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The Battle For APC Ticket In Bayelsa

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As the contest for All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship ticket hots up, OSA OKHOMINA examines the game plan and campaign strategies of some aspirants

Among those whose emergence may have changed the dynamics within the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Bayelsa State are the immediate past Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri and a former member of the President Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Council, Engr. Preye Aganaba.

However the silence of former Governor and leader of the party in the state, Chief Timipre Sylva on whether he would run or not in 2019 is instructive.

Sylva, according to many of his followers may be considering opting for a ministerial ticket from President Muhammadu Buhari and may present a younger candidate to run against Lokpobiri and Aganaba.

Lokpobiri and Aganaba are however forging ahead with their campaigns to clinch the governorship tickets of the APC. Both have opened their campaign offices and have told the party executives and members of their intention to replace Sylva as the flag bearer of the Party.

Hon Warman Ogoriba, a two-time member of the House of Representatives and now director general of the Lokpobiri Campaign Organisation (LCO), said Lokpobiri is the ideal candidate to fly APC flag in the 2019 Bayelsa governorship election.

According to him, “If you know Senator Lokpobiri by following his political history from 1999 when he was Speaker, you would know he is not a man that pretends over issues. He is serious minded and a focused man that knows what he wants.

He said it very clearly in a recent interview that he told the President he does not want to be Minister because he wants to run for governor of Bayelsa State. He is focused on what he wants”.

LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that the supporters of the APC in Bayelsa, are divided along three lines of  Sylva, Lokpobiri and Aganaba. It was gathered that some pro-Sylva loyalists have reportedly tagged Aganaba and Lokpobiri as outsiders in the equation of the party in the state.

They have also accused Lokpobiri of betraying those they considered his “benefactors” including late D.S.P Alameiseigha, Chief Ndutimi Alaibe and now, Chief Timipre Sylva.

According to Grassroots Democracy in Bayelsa (GDB), Lokpobiri has always relied on the political structure of other political heavyweights to climb up politically, which makes it difficult for him to chart his own political course for the 2019 governorship election.

“Check Lokpobiri’s political history from 1999 till date, he has always relied on a political heavyweight to get office.

At different times in his political career he had relied on his father, Alamieyeseigha, Alaibe and Sylva to climb” Goodnews Etale, coordinator of GBD says.

“Lokpobiri has no political weight without a big masquerade in the state behind him. His political fortunes have really dwindled in Bayelsa West. Unlike before when the name Lokpobiri evokes political panic, he no longer has any political clout”, Etale declares.

Late Alameiseigha played a role in Lokpobiri’s emergence as Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly. He was however accused of betraying Alaimeisegha over the crisis that led to his impeachment as speaker. But the Court has since upturned the impeachment and he was discovered to be innocent.

Alaibe and Lokpobiri were also members of a political family which was headed by the former. After the rigorous politicking that led to the emergence of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as governor, the Senatorial slot given to the group was handed to  Lokpobiri.

But when Alaibe parted ways with the PDP and moved to the Labour Party, Lokpobiri was alleged to have abandoned him and carved a new political future under the PDP.

Now with Sylva, it was gathered that the ministerial slot handed to the Bayelsa APC was handed to Lokpobori amidst protest by longer serving members of the APC. Though the decision has thrown up  a controversy over money allegedly exchanging hands, the duo of Sylva and Lokpobiri took the party to a greater height and it led to an improved performance during the last elections.

A close ally to Lokpobiri however said such claims of betrayal of “benefactors” brought against Lokpobiri is “ disgusting” and “not factual”,” Senator Lokpobiri did not betray anyone of these leaders.

“He was loyal to Alaibe until he decided to defect to Labour Party. Lokpobiri at the time was having the party ticket to return to the Senate, why would he jeopardize such and defect with Alaibe? It would be political suicide. Eventually, Alaibe lost the governorship on the platform of the PDP.

“On the Sylva issue, Lokpobiri’s statement of the obvious on television on whether Sylva was his godfather or not is what is provoking some people. He has never been heard abusing Sylva but mischief makers are misguiding others in the party. Lokpobiri, upon his decision to run, had gone to tell Chief Sylva. And Sylva never told him that he would be contesting again in 2019. Lokpobiri will contest and win the ticket of the party.”

The director general of Lokpobiri Governorship dream, Ogoriba, said, “What is happening in former governor Timipre Sylva’s camp is not our concern. We are focused on what we are doing which is to make Heineken Lokpobiri the flag bearer of the party and go ahead to win the general election. We are not bothered. APC is one big family and at the right time and at the appropriate we would meet and discuss”.

Also on the issue of alleged violation of zoning arrangement against Lokpobiri, who is from Bayelsa West Senatorial district as Governor Seriake Dickson, Hon. Ogoriba noted that “Each time people talk about zoning, I wonder where this comes from. I have also been around the political scene for a while and I know there is nowhere Bayelsans sat down to zone the governorship to one zone. If you know how Alamieyeseigha became governor, it was not zoned.

“ Alamieyeseigha contested with Doukpola. After Alamieyeseigha, Goodluck became governor, then Chief Timipre Sylva became governor then Dickson. Every senatorial zone has taken their turns. Aside that there is nowhere Bayelsans as a people sat down to say the governorship should be rotated.

“Nobody discussed that. At every point in time that we have had governorship election, every other zone contested, so it is not about zoning. What we are saying now is that let the best person govern us. Let the best person rule.”

“ Bayelsans are in dire need of development. Bayelsans are in need of infrastructure so we cannot allow incompetence to be enthroned because we want to zone the governorship. Okay if people are saying zoning, then Southern Ijaw cannot contest if it was zoned to the central. The two local governments qualified in central are Kolokuma/ Opokuma and Yenagoa. If you go Bayelsa West, Sagbama has gotten, leaving only Ekeremor. “

However Lokpobiri and his entourage have remained focused on their campaign of issues and ideas with a visit to the state working committee of the party led by the APC Chairman, Jothan Amos at the party’s Secretariat in Yenagoa.

