Emmanuel Addeh ponders the attempt by Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State to control all levers of power will impact on the fortunes of the Peoples Democratic Party in the November 16 governorship election in the state. Once he was asked where he draws his physical strength from, which some of his aides complain overstretches them during activities involving field work, Dickson who he is a teetotaller and doesn’t smoke, jokingly told reporters that he does the ‘kind of things, you people do aside smoking and drinking.’
He exudes the confidence of a lion, king of the jungle and talks like a man truly in charge of goings-on around him. The Toru-Orua, Sagbama-born politician seems not moved by what scares others, at least, in the eye of the public.
Bayelsa literally lives on top of water, being about 70 percent sea, rivers, lakes and other water bodies. It is no surprise then that the former policeman chose Ofurumapepe (Ijaw for the ‘the great white shark’, which weathers the most difficult tempests in the oceans) as his political nick name.
But even the lion, which royally traverses the wild, sometimes encounters challenges, its greatest threat being the hyena. And the great white shark, which rules in the waters, encounters the killer whale, its most potent enemy.
Dickson’s name will not be on the ballot in about three weeks from now, when the voters in the state troop out to elect who will govern them in the succeeding four years. But he’s facing the next biggest task and perhaps, the most daunting since 2015 when he won re-election for a second term. That huge mountain is to determine who succeeds him and to take firm control of the politics of Bayelsa.
His biggest impediment, however, to achieving what is regarded as the Jagaban phenomenon, an easy reference to former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, who maintains an unyielding grip on Lagos politics since 1999, may not be the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) which has suddenly found its groove, but centrifugal forces from within his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Easily the highest ranking Ijaw politician today, Dickson has, by some of his decisions in the build-up to the November 16 governorship election, made enemies from his own party and unwittingly alienated others who are pissed by his rumoured push to control all the levers of power in Bayelsa.
From former President Goodluck Jonathan to ex-Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Managing Director, Timi Alaibe; from some of his aides who have already defected to the opposition, to seek greener pastures, given the governor’s purported statement that nobody will make millions in his government, interpreted, rightly or wrongly to mean impoverishment, quite a number, genuinely or not, feel disgruntled.
For one, Jonathan has refused to appear in any of the PDP candidate, Senator Douye Diri’s campaign trail, ostensibly bolstering insinuation that he has not ‘forgiven’ those who have seemingly kept him in the cooler concerning political decisions in the state.
Not known to have come from the ‘get it at all cost’ political leaning, Jonathan has chosen to stay away from any activity leading up to the November 16 election, fuelling speculation that the Senator Bukola Saraki reconciliation panel set up to assuage aggrieved individuals and groups within the PDP may have hit a brick wall.
Jonathan’s action was not totally unexpected. It was one talking point in the build-up to the party primary. The question that agitated many mind was whether the former President could sort out his differences with Dickson and the leadership of the party.
During last March’s National Assembly elections, it was the same standoffish attitude of the former president which many think led to the APC gaining major ground in Bayelsa East, comprising Brass, Nembe, Ogbia, where they won a senatorial seat, a House of Representatives position and a couple of state assembly seats.
He also reportedly bluntly refused to use his contacts in the military to cause the young officers deployed in the three local governments to halt the muzzling and harassment of voters by the security agencies in the last poll in Bayelsa East.
Though series of meetings were held between him and Governor Dickson as a precursor to the primary, negotiations appeared to have broken down irretrievably when they could not agree on the decision to back a single candidate, making both support different aspirants at the time.
In the end, Diri, the governor’s former Deputy Chief of Staff and Secretary won the poll, while Alaibe came second and Keniebi Okoko, a businessman came third.
For Alaibe, who is currently in court to quash the primary that produced Diri, his major grouse is that the process that led to his (Diri’s) emergence was not transparent. He believes that some of the delegates, especially the ad-hoc ones, were not qualified to vote at the primary.
According to him, the eight local government chairmen and 105 local government councillors did not satisfy the statutory length of time after their election to qualify as delegates.
