The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has fixed the governorship primaries in Bayelsa and Kogi states on September 3, 2019 ahead of the November 16 election in the states. Loyalists of ex-president Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Seriake Dickson have devised several means to ensure that either family produces the candidate of the party and by extension, the next governor of the state.
Before 2012, Dickson was a member of the larger Jonathan’s political family, but now as governor, his loyalists believe that its time he builds his own political family. That could be feasible if he installs the next governor, thereby opening another cool war between the governor and his estranged political godfather.
It was under Jonathan as governor of Bayelsa that Dickson was appointed Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General, his first major appointment in the public service, before he became a member of the House of Representatives, and later the highest beneficiary of the Jonathan/Sylva misunderstanding in 2012 by becoming governor.
While Jonathan and wife, Patience, are said to have lined up loyalists to pick one as the anointed candidate to succeed Dickson whose tenure elapses on February 14, 2020, Dickson’s political family, which is at the moment the strongest in the state, believes that those put forward by Jonathan are not committed party men.
They accuse them as those who ran from the party during the 2015 governorship election, while some of them played against the party’s interests in Bayelsa East senatorial district during 2019 election which made the PDP to lose the district and a few other federal constituencies.
Though, in the PDP, there is silence at the moment on who becomes the candidate, many people are working to ensure that Jonathan and his political family’s plans do not see the light of day.
Dickson had over the past seven years built his own political family popularly called the “Restoration Team” with the belief that at the expiration of his tenure, key government officials will come from the team. Already, the team has produced two of three senators in the state, three of five House of Representatives members and 19 of 24 members in the state assembly.
Some PDP stakeholders in the state are of the opinion that the onerous task of getting Dickson’s successor should not only be left to key political figures who might have indulged in anti-party activities to undermine the parties leadership in the past, especially with the fact that Jonathan lost his senatorial district and a federal constituency in the zone to the APC.
During the last general election, some touchy issues which had been left to linger put a question mark on the purported allegiance of some members and leaders of the party, especially in Bayelsa East Senatorial District.
A PDP chieftain told Daily Trust that he expects Jonathan and Dickson to join forces to crack the hard riddle of succession in the state with ease in order for the PDP to maintain a firm grip of the state.
Already, the leadership of the PDP is said to be irked by the alleged actions of known associates of the former president during the last general election who sabotaged the party and backed candidates of the opposition APC and the Action Democratic Alliance to win Bayelsa East Senatorial District, as well as Southern Ijaw and Brass/Nembe federal constituencies.
As the party prepares to retain the governorship seat, Dickson will once again put forward some of his strategies and front people from the Restoration Team to hold onto the governorship position. For now, the Restoration Team is the strongest political group in the state.
Recently, the Moses Cleopas-led PDP set up a panel to investigate the conducts of party leaders and members during the election with a view to taking disciplinary measures against anti party activities. Unfortunately, the report of that panel is still being awaited as the party was not willing to disrupt its internal cohesion by punishing allies of the former president.
There is the prevalent belief around PDP circles that Jonathan’s lack of firmness and decisiveness when important issues arise in the party is at the root cause of the disintegration of his political movement, ‘The Green Movement’, which he formed to front for his associate as governor.
Also, the seemingly overbearing influence of Jonathan’s wife, Patience, has not helped his popularity with the political crowd and its leaders.
Very few Bayelsans, including those that are apolitical, would jump at the idea of Bayelsa being run by a man who would hand over the state to the controlling influence of the former first lady. Many Bayelsans are against the idea of Jonathan’s anointed candidate, Reuben Okoya, because of his closeness to the former first lady.
Governor Seriake Dickson, while addressing party leaders recently, promised to embark on extensive consultations with key stakeholders including Jonathan towards ensuring a peaceful and hitch-free party primary.
He stressed that anyone who should qualify to fly the PDP flag must have the requisite qualities of courage, commitment, vision and grits to protect the interests of the state and Ijaw nation.
According to him, the PDP candidate should have the consciousness and capacity to play opposition politics in the country.
Dickson has already surmounted the opposition in his Bayelsa West Senatorial District with his firm grip on the political structure and could contain any threat to PDP’s victory there, but the issue of imposition may even affect the party before the main election if not addressed.
But, even as the game unfolds, one factor that may work against Jonathan and his followers is his perceived reputation to turn against his political associates. Keen observers of the Bayelsa political firmament say that Jonathan’s political family is on the fast lane of collapse and extinction because of perceived selfishness and ingratitude of those around him.
Apart from this concern, majority of PDP stakeholders are not inclined to queue behind a candidate thrown on the party by Jonathan, going by his recent history with the state PDP. Stakeholders are of the view that it would be repugnant to the concept of justice and fairness for some people to make the sacrifice over the years to build a solid party only to yield it to people who may not be on ground to deliver during the main election.
Curiously, some of the politicians who belong to the household of the defected and returnee aspirants such as ex-NDDC MD, Chief Timi Alaibe, and those who are not members of the Restoration Team like Amb. Godknows Igali and Reuben Okoyen may have been jolted by the position of the team and are now hanging their hope on Jonathan.
Nevertheless, the multiplicity of aspirants jostling to succeed Dickson has put the PDP and its leadership in a difficult situation. A top member of the state executive of the party lamented that a particular leader invited many of the aspirants to indicate interest in the governorship with the intent to deepen confusion ahead of the election.
Dickson and Jonathan have all kept mum at the moment on the touchy issue of PDP’s candidate for the next election. While both leaders have held closed door meetings, the outcome of such deliberations are closely guarded secrets. Certainly, the enduring silence from those perceived as the anchors for the political ambitions of these aspirants have resulted in a lull in political activities across Bayelsa State.
According to a Dickson ally who is also a member of the state executive committee of the party, the issue of who flies the party’s flag and becomes the next governor will be decided by Dickson.
Certainly, as the day draws nearer, it is the inevitable reality that no candidate of the PDP can win an election in Bayelsa without the support of the incumbent.
During a workshop organized recently by the Ijaw Elders Forum (IEF), Jonathan took time to caution those jostling to become governor not to throw the state into chaos.
He said, “We must play down violence in our politics. There is no nation all over the world that develops through violence. And the case of Bayelsa should not be different. Most of the criminal gangs that have emerged in Bayelsa grew through political activities. We politicians use them as boys and thugs, and at the end of the elections it becomes a problem to manage them.
“If God wants you to be governor, if God wants you to be local government chairman, don’t be deceived that you won election because you are violent, no. All those who want to lead us as the governorship election is coming, should play down the use of violence,” he said.