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Twenty candidates are vying to occupy the Creek Haven, Bayelsa State Government House as contained on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) list.
However, the events of the last one month has shown that the governorship election holding this Saturday is a two horse race between the incumbent Governor Seriake Dickson of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP and Chief Timipre Sylva, a former governor of the state and candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
It is believed that the rest of the candidates are mere contenders.
The fact is that Only one candidate would triumph at the end of the poll which has a total of 663,639 registered voters, about 52,000 higher than those who registered to vote in the last general election following the continuous voter registration exercise recently conducted by INEC.
Jonathan’s political future
ToMORROW’s poll is going to be keenly contested as it will also decide the political future and relevance of former President Goodluck Jonathan not only in his State of origin, Bayelsa but also in the political equation of the country. It is an election many analysts are convinced that the power of incumbency may not count, due to the overwhelming power of the central government.
Jonathan’s political survival, according to observers of unfolding event in the state, will be dependent on the success of his political god son.
Many have argued that in spite of his eight years in the Presidency, the state and his Ogbia kingdom did not benefit from him except for some of his close associates.
Jonathan’s Ogbia kinsmen known for their bloc vote in every election are presently divided due to what some of them described as the neglect of his home front. “Many now see the election as a payback time not because of Dickson as an individual but because they are angry that the President neglected the state and the Ogbia kingdom.”
To an average PDP supporter in the state, it is unthinkable the thought of defeat of PDP in the governorship poll. Anything contrary, may spell doom for the status and personality of former President Jonathan.
“Another defeat at the home front will literally signal the end of his domination in the political affairs of the state,” said a concerned Bayelsan who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Since the tail end of 2005 when he became the governor of Bayelsa by a twist of fate, Jonathan has since then held sway as a major power broker in the state.
Considering his disposition to things of life, Jonathan may not attach much importance to the outcome of the poll and continue with his life but the political precedent it will create is definitely going to cause chain reaction.
Some political analysts think the incumbent governor of Bayelsa State is the favourite to clinch the poll in spite of the strong showings of the APC candidate, Chief Timipre Sylva. The Toru-Orua born Dickson, a former policeman/lawyer turned politician could best be described as a grassroots man having served as one-time Legal Adviser of the apex Ijaw socio-cultural organisation, the Ijaw National Congress, INC, a position that has helped shaped his thinking and placed him in plum position to champion Ijaw consciousness. Today, the state can boast of its own emblem and insignia like Lagos and Osun among others.
His recent community to community meet the people campaign which took him to all the nooks and crannies of the state has further endeared him to the rural people who constitute the bulk of the voting population.
Dickson, during the campaign tour, sometimes passed the night in these communities. The rural folks saw in him a man they could trust for simply identifying with them during his nearly one month tour as well as having a project to show in most communities visited. But his detractors believe that for almost four years, he has never visited these communities, only to visit the down trodden because he now needs their votes.
Immediately Dickson was sworn in as Governor in 2012 he swung into action with construction work everywhere and by his initial development strides he became a folk hero among the populace and one of his aides nicknamed him the “countryman Governor”.
He claimed to have changed the face of development in the state with infrastructure development in education and roads. But critics of his administration have decried his stringent fiscal policy which according to them has engendered poverty in the land. The argument of his traducers not withstanding, Dickson has repeatedly said his projects will speak for him.
Sylva: Sylva, a former governor and candidate of the All Progressive Congress APC is banking on his popularity among the youths and what he described as his achievements when he held sway from 2007- 2012. The APC candidate has never failed to cite his triple E policy of engagement, empowerment and enforcement which according to him helped restore peace in the state during the hey days of militancy in the Niger Delta.
He also continued with some of the projects inherited like the Tower Hotel which he took from the first floor to the 18th floor where it has remained till date.
He also completed the Isaac Boro Park, which he inherited, he started and completed the Koki Diette Memorial Hospital at Opolo and constructed several internal roads most of which are impassable today due to structural defects and lack of maintenance.
But the sore point of administration was the excesses of the state owned security outfit, Operation Famou Tangbe accused of abuse of human rights and alleged extra judicial killings.
Yenagoa: Yenagoa LGA, which host the state capital has the highest number of registered voters for the poll. Here the PDP and APC can boast of quality and dependable strategists. The victorious party in the council area will most likely be that whose foot soldiers are able to march out more registered voters. The council area has a large mix of non-indigenes who operate private businesses. The non-indigenes may not be moved by the sentiments of patronage that is counting for Sylva.
Interestingly, Yenagoa is made up of several communities where the chiefs and political leaders to a large extent determine the voting pattern in the area in every election.
The senator representing the Central Senatorial District, Emmanuel Paulker of the PDP is from the council area. Though Paulker was known to be at loggerhead with the incumbent governor, a development that led to most of his supporters to defect to the APC, it was however gathered that the former President, who is a cousin to the senator had secretly brokered peace between them (Paulker and Dickson) to ward off the looming threat from the APC.
