OSA OKHOMINA in this report examines how candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Bayelsa State emerged, the controversies trailing their emergence and the fallout of the primary election
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which incidenctally is the ruling party in Bayelsa State last week held its primary election to pick candidates for the National Assembly seats in next year’s general elections.
Expectedly, it was a basket of intrigues as the state governor, Seriake Dickson, confirmed his political dominance in the state with his loyalists clinching all the available tickets.
When over 68 persons collected the PDP forms to contest the party’s primaries to seek tickets to emerge candidates in the 2019 elections, close political observers knew that the future of aspirants would be determined by the state governor, Hon. Dickson.
Unlike past governors in the state, Governor Dickson has never left anyone in doubt about the political direction of his administration with members of his political group known as Restoration Caucus, as beneficiaries.
Known political figures within the party, such as former President Goodluck Jonathan; the state Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral John Jonah, and a few others, lost out completely with their candidates either screened out or disgraced at the primaries.
The likes of the Jonathan’s godson, George Turner and Senator Nimi Amange Bariagh, were either screened out or disgraced. Amange-Bariagha has since moved to the ADC to actualise his dream to return to the Senate.
More painful to their followers was the fact that they cannot complain due to the tested power wielded by the Governor Dickson in the state and in the party hierarchy.
This, and many others, became clear during the just concluded party primaries for the House of Representatives and the Senate in the state, where Dickson’s Restoration boys cleared all the tickets.
Inspite of protests from some aspirants, the Restoration list were actualised with a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Douye Diri, emerging the PDP senatorial candidate for Bayelsa Central.
Also elected were a former state Commissioner for Science and Technology, Chief Blessing Izagara, who emerged as the flag bearer of the PDP for the Bayelsa East senatorial district.
Izagara scored 330 votes to defeat his closest rival, Senator Amange, who polled 62 votes, while Hon. Darius Obiene and Chief Ayibaesin Edoghotu, both got two votes each, with Barrister Biriyai Dambo (SAN) at the rear with one vote, while three votes were voided.
A total of 400 delegates were accredited to participate in the primary election.
While announcing the result of the primary election, chairman of the three-man Electoral Committee, Hon. William Alamene, thanked delegates for the peaceful manner they conducted themselves during and after the election.
Speaking shortly before the commencement of voting, Chief Edoghotu, withdrew from the race and asked his supporters to vote for Hon. Izagara, whom he described as his senior brother.
In his remarks shortly after casting his vote, the Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral Jonah, who was also a delegate, commended the delegates for conducting themselves properly and peacefully during the election, noting that it was a family affair and that the stronger battle was ahead.
He, therefore, advised PDP faithful to be united and ensure that the party clinches the Bayelsa East senatorial district seat, come 2019.
In his speech after the declaration of the result, Chief Izagara stated that he was overwhelmed with the show of support and solidarity by the delegates, promising that he will not disappoint them if he eventually makes it to the Senate.
He also stated that his emergence was divine and pleaded with his fellow contestants to support and work with him during the general elections in the overall interest of the party.
At the Bayelsa Central senatorial district primaries held at the state capital, Yenagoa, a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Diri emerged the flag bearer of the party by polling a total of 261 votes to defeat his closest rival, Prof Seiyefa Brisibe, who scored 187 votes.
The exercise was adjudged peaceful in all the senatorial districts as the delegates and aspirants conducted themselves in orderly manner, before, during and after the election.
Despite the reported skirmishes at the House of Representatives’ primaries in the state, the Restoration Caucus also cleared the field.
Prof. Steve Azaiki, a former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), in the administration of the late DSP Alamieyeseigha, emerged as the PDP candidate for Yenagoa federal constituency.
Mrs. Marie Ebikake, a former Commissioner for Transport and former ally of former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, also emerged as the candidate for the Nembe/Brass federal constituency.
In other primaries in Sagbame/Ekeremo and Ogbia federal constituencies, the duo of member of the House of Representives, Chief Fred Agbedi and former Commissioner for Local Government, Hon. Fred Obua, emerged as the candidates.
But some of the aspirants however raised the issue of the primaries lacking credibility and level playing ground.
Some aspirants, on the platform of the PDP in Bayelsa State, had earlier warned the party’s leadership against imposition and rigging in the primary elections.
While the primary for Senate came up last week Tuesday, that of the House of Representatives and state House of Assembly took place on Wednesday in the state state.
The aspirants gave the warning after their emergency meeting following speculations that the leadership of the PDP in the state had allegedly perfected plans to rig the primaries and impose candidates on the party.
Spokesman for the aspirants, Mr. Udengs Eradiri, the immediate President of Ijaw Youth Council Worldwide, said they would not accept any form of rigging and imposition of candidates during the primaries.
Eradiri, who is aspiring to represent Yenagoa/Opokuma/Kolokuma federal constituency in the House of Representatives, said there were already issues emanating from the ward congresses conducted in the state.
He said, “If the PDP does not do what is right, we won’t accept it. Already there are issues emanating from the ward congresses that were conducted. People just wrote names. Till now, they have not pasted the names.
“As we talk, we are going to primary election in less than 12 hours, the Senate election is holding tomorrow (Tuesday). Even the screening list has not been pasted. People don’t even know what is happening and it is a recipe for crisis.”
“If they bring the list now and somebody is disqualified, the person may not even have the opportunity to meet the appeal panel, it is a recipe for crisis. People could go to court and nullify the entire process. So, when party leaders are acting as if they have not learnt anything, it is unfortunate and annoying.”
“We lost an election in 2015 because of the impunity in the party. From then till now, we have not learnt anything. We just lost Osun State. That should allow every PDP member go back to the drawing board in preparation for the forthcoming elections, but people are still busy manipulating the process.
“But the aspirants this time around, particularly myself, we came to win elections, not only in the state, we want our party to win the general elections.”
He, therefore, called on the national leadership of the party to change their modus operandi, noting that if the PDP leadership wished to still use the style that made the party fail in 2015, the PDP would still suffer defeat again.
He said if the party demanded loyalty from its members, the party must do what is right and not doing the wrong thing and expecting members to be loyal to it.
Eradiri also warned those aspirants dropping the name of Governor Dickson as having endorsed their candidature to desist forthwith, saying that Dickson is a man who believes in free, fair and credible electoral processes.
He stated, “Those dropping the name of the governor of the state should stop. They should realise that it is not Governor Dickson we are going to represent, it is our constituents. So, aspirants should stop dropping the governor’s name.”
“We need to go to the people whom we are going to represent. The governor has done his own, fantastically. His second term is finishing and finishing well.
“The four years that we are about to negotiate, the governor won’t be there. The best that he can give to us is free and fair contest that will bring good representation for the people.”
On what would happen if the primary is rigged as being speculated, Eradiri said the party would bear the brunt as the development would lead to unimaginable implosion in the party.
The former IYC boss noted, “The party leaders should be afraid that if they rig the primaries, the party will be in crisis. We are not afraid. We know there is no party democracy in Nigeria. Parties are only trying their best to do the right thing. If they don’t do the right thing, we will lose elections.
“Now, we have lost the centre, we do not have any other choice but to do the right thing. Senator Ademola Adeleke was able to withstand his opponent in Osun State in the first round because he was a popular candidate that came out of the party, so that is an experience we must not lose sight of.”
Citing more of fraud and lack of level playing ground, Senator Amange-Bariagha and Hon. Helen Bob stepped down from the senatorial and House of Representatives’ primaries.
Meanwhile, the decision by the senator representing Bayelsa East senatorial district, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, to withdraw from the senatorial race was welcomed with relief.
