Thursday, December 3, 2015
Bayelsa Politics: How the election will be won and lost 0
SHORTLY after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released the time-table for the Bayelsa governorship election and scheduled it for this Saturday, December 5th, Governor Henry Seriake Dickson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was tipped to emerge the flag bearer of his party and the candidate to beat in the election. His chances were further boosted in September when the All Progressive Congress (APC) had a rancorous governorship primaries, a situation which made many Bayelsans believed the party was not ready to rule the state.
However between September and now, with Bayelsans preparing to file out in two days time and vote for the next governor of the state, Dickson and former governor Timipre Sylva who emerged the APC candidate in the rescheduled governorship primaries are now running neck to neck in the race for the governorship seat. The two candidates enjoy a robust campaign organisation headed by tested politicians. Hon Fred Agbedi, member representing Sagbama/ Ekeremor Federal constituency in the House of Representatives as Director- General of the Bayelsa Restoration Campaign Organisation (BYRCO) for the PDP while Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development is the Director- General of the Sylva/ Igiri Campaign Organisation (SICO).
Beyond the effective campaign organisation which has projected their candidates as the favourite, in an unprecedented campaign in a governorship election, Dickson and Sylva have traversed the length and breadth of Bayelsa state wooing voters ahead of Saturday’s governorship election . They have done it better than Moses Siloko Siasia of the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) and the remaining nine candidates. The PDP has campaigned on three major planks in its quest to neutralise the rampaging APC whose ranks continue to swell day after day . Even political appointees, and aides of Dickson have helped in nudging up APC as some have dumped the PDP for the opposition party.
The PDP has not left anything to chance . The first leg of its campaign has been the performance of its candidate and the incumbent Governor whom it has praised for the infrastructural development in the state and the enthroning of a sound security network that members insist has created the enabling environment. According to the party since the creation of Bayelsa state in 1999, no administration has performed better than Dickson in the dualization of roads, investment in education and construction of the first flyover bridge.
Former governor of Kano state and former minister of Education, Mallam Ibrahim Skekarau was to capture the performance rating of Dickson during one of the campaign trips to Kolokuma/Opokuma this way:
“It is evident that the contriman governor is well loved by his people and going by what I have seen here today, he will win the December 5 election. I believe it will just be a formality. I must thank you all for believing in your governor and standing firm behind him in his re-election bid. I want to admonish you to remain steadfast. The PDP will no doubt carry the day come December 5th. I am really impressed. This is not just a campaign, it is a carnival. It is a celebration of victory and I am so happy to experience this open show of love first hand. Of course, your governor has led well and with performance”.
The second leg of its campaign has been the branding of the PDP as an Ijaw party which gave a son of Bayelsa state in the person of Dr Goodluck Jonathan the chance of becoming the President of Nigeria. According to the argument, the APC with the Yoruba and the Hausa/ Fulani in an alliance forcibly took power from an Ijaw son. Therefore in continuation of its narration, Bayelsans must rally round the PDP and prevent the APC from taking over Bayelsa because the Ijawland has never been a conquered zone. For them the goal of APC is to win Bayelsa and finally humiliate Jonathan after losing at the centre using the likes of Sylva. They have therefore implored the people to reject APC which it described as an enemy that wants to overrun the Ijaw nation.
The third plank of PDP campaign has been what they described as the image deficit of Sylva as the APC candidate. According to their argument, Sylva’s alleged dismal performance between 2007 and 2011 in all indices automatically disqualifies him from contesting as governor. They listed the corruption allegation; the use of a special security outfit code named Operation Famuo Tangbe and huge debts as factors that should make Bayelsans reject Sylva to return to the Government House. Dickson has argued continuously that Sylva has no business being a governor of Bayelsa because he has no vision for the state.
APC has its own message and strategies. It has also campaigned on three major strands which it believes would convince Bayelsa that the party remains the best choice before it on Saturday to produce the Governor. Coincidentally the quashing of the corruption charges against Sylva by an Abuja Federal High Court has boosted his electoral fortunes . APC had consistently argued that PDP has been all out to demonise him in its bid to hoodwinked Bayelsans that he was a failure as governor between 2007 and 2011. In fact Sylva insists the PDP destroyed all his legacies after he was forcefully removed from office by the PDD using Federal might.
