that the violence was allegedly initiated by the PDP through the acting chairman, Hon. Victor Isiah to intimidate and chase out opposition members from the Brass Local Government area of the State.

The APC, through its spokesman, Mr. Doifie Buokoribo Ola, stated that the government of the day should concentrate on developing and paying salaries in Bayelsa State than playing god politically with state resources, that no amount of intimidation can suppress them.

The spokesman decried the killings on August 20, 2018 in Twon-Brass where  that violence led to death of two persons while three others are in critical condition.

The APC member at the State House of Assembly, Hon. Isreal Sunny-Goli, in his reaction, said the clash was part of a desperate script to wrestle control of the Brass constituency from the Party ahead of the 2019 elections,” I did not win my mandate through the barrel of the gun. I won without killing a soul. It is on record that APC won in Brass without violence.”

The APC lawmaker stated that while chiefs of Brass community had started intervening in the matter, thugs were allegedly brought by PDP to cause fresh mayhem.

“All they are doing is to intimidate APC supporters. But with these attacks and intimidation, the boys are more determined. The few PDP members are now afraid and have deserted the town,” he said.

Sunny-Goli however announced the putting on hold his declaration to contest for the seat of Brass/Nembe Federal Constituency of the State. He said the party has written to the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris over the alleged involvement of the Committee, Hon.Victor Isiah.

A member of the PDP from Brass Local Government Area Council, Owei Benjamin, however disagreed with the position of the APC, insisting that “It has been established that armed youths loyal to the opposition APC invaded the chairman’s official lodge in an attempt to harm him.

“But little did they know the chairman wasn’t around. However, they were resisted by members of the Brass LGA volunteer.”

While the state governor is bereaved at the moment over the death of his mother, Madam GodlCoast Dickson, the political actors are striving to upstage one another ahead of the polls.



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