Crises, backstabbing few days to Kogi, Bayelsa elections up

WITH 13 days to the governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states, the main political actors are, indeed, beginning to fight dirty. They are deploying all kinds of arsenal, believing that in a war situation, every tactic is clean. Issues are obviously taking the background seat for mudslinging and sheer propaganda to reign.

The desperation in the seemingly two-horse race, though no fewer than 30 political parties secured the recognition of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to field candidates, is informed by political expediency. For the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), it cannot afford a slip, having been in power in the zone since 1999. Another reason is that any mistake of losing the state to the APC could be a death sentence for the PDP in the build up to the politics of 2023. Pundits believe that it is capable of weakening the power of the zone to have a strong bargaining power for choice offices at the National level and pave the way for the two other zones in the Southern part of the federation, especially the South-East that hopes to take a short at the presidency in 2003.

Another reason the battle for the governorship in Bayelsa State is fierce and frightening is because of the bitter political rivalry and mutual distrust among the major politicians, groups and other interest in the South-South. The superiority contest involves former and serving political office holders, including former and incumbent governors, who are determined to either consolidate their hold on their base or expand it by making inroads into the territory of their arch political rivals. While those that are no longer in charge of the lever of power are using mass-based ethnic organisations to fight their cause, the incumbents, including governor have foot soldiers and other proxies to assert and cow their political rivals.

Virtually all the forces in the region are also exploiting ethnic heterogeneity to form fortresess and create strong walls. The politics of ethnic affiliation and identity assumed the front burner in the last couple of weeks. With the intractable post party primaries becoming more pronounced, the recourse to the prism of ethnic politics gained ascendancy, as supposed aggrieved political leaders have openly accused one another of ethnic marginalization, one-man show, personal aggrandisement and bigotry.  Consequently, such leaders have led the wave of realignment of forces and defections that hit both the PDP and the APC. Oner of the defectors is Mr Einstein Oribo, former chairman, the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) in Bayelsa State and one-time Senior Special Assistant to incumbent Governor Seriake Dickson on Mobilization. He gave resaons for his action: “As a Bayelsan, l have always believed that the Ogbia, Nembe, Epie people are all ljaws. It is this government that brought the issue of core-ljaw and none core-ljaw. If the PDP is an ljaw party, why is it not feeding her ljaw children? Is it not good to make a friend that will feed you than to have a brother that will starve and impoverish you? I can tell you, there is no ljaw party. The Alliance for Democracy (AD), where the governor came from to join the PDP, was it also an ljaw party? The persons at the helm of affairs in the PDP, are they all Ijaw people? “

Another aggrieved erstwhile PDP leader is Chief Claudious Enegesi. He is said to be a close ally of former President Goodluck Jonathan; former speaker of the old Rivers State House of Assembly, pioneer chairman  of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Bayelsa, a well as former deputy national treasurer of the party. “I had no difficulty in dropping the umbrella and picking up the broom because of what has been going on in Bayelsa State for the past three years, l decided to be a little bit reticent and taciturn, watching the events as they unfolded in the PDP, especially with the governance of the state.

l have been a PDP man since 1998 until yesterday (October 21, 2019). But for the past two, three years, things were not moving right in what I believed and what convinced me, about 20 years ago, to be in the PDP,” he said. He added: “So, for me to take the eventual decision that I took yesterday, it was very easy and when I did it, l became relieved as if I was carrying a very big burden; a burden in the sense that the interest of my people here was not being protected by the PDP.

The government (here) was nnotifie respecting where l come from. If you get into politics, it is not about your personal interest. A true politician who knows what he is doing and where he got it from, it is about the people whose interest you think you can protect, propagate and defend and see if it will be a vehicle for the development of even individuals or the area you come from which was not forthcoming from the present PDP government which I was a major stakeholder.

