Lessons From Bayelsa
Those who used to doubt that there is an element of warfare in all politics should now have a rethink after what transpired in Bayelsa and Kogi states on November 16. These were elections that Warsaw really saw war. The All Progress Congress, APC, employing the age long principle of fair is foul and foul is fair grabbed the two states in a crude commando style to make up for its loses in Rivers, Zamfara, Bauchi and Oyo states. This time all the APC platoon commanders refused to run amok with locally made AK47 riffles, rather it entered town with the full compliments of armoured tanks and RPGs. The alleged enemy combatant, PDP, is left to lick its wounds though grudgingly.
The PDP’s loss in Lokoja can be excused because it was the opposition party there but its displacement from the Creek Haven is a lesson in political chivalry and a potential case study for all students of contemporary Nigerian politics. The tsunamic defeat after more than 20 years of the PDP in charge of the Creek Haven has opened a new vista in political brinkmanship and loyalty. It has shown that no man can do it alone in politics especially in a democracy where power actually resides with the people.
The ‘king kong’ of Yenagoa; Gov Seriake Dickson thought he could do it all alone. He reneged on an agreed pact with former President Goodluck Jonathan and the elders of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Bayelsa on the choice of a successor. Rumour has it that there was an agreement to make Ndutimi Alaibe, the candidate of the PDP for the election. Alaibe’s choice is alleged to have been propped up because of expected militarisation of the election by the APC and the need for a man who can balance the equation.
Alaibe, having been in the NDDC has had close contact with militants during the post amnesty era. His choice was therefore well received and very popular with the people of Bayelsa especially as it had the blessings of the former president who is regarded as a hero of democracy in the country.
He was presented to the stakeholders who eventually adopted him but waited for confirmation during the PDP governorship primary. Dickson drew the ire of the people when he pulled out unceremoniously from the consensus accord and fronted Senator Diri his cousin to open another front in the battle for the soul of PDP in the state.
The battle for the soul of PDP in Bayelsa State began about two years ago. It was fought at the state house of assembly and heightened during the 2019 national assembly election in the state. Dickson is said to have taken unilateral decisions on some issues. He is accused of not consulting stakeholders — not even his own deputy – and of disrespecting the party’s elders in the state. His style of leadership is said to have led to a break down in the relationship with ex-militant leaders who wield strong influence in the state.
He was accused of foisting Diri’s deputy, Lawrence Ewruojakpor, on the party over his alleged senatorial ambition. Ewruojakar, a senator, was said to be his trump card to the senate — if Diri had won the election. Dickson’s insistence on having Ewruojakpor on the ticket led to a gale of defections of party members to the APC from the PDP ahead of the election. Also, many of Dickson’s aides resigned a few weeks to the exercise.
The PDP camp was divided, which the APC capitalized on and inflicted a painful defeat on the party. The governor was also alleged to have disparaged Bayelsa east — Jonathan’s zone (Ogbia, Nembe and Brass) — as non-core” Ijaw people and traitors”.
The former president’s allies were said to have moved to the APC, though he did not campaign for the APC candidate out of respect for Dickson. But his wife, Patience, who is said to be Lyon’s god-mother, showed her support unabbreviated. To Dickson, zoning was not in his dictionary.
Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers State, was also said to have backed Jonathan in his tacit support for Lyon.
The APC defeated the PDP in Ogbia, Jonathan’s local government area, polling more than 40,000 votes.
The influence of the federal government is also believed to have played a role in the victory of the APC in the oil-rich state.
In the 2019 general election, the APC waxed stronger, pulling a relatively impressive performance in Bayelsa. The party polled over 35percent of votes in the state. It also won a senatorial seat, two seats at the House of Representatives and four seats in the state House of Assembly. The senatorial seat was Jonathan’s senatorial district which is alleged to have been orchestrated by Dickson to spite him.
With more resources, contacts and strength to pull the strings, the APC was in a good stead to clinch victory. Despite the legal spanners thrown into the works, the party pulled through.
And with Timipre Sylva, a former governor of the state and minister of state for petroleum resources, the APC was battle-ready for victory.
The APC candidate hails from Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, which commands the highest voting strength in the state; hence, it was plain sailing for Lyon. The results of the election showed that the highest number of votes was from Southern Ijaw — and most of them for Lyon. The APC polled 124, 803 votes in the area, while PDP had just 4, 898 votes.
Also, the influence of ex-militant leaders opposed to Dickson was to have counted against the PDP in Southern Ijaw and Nembe. And the governor without control of the police and army could not go up against the threat from these areas.
Moreover, Dickson apart from presenting the wrong horse from the wrong zone is alleged not to have released enough money for the election, claiming that he has done enough development projects for his people to warrant political compensation from them. This counted against him and the PDP.
Bayelsa operates an off-cycle vote owing to a legal tussle in 2008 which altered the electoral calendar. The APC assembled its Armada for Bayelsa in the bid to deracinate the PDP. All attention was fixed on the state as most of the APC big wigs in the country relocated to Bayelsa. This was a morale booster to the already charged political atmosphere. The impact of this was catastrophic to the already divided PDP.
In all these, the survival of PDP in the election was a time bomb only waiting for an announcement. This is a big lesson to the PDP family in the country though the 2023 general election is still years ahead. It is a big lesson.