Hear him “I was governor between 2007 and 2012. It was a very turbulent tenure. But then we were able to achieve a bit. When I came there was near absence of internal roads in Yenagoa and we built quite a lot of them. We gave the contracts to some Bayelsans because I believe Bayelsa money must circulate within Bayelsa. Yes some of the contractors did not deliver well but many of them deliver quality projects. We completed the peace park so that Bayelsans can have a nice place to relax. The Melford Okilo hospital which we reduced from 500- bed to 350 was billed for commissioning in May 2012, if I had not been removed from office. All the equipments have been bought and they allowed all of it to rot. Even the Diete Koki which was a world class hospital we built was also allowed to rot, all because they wanted to vilify me that I did not do anything. In order to paint me as failure, they punished Bayelsans in the process”
Its second selling point has been that unlike Dickson which it maintained has not paid attention to the welfare of Bayelsans especially civil servants, pensioners and students, Sylva during his tenure did not unnecessarily imposed taxes on the civil servants; was paying pensioners, local government workers were not owed and students were enjoying their bursary. Its argument has been stretched further that the local economy was booming with the people having the purchasing power. Sylva has promised the people that the APC government would not impose taxes on them to punish them and would ensure that the civil service is allowed to function with over head, allowances and promotion exercise restored.
The APC has campaigned vigourously against the branding of the PDP as an Ijaw party noting that the only Ijaw party known in history was the National Solidarity Movement (NSM) founded by late Chief Melford Okilo. To strengthen their argument that Bayelsa state cannot afford to remain in the PDP which is now in the opposition, Sylva’s henchmen contended that Okilo realising that the NSM would be in the minority decided to align with the majority PDP so that the Ijaw people would not be left behind in the quest for development.
Perhaps in a bid to put it a proper perspective Sylva said those labelling PDP as an Ijaw party are doing so for selfish reasons in their desperate attempt to deny Bayelsa and the Ijaw people the opportunity of joining the mainstream politics which he contended is the only sure avenue to attract development to the state . He argued that this has become more imperative given that the PDP has been dislodged by the APC at the centre .
Undoubtedly the race is between Sylva and Dickson with Siasia not expected to pull any surprises, while the other candidates would just add up the figure. In line with constitutional provisions Section 179, aside having the highest number of votes, the winner must also secured at least one quarter of votes cast in two-thirds of the eight local government areas in the state namely Yenagoa, Southern Ijaw, Ekeremor, Sagbama, Nembe, Brass, Ogbia and Kolokuma/ Opokuma.
If the crowd at the different rallies and campaigns grounds are anything to go by, then it is safe to assume that Bayelsans are really interested in the governorship election . The extent of enthusiasm by the people was further demonstrated by the huge turn out in in the continuous voters’ registration and the collection of the Permanent Voters Card (PVCs). There are however genuine fears of violence which might cause voters apathy. The political parties and their candidates have signed a peace accord but the threats being issued by ex-militant leaders against one another is a source of concern which might discourage the voters from coming out to vote. The Police and other security agencies said they have put necessary machineries in motion to create an enabling environment for INEC to conduct the election. The Inspector- General of Police, Solomon Arase has said 14,000 Policemen are to be deployed for the election to ensure that Bayelsans are allowed to vote freely for the candidate of their choice.
Another issue of concern is the allegation by the PDP that the APC is boasting of using Federal Might to rig out its candidate. They have fingered INEC, and some top government officials in the plot to install Sylva as the Governor. The APC has insisted that it does not need the so-called federal might because the rating of Dickson has plummeted to an all time low that it does not need any assistance to defeat him the polls.
Dickson voiced out his fears in a stakeholders meeting which had in attendance the IGP, INEC management team led by its Chairman Prof Mahmood Yakubu and other stakeholders.
“Now on INEC there are concerns arising from what some parties and their candidates are posting that they don’t need the votes of the people and that they have resolved to just write and announce results. These are things that whether true of false, go to colour the atmosphere under which an election is held”
Yakubu has allayed his fears that INEC would not be party to the manipulation of the Saturday election.
“Our commitment to the people of Bayelsa state is to deliver a peaceful election in line with the Commission mission statement of providing credible electoral services consistent with the principles of equity, justice and fair play. All our plans and preparations have been geared towards this outcome. And let me say that nobody can determine who the next governor of Bayelsa becomes, not even the commission but only the people of Bayelsa state”
By Sunday evening when results from far flung local governments would have been collated, an inkling of the side the pendulum would swing to would be on hand . For now, it is all about conjectures and predictions .