Then, I came to find out that the governance of Bayelsa became so primitive and personalized with arrogance and disdain for the people; and that is not the essence of being in politics and governing the people. The state became so decisive along ethnic or clanish lines promoted by government. But to be in government is to build and pull the people together for a holistic development and cohesive existence of a people, not to divide them

According to him, “Bayelsa of today has become more divided. It can be mouthed that Bayelsa is a homogeneous ljaw state but with the present government, it became so disunited promoted by government where the phrase of core-ljaw and non-core-ljaw was promoted. So, for somebody who spent a good part of his life in politics, we must realise that we are one people. We ought to work together, pull our resources together and develop our state. We are all aging. The founding fathers of Bayelsa State knew what they were going to pull all of us together, to excise us from former Rivers state so that development can come closer to the people.”

Mission of APC

The APC as the ruling party at the centre, the urge is to make further incursion into the South-South by winning the Bayelsa poll. The leaders of the party, especially from the region are desperate to control Bayelsa and increase its presence to two after Edo if they must be in contention for greater opportunities and relevance in the immediate and long term of mainstream politics preparatory to 2023 politics.

The APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole needs to prove that the raging political battle between him and his predecessor in Edo, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo state is based on his pedigree, influence and popularity among the people many years after leaving the government House in Benin City.

But the Herculean task before the APC in Bayelsa appears most daunting because of the leverage the outcome of the recent local government election has given the PDP. Having won all the elective offices in the election, the ruling party only seeks to consolidate its grip on Bayelsa as the results of the 2019 general election showed the PDP remain the choice of most voters in the state.

However, Oshiomhole and his team remain optimistic that the forthcoming poll is within the reach of the APC. The optimism is strengthened by the gale of defections by some aggrieved PDP stalwarts to the APC, who have suddenly become the face of the APC campaign on various media platforms. Curiously, many stakeholders in Bayelsa are questioning the leadership style of the APC which in their opinion has created crises in two-thirds of the 36 state chapters of the party some of which culminated in the loss of the governorship and national assembly seats in the last general election. Thus, the stakeholders believe the devil they know is better than the angel that is full of desperation to take away their gains since 1999 when Nigeria restored civil rule.

The Third Force

At another front, the battle for the soul of Bayelsa rages in the law court. While a number of fringe parties have constituted themselves into a quasi- beautiful bride, aggrieved aspirants are unrelenting in their quest to get redress following the rancorous primaries that produced the standard-bearers of the PDP and the APC for the November 16 election. Attempts to placate them by either the party elders or other power centres have not yielded any remarkable significance, leaving the candidates of both the PDP and the APC almost a crossroads and the push by a Third Force for a level-playing field to avert further crisis as the final countdown to the election begins. A good example is decision of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) to obtain an order of the Federal High Court Abuja to stop the poll.  In an affidavit by the national chairman of the party, Mr Tapre Poland Awini, the HDP through its counsel: Messrs I. Eseigbe and Francis Nathaniel, listed as one of the grounds, a pending case at the Federal High Court in Abuja in respect of the 2015 governorship poll in the state.

According to the HDP, it will amount to gross injustice and flagrant disregard for the provisions of 1999 Constitution should the INEC goes ahead with the November 16 poll in Bayelsa State without the court disposing of the pending matter in respect of a similar poll in 2015. Consequently, the party is seeking a restraining Order against on another governorship election, claiming that the INEC lacked the status quo to conduct the forthcoming poll in Bayelsa. The party said the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/904/2015l pending in Court 4 of the Federal High Court, Abuja on the 2015 governorship poll in the state, had been slated for November 4, 2019. In the old matter, the HDP is challenging the exclusion of its candidate in the governorship poll and wants the court to determine if the INEC had the power and “right to decide an election time-table and guideline with only two national commissioner.” Citing several some sections of the 1999 Constitution, the party averred that it initiated the current suit to guarantee the sanctity of the constitution, uphold the rule of law, fair hearing and justice.

