How Buhari, Jonathan, will shape Bayelsa, Kogi guber polls By Bassey Willie, Yenagoa & Itodo Daniel Sule, Lokoja | Published Date Sep 15, 2019 0:59 AM TwitterFacebookWhatsAppTelegram Buhari, Jonathan President Muhammadu Buhari and his predecessor, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, and other godfathers, are going to play key roles in determining the winners of the November 16, governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states, Daily Trust on Sunday analysis reveals. Governorship candidates of the two main political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are banking on the influence of Buhari, Jonathan and other godfathers in the two states to win the elections. Daily Trust on Sunday reports that since the inception of the current democratic dispensation in 1999, the role of political godfathers in the emergence of governors and those seeking to occupy various elective positions have grown in leaps and bounds.
Governorship elections in Bayelsa have always been factored around godfatherism and the influence of the government at the centre (federal might). For instance, during the 1999 governorship election in the state, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha of the PDP was considered ahead of a popular and acceptable candidate then, Chief Francis Dokpola, of the then APP because PDP had just won the presidential election, political gladiators then noting that Bayelsa was too young to be in opposition with the party at the centre. After the impeachment of Alamieyeseigha in 2005, his then deputy, Goodluck Jonathan, backed by the Federal Government under then President Olusegun Obassanjo took over as the governor of the state.
Also, in 2007, Jonathan again was chosen by the power at the centre to fly the PDP flag in place of Chief Timi Alaibe, who controlled the party structures in the state at the time. Even when Jonathan was eventually picked as vice presidential candidate to Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua, it was the same federal might that brought Chief Timipre Sylva as the PDP candidate and eventually the governor of the state. In 2012, Jonathan, through his allies, including King A J Turner and then National Security Adviser, General Andrew Azazi, brought the present Governor, Seriake Dickson, to take over from Timipre Sylva who was already having issues with the power at the centre. The forthcoming election in 2019 in the state may still go in the way of godfatherism and federal might despite the fact that federal might could not really work in the state during the 2015 governorship election, solely because Jonathan, who is a well respected leader in the state, had just left office as the president of the country and still commanded the highest respect from the Ijaw people. The masses action as was witnessed in 2015 may also be a deciding factor.
Already, the candidate of the APC, Chief David Lyon, appears to enjoy the support of the masses judging from his philanthropic gesture and empowerment of youths across the eight local governments of the state. Before the just concluded PDP primary in the state, there was serious wrangling between the camp of former President Goodluck Jonathan and Gov. Seriake Dickson’s camp, popularly called “Restoration caucus”, although Dickson’s camp prevailed by finally producing Senator Douye Diri as the governorship candidate for PDP ahead of Chief Timi Alaibe, but the main election could be challenging for the party except they are able to put their house together. Dickson, before now, was also a loyal member of the larger Jonathan political family, which was then called “Green Movement”.
It was on that consideration that he was chosen as the governor in 2012, but shortly after the defeat of Jonathan during the 2015 presidential election, Dickson began to make his own political family, the “Restoration Caucus”, more prominent and relevant.
The restoration caucus, before 2015, was part of the Green Movement. Dickson’s restoration caucus became so powerful that every government appointment, chairmen of local governments, all those that floated the PDP flag in the 2019 national and state assemblies elections were chosen by the restoration caucus, a situation that caused confusion in the party and made PDP lose some national and state assemblies seats to APC. In Bayelsa East, which is Jonathan’s senatorial district, Dickson was said to have handpicked a member of his restoration caucus without consulting the ex-president, a situation that made people vote massively for the APC.
Jonathan’s influence is currently dwindled in the politics of the state, as he rarely talks or gives direction on the things that affect his people. In the just concluded primary of the PDP, Dickson totally overran Jonathan by single-handedly producing his ally and member of his restoration caucus, Senator Douye Diri, as the governorship candidate of the party.
However, Dickson’s action is posing a serious danger for the PDP ahead of the governorship election on November 16, as some aggrieved PDP members in the state have allegedly indicated that it was the same action by the governor that made the PDP lose Jonathan’s senatorial district and some other positions in the state during the 2019 general elections.
Also, the PDP is facing a major crisis of choosing a running mate for Douye Diri ahead of the November 16, poll. Dickson is said to have already submitted the name of his political godson, Senator Lawrence Ewredjiakpo, to INEC as the running mate to Douye Diri, a situation that has not gone well with the party’s stakeholders in the state.
