By Samuel Oyadongha,
It was the literary icon, Professor Chinua Achebe of blessed memory who wrote in his epic novel, ‘Things Fall Apart’ that “Those whose palm kernels have been broken for them by benevolent spirits must not forget to be humble,” and if there is one man whose palm kernels were broken for him by benevolent spirits, it is incumbent Bayelsa State Governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson.
The routing of the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in the November 16, 2019, governorship election in Bayelsa State by the opposition, All Progressive Congress (APC) marked a watershed.
It signifies the end and beginning of a new area in the political annals of in the state.
Interestingly, the APC which was repeatedly taunted by the ruling party in the build up to the poll as lacking the needed presence and structure to make any significant impact has turned around to dislodge the latter from Creek Haven, the romantic name for the seat of power in the predominantly riverine state where politics has remained the only thriving industry.
Perhaps, the current blame game rocking the PDP in Bayelsa State could have been avoided if Governor Seriake Dickson had allowed stakeholders have their way during the September 3 primary of the party that produced Senator Douye Diri.
The primary, according to some aggrieved party stalwarts, was designed to favour Diri, as against many of the stakeholders’ choice, Chief Timi Alaibe, whose popularity and acceptability cuts across the various segments of the state.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan, who though did not openly endorse any of the aspirants jostling for the party ticket was said to be favourably disposed to an Alaibe candidature. But Dickson, according to informed sources had zeroed in on Diri as his successor, having worked closely with him over the years.
He was also said to have shunned entreaties from a former President, and other prominent Nigerians to support Alaibe. In a leaked audio recording that went viral, Dickson said he does not reward disloyalty and only governorship aspirants from his restoration caucus will succeed him.
Saturday Vanguard check revealed that the refusal of the governor to shift ground was being exploited by his traducers, putting the blame of the party’s defeat at the door steps of his Restoration Caucus, (Dickson political family).
Members of the group, who are mainly aides of the governor, regarded themselves as more PDP than those outside its fold, not minding the consequences of their action on the fortunes of the party, lamented Azi Enato.
He noted with sadness that the leadership of the PDP in the state which could have allowed party supremacy reign over other interest groups within its fold, with a view to fostering party discipline and cohesion was helpless ostensibly because it was foisted on the entire members by the governor. Thus, the chairman and other executive members of the party looked the other way and egged on the Restoration Caucus when things were going bad. The leader of the party became so powerful that he decided who got his patronage.
The Restoration family also boasted that the governor’s successor must come from within its fold thereby fencing out other gubernatorial aspirants who were considered outsiders irrespective of the sacrifice they have made for the party when many of the restoration caucus members were not even known to be members of the PDP.
To some PDP chieftains, the loss of the state to APC after PDP’s dominance for the past 20 years was chiefly as a result of Dickson’s foisting of Senator Douye Diri on the party through a flawed primary designed to throw up the latter.
According to pundits, the people voted overwhelmingly for APC because Dickson as Diri’s sponsor did not show sufficient respect to Jonathan. In the first instance, Dickson did not consult with the statesman about Diri’s candidature. He just picked him in a stage-managed primary, aware that Jonathan was also interested in a different candidate, they claimed.
The former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi Alaibe, who is believed to have the backing of Jonathan and seen by many stakeholders as a tested technocrat with the requisite war chest to fly the party flag, came second in the primary.
Many stakeholders were not impressed with the process that produced Diri and the party was hit by gale of defections. A large number of the party field commanders and tacticians moved on to the opposition party while several others who chose to stay back were indifferent to the party during the election. Even in the face of seeming trouble, Dickson was still boastful, adding that the defections to other political parties would have little effects on the fortunes of PDP on November 16.
Alaibe was among those who took exception to the process that threw up Diri and chose to challenge Diri and PDP in court. The bad blood caused by the primary election was contagious as even some appointees of the governor began to throw in the towel one after another.
Unruffled by the turn of events in the party, the PDP under Dickson watch was still upbeat about party victory at the governorship poll with or without those defecting to the APC, insisting that Bayelsa was a PDP state.
The state chairman of the party, Moses Cleopas had in a statement said the Bayelsa people and followers were not with the defectors, who according to him, lacked the requisite character, principle and integrity.
He bragged that the PDP won convincingly in the 2015 guber poll in spite of the defections and would repeat same feat without such “unstable characters.”
Though Dickson promised that PDP’s candidate would emerge from within his government, nevertheless assured that he would not impose a candidate on them and advised aspirants waiting for him to anoint them and impose them on the people to have a rethink. He said any of the aspirants, who felt they had the experience and capacity should go and make their case to Bayelsans.
