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Brewing War Of Camps In Bayelsa PDP

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OSA OKHOMINA examines the rising disenchantment within Governor Seriake Dickson’s political family ahead of the Bayelsa State governorship election

Unlike past governorship primaries in Bayelsa State, the 2019 primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is poised to jolt the party’s unity in the state.

Despite assurances by key players in the PDP, the battle for who produces the next flag bearer of the PDP is a battle among three blocs within the party. The three blocs are those of former President Goodluck Jonathan, the Restoration Caucus led by Governor Seriake Dickson and the independent aspirants not tied to any political group.

The over 13 PDP governorship aspirants that have procured the party forms for the race belong to either of these blocs.

But amidst the flurry of political activities ahead of the party primaries, followers of Jonathan and Dickson are busy plotting against one another. But it is evident that the battle line is drawn between the contending political blocs that will produce the next Governor despite the threat from the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Unsettles Plans By Dickson’s Restoration Caucus

The Restoration caucus is the kitchen cabinet of Dickson’s political group created in 2012 after his emergence as the governor of the state.

It comprises members of his administration, particularly commissioners and die-hard political appointees at the state and national levels who deliberate on the affairs of the state and make decisions on who occupies where and gets what.

They see other politicians, loyal to other members of the party aside from Dickson and his vision, as outsider. They have never left anyone in doubt that the likes of the former managing director of the NDDC, Timi Alaibe, Oil Magnate, Kenebie Okoko, and even the Jonathan are outsiders in the political arrangement under Dickson’s administration.

The creation of the Restoration Caucus, it was learnt, is a replica of the old Green Movement, a political group oiled by Jonathan, during his days as deputy governor, and then as state governor. It was easy to establish the Restoration caucus because Dickson was a key component and beneficiary of the Green Movement.

According to some old members of the Green Movement, Dickson’s angry disposition to ‘outsiders’ on the platform of the Restoration Caucus was borne out of the alliances entered into by Green Movement with Alaibe’s group which scuttled his attempt to be a Senator of the Federal Republic in 2007.

Instead of securing the ticket of the PDP to run for the Senate, he was instead handed House of Representative ticket because Timi Alibe chose Senator Heineken Lokpobiri ahead of him in line with the harmonisation plan within the party. He was pained and has purportedly bared the grudge against ‘outsiders’, determining the future of the Party and members.

This, among other issues, also influenced his posture against the emergence of Timi Alaibe as the PDP flag bearer for the November 16 governorship election despite the rising support for the latter among PDP members and the people of the state.

However, the decision of the Restoration Caucus to present three persons as the possible aspirants to fly the party’s flag is causing ripples, disappointment and threat of implosion within the Party.

The decision of the Restoration Caucus, which was made known by the special adviser to the governor on Political Matters, Mr. Feynman Wilson, said the decision was made at a meeting under the leadership of Dickson.

Wilson said that the meeting followed the successful conclusion of the three days fasting and prayer session which was organised by the state to seek the face of God on the critical issue of the selection of the next gubernatorial candidate for the PDP in the state.

According to him, three credible and respected members’ of the Restoration Team presented are the Chief of Staff, Government House, Rt. Hon. Talford Ongolo, the Secretary to the State Government, Barr. Kemela Okara and the Senator representing the Bayelsa Central District in the National Assembly, Senator Douye Diri.

According to him, the trio of Ongolo, Okara and Diri have indicated interest in picking the governorship form. The Governor’s political aide, said that the indications by the three persons did not preclude other members of the Restoration Team who have interest in the governorship from approaching the party to pick the forms on their own.

He explained that all such members of the Restoration teams who are interested in the governorship race would be required to present themselves to the party and the Restoration caucus for necessary engagement after procuring the form.

He stressed further that the Restoration Team which controls over 80 percent of the PDP in Bayelsa was the only Group that has the cohesion, Strength and capacity to win the next governorship election as it has demonstrated in clear terms with victories in previous elections.

The announcement from the governor’s political family shocked many PDP loyalists, particularly other aspirants belonging to the same family.

At the last count, out of the over 13 aspirants about Nine persons are known members of the Restoration Cacus. They include the Chairman of the Bayelsa State Board of Internal Revenue, Dr. Ayawei Ayawei, the Deputy Governor Retired Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah, Member House of Representatives Fred Agbedi, Senator Representing Bayelsa Central Douye Diri, Chief of Staff Government House Rt. Honorable Talford Ongolo and Secretary to the State Government Barrister Kemela Okara and the Former Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Rt.Hon. Kombowei Benson.