Reports also indicate that Alaibe who has variously been accused by his supporters of giving up his political fights too easily is now determined to pursue his case to a logical conclusion this time and thereby making Saraki’s job even harder.
Presenting a very popular candidate, it is believed, would have made Dickson’s ambition of being the go-to power broker in Bayelsa a lot easier. His choice and support for Diri did not elicit excitement when it was announced.
But the governor has said it several times that the ‘Ijaw Cause’ which he says is very dear to him remains one of the reasons he’s backing Diri, who hails from Kolokuma/Opokuma, the smallest local government in the state.
The governor also has going for him, his firm grip on the structure of government. In the last two weeks , he has appointed at least 100 additional aides, including Commissioners, Special Advisers, Rural Development Authorities Chairmen among others.
But with all the odds, not excluding the main opposition APC and its drive to claim the oil-rich state, Dickson radiates a rare kind of confidence or what his detractors routinely term overconfidence.
He blurts that he has seen even worse times. He takes the defection reports with a pinch of salt. The governor adds that by the same time in 2015 when he won re-election, more persons had already dumped the party, yet he emerged victorious.
Dickson opines that the purported members of the PDP who defected to the APC are outsiders to the party, concluding that the defectors are elements within the party who were engrossed in sabotage against the party.
He said that most of the defectors who formed an opposition group within the PDP actually supported the Action Democratic Congress (ADC) in the last election while the rest refused to work for the party.
The governor in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Fidelis Soriwei, reiterated his position that the defections which he described as infinitesimal would not have any detrimental effect on the electoral fortunes of the PDP in the next governorship election in the state as shown by the general acceptability of the party.
According to him, the very few members of the ‘Restoration Team’ who left the party are still in touch with the government.
“I can say confidently that 90 percent of the defectors are outsiders to the PDP. They have not been at the core of the PDP affairs in the state and most of them were the ones doing anti-party, the household of the opposition group within the party.
“A number of them supported the ADC in the last election while others have been on the fence. The good people of Bayelsa should note that these purported defections cannot affect the core of what we do in the PDP.
“Only very few people who were part of the PDP have defected and they are still in touch with the leadership of the party because we are open for discussion, we are still reaching out to them.”
Agreeing with Dickson, the Bayelsa State Chairman of the PDP, Chief Moses Cleopas, said that the party was not under any threat from the opposition APC as a result of a few politicians who defected to the opposition.
The PDP State Chairman said that all those who defected were those who were readmitted into the party with the former Managing Director of the NDDC, Chief Alaibe, in November last year.
He said that Bayelsans and Nigerians would readily observe that only a few passive members of the party and opposition politicians mobilised by Alaibe for the purpose of his election defected from the party.
According to him, the supporters of Alaibe whose original motive was to support him under the platform of the ADC and who were readmitted with him into the PDP in November are the ones leaving for their party.
He listed the politicians as Chief Peremobowei Ebebi, Prof Seiyefa Brisibe, who was Alaibe’s Campaign Director General, now alternate DG in APC, Chief Nimi Amange, APC Senatorial Candidate, Hon. Enegesi, Mike Ogiasa, Beinmo Spiff, and Hon. Tiwei, Orunimighe, a former State Chairman of the APC who came with Alaibe.
“The good people of Bayelsa State should ignore the orchestrated report of defections in the PDP. The fact is that Chief Timi Alaibe mobilised some passive members of the party and opposition elements to pursue his gubernatorial agenda. These are the people who are defecting.
“Alaibe’s supporters whose original objective was to support him on the platform of the ADC came to fight within the party and are the purported party leaders who are leaving. They all came with him from the APC in November.
“The PDP is stronger, more united and vibrant and as far as we are concerned, victory is a certainty in this election”.
The political atmosphere remains uncertain, with no clear prediction where the pendulum will swing, but one thing is sure, if Governor Dickson succeeds in this vaulting task, then for a long time, he will remain the political leader of not just Bayelsa, but the Ijaw people.