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Rumble In PDP Over Who Becomes Diri’s Running Mate In Bayelsa

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There is raging uproar in Bayelsa State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the choice of who becomes the running mate to the party’s flag bearer, Senator Douye Diri. OSA OKHOMINA examines the issues

It was not supposed to be an issue for expanded political discussion but few days after the emergence of Senator Douye Diri as the flag bearer of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) the choice of running mate has caused uproar among stakeholders of the party ahead of the November 16 election.

The issue was said to have assumed a dangerous dimension following the insistence of the state Governor, Seriake Dickson, to zone the slot to his Bayelsa West Senatorial district in order to pave the way for the incumbent senator representing the zone, Senator Lawrence Erwujakpor to emerge as the running mate.

The plan, according to some stakeholders, is in line with the insinuation that Dickson is perfecting the process of making Erwujakpor, who hails from his Sagbama Local Government Area, a running mate to enable him realise his senatorial ambition in case PDP emerges victorious after the election.

While most party leaders were said to have warned the governor against the plot describing it as political suicide, stakeholders from former President Goodluck Jonathan’s Eastern Senatorial District said they deserved the position for a sense of belonging in the party.

The stakeholders under the auspices of Bayelsa East Forum for Justice (BEFJ) said, having picked the candidate from the Bayelsa Central, it was natural to select a competent party man with requisite political clout and popularity from the East.

Speaking in Yenagoa, the Chairman, BEFJ, Monday Eribo, described the feelers that the slot for running mate had been zoned to the West as sad and an attempt to deprive the people of the East what was due them politically.

Eribo insisted that the plot was motivated by greed and warned that if not rescinded it was capable of handing over the state on a platter of gold to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

He said, “So, we are therefore condemning and rejecting it and calling on our beloved Governor Seriake Dickson not to fall for such grievous political mistake. We are also calling on party leaders at the national and state levels to wade into the matter and on time.

“We urge our flag bearer, Senator Douye Diri, to name his successor from the East. We understand he is under pressure at the moment but he should do the right thing if we must win the election and the right thing is what he knows.

“Let us state categorically that the man they are planning to use as running mate, Senator Lawrence Ewrujakpor is a bad market at this point in time because he hails from Sagbama Local Government Area. If Ewrujakpor is a true party man we urge him to come out now and disassociate himself from the plan to foist him on us.

“Let us remind our countryman governor that he must win the governorship election for our party first before talking about his senatorial ambition. Also, those clamouring for speakership from our zone should not forget that if we lose the election, their ambition of becoming speaker will hit the rock”.

Also, Concerned Bayelsa PDP Stakeholders (CBPS) condemned in strong terms the decision of Dickson to zone the running mate of the party to his senatorial district.

The concerned stakeholders in a statement described the decision as an outrageous political mistake that would work against the PDP in the November 16 governorship election.

In the statement signed by Chief Ere Opukiri and Omonibo ThankGod, the stakeholders rejected the governor’s action, saying it betrayed his earlier stance that he would not take the running mate to the West in the interest of justice and fairness.

They wondered what had changed and called on the governor not to fall for the temptation of zoning the position to the West, especially Sagbama where he hails from.

They maintained that if he went ahead with the decision, there would be mass exodus of members of the party, especially from the East, which would reduce the chances of the PDP to retain the governorship.

They said, “We are shocked that Governor Dickson who was opposed to the ambition of Fred Agbedi to take over from him because of zoning will now make a u-turn to favour his kinsman from Sagbama.

“The position of running mate we feel should go to Bayelsa East. This will balance the political equation and give the people of that zone a sense of belonging. It will be inappropriate to do otherwise.

“Governor Dickson had earlier denied that he will support someone from the West to emerge as running mate. We wonder what has changed. Those who are behind it should know that it is a suicidal political move”.

Another group under the auspices of Youths for Douye Diri further called Dickson not to facilitate the emergence Ehrudjakpor as running mate to their principal.

Secretary-General of the group, Comrade Beinbebo Akpiri said the report that Dickson had settled for Ehrudjakpor was a sad political development for the PDP.

Akpiri in a statement in Yenagoa, warned against the imposition of Ehrudjakpor on the party, stressing that it would not fly because of the current political realities.

He said Dickson should bury his ambition to go to the Senate and concentrate on winning the governorship election with a more acceptable running mate.

Akpiri explained that the slot should be given to a loyal, popular and acceptable party man from Bayelsa East to strengthen the PDP’s chances at the governorship poll.

The youth leader expressed displeasure that leaders of the PDP were keeping mute over the issue even when they were not comfortable with the governor’s decision.