The HDP declared that the suit was particularly based on the ground that: “(a) The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) breached the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with its activities in 2015 on the conduct of the Bayelsa State governorship election where only two (2) National commissioners held a meeting and decided the election guidelines and the time table for the said election as against Section 153, 159; in that invalid formation of the commission, the INEC also deliberately excluded the Hope Democratic Party and its governorship candidate (Comrade Joseph Oweilayefa Bure) for which a suit was instituted at the Federal High Court (FHC) for redress and is still pending for conclusion and determination by the Court; that without fair hearing, conclusion and determination of the case before the Federal High Court, the conduct of another election in the state will mire the decision of the court, and the case may be overtaking by event which will breach fair hearing as enshrined in section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic or Nigeria on the person of Comrade Joseph Oweilayefa Bure and the Hope Democratic Party; that the case challenging the INEC whether or not they have the right to decide an election time table and guideline with only two national commissioner, and deliberately excluding the party and its governorship candidate without any reason, constitutionally and lawfully practicable in Nigeria, is already in the Federal High Court for determination and fixed for hearing on November 4, 2019 after series of adjournments from 2015.”

The HDP further said through its counsel that Section 1(1)(2)(3) of the Nigerian Constitution “indisputably expressed the supremacy of the constitution above any law enacted by an Act which becomes inconsistent with the constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria, the constitution shall prevail.”

Kogi and North-Central politics

Just as the Bayelsa gladiators are at each other’s throat, a similar scenario is playing out in Kogi State with both the PDP and the ruling APC caught in the web of a fratricidal war. Incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello seems to be feeling the heat most as the opposition against his second term bid in office is not just from the main opposition party, the PDP and its candidate. Internal contradictions within the governing APC have equally posed a big challenge and threat to the ambition of the governor.

Members of his party, the APC have raised issues bordering on the achievements or otherwise of his administration in the last three and half years or so. Even his deputy who was removed by the state House of Assembly recently, Simon Achuba, was thumbs down for the Bello administration.

But Senator Smart Adeyemi, the director General of the governorship campaign organization, believes that nothing could stop Bello from cruising home to victory. His words: “I am not in doubt that Yahaya Bello deserves another term in office and i am not in doubt that people will vote for us, it is going to be like a miracle. i am not sure if the opposition will muster 25 per cent votes. I, as the DG campaign, i am disturbed that the opposition are not campaigning; Ii have not seen their billboards; I have not seen their posters; I am disturbed that the oppositions are silent, they seem to be paralysed, it is either they don’t have the resources to run or because they are disunited.”

Adeyemi alluded to the cases in court as part of the problems confronting the PDP and its candidate for the election. He noted: “.  There is no unity of purpose in the main opposition party, the PDP, today they have about 30 of them in court against their candidate, it will even be safe to say that the main opposition does not have a candidate today because the candidate they claim to have is still a subject of litigation and until when court makes a pronouncement, PDP doesn’t have a candidate.

So, we are disturbed, we want them to have a candidate, we don’t want a free election, we want to engage them on issues that will help to promote democracy, but today nobody is available; they are not talking. It is either that they have conceded defeat or they are planning mayhem. But for us we are not in doubt that we are going to win.” Adeyemi said the achievements of the Bello since became governor would work for the APC at the poll, adding, “We have a lot to show to the people of the state as achievements that have been recorded in the last four years.

When this government came on board, it inherited a lot of problems, number of it is they inherited a state where corruption has been institutionalised that you have people being paid salaries in different parts of the country, they claim they work in Kogi but they withdraw salaries in Kaduna, Lagos and Abuja some of them in Niger state, they claim they work as civil servants in Kogi.

We discovered that what the people at the helms of affairs were doing was to write the names of their children and relations in the payroll, some of them were in universities, secondary schools when they were withdrawing salaries under the PDP administration, if they say it is not true let them come and challenge me and we will show them the documents.

So when this government came, it had this problem and had to confront it, i was one of the people that advised the governor to wait till second term, but he said no. So these people have now formed an army on the internet to pull down this government and they gave this government a bad name. In terms of infrastructural development, this government has performed far better than the previous ones and the projects are spread across the three senatorial districts.”

