The saying that “it is the house rat that invites the bush rat to a feast in the house” applies and it is what most aptly describes the state of affairs of the Peoples Democratic Party in Bayelsa State at the moment. As a fallout of it’s October 4th 2018 Primary elections, the party for the first time since 1999 faces a very real and present risk of losing its firm grip of the state to an internal implosion rather than superior opposition strategies. The primaries which had in the past been treated as a family affair with candidates emerging via peaceful and hitch-free processes that involved consultation and consensus among stakeholders, witnessed sporadic shooting while the overall outcome was greeted with dissatisfaction.
The current challenges of the party can be traced to a brewing feud between the Governor, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson and former President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan that began in the buildup to the 2015 elections. The governor had earlier on in his administration “marked his territory” leaving no one in doubt as to who was boss in the state while diplomatically portraying Jonathan as a “national leader” to whittle down his influence on proceedings in the home front. The governor had behind the scenes assembled a team of loyalists and lackeys, who would come to be known as the “Restoration Boys” or “Restoration Caucus”, to hijack the party structure in order to do his bidding at the expense of the other stakeholders in the state that brought him to power in the first place.
Things took a turn for the worse when in the build-up to the 2015 general elections, Governor Dickson banned the activities of groups such as Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN) in the state, claiming that their “top hierarchy have become tools of subversion, creating needless rancour, acrimonies and division”. The heat turned up much higher when the activities commenced for the 2019 elections, with open attacks from the governor’s camp, claiming a stranglehold on the entire party machinery, accusing the former president and his loyalists of engaging in “anti-party activities”, purchasing forms for aggrieved members of the party to contest elections against PDP on other platforms. The accusations fell only short of calling the former president out as a betrayer of the PDP’s course, a most disrespectful act without precedential equal in the annals of politicking in Nigeria.
The primary elections which held on the 3rd of October, 2018 revealed the fissures within the party as the process was devoid of all known conventional democratic practices as Governor Dickson had single-handedly controlled the delegates selection process and also withheld the names of those selected from the contestants in the election. The actual Election Day didn’t show any civilized democratic conduct, leaving leaders of the party with a bitter taste of Dickson’s tyrannical tendencies, as many aspirants and their supporters dumped the party to seek other platforms to realize their ambitions. As a fallout of the process, several court cases have been instituted against the party, while there are still a number of cases that are in the process of being prepared against the party in the state.
It is an indisputable fact that the governor had performed below expectations, leaving a wave of unpaid salaries for the first time in the history of the state and a gross lack of visible people oriented projects in the state. In the face of this lack of concrete performance Dickson has busied himself with maintaining his iron-fisted grip on the levers of decision making at the party level setting himself in opposition to the very leadership that has delivered the state for the party over the years. It is even reported in some quarters that the governor secretly contested for the Senate seat, hence he has been holding on to the results of the last primaries, fuelling an atmosphere of uncertainty even among those perceived to be his loyalists and members of the so called “Restoration Group”.
The state party chairman Mr Cleopas Moses and his executives have been rendered rudderless and powerless becoming a mere rubber stamp extension of the governor’s office. It is on record that Mr. Cleopas had in the aftermath of the primaries harped on party discipline laced with a veiled message that all should accept the impositions by the governor without questions rather than championing reconciliation among stakeholders. Mr. Cleopas has become sine qua non for incompetence and failed leadership as attested to by many leaders in the state.
Bayelsa State PDP is on life support owing to the drowning ambitions of one man , and is in need of an urgent surgical intervention to prevent it from being annihilated from political reckoning. The national leadership must move very quickly to resolve all pending issues in the state by engaging with the leadership of the party in Bayelsa if it is not to lose its base at a time when it is in the throes of a battle to return to power at the center.
“Charity begins at home” may have become a cliché, but the yearning of Nigerians for a PDP government will be truncated in no small measure if the PDP cannot hold court in its traditional “home”. Governor Seriake Dickson and his group would be advised to remember that a house divided against itself cannot stand as they carry on their quest to ensure that the party is overrun in the upcoming polls.
– Otobo is a public affairs analyst