The Youths for Douye Diri called on the Prince Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee (NWC) to prevail on Dickson to have a rethink otherwise PDP would become history in Bayelsa State.

But the leadership of the state chapter of the PDP has said that it would stand by any faithful and loyal member of the party that may be nominated by its candidate, Senator Douye Diri as running mate.

The party said that there are two critical arms of government the leadership of who are important: the executive arm led by the Governor and the speaker of the House, who leads the legislative arm.

The State Chairman and Secretary of the party, Hon. Moses Cleopas and Chief Godspower Keku, respectively, said in a statement, stated that since the party’s candidate has come from the Central Senatorial District, he is at liberty to select any suitable member of the party from the two remaining zones, Bayelsa West and Bayelsa East as running mate.

They said that the party would be left with no option than to zone the speakership of the House Of Assembly and other offices in the party and government to the remaining zones for balance in accordance with the established tradition in the state since 1999.

The PDP State leadership stated that the party was not too concerned about a running mate which, according to them is like a senior adviser to the governor, not different from marrying a wife which must be done by the candidate himself. They stressed that the party had no reason to lose sleep over the issue of running mate.

According to the PDP leaders, the party had observed that there are competent party members who the candidates can select running mate as well as committed members of the the House Of Assembly who may emerge as speaker of the House Of Assembly and Head Of the legislative arm from Bayelsa West and Bayelsa East.

The party leadership said further that the history of sharing of offices from 1999 to date had always reflected the principle of fairness and equity as stated below:

1999: Governor :Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, (Central) Deputy Governor: Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, (East) Speaker: Rt. Hon. Heineken Lokpobiri, Chief Peremobowei Ebebi and Debekeme Boyelayefa (West); 2005: Governor: Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, (East) Deputy Governor: Peremobowei Ebebi, (West), Werinipre Seibarugo (Central);

2007, Governor: Chief Timipre Sylva, (East), Deputy Governor Peremobowei Ebebi, (West), Speaker: Werinipre Seibarugo, (Central.). Following Ebebi’s impeachment: Governor: Chief Timipre Sylva, (East) Deputy Gov Werinipre Seibarugo, (Central), Speaker : Rt. Hon. Nestor Binabo (West)

2012: Governor: The Honourable Henry Seriake Dickson (West), Deputy Governor: Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah, (East), Speaker Rt. Hon Konbowei Benson, Rt. Hon. Tonye Isenah (Central).

The PDP leaders said that the positions of the governor, deputy governor and the speaker had always been shared among the three Senatorial districts stressing that the governor and the speaker are the more powerful of the three.

“We advise party members and the general public not to lose sleep over the issue of the choice of running mate. The party will support any choice made by the candidate.

“Those who wish to be on the ticket must first contest an election and not play foul politics by spreading blackmail and propaganda,” they added.

But According to Hon. Monday Eribo, who was a former Commissioner at the Bayelsa State Local Government Device Commission and former Aspirant Ogbia Local Government Area under the platform of PDP, “Since the inception of the contemporary democracy, this wonderful party has enshrined a power sharing and rotating formula which has helped to encourage harmonious mutual co-existence among the component units and all sections of the state. Power rotation has also helped enhance peace, unity and progress not just at the party level but at all spheres in the state”.

He continued,  “For the records and further clarification purposes, the internal policy and principle of rotational leadership started with our great leader, Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha Ph.D JP; the first Executive Governor of Bayelsa State who came from Southern Ijaw. He chose Dr. Goodluck Jonathan from Ogbia as his Running Mate. And when the ugly event of his impeachment arose, Jonathan picked Rt. Hon. Peremobowei Ebebi as his Deputy in order to sustain the tradition.

“When Chief Timipre Sylva came on board in 2007, he maintained the status by retaining Rt. Hon. Ebebi as his Deputy Governor. When Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson came on board in 2012, he maintained the zoning and rotational leadership by choosing Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John-Jonah as his Deputy Governor from Nembe”.

“The above takes me to the purported meeting of PDP Nembe and Brass Stakeholders who met yesterday and passed a Resolution that Bayelsa East Senatorial District does not want the position of the Deputy Governor but that of the Speaker of the State House of Assembly.

“I wish to state unequivocally that the resolution of the teleguided gathering in the name of Bayelsa State is a great insult on the sensibilities of our great people and it does not reflect the collective will of the people of Bayelsa East Senatorial District which comprises Ogbia, Nembe  and Brass local government areas.