The APC too had its challenges before the primary, but the strength of the leader of the party in the state and current Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva, can never be undermined. Chief Timipre has already secured the party’s governorship ticket for his ally, Chief David Lyon, and also facilitated the picking of a running mate, Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, a combination believed by many Bayelsans as capable of ousting the PDP years in the state. Chief Lyon is a well known philanthropist who has used the resources of Hus Oil to empower several citizens of the state, especially in his Southern Ijaw Local Government Area.
His effort also helped in reducing illegal oil bunkering in the state. The APC is also banking on its strength during the 2019 presidential, national and state assemblies’ elections, where the party, inspired by Sylva, garnered about 45 per cent of votes in the state for President Buhari’s re-election. It also won a senatorial seat, two out of the five federal constituencies and some seats in the state assembly. Besides, Lyon is from Southern Ijaw, the largest local government area in the state, with the highest voting strength.
Registered voters in the local government area are almost half of Bayelsa State voters, and certainly, Lyon will get more than 80 per cent of the votes during the governorship election. Places like Nembe, where he picked his running mate from, Brass, where the leader of the party in the state hails from, and Ekeremor, home of the immediate past Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, are all strongholds of the APC. Governor Dickson, who is fast becoming a political godfather in the state, recently warned the PDP against playing into the hands of the APC during the governorship election because of the struggle to produce a running mate to Senator Douye Diri. Up till now, the PDP has not picked its deputy governorship candidate due to divergent interests.
Incidentally, Dickson convened a meeting of the top leadership and critical stakeholders of the state chapter of the PDP to agree on the zoning of the deputy governorship ahead of the September 23, deadline for a candidate’s substitution for the November 16, 2019, gubernatorial election.
The governor, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Fidelis Soriwei, said critical stakeholders of the Bayelsa PDP, including himself, Jonathan and others would take a final decision on the issue of the running mate for the party’s candidate. Governor Dickson, therefore, warned PDP members in the state to avoid playing into the hands of the opposition APC which carried the burden of an “unmarketable” gubernatorial candidate. He said the APC which was not on ground in Bayelsa was only banking on violence and federal might to kill innocent voters during the election.
The governor noted that the APC ticket clearly showed desperation to hijack the government of the state and have it run by proxies. Also, the leadership of the PDP in the state has said that it would stand by any faithful and loyal member of the party that might be nominated by its candidate, Senator Douye Diri, as his running mate. The state chairman and secretary of the party, Mr. Moses Cleopas and Chief Godspower Keku, respectively, in a statement recently, said since the party’s candidate had come from the Central Senatorial District he was at liberty to select any suitable member of the party from the other two zones, Bayelsa West and Bayelsa East.
The PDP state leadership stated that the party was not too concerned about a running mate, which according to it, was like a senior adviser to the governor; not different from marrying a wife, which must be done by the candidate himself, adding that the party had no reason to lose sleep over the issue of a running mate. According to the party leadership, the history of sharing of political offices in the state from 1999 to date had always reflected the principle of fairness and equity: 1999 – Governor: Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha (Central), Deputy Governor: Dr. Goodluck Jonathan (East), Speakers: Rt. Hon. Heineken Lokpobiri, Chief Peremobowei Ebebi and Boyelayefa Debekeme (West). 2005 – Governor: Dr. Goodluck Jonathan (East), Deputy Governor: Peremobowei Ebebi (West), Werinipre Seibarugo (Central). 2007 – Governor: Chief Timipre Sylva (East), Deputy Governor, Peremobowei Ebebi (West), Speaker: Werinipre Seibarugo (Central). Following Ebebi’s impeachment: Governor: Chief Timipre Sylva (East) Deputy Governor, Werinipre Seibarugo (Central), Speaker: Rt. Hon. Nestor Benabo (West). 2012: Governor: Henry Seriake Dickson (West), Deputy Governor: Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah (East), Speaker, Konbowei Benson and Rt. Hon Tonye Isenah (Central).
The PDP leaders said the positions of the governor, deputy governor and speaker had always been shared among the three senatorial districts, stressing that the governor and the speaker were the more powerful of the three.
They said, “We advise party members and the general public not to lose sleep over the issue of the choice of a running mate. The party will support any choice made by the candidate. Those who wish to be on the ticket must first contest an election and not play foul politics by spreading blackmail and propaganda.” However, despite the popularity and general acceptability of the APC candidate, Chief Lyon, there is need for the party to carry out proper reconciliation among the aspirants in the just concluded primary and other stakeholders of the party if they must win the governorship election.