The PDP also boasts of young grassroots’ elements such as the state commissioner for information and orientation, Barrister Esueme Dan-Kikile, who incidentally has remained a committed party member since 1999. He was a one time Youth Leader and the state Publicity Secretary of the party. He is widely loved by his Atissai kinsmen especially the youths due his generosity and unassuming lifestyle. There is also Sobre Appah, from the Atisaai stock, fondly called the ‘godfather or Adedibu of Yenagoa’ due to his vast experience as a grassroots mobiliser. Barrister Osom Makbere, the PDP Publicity Secretary from the Epie axis of Yenagoa is another influential voice in his area who many of the youths love and look up to as their role model. The PDP also has Hon Bob Mcmannuel of the State House of Assembly and several other political aides of the state governor who have been mandated to deliver their respective units.
The APC on the other hand has former Speaker and Acting Governor, Werinipre Seibarugu to swing the votes in the Ekpetiama axis of Yenagoa in favour of the APC.
There is also, Chief Diekive Ikiogha, a former Chief of Staff, Government House who played a major role in the emergence of Dickson as governor of the state before they fell apart. Ikiogha has the resources to swing the votes in his Kpansia area in favour of the APC. There also Chief Godsknow Powell who can help divide the Agudama-Epie votes in the direction of the APC.
Kolokuma-Opokuma LGA – 39, 748 votes: Kolokuma-Opokuma LGA is the smallest council area in the central senatorial district and the state. In spite of its small size and population, the area boasts of some political bigwigs such as former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Mr. Timi Alaibe of the APC.
His appearance at the APC mega rally last Tuesday and the underground politicking of many other APC faithful in the area may swing the vote in the direction of the party. There is also Indutimi Komonibo, a former commissioner for science and technology and manpower development who resigned his appointment to pitch tent with the APC.
But the PDP on its part is confident that the projects executed by the governor like the new Boro town, burial of the remains of late Major Isaac Adaka Boro at the Heroes Park in Yenagoa after it was exhumed from the Ikoyi cemetery in Lagos, 34years after his death, the Youth Development Centre and the Sports Academy at Asoama and the NYSC Permanent Orientation Camp among others would swing the votes in its favour in the area regarded as the cradle of Ijaw and Niger Delta struggle.
The party also has dependable politicians like the member representing Yenagoa-Kolokuma-Opokuma Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Douye Diri, the council chairman, Gbaranbiri Iselema and Hon Tonye Isenah of the State House of Assembly to count on.
Bayelsa West – 171,016 registered voters: The west senatorial district of the state which is made up Ekeremor and Sagbama council areas is the senatorial district of the incumbent governor, Dickson and the Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri.
Ekeremor LGA – 83,774 Registered Voters: Ekeremor LGA which has 83,774 registered voters is another area that is prone to election violence. It is not surprising given that the area has an array of political juggernauts with Senator Lokpobiri among the most prominent.
Lokpobiri, a dogged fighter was the pioneer Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly who is
expected to lead other APC chieftains to outwit the likes of PDP stalwarts including the Director-General of the Restoration Campaign Organisation of Governor Dickson, Hon. Fred Agbedi who is the current member representing Sagbama-Ekeremor federal constituency in the House of Representatives.
Agbedi will also be assisted by the likes of Hon. Peremobowei Ebebi, a Prince of Aleibiri kingdom and former Deputy Governor of the State and former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Boyelayefa Debekeme.
Influence in the council
Dr. Rachael Dickson, the wife of the governor, is also from the council area. They are expected to act as check on Lokpobiri’s influence in the council area and split the votes.
Sagbama LGA – 87,242 votes: This is the home council of the state Governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson and it has 87,242 votes for grabs making it the third highest populated local government area in the state. It was the council area where the rival APC flagged off its governorship campaign, an event that attracted a huge crowd of supporters.
Political observers have argued that the struggle to secure appreciable votes is dependent on the hard work of the APC stalwarts in the council.
Dickson will be assisted by most of his retinue of aides from the council area including the three members of the State House of Assembly and the Deputy Chief of Staff. Also in the governor’s camp is the Senator representing Bayelsa West Senatorial district, Senator Foster Ogola and Chief Ayakeme Whisky another formidable grassroots politician.
On the other hand, the APC has in its fold the former Speaker and Acting Governor, Nestor Binabo, the former Chairman of the council and member of the APC Board of Trustee, Perez Peretu, former Secretary to the State Government, Ambassador Felix Oboro, an experienced grassroots politician, former member representing Sagbama-Ekeremor federal constituency Dr. Stella Dorgu and others.
BAYELSA EAST Nembe/Brass/Ogbia: The three councils in the Bayelsa East Senatorial district with a voting population of 192,271 have formidable gladiators including the state’s Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah (rtd) and the APC flag bearer, Chief Timipre Sylva. Former President Goodluck Jonathan is also from the senatorial district.
John Jonah will be assisted by the likes of former Senator Barigha Nimi-Amange, a master strategist and grassroots politician from Nembe, James Jephthah (Nembe), Senator. Ben Murray Bruce (Brass), the Acting Chairman of the PDP Serena Dokubo- Spiff, the Director of Media and Publicity of Dickson’s campaign team, Hon. Jonathan Obuebite and Sylva’s former campaign field marshal, Chief George Fente. There is also Senator Inatimi Rufus-Spiff and Bemo Spiff.
The APC candidate, Timipre Sylva also has a formidable team including the only APC member in the State Assembly, Hon. Sunny Igoli and the Deputy Director General of his campaign team, Lionel Jonathan-Omo. The party is however banking on the fact that since its candidate Sylva is from Okpoama on the Brass island the people would rally together to vote for him as a son of the area.