The President of the Ogbia Brotherhood worldwide and former Commissioner of Information, Chief Benson Agadaga, who is a kinsman to Jonathan, is also mentioned as being inducted into the Restoration Caucus.

However a group within the PDP known as the Forward Action Bayelsa, FAB, flayed the alleged moves by the governor to foist a candidate on the PDP in the forthcoming governorship election, describing it as a joke taken too far.

In a statement in Yenagoa and signed by the Convener of FAB, Elder James Ikpi, the group described the three aspirants as unpopular and that they would not be able to win election for the PDP.  It advised the governor to carry out his private findings on the sellability of the three persons and that PDP must not jeopardise its strength by this unpopular decision.

“We want to strongly warn and advise against this move to unilaterally foist a candidate on PDP. Mr. Governor may need to feel the pulse of the people. He must be sensitive to the ongoing reaction against these three persons. The PDP may be undoing itself and strengthening opposition parties in the election. The PDP ticket is not for one person to decide. PDP must thread with caution”.

The group therefore, encouraged more interested and qualified Bayelsans to enter the race under the PDP in a move to allow free and fair primaries that will produce the most acceptable candidate for the November 16 governorship election.

The Bayelsa State Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral John Jonah, who is a key member of the Restoration Caucus, declared interest to contest for the Governorship ticket of the PDP despite the decision of Dickson to present three members of his political group as his possible successor.

Jonah, according to his supporters, is one of the state’s most qualified technocrats with a profound reputation for competence and visionary administrative capabilities.

Another member of the Restoration Caucus and the chairman of the Bayelsa Board of Internal Revenue, Dr. Nibofagh Ayawei also defied the moves by the state governor and indicated interest in the race and picked a form.

A group of young professionals in Bayelsa State under the auspices of Ayawei Volunteers also threw their weight behind the governorship aspiration of the chairman of the State Board of Internal Revenue, Dr. Nimbofa Ayawei, insisting that he has capacity and disposition to the yearnings of the youths in the state.

The convener of the group,  Mr Kuro Peri-Ockiya, the decision to throw their weight behind the Governorship aspiration Nimbofa Ayawei among the over 13 aspirants on the platform of the PDP is based on the need for a young, vibrant, and responsible governor come 2020 who will not only ensure youthful participation in Government, but consolidate on the gains of the present administration.

According to him, “We are using this medium to call on Bayelsa youths to support a candidate who understand their plight and is willing to work for them, and that person is Dr Nimibofa Ayawei.”

While many political observers are still unsure of the moves by the state governor, others aver that the choice of Dickson, announced after the meeting of his political family, known as Restoration Caucus, is targeted at covering all political loop holes that other political groups within the PDP may put to stop him during the party primaries.

Top party sources claim that despite the protest by PDP members against the three names announced, Barr. Kemela Okara and Barr. Thalford Ongolo are Dickson’s favourite.

It is reported that the inclusion of the Senator representing Bayelsa Central, Senator Douye Diri was a diversion to delegates from Kolokuma/Opokuma where the former managing director of the NDDC,Timi Alaibe hails from.

According to the party source, Dickson is a man that plans everything ahead of time. His favourite is either Ongolo or Okara. The choice of Okara is based on his links with the APC national leader, Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu’

“He wants someone with Tinubu link to avoid the troubles that might come after his tenure ends. Okara ran for governor on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and lost to Dickson. Dickson believes Okara still has that link and believes Tinubu will back his plan in the PDP.

“For Ongolo, Dickson wants every Southern Ijaw people to agitate for the governorship seat against the choice of Okara who is from Yenagoa. He knows Southern Ijaw possess the needed votes in an election and would finally give them to win their support for the PDP. But the PDP members are angry that Dickson has again shown his penchant for imposition of candidates. He should have allowed all aspirants to consult widely.”

Other party sources however told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the inclusion of Senator Douye Diri in the equation is a better one as against Kemela Okara and Thalford Ongolo,’ Senator Douye Diri is a tested hand that has performed at the Federal House of Representatives and the position of Principal Executive Secretary to Dickson.”

On the choice of running mate, the party source claimed that Dickson has backed the choice of the one-time commissioner of Information and past President of the Ogbia Brotherhood, Chief Benson Agadaga as against the choice of the former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.’

Jonathan has chosen Prof Ikoli of the Niger Delta University. But Dickson has quickly bought the party’s expression of interest form for Agadaga.’

However the political aide to the Governor, Chief Fyneman Wilson, has however explained that there is no crisis within the ruling PDP and the Governor Dickson’s camp “the indications by the three persons did not preclude other members of the Restoration Team who have interest in the governorship from approaching the party to pick the forms on their own”.