The aspirant informed members of the state executive committee of the party of his intentions to vie for the APC ticket saying he was the only one with the seriousness, commitment and preparations for the governorship ticket of the party.

His former boss and immediate past minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who was present at the commissioning of the Campaign Secetariat in Yenagoa, said “If you give this young man a chance, I believe you he will not let you down so please work hard for him, give him all the support, campaign for him make sure he gets into government house, Yenagoa”.

Speaking to a crowd of APC faithful who converged at the campaign office, the former PDP Chairman, said the former minister, was a sure deal for Bayelsans.

The presence of some notable pro-Sylva loyalists showed that the emergence of Lokpobiri may have split the state APC into two.

The likes of former member of the Federal House of Representatives, Donald Egberibe; the former Commissioner for Water Resources, Chief K.D.Francis; former member of the APC Board of Trustee, Perez Peretu; former secretary to state  government, Senator Felix Oboro and the former commissioner for Local Government, Chief Godknows Powell.

Also present at the crowded event was the One-time State Chairman of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), Hon. Sunday Frank-Oputu, who just came back from the PDP.

In his remark, Lokpobiri said he was on a rescue mission to save Bayelsans from poor administration, poverty and the darkness that has taken over the state since 2011.

He said “Nobody outside Bayelsa, will rescue bayelsa for us, it is we Bayelsans that will rescue Bayelsa for us.

“This state, has no business experiencing poverty. You know what we get every month? Between N14 to N15 billion every month. Ekiti, Zamfara, Yobe gets 2.5 billion, so what we get is six times what they get but Yenagoa, is the darkest state capital in the whole of Africa because government has  failed. We need to change the government.

“I want to provide the Leadership that will build an economy beyond oil, that will build a sustainable economy beyond oil. That is why myself and my friends, we met together, and resolved that we are going to rescue our own state”.

But Lokpobiri has a contest in his hands as far as Aganaba is concerned. He is said to be entrenching his base within the APC and has so far received massive support and prayers from women groups and youths of the party in Bayelsa.

Aganaba is the founder of ‘The Preye Aganaba Foundation’ which was founded in 2015 which has empowered women, youths and widows in fish farming, tailoring, making of confectionery. It also gave the beneficiaries a kick off fund to start up a mini business after their training.

According to his close ally and former APC state chairman, Deacon Joseph Fafi, while addressing women who had gathered in Yenagoa to offer prayers for the Party and the aspiration of Aganaba, said the continued prayer sessions by the women and other stakeholders in the state will soon be answered by God during the coming Governorship primaries and elections in the state.

Fafi, who encouraged the APC women not to be deterred in their prayers for God’s intervention and emergence of a unifying candidate such as Aganaba, said “I have seen the vision and God will surely fulfill it. I was not in politics only for the gains. I was divinely guided into politics and to work with Engr. Preye Aganaba. Likewise God has always loved Bayelsa differently and intervened at every point. God was the one that installed the Governors of the State and he will do it again in answer to our prayers.

“It is only God that knows why and how. Don’t cease in your prayers and it shall not be in vain. I always say APC will take over the State. I know such vision will be fulfilled as God has ordained it. We shall continue to pray until such vision is fulfilled. We cannot stop praying until issues of insecurity and violent crimes are stopped in the State.”

The woman leader and convener of the Women Prayer group, Madam Timi Koinyan, said the decision to adopt prayers as a means of seeking divine intervention for a new beginning and fresh start for the state, was based on the need to have a governor that is young, peaceful and unifying towards the good of the state.

She also said that though the women groups for Aganaba has grown to 10,000 with more women coming from other political parties to join hands and pray for that governorship candidate like Aganaba to deliver the state from poverty, crime and cultism.

On the issue of his alleged mentorship and sponsorship from the former Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi to scuttle the APC in the State, Aganaba, said “This is another laughable issue created by a few and insignificant members of the political class within the APC in Bayelsa State.

“Ordinarily I don’t respond to petty talks and gossip. Politics to me is a contest of ideas and not a contest of petty talks by petty and little minds. We can play politics without mudslinging.

“However, if I don’t respond to this issue, those peddling or manufacturing this baseless and unfounded story, will make people to believe the story and take it hook, line and sinker. First, I cannot deny the fact that I have a personal relationship with Right Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, a relationship which we have built over the years before the birth of APC. It transcends the pedestrian sentiments being pushed out.

“Just like light attracts light, Rotimi Amaechi represents light and I am one of the many positive lights that have been attracted by the Amaechi fold of light. Amaechi is a principled, disciplined, morally dependable, very God fearing and with a very strong character. Those who cannot fit into his cardinal principles have often accused him of arrogance and call him all kinds of names”, he said.

 

“I am not surprised he is being linked to the governorship primary in Bayelsa State. Unlike some of the politicians in Bayelsa who are making such wild allegations against Amaechi, he doesn’t patronise cult boys to pursue his political agenda. They are just afraid of the moral credentials of Amaechi and it’s a matter of a combination of mischief and complex.

 

“My governorship ambition is divine and has nothing to do with Amaechi. But if you say I’m inspired by him to replicate his dividends of democracy or good governance, then I have no hesitation to say yes I do. And I have no apology to be associated with a man who has become a model to many people who cherish good governance.

 

“Besides that, I’m an adult with an independent mind. Unlike some people who just found themselves in the corridors of power, without any adequate preparation, I’m well prepared to frontally confront the development challenges in Bayelsa and fast track the sustainable development dream of the founding fathers.”

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