Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
While the Bayelsa State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is still trying to heal the bad blood the emergence of its governorship candidate, Senator Douye Diri created among its critical stakeholders, another controversy over the choice of a running mate surfaced. In 2015, the All Progressives Congress (APC) was engulfed in a political crisis unleashed by the then State Chairman, Tiwei Orunimighe following the decision of its then governorship candidate, former governor Timipe Sylva to pick a retired secondary school principal, Elder Wilberforce Igiri ahead of him as running mate. This time, it is PDP stakeholders from the Governor Henry Seriake Dickson-led Restoration Team that are freely throwing political punches and issuing statements that tend to highlight the fault lines of the party and call into question its stability ahead of the crucial November 16 governorship election.
The controversy of the choice of running mate was triggered by a press conference addressed by a group of PDP stakeholders from Bayelsa East Senatorial District comprising of Ogbia, Nembe and Brass Local Government Areas. After a meeting that lasted several hours amid heated arguments, the stakeholders called on the leadership of the party to zone the Speakership position to it. According to its spokesman and Commissioner for Education, Robinson Jonathan Obuebite, the zone is more comfortable with the position of Speaker because the Assembly is an independent arm of government and that will give them more sense of belonging. He argued that the East is also the only zone that has not produced the Speaker of the State Assembly and the next dispensation will be the right time for them to be allowed to do so. Obuebite added that if the East is allowed to produce the Speaker, the sharing of political power would be seen to be just, fair and equitable and will give the PDP more political clout and mileage. “It will be ungrateful to ask for the position of Deputy Governor, after occupying the same position for almost eight years in the current dispensation. Before now, the zone had in the past also produced a deputy governor in the person of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who stayed in office for more than four years. Bayelsa East will throw its weight behind the western zone and support the zoning of the running mate of its flag bearer to that area” Obuebite who is also the Nembe coordinator of the Restoration governorship primary committee says.
And in what is emerging as an established pattern of the Restoration Team brand of politics, the Chairman and Secretary of the party, Moses Cleopas and Godspower Keku swiftly issued a statement titled ‘We Stand By Our Candidate’s Choice of Running Mate’ to throw open the choice of running mate. Though they declined to mention the name of the candidate that has been picked by Diri, nonetheless they declared that the party “would stand by any faithful and loyal member of the party that may be nominated by its candidate, Senator Douye Diri as running mate.”
“There are two critical arms of government whose leadership are important: the executive arm led by the governor and the legislative arm led by the speaker of the House. Since the party’s candidate has come from the Central Senatorial District, he is at liberty to select any suitable member of the party from the two remaining zones, Bayelsa West and Bayelsa East as running mate” the duo stated in the statement.
The state leadership of the party while noting that it was not too concerned about a running mate which according to them is like a senior adviser to the governor likened it to marrying a wife which must be done by the candidate himself.
“The positions of the Governor, Deputy Governor and the Speaker had always been shared among the three Senatorial districts with the governor and the speaker positions being the most powerful of the three. We advise party members and the general public not to lose sleep over the issue of the choice of 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.” the statement added.
If the party was not losing sleep over the choice of the running mate, it was not prepared for the barrage of protests from other stakeholders who accused Bayelsa East Stakeholders and the leadership of the party of playing a script. The Bayelsa East Senatorial Youth Assembly in a statement by its President and Secretary- General, Comrade Bethel Agih and Comrade Seiyefa Clinton respectively dismissed the resolution by the Obuebite-led Bayelsa East Stakeholders groups describing them as “political Judas Iscariots who are willing to sell the District for any cost.”
Agih and Clinton in the statement said the resolution by Obuebite and others showed that they were “acting a script that will perfect the making of Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, the next Deputy Governor” and urged the people of the Senatorial zone to “reject the Douye Diri and Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo ticket.”
The Concerned Bayelsa PDP Stakeholders on their own part expressed surprise that Dickson and the party would be contemplating zoning the running mate of the party to Bayelsa West Senatorial Zone. In a statement signed by Chief Ere Opukiri and Omonibo ThankGod, the group said zoning the deputy-governorship position to Bayelsa West is an “outrageous political mistake that will work against the PDP in the November 16 governorship election.”
“The governor should not fall for the temptation of zoning the position to the West, especially Sagbama where he hails from. If he goes ahead with the decision, there will be mass exodus of members of the party, especially from the East which will reduce the chances of the PDP to retain the governorship” the statement added.
Similarly, a group, Youths for Douye Diri has called on Dickson not to “facilitate the emergence of Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo as running mate to their principal.” Secretary General of the group, Comrade Beinbebo Akpiri said the report that Dickson and the leadership of the party has settled for Ewhrudjakpor as running mate to Senator Douye Diri is a sad political development for the PDP.
“The imposition of Ewhrudjakpor on the party will not fly because of the current political reality. The emergence of a loyal, popular and acceptable party man from Bayelsa East will strengthen the PDP’s chances at the governorship poll. We called on the Prince Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee to prevail on Dickson to have a rethink otherwise PDP will become history in Bayelsa State”