As Bayelsans prepare for the governorship election later this year, an army of politicians in the state’s Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) are gearing to take over from Governor Henry Seriake Dickson, who incidentally has been facing all sorts of resentments from his people. Kola Eke-ogiugo writes.
The political space of Bayelsa State is presently experiencing rising heat. The April 11 governorship election did not hold in the state as the tenure of the incumbent, Governor Henry Seriake Dickson still runs. Dickson, was sworn-in on February 14, 2012 and as such his tenure would run its full course till February 14, 2016. Despite this space of time, governorship election in the state must statutorily hold towards the end of this year. At the moment, politicking in the state has taken the centre-stage with consultations and regroupings taking a frenetic dimension, as politicians across the political parties await the announcement of election date by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). However, the severest heat Governor Dickson is facing for now in his quest to retain his seat comes from members of his political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who are keen on cashing in on the dwindled popularity of the governor in the state to bring about a change in the state’s leadership.
There is little doubt that the governorship election in the state would bring a good dose of intrigues, especially given the relocation of President Goodluck Jonathan to his home state after losing his exalted position to Buhari, the All Progressives Congress, APC candidate in the March 28 presidential election. Aside the presence of the home-coming president, the highly political first lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, will certainly add to the high pressure politics the Bayelsa governorship is bound to offer. Like the president, his wife cannot afford not to have a say on who becomes the next governor of the state. As matters are in the state, it is probable that the first lady may even work at cross-purposes with her husband at the Bayelsa electoral field, especially as the sitting governor has for long not been in her good book. Indeed, Mrs Jonathan has not hidden the fact that she wants Governor Dickson out in the next election. Incidentally, she is not alone in this drive as she has an army of politicians in the state who are behind her back in the drive.
Those who are warming up to unseat Dickson in the state are largely banking on the likelihood of a free and fair conduct of governorship primary in the state by the national secretariat of the PDP that would pave way for the emergence of the most popular and acceptable choice by the party membership in the state. It is strongly anticipated that the PDP, which has learnt that the major factor that contributed to its humiliation in the presidential election was the fielding of an unpopular candidate may likely allow a level playing field in the conduct of its gubernatorial primary in the state. As a PDP-controlled state and more so, given its position as the state from where the out-going president comes from, PDP would likely want to go the extra mile to retain its hold on power in the state, but the more needful in this direction would be to ensure first that a candidate after the heart of the people emerge.
No governor has completed two terms in the state. While Dickson has descended into the trenches to, at least, earn a second term, he is hugely assailed by the increasing disaffection from his people, whom it can be recalled shouted loudly in reprobation to President Jonathan’s appeal to them to abide their governor during the president’s electioneering campaign in the state in February.
Those who want Dickson out say the governor is full of words and no action. It is a fact that common drinking water still remains as scarce commodity in Yenagoa, the state capital and often cannot to be traced anywhere in the far-flung hinterland communities of Bayelsa. Almost four years down the line with Dickson, drinking water in Bayelsa is largely sourced from Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
The state’s workforce complains of all manners of taxation by the state government, and further allege that the ‘Pay as you earn’ policy in the state is the highest in the country. The people of the state also hold issues of general welfare against the governor and quickly point at his government’s alleged feeble attention at provision of social amenities.
Also raising anger in the state against the governor is the belief among Bayelsans that Dickson did not do enough to mobilise support for President Goodluck Jonathan in the last presidential election.
At the moment, about eight people have shown interest in the race to unseat Dickson in Creek Haven, the state’s own Government House. The cast curiously includes Diepreye Alamieyseigha, a former governor in the state, who was impeached on charges of corruption midway in his second term in 2005 but got a presidential pardon from Goodluck Jonathan who incidentally was his deputy. Having taken oath of office twice, it however, remains to be seen how ‘Alams’ as he is called would pull off his governorship ambition in the state if he finally declares as pointers suggest.
Timi Alaibe is again in the fray, just as he has done since 2003 when he was the executive director, Finance and Administration in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC and later the commission’s managing director. Alaibe was the first special adviser to the president on Niger Delta Affairs and chairman Presidential Amnesty Programme. He resigned the double appointment to contest the state’s governorship in 2011 on the platform of Labour Party (LP). He’d earlier contested the PDP primaries in 2003 and lost to Alamieyesigha, and contested that of 2007 and lost to President Jonathan.
Honourable Warman Weri Ogoriba, an outgoing two time member of the House of Representatives is also likely to be in the race. He is the chairman of the House Committee on the Niger Delta, Amnesty Programme, and chairman South-South caucus of the House. Ogoriba, who is still in his forties, is expected to bring youthfulness and charisma into the race. He may not have as much financial muscle as the others, but it is widely believed that he would ride on the wings of the goodwill he has earned from his people for the burning zeal with which he intervenes in matters that concern his Bayelsa Ijaw kith and kin.
Honourable Werinipre Seibarogu, a former speaker of the state House of Assembly and later deputy governor under Governor Temipre Sylva is also showning interest. The strongest factor driving his ambition is said to be his closeness to the out-going first lady, Patience Jonathan.
Senator Emmanuel Paulker’s body language also suggests that he may bite the bullet against Dickson. He is a serving senator, and having won re-election, he would be going to the Senate for the third time. He is one of the foremost politicians in the fore-front of the battle against Governor Dickson, and ironically a friend of the president too. He is the chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum, up stream. Paulker may have been a recurring face in the Senate, yet many in the state believe that he owes this feat to the goodwill of President Jonathan and not his endearment to his constituents.
Another politician that is signalling for the battle is Waripamowei Dudafa. Dudafa at the moment, is the special adviser to the president on Domestic Affairs and known to be a man after the heart of Patience Jonathan. Obviously, money would not be a problem to Dudafa if he decides to run, however, because of his privileged job in the presidency, he has not been at home with the everyday people in the state.
Ambassador Godswill Igali, a permanent secretary in the Federal Ministry of Power, has also been fingered. Igali has been working with and for the president since Jonathan’s days as Bayelsa State governor. Like Dudafa, he would get the backing of Jonathan if he decides to run, but unlikely to get that of Mrs. Jonathan. However, the real major problem Igali would encounter with the people would come from his overly elitist nature.
The coming months in Bayelsa State promise to unveil more exciting intrigues in the political space.