Recently, a frontline governorship aspirant of the party, Chief Preye Aganaba, asked the High Court sitting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, to void the primary that produced Chief Lyon as the candidate of the party. Chief Aganaba, a founding member of the APC in the state, dragged the APC, Lyon and INEC to the court as defendants in a suit he personally filed on Seprember 12, 2019. He prayed the court to make a declaration that the primary scheduled for September 4, across the 105 wards in the eight local government areas of the state did not take place.
In Kogi State, the flag bearer of the ruling APC and incumbent Governor of the state, Yahaya Bello, will unarguably be banking on the support of President Buhari and the federal might influence. This is more so that Governor Bello is believed to be one of the privileged governors that have “the ears” of President Buhari. Governor Bello has always seen himself as the political son of President Buhari and as such will bank on the support of his political godfather in the forthcoming election. In the 2019 presidential election, Bello, in demonstrating his loyalty and support for President Buhari, ensured that he (Buhari) won the election in Kogi.
Buhari polled 285,894 in Kogi to defeat his main challenger, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, who polled 218,207 votes. One good turn deserves another and as such, it’s now time for President Buhari to reciprocate the kind gesture of his political godson. Although President Buhari who is from Daura in Katsina State will not be among the eligible voters who will cast votes in the forthcoming election in Kogi, his support can, however, go a long way in determining how Bello will fare at the poll. Perhaps, one of the tacit ways in which the president has shown his support for Governor Bello’s re-election bid, according to political analysts, was the release of N30.8bn bailout to enable the governor offset backlog of salaries.
The Governor Bello-led administration had come under heavy criticism from the opposition, the organised labour and the people of the state over the issue of non-payment of salaries and pensions. But with the release of the bailout few months to the November governorship election, Bello has been able to address the issue of non-payment of salaries and pensions largely, thus clearing the coast for him and his party, the APC, ahead of the election. It would be recalled that the immediate past administration of Governor Idris Wada of the PDP had applied for bailout of N50.8bn in 2015 to offset salaries, but the fund was not released to him on alleged account of some political considerations in the build up to the November 21, 2015, off-season governorship election in the state.
However, when Bello emerged governor in January, 2016, a first tranche of N20bn bailout out of the N50.8bn bailout earlier applied for was released to him. After much lobbying, including a visit by some prominent traditional rulers from Kogi State to President Buhari at the Aso Villa, the Federal Government, through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), eventually released the second tranche of N30.8bn to Governor Bello in July, 2019. Another way Bello can bank on President Buhari is the issue of “federal might” and backing, especially as it relates to security. In every election, the security agencies play significant role in the outcome and as such, pundits believe that the governor may stand on an advantageous ground when it comes to the issue of security as far as the election is concerned.
Besides, the governor will also be banking on other political godfathers such as the APC National Leader, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, and the APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who have expressed determination to win the November governorship election in Kogi. Bello will equally be counting on the support of his fellow APC governors who would be ready to give both moral and financial backups to enable one of their own emerge victorious. On his part, the PDP governorship candidate, Engr. Musa Wada, will also be counting on the support of a couple of political godfathers in the opposition PDP ahead of the election. One of such political godfathers is the immediate past Governor of Kogi State, Wada, who also happens to be an elder brother of Engr. Wada.
Former Governor Idris Wada contested the September 3, governorship primary election of the PDP but lost to his younger brother, Engr. Musa Wada, who emerged the party’s flag bearer. Although there was a misunderstanding between the two Wadas in the build up to the primary election, Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that the two have put their differences behind them after the outcome of the primary and have agreed to form a common front to wrest power from the incumbent Governor Bello. Engr. Wada will be banking on the political structure of the former Governor Wada to advance his governorship ambition in the state.
In the same vein, Engr. Wada will most likely be counting on the support of former Governor Ibrahim Idris (Ibro) who happens to be an influential political godfather and the PDP leader in the state. Apart from being a political godfather, former Governor Idris is a father in-law to Engr. Wada. During the PDP primary, former Governor Idris supported his son, Abubakar Ibrahim, against his son in-law, Engr. Wada, who eventually emerged the flag bearer of the party. Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that former Governor Idris and his son, Ibrahim, were not happy with the outcome of the primary. Given the foregoing, it implies that Engr. Wada must be able to pacify and reconcile with his father in-law, as well as brother in-law, if he must enjoy their full backing in the forthcoming election.
He may also enjoy the backing of political leaders such as a former Deputy Governor, Yomi Awoniyi, and a former acting Governor, Clarence Olafemi. Engr. Wada, through the influence of his brother, Idris Wada, can most likely get the support and backing of the PDP governors ahead of the election. As it stands, only time will tell how far the support of these political godfathers will go in deciding who emerge governors after the November governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa.