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Bayelsa Gov’ship Poll And The Gang-up Against Lokpobiri

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The All Progressives Congress (APC) impressive performance in the 2019 general elections in Bayelsa State has set bookmakers back to the drawing board. And ahead of the November 2 governorship election, APC leaders in the state are spoiling for a fight against the Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri for showing interest in the race. In this report, RICHARD Abu examines the political tempo in the state and concludes that for justice, equity and fairness,  Lokpobiri be allowed to go ahead.

The opposition to Lokpobiri’s ambition also contradicts the position of the national secretariat of the APC that a level playing field would be provided for all aspirants in the governorship election holding in Bayelsa and Kogi States same day.

Only on Tuesday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) toed this line when its chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu told a delegation of Bayelsa State stakeholders who visited him Abuja that political parties in the state must conduct credible primaries for the governorship race. The stakeholders had pleaded with INEC to shift the election because November 2 is the yearly Thanksgiving Day in the state.   

The increasing support for APC in the state ahead of the election has also sent a strong message to the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) that it would not be business as usual for it. The PDP has been in control of the state since Nigeria returned to full-blown democracy in 1999.

With the allegations poor performance against the Seriake Dickson administration in the last eight years, the people are looking for an alternative party and better candidate hence the stakes are higher in the APC.

No one is in doubt that APC is in serious contention to wrestle the governorship position from the PDP in the state as the electoral fortunes of the opposition party have continued to soar.

A peep into the APC outings in the 2015 and 2019 general elections gives credence to the above assertion. From a mere 5,194 votes in the 2015 presidential election, the APC garnered a staggering 118,821 votes in the 2019 presidential election for President Muhammadu Buhari. The party also recorded another milestone in the National Assembly poll when it snatched one of the senatorial seats (Bayelsa East) from the PDP.

In the same manner, the APC wrestled two House of Representatives seats from the PDP while in the state House of Assembly election the opposition party got four seats. It has never been so good for the party before.

Banking on the popularity and acceptance of Lokpobiri, APC leaders in the state have vowed to take advantage of the misrule of the Seriake administration to break the jinx and herald good governance in Bayelsa come November 2. Dickson will not feature in the election because he has completed his statutory second term in office.

The general sentiment in the state is that following a series of maladministration suffered in the hands of the PDP over the years if the APC fields a very credible candidate, the governorship seat would be the party’s for the asking. Unlike the PDP, the APC has basically two big fishes to contend with in its fold. They are former governor Timipre Sylva and Lokpobiri.

However, some elements within APC who are probably doubtful of their chances in the coming primaries because of their declining political value, in cohort with some agents of the PDP, are already fanning the embers of zoning to destabilise the existing unity in the APC.

In paid publications in select media outfits, the agents go about threatening brimstone and fire; that heavens will be let loose, if Lokpobiri emerges the APC candidate for the election. In one of such publications in a national daily, the group warned that “Bayelsa State is not Rivers State where after Chibuike Amaechi’s eight-year rule, another Ikwerre man in the person of Nyesom Wike is on the way to spend another eight years.”

According to them, “there is no way Bayelsans would accept a politician from Bayelsa West to govern after Dickson’s eight years. Power would definitely move to another senatorial district. Any political party that presents a candidate from Bayelsa West would lose woefully.”

Bu their volte face runs against the position of the APC, which two days ago, said that the race was opened to all contestants. The APC national secretariat denied making any statement on the upcoming Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections even as it promised to provide a level-playing ground for all aspirants.

The party specifically cautioned its members, supporters and the general public on what it described as the “fake news” gaining traction, especially on the social media space.

In a statement signed by the party’s national publicity secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, the party promised to abide by every rule at every stage of the primaries.

“It should be noted that neither the party nor the national chairman has made any statement at any forum regarding these elections. The numerous quotes being ascribed to the party and the national chairman are mere fabrications intended for mischief.

So, why is the frustration against Lokpobiri heightening among his opponents since information filtered out from his political camp that he would throw his heart in the ring for the election?

The warped reasoning of those opposed to the minister running is that Lokpobiri comes from the same senatorial district as Governor Dickson and therefore not qualified to run for the office. The incontrovertible truth here, however, is that so far, equity and justice has been duly served to all the zones of the state. The office of the governor has rotated among the three senatorial zones of the state in no particular order. Therefore, in the next round of the contest, it does not matter what sequence the exercise should assume or commence. No doubt, Lokpobiri hails from the same senatorial district as Dickson, but the truth is that the minister’s Ekeremor area has not yet had a shot at the office. Are these people inferring that there are different versions of the Ijaw people and nation? Are the Ijaws from the rest other senatorial zones different from their brothers and kin from Bayelsa West?

To put the records straight, Bayelsa East where Sylva comes from has enjoyed a rare double opportunity to produce two governors in the state unlike any of the other zones in the persons of Sylva himself and Goodluck Jonathan. In addition, it is the zone that has had the special opportunity to have produced the president of the country. It is also pertinent to remind the agitators that once upon a time, two ministers meant for the entire Bayelsa State were appointed from one senatorial zone, and indeed, the same community in the Bayelsa Central senatorial district. Yet, the heavens did not fall. The ministers were Prof. T.T. Isoun (Science and Technology) and Mrs. Boloere Ketebu (Women Affairs).

Those who are drawing inference with Rivers State and threatening that they would not allow the Rivers State scenario recur in Bayelsa is demonstrating stark and gross ignorance of the politics of Rivers State. Indeed, there is no basis for such an incongruent comparison. In Rivers State, only two of the three senatorial zones have been the zones producing the governor in the state since the current political dispensation commenced in 1999.

Dr. Peter Odili from Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government area of Rivers West senatorial zone emerged the first governor of the state. After him, Chibuike Amaechi from Ikwerre council in the Rivers East senatorial zone succeeded him while the current Governor Wike from Obio/Akpor LGA, also an Ikwerre man from the same Rivers East senatorial zone took over from Amaechi. Why some people are raising eyebrows about the Rivers State scenario is that the three governors come from the same political configuration in the state known as the upland area without any opportunity to the riverine people to equally, taste the pie.

That said, it is pertinent to state here that politics is not a game of passion and emotions. It is about bringing your best foot forward. Let there be a contest. Some people in Bayelsa APC are afraid of competition. Unfortunately, with the introduction of new technology in our elections, the days of electoral militancy are over and no longer in sync with global best practice.

Those who are agitated about Lokpobiri entering the governorship race are obviously threatened by the minister’s towering political influence in the state. He has worked very hard since joining the APC in 2015 to lift the political fortunes of the party in the state with very visible and tangible results to show for his efforts.

Lokpobiri has been the one, almost singlehandedly funding the APC clandestinely in the state. Those who are very much aware of his efforts at growing the party and uniting the people think that the time is ripe for him to reap from the fruits of his tireless efforts. Perhaps as a result of his generosity and magnanimity, the minister has continued to attract infectious followership wherever he goes.

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