From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Is Governor Douye Diri losing grip on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Bayelsa State? This is the question that pops up among PDP party faithful and concerned Bayelsans on the streets of Yenagoa following the gale of defections that have befallen the party in the last few days. The four people that have so far made their resignations from the party public namely Brass Local Government Chairman, Victor Inodunimi Isaiah, Deputy- Chief of Staff Government House, Alex Tesfa Dumbo, former Commissioner for Information, Orientation and Strategy, Daniel Iworiso- Markson and former Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Bekeakpo Etifa, raised so much dust at their departure.
At the conclusion of the party primaries for the eight national assembly seats and the 24 seats for the state legislature, Diri was commended by all and sundry for his political dexterity in navigating the party away from crisis unlike what has been witnessed in other states. He was hailed for assuming the position of the leader of the party with much candour and astuteness.
However, revelations from defectors punctured the assertions of a stabilised party being led in the right direction by Diri. Going by the claims of the defectors and other aggrieved stakeholders, who are in court against some candidates of the party, the PDP has been held hostage by anti-democratic elements cashing in on the good nature of Diri to enthrone politics of exclusion and segregation in the party while making little or no effort to address the grievances of those hurt by the outcome of the primaries.
Investigations revealed that Diri aware that some party members were aggrieved with the process that led to the election of the party’s standard bearers aside directing all appointees who resigned their appointments to contest should return to work, also inaugurated a reconciliation committee headed by Senator Inatimi Rufus Spiff with the mandate to ensure all aggrieved persons are reached and all grievances addressed.
“We are inaugurating the reconciliation committee, which is a standing committee, as enshrined in the constitution of our party. It is to address fallouts and the outcome of our party’s primaries and see how best we can continue to remain as a party and put our best foot forward to ensure we are victorious come 2023.
“Our candidates have work to do. You all need to be humble. Please embrace your opponents. Your ability to win them over makes you a better politician because they might be the rock to salvage you; “the umbrella is big enough to accommodate all those who did not make it in the primaries,” he said.
Spiff in his address on behalf of the committee assured Diri and the party that they would carry out their mandate with utmost responsibility. But there is no evidence to show that the committee is discharging its work with responsibility going by the missives released by the defectors. This has given rise to concerns by political observers that the reconciliation has either been hindered in the performance of its duties or there was no intention for actual reconciliation.
The bubble of the deep-seated crisis in PDP however burst when Isaiah who incidentally is from Brass like Spiff made public the reasons he was leaving the party. He painted a picture of a divided party with a dichotomy of loyalists of Diri being separated from loyalists of former governor now Senator Dickson.
According to Isaiah, he could no longer be in PDP because of the lingering crisis in the party and segregation that has been elevated into a party policy.
“There is currently so much segregation among a large number of party members and stakeholders who fought hard for its present growth and acceptance. Based on my personal values, I can no longer remain in a party that is sharply divided and neglects die-hard members with no hope of solving the internal crisis, hence my decision to resign my membership. I and my supporters have officially registered as members of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and were warmly welcomed by the party leadership,” he said.
In his letter of resignation from the party, Dumbo said it was premised “on the consistent display of negative bias against some of us rudely branded as Restoration politicians by the topmost hierarchy of PDP in Bayelsa State.”
Equally Iworiso- Markson who has moved to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to contest the Ogbia Federal Constituency seat in his letter of resignation stated that PDP has treated him unfairly.
“Recall that on May 23, 2022 I contested for the ticket of the PDP for Ogbia Federal Constituency. The process and outcome of the election, even though not satisfactory, was swept under the carpet. Ordinarily, it was expected that the PDP leadership would reach out and make certain overtures to assuage the feelings of people like me but more than a month after, nothing has been done.
“Rather, the party has continued as if all is well even when it is glaring that it is not. I consider this as an act of disregard and disdain especially against the likes of me that has contributed so much to the success of the party since 2012. My record of service and loyalty while in government to both the party and the state cannot be denied and even when things went bad, I remained not minding the threats”.
Iworiso- Markson in an interview revealed that some people who have the ears of the governor have destroyed PDP in the state with the political dichotomy they have created.
