The titanic race for the Creek Haven, the Bayelsa State Government House in Yenagoa, the state capital, is on the front burner of the swampy state criss-crossed by a network of oil pipelines. All the contending political forces, some of them marginal, do not appear to be leaving anything to chance.
The governorship race promises to be a bi-polar war between the dominant Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the invading All Progressives Congress (APC). Apart from these two parties, no other one in the state has any significance to cause a miraculous upset in the battle for the Creek Haven.
While the APC, President Muhammadu Buhari’s party, is likely to settle for former Governor Timpre Sylva as usual, the PDP is likely to suffer from internal bleeding if former President Goodluck Jonathan and other party leaders in the state, fail to get the plural gubernatorial aspirants to commit to the victory of the party.
Possibly, Sylva may be rattled a bit by Senator Heineken Lokopoibiri, who might play the spoiler to warm his way to Abuja again. The duo have the capacity for a gunboat politics. The peoples of Bayelsa know them better, and they know who will serve their interest better from the crowd of power seekers.
As a candidate of the PDP, the party that made him, Sylva won the governorship election on May 29, 2007 and succeeded Jonathan who was picked by former President Olusegun Obasanjo for the position of Vice President. During his inauguration he said that Bayelsa was ‘’the least developed industrially and commercially’’ of all 36 states of the twisted Nigerian federation.
Sylva was born in Brass, on July 7, 1964 and was educated there and in Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria. He was a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly in the 1990s before Bayelsa was created out of Rivers by the military dictatorship of the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha in 1996.
In spite of his intimidating political profile, Governor Seriake Dickson says Sylva’s APC lacks the capacity to win any election in Bayelsa.
Former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi Alaibe, a seeming serial defector and veteran governorship aspirant, is poised to take the state by storm if he gets the ticket of the PDP.
Also in the trench fighting for the same ticket are a former federal Permanent Secretary Godknows Igali, Reuben Okoya, the current SSG, Kemela Okara, a lawyer and the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governorship candidate in 2012 who is also the Chairman, of the state Board of Internal Revenue, Nimibofa Ayawei.
The immediate past Director-General, Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission, Franklin Osaisai, an oil magnate, Keniebi Okoko, a former PDP State Chairman, Deacon James Dugo, Great Joshua Maciver, a retired Permanent Secretary, ex-Director of Protocol and currently Chairman of the state Land Use Allocation Committee, Joseph Akedesuo, are equally in the race for the N20 million nomination form.
If the party is to settle for an aspirant with some clout to attract foreign investment to rapidly reposition Bayelsa for a post-oil epoch, Igali should be the PDP candidate. He is a top diplomat, a technocrat with a vast wealth of experience in government at both the state, national and international levels. But, if the failed craze for loyalty should be Dickson’s primary consideration for who succeeds him, he will have to navigate the party in favour of either the SSG, or either of the chairs of the internal revenue board or the land use panel.
But, if the recruitment process is not schemed in favour of any aspirant, Alaibe could emerge the standard bearer of the PDP given his links to the active social forces in Ijaw. While holding sway at the NDDC, Alaibe championed and promoted Ijaw interest. He played a greater role in the human capital development of the Ijaw people. Although like most politicians he may not be a saint, it can also be argued he has electoral value far above some of the former ministers of President Buhari.
Meanwhile, Governor Dickson at a meeting with members of the State Executive Committee of the PDP in Yenagoa had said that the planned boycott of the forthcoming local government election by some political parties particularly the APC was a demonstration of their inability to win elections in the state.
While maintaining that the election will hold on August 10, as scheduled by the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC), the governor acknowledged the APC’s right to boycott the election, but underlined that the party lacked the popularity and the capacity to challenge the PDP under his leadership in a free and fair election devoid of federal intervention.
Claiming that the APC was in no position to contest the upcoming governorship election if it could not demonstrate its strenght in the council election, Dickson said PDP will embark on robust campaigns across the state, and expressed confidence that all the local government councillorship and chairmanship candidates will emerge victorious.
According to Governor Dickson, ‘’I understand that some parties are boycotting the council election especially the APC but that’s their own right. But we expected them to show their strength in this state in an election that does not have much to do with federal might. We thought they would take advantage of this election to show their real strenght on ground but unfortunately they chickened out. The party that is now running away even from council election, let’s see the fire they have in their stomachs.
‘’I urge all our party leaders and members to resist the temptation both within and mostly from outside the state where people want to interfere. Our party has always built a party of inclusion to weather all the storms that we have seen in the politics of this state and in our country’’, and emphasized that the PDP will not be distracted in view of the antics of some mischief makers to undermine it.
He called on party leaders and members to always protect the overall interest of the PDP and the state in all their dealings: ‘’Leaders and members of our party should reflect deeply on the consequences of what we do, say and the kind of politics we play bearing in mind the overall interest of the party, the state and Ijaw nation.
‘’I urge party members to follow developments closely ahead of the elections. I have done my best in the past seven years. You all should be prepared to make your input too. I appreciate our party stakeholders on the implementation of the 30% affirmative action for women representation at the local government level. Those who stepped down for them will be accommodated.’’
PDP Chairman, Moses Cleopas, in his remarks said the party remains indivisible and focused, pointing out that the sale of the nomination forms for the governorship election has commenced.
At the meeting where the party ratified the results of the local government congresses to be forwarded to SIEC for the council polls, Victor Sam- Ateki from Ward 1, Brass Local Government Area was also nominated as Deputy Chairman of the party in line with the party’s constitution following the resignation of the former occupant of the position.
Among some of the prominent party leaders at the meeting are the federal legislator representing Sagbama/Ekeremor Constituency in the House of Representatives, Fred Agbedi, Chairman of the PDP Elders Committee and member of the Board of Trustees, Larry Koinyan, a retired Air Vice Marshall, former Speaker and PDP South-South Zonal Secretary, Boyelayefa Debekeme, and the incumbent Speaker of the state Assembly, Tonye Isenah.