He said: “I led a party to victory against a vicious opposition. I alone can lead PDP to battle, I have done it repeatedly. You saw the election; there will be no form of manipulation. People talking about manipulation are anticipating that they should be imposed. I’m not going to impose any of them. Any of them who feel they have experience and capacity should go and make their case to the people of Bayelsa State.”
Dickson’s intransigence that he can overcome the mines on the path of the PDP without other stakeholders and deliver his anointed candidate, no doubt, presented the flood-prone state where the PDP’s umbrella had held sway for two decades, to the APC’s broom, on a platter of gold.
Some political pundits have queried what happened to the three days prayer, fasting and vision which he subjected the people to partake, under the guise of seeking God’s intervention for his ‘predetermined successor’.
They wondered how the former president, Goodluck Jonathan and other critical stakeholders who had made sacrifice to the keep the party afloat at its time of need were treated as strangers within the party because they were not members of the Dickson Restoration political family and such their inputs not needed in the choice of who succeeds the outgoing governor.
“The PDP should blame itself for picking an unpopular candidate instead of blaming it on others. Crying foul and insinuating that Jonathan was used to cause PDP defeat is ridiculous and disrespectful,” said some top stakeholders.
Also some stakeholders in Ogbia Local Government insisted that the not so impressive performance of the party in the area in the just concluded governorship election rested on the door step of the governor who they argued was fully in charge of the party structures and the entire machinery of the state.
According to them, the party leadership failed to listen to the voice of wisdom that warned about the looming defeat, as a result of the shabby treatment meted to the area and sidelining of the former president and other critical stakeholders.
“He called us out to the battle field by his actions, deeds and utterances. Ogbia brotherhood represents the daring spirit of the Ogbia Kingdom. Never will she waiver or retreat from any challenge no matter where it is coming from. Last Saturday was no ordinary elections in Ogbialand and Bayelsa state.
“A revolution of the ballot and true to type, no blood was drawn across the land yet the tempest was roundly tamed. It was a contest to determine the true meaning of the brotherhood. It was a clash of wills, the idea of a fair and inclusive Ogbia kingdom over the tyranny of power and opportunity. From the beginning, it was never in doubt that the brotherhood of the Amangalas would triumph.
“Now, as we prepare to relegate the past to history, another history beckons once again.
The damaged psyche and fabric of the brotherhood must be repaired. Together, we must rebuild broken walls and the once revered decency and generous spirit of a kingdom we love must be reinvented. We have no better place to call home. Let us reinstate the pride and prosperity of a land that gave us the meaning of brotherhood,” said Macaulay Jokori, in a veiled reference to the spanking of the PDP at the poll.
John Ebimobowei, a teacher, said he is saddened by the outcome of what he described as Dickson’s overconfidence which has cost the PDP the governorship.
“I blame the party poor outing on Governor Dickson’s overconfidence and I think this should be a lesson to other governors. He singlehandedly chose an unpopular candidate from the Senate to become governor and also chose his running mate which is against the wish of the people,” he said.
But Dickson at a world press conference in Yenagoa described the governorship election as charade and a carefully orchestrated plan to forcefully take over Bayelsa towards entrenching a one party system.
Bayelsa: Dickson votes, alleges hijacking of voting materials(Opens in a new browser tab)
“This was not the first time that we are having elections. People were killed, some ripped open and thrown into the river and up till now no arrest. As democrats, we believe in using democratic procedures in challenging what happened in Ogbia.
“In Ogbia, there was no collation done. In most of the areas, at the conclusion of voting, the soldiers came and rounded up everybody and forcibly took them to Ogbia town and asked all PDP leaders to leave to enable them replace pre-written results. And so the results announced for Ogbia, like those for Southern Ijaw and Nembe were not real. What has happened in Bayelsa is one of the most brazen acts of distortion and rape of our democracy.
“What took place was not a democratic election. It was a military coup. It was the height of conspiracy by the federal government and security agencies to subvert the democratic rights of our people for the sole purpose of foisting the APC on the people.
“It has never been like this before. In 2015, it wasn’t as bad as this. In this case, not only was the Army directed to take over our place, but also to collude with the APC thugs to unleash terror on our people.”
He however urged Bayelsans to be calm adding that the reprehensible acts against democracy would be addressed through democratic procedures. Dickson also described as balderdash, the notion being bandied about by APC leaders that it was disagreement between him and former President Goodluck Jonathan that led to their Pyrrhic victory, emphasizing that Jonathan remained a leader of the entire country whose image and reputation was too weighty to be dragged in the mud by the opposition party.