The November 16 governorship election in Bayelsa State has been a focus of national attention. And for good reason.
Bayelsa has become a force to reckon wnith in national affairs and politics mostly because of the achievements recorded particularly in the last eight years in social and economic development under a clear-headed leadership. In a national environment blighted by abysmally poor leadership, Bayelsa has pointed the way to how the great possibilities in the country can still be actualised.
The November election is one whose outcome will determine whether the state will march decisively forward and continue to epitomize our collective hopes and aspirations or suffer a regression.
By all serious accounts, Bayelsa has in the last eight years turned the page and is set to consolidate its achievements, confirming the winning streak of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as a dominant entity since inception of the Fourth Republic in the state and as a party rooted in the people and their communities. Such an outcome will thus revalidate the popular view that all politics is local, a reflection of the strong bond between the party and the good people of Bayelsa State.
To be sure, there is much talk about the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) banking on what they say is “federal might” to rig the election, and indeed even as past evidence suggests that some trouble-makers may be banking on such a game plan, it amounts to building castles in the air. This is because the people of the state will resist and reject any plans to subvert their democratic will or turn back the hands of the clock. We saw this happen in 2015 and this will be repeated but even more vehemently should the evil plan of election rigging rear its ugly head again this time.
That said, I think it is important to lay out the basis for my convictions above regarding the unassailable position of the PDP in this crucial election. For those who are conversant with the politics of the state, especially since Governor Seriake Dickson came on board, the PDP candidate, Senator Douye Diri, is primed to win in November. Without doubt, PDP remains the party to beat in Bayelsa State.
It has an unmatched organisational structure and has an enduring legacy of the best representing the people’s hopes and aspirations. Without the requisite structure, there is no party per se because political parties rest on structures to build membership and followership, which in turn constitute the strategic blocks from which the votes are derived on election- day. Unlike the APC, PDP is better organised, with solid structures across the length and breadth of Bayelsa State, and this will make a huge difference when the chips are down in November.
Then there is the formidable factor of Governor Henry Seriake Dickson. His skills in political organisation and mobilisation consistently deliver results. Drawing on his formidable antecedents, he has been pivotal in organising the party to become the winning machine we have today. From being an activist for many years to his foray into politics, he has paid his dues as a leading pan-Ijaw crusader and one of the most visionary leaders who have restored the state as a place of hope, pride and refuge for the Ijaw people.
Over the years, the governor has built a remarkable network with strong bonds across board, which he can draw upon at times like this.
The basic issues here are his values, which in an environment populated by political buccaneers and carpetbaggers, many see as refreshingly noble and his conviction politics that has endeared the people to him. He is a leader who has led by example and has provided phenomenal leadership that has transformed the state. As they say in the people’s parlance, he is tested and trusted and it will be difficult for the opposition to successfully undermine this trust. This is particularly because the antecedents of the main drivers of the opposition APC in the state are well known. Many of them were once in power in the state but left the people thoroughly disappointed. Though the governor is not the candidate, his leadership in the campaign remains a winning factor because of his personality as a grassroots mobiliser and indeed the many IOUs he is bringing on board to the benefit of Senator Douye Diri.
Then we have to look carefully at the profile of the PDP candidate, as opposed to the APC candidate. The rich public service and track record of Senator Douye Diri will, no doubt, stand him out in the perceptive estimation of the people in this election as against his opponent in the APC. With respect to Chief David Lyon, running surveillance over oil rigs is no qualification to aspire to run the affairs of men. Unlike Senator Douye Diri, the APC candidate does not have the essential intellectual and other necessary capacities to be governor, who will be relating with diverse publics, not only on policy but in articulating the various interests of Bayelsa State locally and abroad. That is the issue!
Then there is the widely-held insinuation that the APC candidate’s emergence is a “set up” to mastermind a hidden, anti-people agenda in the future for in the normal course of politics in the state there is no way Lyon could have been made a candidate. Of course, the people are already aware of the implications and would vote for the credible candidate presented by the PDP. On a broader plane, we also come face-to-face with the issues being canvassed by the candidates in the course of the campaign, based on the platform of the two major political parties in the state. The respective performances of both Senator Douye Diri and the candidate on the other side are clear pointers to where the people’s allegiance will lie. As many have attested, Diri’s campaign messages are resonating more among Bayelsans because they are driven with the passion of consolidating the unmistakable achievements and remarkable success recorded by Dickson’s administration.
While there are fears that APC is likely to stop free education in the state and close down the model boarding schools, which its candidate and party leader believe are “money-guzzling,” Senator Douye Diri believes his administration will build on the Restoration Government’s free education policy as a major area of investment because he was part and parcel of the idea and continued investment in education (totally free) remains a deliberate policy to build the necessary human capital for Bayelsa State as basic asset for development.
Similarly, Diri will continue with such legacy projects of the Dickson era as investing more in health, ensuring that the Health Insurance Scheme is reinforced, more hospitals built and equipped, more roads and other public infrastructure built and the state opened up more and more to facilitate trade and commerce. The situation won’t be different in a myriad other sectors: the completion and promotion of the large-scale agric projects in rice and fish production started by the Dickson administration, which Diri has vowed to build upon to promote jobs and advance his mantra of economic prosperity. He has made it abundantly clear that he will make security of life and property a priority, further making the polity stable and reducing crime and criminality in the state. The Agge Deep Seaport is also a priority because of its strategic importance to the state’s economy. A renewed Restoration Government in Bayelsa State under Senator Douye Diri envisages a great economic boom and prosperity when the Bayelsa International Airport, Amassoma, is working to full capacity and the Agge port is also built and developed to full capacity.
To the opposition who have nothing to base their campaign except scurrilous allegations and pie-in-the-sky promises, I say it is vision, stupid, not the quest for power for its own sake or for self-aggrandisement. Bayelsans can look back and connect with lost opportunities in the past because those in government then were only interested in the allure of power, which by such understanding was to throw money around and enjoy the best of wine. No, not any more. Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson has amply demonstrated that governance is serious business.
So, while Senator Diri is specific about his messages of reinforcing the values of the Restoration Government to accelerate socio-economic development in the state, the APC candidate, not surprisingly, does not seem to have clear ideas about what he would do in specific terms other than saying he would “bring development” and “make money flow”! What does this mean? The restoration of the happy-go-lucky days for those in power and in the corridors of power?
I believe our people and the public generally have noticed that the APC candidate is not even allowed to talk much directly at rallies and whatever he has to say is heavily scripted, which many have seen as strange. Why is it that it is the party leaders who speak more at rallies rather than the candidate who should be engaging the people on why he is running? Doesn’t the APC have confidence in the capacity of their candidate?Obviously, there is a problem with capacity and this is a big issue in this election. Bayelsans won’t make the mistake of electing an incompetent governor in November and we can see an added reason why the PDP candidate stands out. The rally venues are getting filled to overflowing and the message is very clear: Senator Douye Diri is the answer, a man who has a pan-Ijaw perspective and who will protect the essential Ijaw interest, former Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Principal Executive Secretary to the state governor, member of the House of Representatives, Senator and now a formidable candidate of the PDP heading to a decisive election.
He stands today as the heir and legatee of the resolute determination and hopes of the Ijaw people for a firm place in the Nigerian sun. Come the November gubernatorial election, Bayelsans will reiterate that commitment.
•Iworiso-Markson, Commissioner for Information and Orientation, writes from Yenagoa