From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
The Bayelsa State governorship election has come and gone. In fact, the judiciary has adjudicated on the matter and awarded victory to Governor Henry Seriake Dickson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The Bayelsa State Elections Tribunal Panel which sat in Abuja headed by Justice Kazeem Alogba dismissed the petition filed by the candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), former governor Timipre Sylva for lack of merit. The Appeal Court five- man panel of Judges headed by Justice Jimi Bada in a unanimous decision upheld the judgement of the tribunal stating that” Sylva and his party failed to prove and sustain the allegations of corruption, non-compliance, gross violation of the Electoral Act and other malpractices in the conduct of the election”. The Supreme Court panel of seven Judges headed by Justice Tanko Mohammad dealt the final blow on the APC when on November 8, it dismissed the appeal filed by Sylva and affirmed the election of Dickson as the governor of Bayelsa.
For the politically uninitiated, the struggle for the governorship seat through the December 5, 2015 election, the supplementary election on January 9 and the fierce judicial battle was just about the quest to occupy Creek Haven as governor. It was much more than that. It was all about enthroning a new political order in Bayelsa politics with the person sitting on the seat of Governor as the de facto political leader in the state. The defeat of Dr Goodluck Jonathan from Bayelsa in the 2015 Presidential election laid the foundation for his exit as the de facto political leader in the politics of his state. Before then, being the President, it was not only spoken but sounded out loud and clear that the ultimate decision on who gets what, how and when in Bayelsa belonged to him. Though there was no reported clash between Jonathan and Dickson on the running of Bayelsa affairs, Dickson had a running battle with Jonathan’s men including his wife, Mrs Patience Jonathan and her godson, Dr Waripamowei Dudafa. And this would have cost him his second term ticket if Jonathan had not been defeated by the APC. But today, Dickson popularly regarded as the Ofurumapepe( The Great White Shark) sits pretty comfortable in Creek Haven after overseeing the dismantling of the old political order and erecting the structures of a new political order that would shape Bayelsa politics in the coming years.
Trajectory of Bayelsa political order
Once upon a time, late Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha as governor was in charge of the political order in the state. His control was loosely tied to the coercive powers on political appointees and members of the State House of Assembly being wielded by his cousin, Chief Abel Ebifemowei. It was therefore not difficult to break when Bayelsa’s political elite yearning to enthrone a new order teamed up with the Federal Government and saw to his impeachment as governor.
Jonathan as the then deputy took over the reins of government but could not create a new political order. He was forced to share control of Bayelsa politics with Chief Ndutimi Alaibe and eventually when he decided to seize control of the levers of power after his election as the governorship candidate of the PDP, he was suddenly elevated to the running mate to late Umaru Yar’Adua in the 2007 Presidential election.
His attempt to pull the political strings in Bayelsa as Vice- President was stoutly resisted by Sylva who made meat out of Jonathan’s political associates who had forcefully disrupted the emerging political order. Sylva as governor would not broach sharing political control with Jonathan. As a governor enjoying a cosy political romance with Yar’Adua and the Northern political establishment, his attempt to dismantle the old political brigade and enthrone a new order by retaining loyalty through pecuniary benefits could not stand the test of time. Initially, it appeared he had succeeded until the Abuja crowd routed them out in 2012. Their political naivety was again on full display when they suffered a silly drubbing in their attempt to regain control with the Bayelsa governorship election.
New political order
Nothing captures the enthronement of a new order in Bayelsa other than comments made by political leaders on November 19, the day Dickson arrived Bayelsa to a warm reception after the Supreme Court Judgment. The state deputy governor, Rear Admiral John Gboribiogha Jonah (rtd) likened Dickson to a wrestler who has his eyes on the ground unlike the opponent that is not focus.
Joshua Maciver an ex-militant leader and currently the local government chairman of Southern Ijaw local government area said Dickson represents light which has defeated darkness represented by the APC.
The Chief of Staff, Mr Talford Ongolo, said the main preoccupation of Dickson is his desire to bequeath a lasting legacy to Bayelsa with an all inclusive government.
