Barely two months to the governorship election in Bayelsa State, all indications point to a titanic battle as the contest is more or less a straight fight between the incumbent, Governor Seriake Dickson of the Peoples Democratic Party, and former Governor Timipre Sylva of the All Progressives Congress.
However, within both the People Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress, there seem to be palpable fears. There have been internal crises, raging from grumblings arising from their primary election processes to various disagreements. All these have either led to defections or are breeding cold wars, which observers believe are dangerous. Experts contend that at a time like this, alignment and re-alignment of forces are bound to happen.
For the state ruling party, which is featuring Dickson the incumbent, there have been calls by some of its actors for a quick resolution of various internal disagreements within the party if the governor hopes to return come December 5.
All has not been well with the party since the failure of the return bid of President Goodluck Jonathan last April. Hitherto, the ex-President who hails from the state, had been a rallying point for all interests within the party at the state level, thus confirming at the moment that the party’s long sustained unity was pretentious. For instance, the recent defection of the former chairman of Niger Delta Development Commission, Mr. Timi Alaibe, and others, to the APC was like a thunderbolt for the PDP, from which it may not have recovered.
Though PDP leaders had claimed that there was no vacuum created by Alaibe’s defection, to the extent of saying “his membership in the party was calamitous”, close observers say it is all a smokescreen, that the party actually feels the impact of Alaibe’s exit.
They also sneered at the defection of the immediate past chairman of the party, Sam Inokoba, who also left for the APC. But shortly after leaving the party, Inokoba died in what is believed to be of natural causes. However, since the departure of Alaibe and the others, sources in the party have begun to express fears over the situation, which, they say, could mar the chances of the party in the coming election.
A leader of the party, Senator Emmanuel Paulker, however, expressed concern over the situation. “I am disturbed about the defection, and more worried on the calibre of persons that defected and even more worried that their defection came few months to the governorship election in the state. “However, one thing that is sure is that Bayelsa is a PDP state. We will put our acts together; PDP will still win the election,” Paulker said.
Effect of Inokoba’s death
Meanwhile, another factor, which is a determinant in the coming election is the death of the PDP former chair, Inokoba. Following his death, shortly after defecting to the APC, big guns in Bayelsa PDP believed that though the death of the former chairman was painful, the sad event might also help the PDP in some way.
A chieftain of the party who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, said that the death could leave Inokoba’s followers in quandary at the APC, “if they intend to stay there, thereby considering tracing their steps to their home party, PDP.
“Though the man’s death was painful; since it had happened, there is nothing we can do. What I only see about it is that it may amount to our advantage in this governorship race because his disciples will trace their steps back to the PDP since there is no one to speak for them again.”
Jonathan’s last-minute input
With what appeared to be his first public engagement since he left office as the President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan recently resurfaced in the PDP’s campaign ground, where he canvassed support for Dickson’s second term bid. While giving his speech, the former president implored people of the state not to let him down in his home, adding that a failure of PDP in Bayelsa would amount to his personal defeat in the state.
Following this, Jonathan’s intervention seemed to have paid off as the ex-President successfully persuaded Reuben Okoya, a governorship contestant, to drop his ambition for the incumbent governor. But with Jonathan’s input to Dickson’s envisaged second coming, the question pundits are asking is that, ‘Will a Jonathan without the presidency enhance success for the Bayelsa PDP in the coming election?’
However, Dickson too has begun moves to woo some of his former contestants in the party into his fold. Dickson, who was initially worried over their intention to contest in the race, is now relieved as they later backed out of the contest, while others were disqualified.
To this extent, the incumbent governor is believed to be wooing the likes of Okoya and others, to lend their weight behind him after which the former president had helped wave the olive branch at them. But with all these, findings have revealed that it will take a strong ploy for the party leaders to persuade the candidates that were disqualified, as some of them are believed to be bent on spoiling the party’s chances in the election.
Sylva and APC’s headache
Despite the fact that the APC governorship primary election ended up in favour of former Governor Timpire Sylva, pundits are of the opinion that the party leaders and the standard-bearer need to do more to realise the dream of unseating the ruling party.
Among the highlighted factors is the internal wrangling among party stalwarts. It was gathered that the party would need to do more to mend its fences in order not to mar its chances in the coming election, especially considering the feud among the party stalwarts which split them into factions.
The crisis, according to sources in the party, degenerated into the feuds that marred the first primary election at the Samson Siasia Stadium in Yenagoa. It was also gathered that one of the founders of the party, Chief Perekeme Kpodo, before the primary, expressed concern over the “doctoring of the delegates’ list for the poll.”
Another fear being expressed is how the ex-NDDC chairman, Timi Alaibe, relinguished the governorship ticket for Sylva. Some felt it was a subtle move by Alaibe to work underneath, against the ex-governor. But the former has dismissed the fear.