Mr. Seriake Dickson, Governor of Bayelsa State is a deeply troubled man at the moment. The house where he is captain is on fire and many of those who hitherto sought shelter therein are filing in droves into a rival abode. Last Saturday, a sustained siege on the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, by the All Progressives Congress, APC, yielded more results for the latter in Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa State. APC’s broom fever caught up with a haul of defectors from the state chapter of the PDP, including the latter’s erstwhile chairman, Sam Inokoba and other bigwigs like Mr. Timi Alaibe, and former Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, among others.
That this is happening few months before a re-election battle for the stick-wielding state chief executive with a bulky frame must be a nightmarish experience for him. But for Timipre Silva, the man whom Dickson dislodged from office in 2012 the outing was dream come true. One could therefore understand the relish with which he savoured the moments as video footage of the event caught him in a swagger of measured soft steps dancing to the tunes of Ijaw music wafting from loudspeakers in the venue. In contrast to Dickson’s troubled firmament, Silva’s silver lining stands him in good stead to emerge as the candidate of the APC for the December governorship election.
If this happens and Dickson on the other hand manages to soar above the gathering clouds that seek to deny him the PDP ticket, then the stage would have been set for a battle royale in the coming electoral contest. Whether Silva can repeat the Ayo Fayose scenario of Ekiti in Bayelsa State is for now only a matter of conjecture.
But let us revert to the issues of extant import. The Bayelsa defection is no doubt, a loud statement by the APC in its quest to dominate the national polity. It underscores its deep desires to make inroads into the South-south geo-political zone of the country which is almost the exclusive preserve of the PDP. And the Saturday event is of significant positive value to the party in a few respects. But it is also devalues the political space and confirms suspicions in some quarters that the APC is loathe to actually inspire the change it professes.
The admission of new high profile members to boost the morale of a state chapter, especially within weeks of an impending crucial election is surely of positive value just like wooing powerful rivals that can bring useful political capital into the fold is worthy enterprise for building a strong and virile party. In the same vein, the grandeur of rallies and heartiness of loud communions tend to increase the confidence of party members besides serving as avenues for political mobilization and sensitisation. In addition, the APC now have a pointer to the possibility that they could pull the rug from ex President Goodluck Jonathan’s feet by forming the government in his home state. And that for the party, would be good political fortune.
But the wild celebration of a motley crowd of PDP defectors who have at various times suckled on the nectar of their former party and are only now departing for greener pastures in the wake of dry season is a hollow ritual that though tolerated during its formative stage cannot be deemed tenable and in conformity with the change mantra the APC continues to profess. There is a moral burden on the party here. For those who argue that there is no morality in politics, it would have been just fine had the APC not consistently demonised the PDP as a nest of corrupt persons, breeders of snipers, public fund embezzlers, and everything else that is evil. So if PDP is the devil the APC trumpets about as the sole problem of the Federal Republic of Nigeria it therefore imposes a moral bankruptcy upon itself for continuing to fish in polluted waters. Or does the party posses a magic wand yet unknown to Nigerians that can cure politicians of their repulsive defects and ills once they embrace the broom? If not why does the party which chooses only to point at the speck in the eyes of the PDP while conveniently ignoring the log blurring its sight find no qualms in poaching there from? It is bad enough that the APC has opted for fair-weather friends who consider PDP’s loss at the centre and/or whose personal loss of return tickets to plum positions hitherto occupied as their reasons to jump ship.
The polity cannot beget the change society desires of it when politicians remain without scruples and principles and believe they can shift the goal post at any time their interests are threatened. It gets even worse when some of the defectors are politicians whose public conduct and records have been called to question or whose past are tainted with varying degrees of public disapproval if not outright opprobrium. Hardly can any of the big names among the Bayelsa defectors pass a microscopic scrutiny from objective observers in terms of principles, loyalty, and performance, among others.
Mr. Timi Alaibe for instance, is one of the greatest beneficiaries of the PDP stint in power as far as Bayelsa State is concerned. Ex- Executive Director, Finance and Administration of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) before eventually becoming the agency’s Managing Director, Alaibe has enjoyed very plum positions in PDP-led administrations, including being special adviser to the president on Niger Delta Affairs and Head of the Presidential Amnesty Office for ex-militants. He had contested for the governorship of Bayelsa State both under the platform of the PDP and the Labour Party at a time. While contesting under Labour, the ex-NDDC boss never hid the fact that he just needed a platform to obtain power suggesting that he remained a PDP stalwart inside of him. He had told the media then: “When elected, it is your duty to provide leadership. When you achieve results, nobody cares about your party platform.”
Again after returning to the PDP in 2011 to contest the governorship nomination of the party, this is what he told newsmen at the party’s national secretariat where he had gone to submit expression of interest forms: “As you know, I have always been a solid member of this party (PDP); one of the builders of this party. So you cannot ask me not to come back to my house. I have returned to my home and that is where we are.” Given such examples it is not hard to see that Alaibe is one chiefly driven by personal ambition and without sustained loyalty to a party. With such antecedence, it may as well be early yet in the day for the APC to celebrate the entry of this big fish into its fold. But time will tell. Like it is telling in the case of Mr. Silva, the ex-governor who joined other PDP ‘rebels’ in nurturing the coalition that eventually gave rise to the APC in 2013. In spite of the baggage of graft charges hanging on his neck, the party has continued to believe in the political abilities of Sylva.
In 2012, the EFCC had announced the seizure of 48 choice properties said to belong Sylva, an action denied and derided by the former governor. While the anti-graft commission had said it obtained an interim forfeiture order from Justice A. R Mohammed of the Federal High Court Abuja, Silva insisted his properties were protected by an order from another court. While this properties seizure controversy was not conclusively foreclosed in the public domain, the mud raised by the episode did further damage to the image of the ex governor who is yet to clear his name from charges of corruption by the EFCC. Only in June, the commission filed a fresh 50 counts charge against him accusing him of stealing some N19 billion of Bayelsa state funds. For all intents and purposes, Silva although yet to be convicted in the court of law, has become one of the major test cases for the avowed anti-corruption stance of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. Yet he remains a leading light of the president’s party and may even become its standard bearer in the December governorship election in Bayelsa. APC cannot be freely indulging in the odious conducts for which it crucifies the PDP and expects Nigerians to take it seriously on its narrative of change and anti-corruption. That is sheer hypocrisy and a subterfuge that infuriates the intelligence of the electorate. As things stand, there is really no authentic choice between both parties.
In fact, the Bayelsa defection episode is yet another contradiction that threatens any serious attempt by the ruling party at the centre to brand itself as a vehicle for true change. It may very well unsettle Governor Dickson and the PDP fold, but it is not likely to fully resonate with conscious political watchers and an increasingly enlightened electorate. It is a given however that the incident has exposed Dickson as being seriously challenged in terms of managing the politics of Bayelsa State even after almost four years as governor. Nothing else confirms this than the fact that the chairman of his party was among the defectors.
This is not a good testimony of leadership abilities and political capabilities. The governor’s saving grace however, may to be his performance in the last three years plus assuming he has discharged his mandate creditably. The December election will be referendum on his first four years and by that time the jury on him would be out. That is if he eventually manages to secure the nomination of the PDP and is able to convincingly market his achievements in office.


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