There are certain things in life that are possible to predict with some measure of precision. Politics is not one of them. One major event may just be enough to alter pundits’ permutations. That is why politics is not given to subtlety and simple theorising. The November 16, 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa state is certainly one of such. Almost one month after the poll, winners and losers are already known, but there are still many takeaways that cannot be brushed aside. For instance, with the level of violence and deaths reported during the election, can that poll be said to be democratic? When the integrity of an election comes into question, democracy is at risk. The exact number of people killed in Bayelsa remains at large, according to local and external election observers.
Last week, Bayelsa Governor Seriake Dickson at an interactive session with journalists in Abuja, gave grim details of how militia slaughtered about 22 persons in Nembe. His account should not be seen as that of soured grapes.”There was no election in Nembe”, he said, matter-of-factly. “What happened in Nembe was massacre”. He alleged that many were beheaded, their bellies sliced and thrown into the water so that they would not float. Dickson’s gory account had since been corroborated by eyewitness accounts that may have rendered the integrity of the poll suspect.
The Forum of Chairmen of Nigerian political parties has indicted security agencies and politicians in the state over the widespread violence and other electoral fraud witnessed during the election in Bayelsa and Kogi states. The indictment followed a review of the conduct of the polls. By all accounts, an election that lacks transparency is not just bad, it’s like obscenity that must not stand because it does not meet the basic tenets of democracy, which is free, fair and peaceful election.
On a still larger canvas, is the sweltering allegation that former President Goodluck Jonathan, who hails from the state traded off Bayelsa for $1.1bn Malabu oil deal. For beginners, Malabu involves the the award of oil prospecting licence(OPL) 245. It is an oilfield in the Niger Delta with about nine billion barrels of crude, estimated to worth half a trillion dollars. That is astonishingly huge. That was the allegation by former governor of Jigawa state and a bigwig of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), Sule Lamido.
In an exclusive interview with the SUNDAY Sun, November 24 edition, Lamido hit hard at Jonathan, saying the former President was blackmailed to betray PDP in the Bayelsa governorship election. Betrayal is a serious matter that is anchored on when people you trust stab you in the back. Betrayal by enemies is sure to be expected, but as Perry Stone, the author of “Judas Goat”, says, “when it comes from family and friends, it can be very devastating”. You see, a Judas goat is an actual goat that is raised with the sheep in the field, indeed, eating with them, sleeping with them, and generally gaining their trust. That’s why Lamido’s blistering allegation against Jonathan should not be taken with a pinch of salt. And the former President knows it.
Let’s recap the few of the allegations made by Lamido before coming to Jonathan’s denial, and put all of them in proper context. According to former Governor of Jigawa state, PDP could not have lost Bayelsa to the All Progressives Congress (APC). He then revealed the power play, intrigues that determined the outcome. He alleged that the Federal Government led by the APC was holding the immediate past President by the “balls”. At this point, Lamido threw the bomb. “Because he (Jonathan) sure knows his problem with Buhari , and with this government. And the issue of Malabu, I think played a key role”. Lamido also alleged that Jonathan was very, very angry with Gov. Dickson, and therefore, was at ease to align with Timipre Sylva, a former governor of the state, now a chieftain of APC and Minister of State for petroleum resources, whom Lamido claimed , Jonathan said, would not run as governor of the state again. Lamido didn’t stop there. “I can’t imagine Sylva and Jonathan being on the same frequency. It is something that I have never, ever dreamt of in my life, Sylva and Jonathan being on the same frequency with the wife( Patience) against Dickson”.
Lamido said this sudden friendship shocked him, “because I know Dickson’s role under Jonathan’s government, I know what we did together”. He did not explain what they “did together”. But he was emphatic that the “leadership of APC and the government” are blackmailing Jonathan that “he(Jonathan) traded this for his own freedom”. If there is any scintilla of evidence in Lamido’s allegations, that is the height of betraying strategy of potential Judas goats in the life of anybody or a politician. And Lamido insists he can say it anywhere that it was not a false rumour that the former President traded off his state to the opposition for his own freedom because of the Malabu oil scandal.
Expectedly, Jonathan had since debunked the allegations. It is too weighty to ignore. He described the claim as absurd and deliberately designed as a form of blackmail. Detailing his own account and sparing no harsh words of his own on Lamido, the former president’s media adviser, Ikechukwu Eze, wondered why Lamido “chose to speak the way he did, especially with such hostility, contempt and lies…” According to Jonathan’s statement, it is not only in Bayelsa that the country had experienced such a situation where PDP or even APC had lost elections to another party. Therefore, “holding Jonathan responsible for PDP’s loss in Bayelsa without first investigating the issues that determined the fate suffered by the party in the state is not only disingenuous but also detrimental to the image and aspirations of the party”, Jonathan added. Note the connotative and denotative meaning of the sentence in the former president’s statement, …”investigating the issues that determined the fate suffered by the party(PDP) in the state…” This, to me, is where to locate the grouse of Jonathan with Dickson. And that is where Lamido is not far from the truth.
Did these pocketbook issues determine the way people of Bayelsa voted on November 16? My take on all of this approximates to what the PDP has found after due investigation of the allegations against Jonathan. Inside sources say the former President was found to be indifferent to the issues of the election because of the way he perceived Gov. Dickson “treated” him. Dickson had on many occasions denied treating Jonathan in any way that could be interpreted as disrespectful. The real issue in the power play is this : Jonathan has never been a grassroot politician. He’s taciturn. He was unable to control the grassroot supporters of PDP in the state who are in alliance with his wife who allegedly wanted Dickson to be “punished” at all cost. But the reception Jonathan accorded some APC leaders few days to the election, was to say the least, ill-timed. He could have avoided that, at least to show he was not giving any covert support to the APC candidate, David Lyon. Anger may have taken the better part of Jonathan. Unforgiveness weighs more on the person who holds it. When you don’t forgive those perceived to have wronged you, you are not free yourself.
There is always a lesson in failure. Dickson and the PDP may be the short- term losers in the outcome of the election in Bayelsa , but Jonathan is a long term loser, even though the party says it is not considering any reprimand against him. A statesman that Jonathan is today since he left office, shouldn’t have allowed pocketbook issues to take the better part of him. Statesmen transcend pettiness, and should not allow an invisible force to enter their plane of thought, matter the provocation .
Altogether, I like the way Dickson is handling the PDP defeat, with equanimity, even as he maintains that the election was not free, fair and peaceful. He has promised a smooth transition and has already inaugurated a 40-member transition team, and has urged the members to cooperate in every way possible with the governor -elect own team. That’s how politics should be played, because there’s always life after politics. It shouldn’t be a “do -or-die” affair.
There’s nothing wrong with defeat, it’s how you handle it that matters . Let the courts handle the rest. But our electoral system must be strengthened to take care of obvious lapses in our elections as we witnessed in Bayelsa and Kogi states .