He explained that all such members of the Restoration teams who are interested in the governorship race would be required to present themselves to the party and the Restoration caucus for necessary engagement after procuring the form.

Some members of the PDP are however accusing Dickson of trying to play smart with his opposition within the PDP ahead of the September 2  primaries of the party in the State.

According to a member of the PDP, who pleaded anonymity, the plan of Dickson is to create the impression that the Restoration Caucus is divided and buy as much expression of interest forms he can lay his hands on.

“When he buys the forms and the National headquarters decision to share Adhoc staff equally among Governorship aspirants is carried out, he will have more share when his “true” candidate is unveiled to the chagrin of the party. And he claims to have more adhoc and statutory delegates than any political blocs within the party.”

In answer to the claim, the governor’s special adviser on Political Matters, Chief Fyneman Wilson, simply stated that “The Restoration Team is inclined to support a candidate from the Restoration Caucus of the PDP for the governorship ticket because of the imperative of continuity and stability in governance.

“It is on the basis of this that any member of the Restoration Team who has an ambition is called upon to pick the form. The caucus shall make all the necessary arrangements for consultations within the Restoration Caucus of the PDP before taking a final decision on who to support.”

Also speaking, the State Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral John Jonah, who picked expression of Interest form, despite the decision of his boss, Hon. Seriake Dickson, debunked the allegation of crack in the restoration family just as he disagreed that some external forces were sponsoring candidates in the restoration family to create rancor among members.

According to Jonah, “There is no crack, if there is anything there is cohesion within the restoration family. People were expecting that by this time the governor will bring one candidate and say this is my candidate, and in fact they are speculating that others would not be allowed to show interest and they will be forced to just withdraw. That could have brought cracks, but in the thinking of the administration collectively and we have to note that it is not just the governor, we felt that those that have interest and with capacity to administer the state should show interest and we proceed from there.

“Secondly if somebody is sponsoring from outside to destabilise the cohesion within the restoration administration I don’t think those of us are aware of that. That hasn’t come to our notice. We have a way of resolving differences within the restoration administration in-house, that is very very unlikely.

“But know that we must have different ways of solving the situation. Certainly you don’t expect everybody to be happy even if we are brothers, we may have separate ambition and we have different ways to go about it but for now that isn’t to my knowledge”.

“Governor will not hand over to me, things will happen. It is not a book that someone will say I have handed over this book to you, no. That is why we are here. If it is as simple as that, we wouldn’t be here and we will go for primary’s. If it pleases God that it is my turn, I have the capacity to carry out this functions, I have the passion for it and I have the experience for it and luckily for me, I have the opportunity to understudy somebody. So I think, if it pleases the people of Bayelsa, it is Bayelsans that will decide and if given the responsibility I am very prepared for that job”.

On his relationship with the governor, he responded: “As a military man, you have only one command at a time. There is no ship that will have two captains but some deputy governors may not know that by virtue of their upbringing and training.

He continued “I have done the work of deputy several times before coming to this state and I know how my deputies reacted to me and that is the conduct I brought to this place and that is why you have not heard of any friction. If you don’t want to be a deputy then you leave,” he said.

Some other political observers have however posited that delegates may vote their conscience by voting against the preferred candidate of Dickson because of his alleged penchant at manipulation, imposition and disruption of processes in groups and political parties.

They accused him of playing an ugly role in the crisis rocking various youth groups, organisations and parties in the state including the fractionalization of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC).

Delegates Voting Headache

The voting pattern to be used by the PDP during the September 2  is another headache for Dickson’s political family which he is contending with at the moment.

Some are claiming that the new guideline being put forward by the Prince Uche Secondus favours the pro-Jonathan followers in the party.

Also put forward as a minus for Dickson’s mission to choose his successor is the issue of possible shift of venue to Port Harcourt or Uyo in Akwa Ibom State. It was gathered that the decision may have been taken due to issues of insecurity witnessed during the last election of the Ijaw National Congress (INC).

A political observer, Lakemefa Ojobu, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that,  “You know Dickson is on his way out of office and the delegates will prefer to deal with the candidate of the future and ignore the governor’s choice because the delegates are not happy with the situation of things in the state, so they will see Dickson as a desperate person who wants a successor who will cover his tracks”.

Speaking further he noted that “the  INC election last Saturday?  Hoodlums allegedly sponsored, stormed the venue, because preferred candidate was losing to the popular candidate and this may also play out in the upcoming PDP governorship primaries in the state.

Delegates collected money from government candidate and yet voted against the preferred candidate of the Governor,” he said.

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