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Bayelsa guber poll: The politics, strategies and power play

With the release of the timetable for the conduct of the governorship election in Bayelsa State by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), politicians and…

With the release of the timetable for the conduct of the governorship election in Bayelsa State by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), politicians and power brokers in the state have started to strategize over who will possibly succeed Governor Seriake Dickson on February 14, 2020.

Already, most political heavyweights in the state have indicated interest for the governorship seat, and top among them are former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Timi Alaibe, Arch. Reuben Okoya, an oil magnet, Mr. Keneibi Okoko, and a sitting three-term Senator, Emmanuel Paulker.

Others includes former deputy governor, Peremobowei Ebebi, Stephen Ereboh, Bekes Etifa, a former militant leader, Joshua Mciver, Ambassador Godknows Igali and former Governor Timipre Sylva, who may likely fly the flag of the All Progressives Congress (APC) during the governorship election.

For Governor Seriake Dickson, who is strategizing to hand over the mantle of leadership to a worthy successor, he has three known ‘foes’ to fight. The first hurdle would be to choose from among his close political allies such as Senator Paulker, Alaibe, Igali and Barrister Kemela Okara, who is presently the Secretary to the State government.

Another thorny battle the governor will have to confront is the political influence of former President Goodluck Jonathan, who is also a son of the state. In 2012, it was believed that former President Jonathan singlehandedly installed Governor Dickson, and as the governor is rounding off his tenure, Jonathan’s loyalists believe that the former president must again put forward the next governor of the state.

During the national and state assemblies primaries in the state last November, there was internal wrangling in the PDP, where some factions accused the governor of hijacking the entire exercise and installed his allies as candidates of the party, a situation many believe led to the defeat of PDP in Bayelsa East Senatorial District and two out of five House of Representatives seats in the state.

On the side of the opposition, Governor Dickson will contend with the political influence and popularity of former Governor Sylva, who is consolidating on the achievement his party (the APC), recorded nationwide during the 2019 general election.

If Sylva picks the APC governorship ticket, he will be a strong candidate to contend with. Besides, APC has grown significantly in the state and may benefit from the so called “federal might.” It is believed Sylva still enjoys the support of Bayelsans because of his closeness with the grassroots people.

Governor Dickson, however, can never be a pushed over, especially concerning his role in determining who emerges as the candidate of the PDP and eventually the next governor of the state. Dickson, being the only governor that will successfully rule Bayelsa for two terms since the inception of democracy in 1999, is said to understand the politics of the state very well and can always manipulate his ways.

He fought the most difficult political battle of his life in 2015, when he wrestled with the ruling party at the centre, APC, to retain his seat as the governor, a feat believed could also work in installing his successor from the PDP to extend the party’s firm grip in the South South region.

Governor Dickson, while addressing members of the State Working Committee of the PDP during their meeting in Yenagoa recently, called on its leaders and members to eschew acts of violence and disunity within their ranks ahead of the governorship election in order to ensure that the party retains power in the state.

According to him, there is no need for politicians to kill or maim themselves just because of governorship election, adding that the forthcoming election in the state will not be a battle with the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) alone but with the federal might as represented in federal institutions, even more than what happened during the 2015 governorship election in the state.

He said: “Going by the experience of the 2015 governorship election as well as the recently concluded general elections, November’s election would be a greater challenge and as such, all hands must be on deck.”

He however commended the state executive and other party leaders and members of the party for their hard work and dedication which, he said, gave PDP victory in the last election as he urged them to be steadfast towards the next poll.

He said his administration has brought about stability in the polity, noting that the political culture now differs from the past when disagreements and disunity reigned between the governor and deputy, incessant impeachment in the state House of Assembly and intra-party feuds leading to instability, which is the reason the people of the state should support PDP to produce the next governor.

However, one serious issue that may stand against the chances of the APC during the Bayelsa governorship election is the alleged interference of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi, because at the moment, some APC faithful are of the opinion that Sylva should give way for a younger person to clinch the party’s ticket.

Though Ameachi is from neighbouring Rivers State, but his position in the South South APC could influence the choice of the party’s governorship candidate in Bayelsa State. The fear is that if such thing happens, the party may not be formidable to confront the ruling PDP in the state, like the way they did during the general election early in the year.

With a combined force comprising of the Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri; the acting Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Nelson Brambaifa, and other strong contenders in the party, it is believed that APC would improve on its performance in the election.

Governor Dickson, who is planning to return to the National Assembly as a Senator, is plotting to install his erstwhile Commissioner for Works, Mr. Lawrence Ehrwujakpor, who is the Senator-elect for Bayelsa West Senatorial District, as a running mate to whoever PDP will pick as the candidate, so that when they win the governorship election, the governor will benefit from a bye-election after his tenure as the governor.

Another politician in the state who may spring surprises during the PDP primary and the governorship election is Senator Paulker. He is a close political ally to former President Jonathan and also played pivotal role in the emergence of Governor Dickson in 2012.

He contested the 2015 PDP governorship primary but was disqualified before the exercise, the reason being that some APC chieftains attended his thanksgiving service some weeks to the primary.

The lawmaker was not deterred or abandoned the party; he remained faithful and loyal to PDP, and helped in building a strong and vibrant party. He contributed immensely to the success of Governor Dickson who eventually won the party’s ticket and returned as the governor in 2015.

Paulker has built grassroots support across Bayelsa State, as most political groups have already started mobilizing for him.

 

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