“Bayelsans freely gave their mandate to Governor Dickson. Three Judges in the Tribunal, five judges in the Appeal Court and seven Judges in the Supreme Court all unanimously said Governor Dickson was duly elected as governor. Our responsibility now is to extend the olive branch to the opposition. The opposition has nothing to fear; Dickson has demonstrated that he wants an all inclusive government. The opposition should cooperate with the government to move Bayelsa forward.”
The Secretary to the State Governor, Chief Serena Dokubo- Spiff and the State chairman of the PDP, Mr Cleopas Moses described him as a worthy and God sent leader to rescue Bayelsa state.
“I have said it that there are many leaders, but serving as a Party Chairman under Governor Dickson showed that he is special and a God-given political leader” Moses said.
Dickson as an experienced politician is not oblivious of the fact that he has emerged the de facto leader of the new order in the state. As a long distant political runner, he knows the jostling that would take place in the new order he has enthroned. This very much was what he hinted about on his succession plans.
“I am the governor of everybody. Both those who worked and voted for me, and those who did not, I want to restate my commitment to running an open door policy and invite all of them to join us. It’s no time for politics. For now there is no politics. When we are through in 2020, those to succeed the Restoration team of my administration will emerge through prayers and without acrimony” Dickson declared.
The National Assembly members have also pledged their loyalty to the new order being led by Dickson. Senator Foster Ogola, the chairman of Bayelsa National Assembly caucus who led other members of the caucus to a solidarity visit to Dickson described the present administration of the state, as development-oriented, noting that, the victory has proved beyond reasonable doubt that Bayelsans voted massively for the PDP, in view of Dickson’s landmark achievements in his first tenure.
He called on members of the APC to join forces with the restoration government in the development of the state.
Dancing on APC grave
Before the campaigns for the Bayelsa 2015 governorship election commenced, Dickson had predicted that the APC would die once it fails to win the governorship election. That was also re-echoed by the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Hon Jonathan Robinson Obuebite who insisted that APC is dead and cannot be resurrected in Bayelsa.
Amange would mock the APC for wasting resources on legal battles when it could have helped its teeming members who are now stranded.
“The money they have wasted should have been used to empower their supporters. But now we are ready to even contribute money to appease their people. Let them join us.”
Dickson mince no words when he called on APC members from Bayelsa to leave the party which has inflicted hunger on them and follow the PDP.
Hear him “We have always mentioned it that power does not come from North, South, the East or the West. It comes from God. And He takes it whenever He will, without explanation. Nobody advises Him. He’s is the final court. If not Him, who would make it possible to defeat all these people, who have done all kinds of things? They mobilised all their forces everywhere”. He continued “We won, they cancelled; we rescheduled and with all their powers, they removed the tribunal from here and took it to Abuja. They forgot that power does not come from Abuja. Their own three-man panel unanimously said you (the people) gave me the mandate freely and fairly.
I thought some people will have sense and come back to their senses. They continued to create tension, distract us and vowed to destabilise this state. They went again to the court of appeal in these hard times when people who have sense are coming together to survive; when we no longer even have a centre. They went to the court of appeal and the five man panel unanimously said we won fair and square. We were waiting to see whether they will be reasonable enough to come back to their roots. They decided banking on their so-called powers and went to the Supreme Court with all their bad plans and the full member Supreme Court said our mandate was valid and stands till 2020.”
The Future beckons
Undoubtedly Dickson’s enthronement of a new political order which began with selecting candidates in the 2015 National and House of Assemblies election is at a safe level with Dickson firmly in control. However, it would be tested with the 2019 election and its foundations would be threatened with the internal contradictions that rock every political structure.
Dickson who has said it for who cares to listen that his ultimate desire is to write his name in diamond in the hearts of Bayelsans present now and generations yet unborn with the infrastructural development his government has embarked upon would do well to ensure the cohesion of his team.
It is believed that the APC would stage a comeback in 2019 from the debris of its present leadership in the state now and would change strategies to warm their hearts into Bayelsans.
Dickson would have to contend not only with a rejuvenated APC but with a political old brigade consisting mainly of Jonathan’s men whose position in Bayelsa political order has been taken over by young Turks recruited by Dickson.
Many that have followed his political career would maintain that Dickson is not new to political battles. For them, the battle Dickson would face in sustaining the new political order he has founded would not be different from his past political struggles. It would be a battle with old friends now turned foes and old foes with several political bruises.