It also added to the test of might wielded by the state governor, Hon. Dickson, despite the efforts by the National Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus to convince stakeholders in the senatorial district, made up of Ogbia, Nembe and Brass, to give the ‘Common Sense’ senator a second chance, went to waste, as the people and the PDP in Bayelsa tactfully objected, due to the existing rotation in the area.
Surprisingly, Senator Ben Murray Bruce pulled out after observing the handwriting on the wall.
In his withdrawal letter, he said, “I thank God and the good people of Brass, Bayelsa East senatorial district, who offered me the golden opportunity four years ago to represent them and the state in the Senate, Nigeria’s highest lawmaking chamber.
“It is without doubt that I have tried to discharge my duties as a legislator and representative of my people creditably to the best of my ability so far. My voice has been very loud on the issues that matter to our people and our country at all time.
“My support to our party, my people and state government is unquestionable. I am humbled that the national leadership of my party supported by the state chapter in appreciation of my efforts offered to support my reelection to the Senate to continue my service.
“I have also intensified consultations in the last couple of weeks in the course of which I have come to realize an existing local rotational arrangement of over 20 years beginning with the late Chief Melford Okilo, by which arrangement the senatorial seat rotates per local government area among the three councils in the senatorial district every four years.
“Even with the support of my party at the national and state levels, with the full backing of my state government and leadership, as a man of honour, interested in the well-being of my people, I hereby announce my withdrawal from the senatorial race. I do not want for whatever reason to appear to have used my privileged position and influence to do anything other than the well-being and the stability and the good of the people. I am in all of these for the people, not for myself.”
In quick acceptance of his withdrawal, the Bayelsa State Chairman of the PDP, Chief Moses Cleopas, accepted Senator Murray Bruce’s withdrawal, in adherence to a 20-year subsisting unwritten power rotation arrangement in the district, in a letter of October 2.
He said that the action of the senator, widely known as Nigeria’s ‘Common Sense’ senator, was exemplary and worthy of emulation by all politicians.
Cleopas noted that politics was service to the people and not for self-aggrandizement.
The PDP chairman described Bruce as a leader of the party whose services are valued by the party. He stressed that the party treasures the invaluable services of Murray Bruce in the strive to recapture political power at the national level.
He said, “The Bayelsa State chapter of the PDP has received the letter of withdrawal from the Bayelsa East senatorial contest by Senator Murray Bruce.
“The party has accepted the decision which the distinguished senator said was a result of a subsisting arrangement on power rotation among the three local government areas making up the district.
“Senator Ben Murray Bruce is a respected leader of the PDP whose services are valued by the party.
“These are the actions and decisions that we want in our great party. Politics is not for self-aggrandizement. Politics is about the people.
“The party treasures the invaluable services of the distinguished senator as we strive to recapture political power at the centre.
As it stands, many aggrieved aspirants have left the PDP, looking for which party will accommodate their interests.
The list of candidates for the National Assembly seats in the 2019 general elections are as follows: for the Senate, Lawrence Ewhudjakpo of the PDP will slug it out at the polls with All Progressives Congress, APC’s Mathew Karimo in Bayelsa West, while PDP’s Diri will battle APC’s Festus Daumebi in Bayelsa Central and Izagara of the PDP will face Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo for Bayelsa Rast senatorial ticket.
In the House of Representatives, Fred Ogbua of the PDP will square up with APC’s Samuel Ogbuku in Ogbia federal constituency, while PDP’s Fred Agbedi will engage Famous Daunemigha of the APC for the Sagbama/Ekeremor federal constituency seat.
For Kolokuma/Opokuma/Yenagoa federal constituency, the battle is between Prof Steve Azaiki of the PDP and APC’s Osomkime Blankson, while in the Southern Ijaw federal constituency, the battle is between APC’s Preye Oseke and PDP’s Hon. Konbowei Benson and Mrs Marie Enikake, the PDP candidate will do battle royale with APC’s Israel Sunny-Goli for the Nembe/Brass federal constituency seat.
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