The December 5 governorship election in Bayelsa State promises to be a keenly contested one, perhaps for the first time since 1999. This is because of the recent change of power at the center. Prior to now, the holder of PDP ticket would just stroll to victory, but this may not be so any longer. EMMA ALOZIE looks at strengths and weaknesses of those likely to make it to the finishing line
Perhaps never in the history of the oil rich Bayelsa state has the stake been so high in the contest of its seat of government. It has been a certainty that the ruling PDP would always have its way. But that seems to have changed and the December 5 election promises to be keenly contested without obvious party supremacy. From all indications, individual candidates rather than party strength may likely define the winner of the election.
So far many heavyweights have all declared their interests to contest for the governorship, but the question is how credible are these heavyweights?
He is the incumbent governor of Bayelsa State. Nothing perhaps prepared him for the huge opposition he is facing now because close to four years back when he was elected, he almost strolled to victory. But things have changed. Several factors have ganged up against his second term bid and his second term ambition is almost hanging on the thread. He is trying so hard to turn the fluid tide, but things are fast slipping out of hand and watchers of the unraveling politics in Bayelsa are saying that Governor Dickson’s success or failure at the polls largely depends on the quality of those he will face. His chances have not all dimmed; he can still pull the chestnut out of the fire, but with the caliber of other Bayelsans interested in his job, he is not as assured as he was four years ago.
He is another front runner to succeed Governor Seriake Dickson. Architect Reuben Okoya, a technocrat is being viewed by many Bayelsans as the man who the cap fits. He has thrown his hat into the ring and this excites so many Bayelsans who see him as a pleasant departure from the old faces who have been strutting the political landscape of the riverine state. Such faces as former Governor Sylva, Timi Alaibe and the incumbent governor, Seriake Dickson are faces Bayelsa faces are used to and are yearning for fresh faces.
Architect Okoya is a rounded technocrat who was first appointed into government by the then Governor Goodluck Jonathan as his Special Adviser and Commissioner for Special Duties. Knowing his worth and his contributions to whatever success he achieved as governor of Bayelsa state, when Jonathan became president of Nigeria, he called him back from his base in the United States and gave him more responsibilities at the national level as the development manager for the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
It is noteworthy to reiterate that the decision to embark on this noble venture is not that of Okoya alone. It is mostly propelled by the people who see in him the qualities of a salvager. Recently, a group of former local government chairmen in the state, under the umbrella of Forum of Former Local Government Chairman declared their unalloyed support for this architect. The group argued that their decision to support the former commissioner stems from the fact that he is honest, has honour and a development-minded technocrat. “After reviewing the present state of our dear state in the last couple of years, we the former chairmen of local government areas in Bayelsa State unanimously agreed that we must urgently halt the backward slide of governance in the state. It is time for us as Bayelsans to unite and present our best son to contest for the office of the governor,” Hon Favour Bozimo said on behalf of the Forum.
Architect Okoya’s other strength is that he is seen as a man who is standing only on his integrity without any godfather breathing down his neck. Voters are of the view that with the rot political godfathers have brought on the state, it is time for somebody who can call the bluff of the godfathers is brought to right the numerous wrongs.
However, as a man of modest means, there are fears that he may not possess the financial wherewithal to prosecute an election of this magnitude. But his admirers insist that his goodwill will see him through.
Former governor of Bayelsa State who had a very chequered tenure as governor, he has indicated interest in contesting the December 5 election. While returning his nomination forms to the national secretariat of APC in Abuja, he boasted that he was the man to beat in the election. He lamented the abandonment of what he called his numerous projects by his successor in office and he blamed this on politics.
His strengths may lie with the powers at the centre as he played a prominent role in the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari as the president. Also being a former governor, he still has a splinter of loyalists who can still make things work for him. The seeming dissatisfaction with the government of Seriake Dickson that has led to mass defections to the All Progressives Congress, a predominantly PDP enclave may be another plus to him.
However, the huddles and obstacles seem huge. His opponents accuse him of messing up the state in the close to five years he held sway as governor. Many of his opponents argue that he did not utiltise that golden opportunity to acquit himself well in governance.
Also, his party, the All Progressives Congress is another negative factor that may affect his chances. Selling APC in a state like Bayelsa is a tough job given the recent defeat of a son of the state in the hands of the party. Sylva’s recent endorsement by the former governor of Lagos and APC’s strongman, Bola Tinubu could work as a two edged sword. Tinubu in all sense of it cannot be described as a friend of the Ijaw nation, the dominant ethnic group in Bayelsa and his endorsement of any candidate in the state is viewed as trying to extend his political tentacle to the oil rich state.
The forthcoming election is beyond the individuals contesting; rather it is viewed by many Ijaws as a battle between the forces who defeated an Ijaw man in the last election and those who want to revenge. Therefore, for the former governor to be sponsored by APC, generally viewed as an anti-Ijaw party, it is a huge obstacle to cross and tougher job to convince Bayelsa electorate.
He has been a recurring factor in the politics of the state. A former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, he has one thing going against him; either he would come ahead of his time or he would come belated. This is the second time or thereabout he is showing serious interest in becoming the governor of Bayelsa State and in each occasion, he has been up against a political ‘brick wall’ of some sort. For instance, he is going after a ticket of a party where Sylva has been the leader and Sylva is also interested in the ticket. There are very strong indications that the national leadership of APC is backing Sylva to win the ticket. The question then is, wherein lies the fate of Alaibe, who against all odds is a formidable force in the politics of Bayelsa.
Should he per chance win APC’s ticket, the factor of APC, which is a huge clog for whoever that wins it in the state is also likely to count against him. Head or tail, Mr Alaibe seems to be between a rock and a hard place.