Indeed, competing interests in the PDP are not making things easy for the candidate of the party for the election. The fallout of the party primary election that thrust Wada forward  will not let go, despite the intervention of the reconciliatory team put together by the PDP top hierarchy and headed by the immediate past president of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki. The road to striking possible compromise with the aggrieved camps appears far and wide.  At the inauguration of the campaign council by the national chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, the reality of how tasking it is to reconcile the camps within the party in both states was focal. Secondus started by alluding to suspected machinations of the APC ahead of the polls. He said “Ordinarily given the enviable achievements of our party in Bayelsa state in the area of delivering democracy dividend to the people in the last eight years under the leadership of our able Chairman of PDP Governors Forum, Chief Seraike Dickson, and the very awful performance of APC government in Kogi state, the two states should be a smooth contest for us, but intelligence available to the party shows that the All Progressives Congress, APC is planning a charade elections in these states as was witnessed in Ekiti, Osun, Kano and Kaduna states.”

Peace moves and defections

The emergence of Musa Wada and Senator Duoye Diri as the PDP candidates in Kogi and Bayelsa respectively is still rocking the boat. Wada and Diri’s victory were challenged by aggrieved aspirants. Abubakar Ibrahim, son of a former governor of Kogi, Ibrahim Idris is up in arms against Wada as candidate. A former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Timi Alaibe, remains resolute in his objection to Diri as PDP’s standard-bearer in Bayelsa. This is in spite of the party’s national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, that candidates lead the reconciliation process and partnership with aggrieved camps. According to Secondus the primaries in both states were transparent. Senator Bukola , leading the PDP reconciliation team, had met all the gladiators in the two states at different times during which he was said to have harped on the importance of the elections to the future of the PDP. The Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde leads the PDP campaign for Kogi, while his Bauchi State counterpart, Bala Mohammed heads the Bayelsa campaign.

In the APC, the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El Rufai, is the chairman of the party’s Campaign Council for the Kogi State poll, just as his counterpart from Jigawa State, Abubakar Badaru, leads the APC campaign committee for Bayelsa. And the mandate issued to them by the APC national chairman, Adams Oshimhole, is that they must ensure victory for the party in the two states. Oshiomhole said: “The heart of the people will be turned to elect a man that will make a difference, that will demonstrate that in a genuine democracy, very ordinary people who connect with their people, who understand and live with their people and share the joy, pain and aspirations of their people, even if they do not have the history of a political dynasty can rise to become a governor. I believe that is the story of our candidate in Bayelsa. The reaction of PDP shows they are in trouble. My very good friend, Gov. Dickson is in trouble, but I assure him that his labour pains will soon be over by the time we win the elections. We take these two elections very seriously because we believe in the power of the ballot, we believe that the issues should be contested in a peaceful environment and not by the power of gunshots which has been the tradition of the opposition and we know that people want a change.”

But the chairman of the PDP in Bayelsa, Cleopas Moses, said the party was not under any threat from the APC, notwithstanding the decision of a few PDP leaders to join the APC. He said the defectors were the supporters of Alaibe, stressing that only those members of the APC who were defeated by the PDP in the 2015 elections returned to their vomit. The defectors included: Chief Peremobowei Ebebi, Professor Seiyefa Brisibe, who was Alaibe’s Campaign Director-General, now alternate DG in APC, Chief Nimi Amange, APC senatorial candidate; Honourable Enegesi, Mike Ogiasa, Beinmo Spiff, Octopus, and Honourable Tiwei, Orunimighe. He said: “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 these are the purported party leaders who are leaving. They All came with him from the APC in November this year.” However, Alaibe replied with a similar verbal assault. In a statement by his Special Adviser, Enize Ogio, he said: “The party chairman unreservedly lied to the public when he stated that Chief Alaibe was directly responsible for the mass exit of previously prominent members of the PDP to the main opposition party in the state, the All Progressives Congress.



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John Woods
John Woods

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