After the September 3, 2019 governorship primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Bayelsa State, which produced Senator Douye Diri as their standard bearer, the party has continued to deplete in number. Owing to the outcome of the election, key members of the party have resigned and joined the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).
The main contender during the primary election, Chief Ndutimi Alaibe, is already in court challenging the outcome of the exercise, while few other contenders have conceded defeat and pledged to work with the party’s candidate to ensure its victory in the November 16 election.
Similarly, immediately after Senator Diri emerged as winner, there was another internal wrangling in the party, caused by those who want to produce a running mate.
While Governor Seriake Dickson and his Restoration caucus are favourably disposed to naming the PDP running mate from the Bayelsa West senatorial district, particularly his home local government, Sagbama, due to his alleged interest of returning to the National Assembly as senator, other stakeholders are of the opinion that the running mate be chosen from Ogbia, former President Goodluck Jonathan’s local government, to serve as a palliative to aggrieved party members in the area.
As it stands, those who could not condone what they described as the governor’s excesses in running the affairs of the party in the state have already withdrawn their membership and pitched tent with the APC, which has fielded a popular philanthropist and oil magnet, Chief David Lyon as its candidate. They are saying they cannot sink with the PDP in the November 16 governorship election.
Leading the gale of defections from the PDP few days after the primary election was the younger brother to the incumbent deputy governor, Mr Gabriel Jonah, who led thousands of his ‘Otita Force’ members to the APC in Nembe Local Government Area.
Nembe is one of the local governments in the state where the APC is firmly rooted. It was members of the Gabriel family that were holding the remnants of the PDP in the area. With his defection, therefore, many political pundits say the area has completely fallen to the APC.
Also in Nembe, a former senator who represented the area and former President Jonathan’s ally, Nimi Brigham Amange, also dumped the PDP for the APC.
Two aides of Governor Seriake Dickson, Mr Abenego Don Evarada and Mrs Helen Bob also dumped the party for theAPC. While Evarada resigned from Dickson’s administration, Mrs Bob jumped ship after she was relieved of her appointment by the governor.
Furthermore, a former member of the state House of Assembly, Parkinson Markmanuel, as well as Mr Glad Stone Amabibi, Abadani Dick, Omonibeke Kemelayefa and others also left the PDP.
During a media chat with Governor Dickson last week, he dismissed an insinuation that the gale of defections would affect the chances of the PDP during the governorship election. He said it was the same scenario in 2015 when he sought re-election but that did not stop him from winning.
He added that the defections were neither based on the election of Senator Douye Diri as the party’s candidate nor the rancour over the running mate slot, but anchored on politics of survival.
He, however, expressed hope that core members of his Restoration team were not among the people defecting to the APC.
“This is a season of defections. If politicians don’t defect now, when will they? Is it when elections are over? It has been blown out of proportion.
“In 2015, over 150 prominent leaders, including the chairman, defected. You have not seen any defection like in 2015. Commissioners defected. I am not aware of prominent Restoration members defecting now.
“The other side has no qualified candidate for this election, and they will find out very soon. The other side has nothing to offer our people, they know that already. We don’t want to lose anybody, but most of what is going on is politics of blackmail. Those who could not get ticket are sponsoring people to say if they had won people would not have left the party. When I was contesting in 2015 and they defected, was it because Senator Diri was a candidate? No, I was a candidate. There was no issue with the deputy governorship candidate, but people were defecting.
“What is happening is a normal Bayelsa politics of the belle, when, during election people look for where they will be offered something better. A number of these names were not really part of our success story. Maybe one or two worked with us in the last election,” he said.
Meanwhile, last Monday, Governor Dickson inaugurated a 10-member Peace and Reconciliation Committee to address grievances arising from the just concluded governorship primary election of the PDP in the state.
While inaugurating the committee, headed by Senator Inatimi Spiff, the governor described disagreements and grievances as normal in any political contest.
According to a statement by his chief press secretary, Mr Fidelis Soriwei, Governor Dickson, however, stressed that what is important is the way and manner such grievances are managed in the best interest of the party.
According to the governor, the PDP family under his watch in the state has always demonstrated maturity, love and resilience in handling their differences, with a view to promoting the greater good of the party.
He reiterated the need for all aggrieved aspirants and their followers to join hands with the party leadership to work for success in the November 16 gubernatorial polls.
Dickson also expressed optimism over the victory of the party, assuring those embittered by the outcome of the primary election that their interests can only be better protected in the PDP than elsewhere.
He noted that the people of Bayelsa would not make the mistake of ceding their state to the APC to use its land for rural grazing.
He said, “Let me say that reconciliation and persuasion are the core of the political service. Politics is about reconciling and managing conflicting interests, ambitions and perspectives, and sometimes, even reconciling clash of egos
“The way we are in this state, everyone knows that Bayelsa is a PDP stronghold. In the last National Assembly and state House of Assembly elections we displayed that again. Even with the presence of security forces and abuse of security and the collation process, we won convincingly. So there is no doubt that this is a PDP stronghold.
“We have just come out of a hotly contested gubernatorial primary election, and as it is in life, there are always people who will have one or two grievances about their government, the flag-bearer, and even the running mate he nominated. All of these are normal things we must deal with at this time.
“And because we know we want to keep every PDP leader, every aspirant and every supporter in the PDP family, we have set up this committee. That’s the only way we can remain strong and big and maintain our position as the foremost election winning party in this part of our country.
“This is a committee of very respectable elders and leaders known across the state and even beyond, who will undertake a special assignment at this very important period, the responsibility of reconciling and bringing to the fold, those who have grievances, including those who feel maybe they should try some other pastures, which certainly we know are not greener.
“We don’t want any well-meaning PDP leader to leave because this state has no room for the APC to use it for Ruga. This land is completely PDP, and so, our leaders have been assembled to do what they have the experience in doing, promoting reconciliation and peace,” he said.