“They have succeeded in creating some kind of political dichotomy. What they call Restoration boys on one hand and on the other hand Prosperity boys. Restoration boys are those who are close to the former governor and the Prosperity boys are those serving the governor now. It is this attitude they have advanced that is now a big threat to the PDP. They want to by all means alienate most of the people who still pay allegiance to the former governor. So, it is laughable that in a party, people could create such division and they are being allowed to do so. I feel so sad because we worked so well and kept faith for this governor to emerge. And when he did, we kept supporting him to succeed because we see his administration as an extension or continuation of the previous government. I personally was impressed about the steps he took to unite the party, bring back aggrieved members who had resigned and continue the legacy projects that were not completed by the former governor. But it is sad that people like us have to leave and many more are likely to leave because of the level of exclusion and victimization that is going on in the PDP.”
Etifa in his resignation from the PDP declared that certain elements within the government are subverting democracy.
“As a founding father of the PDP who has made enormous contributions to the success of the party and in the service of our people and nation-building, it is sad to watch undemocratic elements take over the administration of the party contrary to the noble tenets put in place by its founding members.
“My resignation from the PDP has become imperative given the lack of internal democracy and the politics of exclusion as demonstrated in the recently concluded Bayelsa West House of Representatives primaries which was characterised by the manipulation of the delegates list and intimidation of delegates by the state government officials and security operatives. Painfully, there have been no credible reconciliatory efforts on the part of the party several weeks after humiliating its founding members. Such undemocratic practices make it impractical to continue my membership of the party”
A group, Bayelsa PDP Stakeholders Forum through its spokesman, Chief Abosimagha Pius Benson said Diri must take responsibility for the unfolding crisis in the party. According to the group, Diri through his inactions had encouraged the dichotomy of his loyalists and those of Dickson causing serious frictions in the party.
It queried Diri’s understanding of governance, management of people and accused Diri of outsourcing the leadership of the party to inexperienced people and creating “so many indeterminate power centres running across purpose at times.”
Benson who stated that Diri has never won any election in his life and has never led any political group before he came across Dickson, lamented that Diri, deluding himself that he is a miracle governor has ditched all the people that worked for him and is instead romancing with those that fought him.
“Immediately Diri took over, he began to listen to sycophants and brought in All Progressives Congress opponents that Dickson had suppressed and defeated, to gain cheap popularity in the name of reconciliation. Diri went to bring back all the people who fought him and called them opponents of Dickson and that he himself has no enemies”
However, the Chairman of PDP in the state, Solomon Agwanana has downplayed the issue of crisis in the party dismissing the claims of the existence of internal squabble within the party.
According to him, the PDP is more united in Bayelsa than ever and the governor is playing his role as the leader of the party.
The Special Adviser to the Governor, Chief Collins Cocodia declared that there is no rift between Governor Douye Diri and his predecessor, Senator Henry Seriake Dickson.
He cautioned political actors to channel their energy towards supporting the ‘Miracle Governor, Senator Douye Diri so that he can continue his good works rather than create discrepancies, conflicts or disunity with his predecessor, Senator Henry Seriake Dickson.
Cocodia speaking on issues raised concerning the recent defection of some members of the party, reminded the public that the government of the immediate administration led by Dickson, gave birth to the incumbent administration of Diri.
According to him, the mantra of “Prosperity” was also a brain child of “Restoration” mantra, and so heating the polity was unnecessary and uncalled for.
Cocodia, while recalling that Diri, his deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, himself, and some other appointees currently serving, were also crusaders of the immediate past administration, added that the governor still enjoys that cordial relationship that has been existing between them.
“People are trying to create confusion where there shouldn’t be. It’s still the same family; the governor and his predecessor are on good terms, and they talk regularly, and sometimes take decisions together.”
“I served as Governor’s Representative, Commissioner for Youth Development, Sports Development, and pioneered the Labour, Employment and Productivity ministry, all under the Restoration government. But I am here in the Prosperity government, does that remove me from Restoration, certainly not.
“Even the governor served under the Restoration government and then later became a National Assembly member under the Restoration government. The Deputy Governor also served as Works Commissioner under the Restoration government.
“So, let’s be fair to the two political leaders that we have, and stop trying to create confusion amongst them.”