“I say the above because only Stakeholders from Nembe and Brass who are doing the bidding of their tax-masters cannot sit down anywhere without their Ogbia brothers to take any decision that will be binding on all. Ogbia people have sacrificed so much for our great party, state and the Nigerian State and we do not deserve this unfair treatment.

“Again, no such decision can be binding without due consultations with great Fathers like their Excellencies: Dr. Goodluck Jonathan GCFR former President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John-Jonah;  the incumbent Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, HRM King Alfred Diette-Spiff; the first Military Governor of old Rivers State and present Chairman Bayelsa State Council of Traditional Rulers, Navy Commander Walter Feghabo; the Military Governor of Delta and Ebonyi States and other prominent and very outstanding leaders from Bayelsa East Senatorial District.

“I therefore wish to state categorically as a founding member of this great party and a leader who has served the party and state in various capacities that Ogbia Local Government Area will never accept anything less than the position of the state Deputy Governor.

“I wish to conclude this Press Conference by urging the Governor of the state, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson and the leadership of our party at the state and national to be selfless and considerate in the above wise in order to give all segment and section of the state a great sense of belonging knowing that anything short of the above shall be counter-productive and inimical to the victory of our party in the forthcoming Governorship election. We should realize that no section will continue to make immeasurable and invaluable sacrifices in a system when it is not rewarded with commensurate rewards”.

However, Governor Dickson, in response to the uproar, quickly summoned a meeting of the top leadership and critical stakeholders of the State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party before the September 23 deadline for candidate substitution in the November 16, 2019 gubernatorial election.

The Governor said in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Fidelis Soriwei, that the critical stakeholders of the Bayelsa PDP including him, former President Goodluck Jonathan, and other leaders would take a final decision on the issue of the running mate for the party’s candidate, Sen. Douye Diri.

The Governor who advised PDP members and supporters to be calm and focused said that a final decision on the issue of running mate would be taken after exhaustive consultations and deliberations with the critical stakeholders.

Governor Dickson urged PDP members in Bayelsa to avoid playing into the hands of the opposition All Progressives Congress which carries the heavy burden of an unmarketable gubernatorial candidate.

He said that the controversy over the running mate was simply normal in politics which is not peculiar to the PDP and its candidate in Bayelsa. The Governor noted that the APC ticket clearly shows a desperation to hijack the government of the state and have it run by proxies.

Meanwhile, in the APC, the display of cohesion and dexterity at which the party leaders including its flag bearer, Chief David Lyon, arrived at the choice of Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo as his running mate is surprising and marveling to the people of the state.

Many considered the choice of Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo as another master stroke with which the APC is showing purposefulness at taking over the state come November 16.

Degi-Eremienyo is currently representing Bayelsa East in the Senate. He is Vice Chairman of both the Special Duties Committee and the Gas Resources Committee in the Red Chamber.

Degi-Eremienyo studied Agricultural Economics/Extension at the Rivers state University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1990. He holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the same university.

The Deputy Governorship Candidate served as Bayelsa State Commissioner for Local Government Affairs under Governor Goodluck Jonathan. He was Executive Director at the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA).

But the ease and cohesion with which the Chief David Lyon running mate emerged is not without critism by some other stakeholders in the party.

A group known as Concerned Bayelsans accused the Former Governor and leader of the APC in Bayelsa, Chief Timipre Sylva as running a primordial Bayelsa East Agenda which is increasingly self evident in his appointment.

The leader of the group while addressing the Press stated that Chief Timipre Sylva has increasingly demonstrated that he didn’t come with a  broad based Bayelsa agenda but with a narrow primordial Eastern agenda which is increasingly self evident in his appointments.

According to Domotimi Abadeowei, It does seem that for Chief Timipre led APC leadership, change means not State building, bridge building or the pursuit of integration but a return to the erstwhile injustices, marginalization and domination done other zones during his reign as Governor.

Citing some instances, Mr. Abadeowei disclosed  in his display of sectionalism in the State nominated himself the Minister for State, Petroleum. He further noted that the Head Of Finance and Administration in the board of the NDDC, Mr. Maxwell Oko , Executive Secretary NCDMB, Mr. Waribote Simbi, Head Of Administration/HOD. Local Content, Mr. Patrick Ogba  and more are from the East.

The calls on Mr. David Lyon not to fall prey to the deceitful tendencies and antics of Chief Timipre Sylva by nominating him as the factional standard bearer of the APC building towards the forthcoming gubernatorial elections in the State.

The leadership urges Bayelsans not to be deceived by the Greek gift given them by Chief Sylva , owing to the fact that he also did same by promising juicy positions to his Party members during the 2015 governorship election which ended up in defrauding members of the APC.

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