Since the commencement of civil governance in 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has maintained its position firmly as the ruling political party in Bayelsa State. Although, the All Progressives Congress (APC) fought a strong battle to challenge the political hegemony of the PDP in the December 5, 2012 elections in the State, the PDP has always asserted its political dominance nay superiority in the State.
Like all the States òf South South geopolitical zone, not even the opposition APC which controls the Federal Government has been able to change the narrative that the South South and indeed Bayelsa is an incontrovertible stronghold of the PDP. This narrative of the PDP dominance has been consistent from the period of former President Olusegun Obasanjo through the regimes of President Umaru Yar’Adua, Jonathan and even Muhammadu Buhari to date in the region. From 1999 to date, all the governors of the PDP: Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Chief Timipre Sylva all governed the state under the PDP.
Interestingly, the political indicators in Bayelsa seem to suggest that the stronger battles for the control of the Bayelsa Government House popularly known as the Creek Haven are most likely to the fought within the party. While addressing a forum of Bayelsa PDP stakeholders in Yenagoa in May, 2019, the state governor, Henry Seriake Dickson, asserted that only the PDP has the capacity and popularity to win election in the state. The governor told the large turnout of party leaders and supporters in the meeting which focused on the issue of the next governor of the State that the government under his leadership would embark on state wide prayers and consultations to tackle the issue of his successor in the interest of the Bayelsa people. The governor left nobody in doubt that he and other stakeholders and political leaders would not allow cultists and violent men who lure young Bayelsans to the destructive web of cultism to take over governance in Bayelsa.
Expectedly, the prevalent belief that the PDP is the party of political dominance and control has made it the destination of most of the big politicians with enduring ambitions to govern the State which Governor Dickson has christened the Jerusalem òf the Ijaw nation. Among those who have indicated interest to contest the governorship under the PDP are a former Federal Permanent Secretary in charge of Power, Ambassador Godknows Igali, a businessman and son of former President òf the Ijaw National Congress, Mr. Keniebi Okoko, an associate of former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who is believed to have strong ties to former First Lady, Mrs. Jonathan, a former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Chief Timi Alaibe, the publisher òf Nigerian Pilot, Dr. Denis Sammy, former Nigeria Delta ex-agitator, Mr. Joshua Maciver. This list of those jostling to be one the chief tenants of the Bayelsa Government House also include those currently occupying various political positions under the Dickson administration. These set of aspirants belong to the PDP household of Restoration which is most likely to have one of its men succeed Dickson. These aspirants now involved in furtive campaigns include the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Kemela Okara, the Chairman òf the PDP, Chief Moses Cleopas, a former Director òf Protocol, Joseph Akedesuo, the Chairman òf the Bayelsa State Revenue Board, Mr. Nimibofa Ayawei, the Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Doodei Week, the Chief òf Staff, Government House, Chief Talford Ongolo among others.
Aware of the massive responsibility fate has placed on his shoulders, the Governor declared during a meeting of top PDP stakeholders in Yenagoa on May, 29, 2019, that his successor would emerge through an interplay òf factors which include state wide consultations and prayers. Governor Dickson who assured the PDP supporters that he would hand over to another PDP Governor come February 14, 2020, called for more support and stability on PDP family to be able to maintain the party’s status as the ruling political party in Bayelsa.
He said, “Another PDP governor will be elected in the next election. I urge all the people to step into the communities and mobilize the people. It will be my pleasure to lead the PDP with your support so that another PDP governor will be elected. How we survived during the 2015 governorship election is by the grace of God and our mobilization skills. You now have people who know how to play opposition politics. As we begin the transition programme, we expect you to put on the toga of an opposition person. You have a lot of work to do. It is their work to sow seeds of discord but it’s your job to keep your party united, strong and stable.”
Already speculations are rife in the state that the big issue of who plays what role in the emergence PDP gubernatorial candidate has become a factor of subdued dispute especially between the two highest PDP personae in the state, the Governor and former President Goodluck Jonathan. A source in a strategic position within the PDP said that both politicians are locked in a politics of who should come forth with a name for the party to endorse.
However, Government House sources were authoritative in their claim that the Governor who controls the political structure in the state would naturally assume the greater role in the selection or election of a flag bearer for the party. The source predicated his claim on the fact that while Jonathan leans on the parapet provided by his former position as Nigeria’s president in the emerging face off, Governor Dickson controls the impregnable Restoration Team which controls over 80 percent of the PDP whose members are saddled with the responsibility of electing a gubernatorial candidate for the party.
But neither the Governor nor the former President would admit the existence of a dispute between them on the issue of who becomes the next candidate òf the PDP. “I don’t have any problem with former President Goodluck Jonathan. The former President remains my elder brother and leader. Let me put you on notice that he is one person I will sit down with on the transition programme to compare notes and decide who should be our next governor.” Dickson had said during the launch of the Education Development Trust Fund where Jonathan was the Special Guest òf Honour.
Already the waiting game is gradually transforming to desperation especially among some of the aspirants who are not identified with the core political platform of Restoration within the Bayelsa PDP. Some of the aspirants like Chief Timi Alaibe, a former Managing Director òf the Niger Delta, a close associate of Mrs. Patience Jonathan, former First Lady, Mr. Reuben Okoya, a former Federal Permanent Secretary Ministry òf Power, Amb. Godknows Igali, are said to be looking in the direction of Jonathan and the Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, for political survival. Some of the aspirants have claimed that the Governor has not been forthcoming with his support for their ambitions because they are perceived to be mature and independent-minded. But the PDP source dismissed such claims as a product of unnecessary desperation. The source insisted that the Restoration Team òf the PDP under the leadership of the Governor has men of equal if not higher pedigree that should be trusted with the leadership of the state.
Without doubt, the many aspirants jostling for the ticket of the PDP are guided by a consciousness of the critical role of the Governor whose endorsement is taken as a near certainty in the quest for the gubernatorial ticket of the PDP in the next election.
– Elijah is a public affairs analyst
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