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Bayelsa, Kogi Guber Polls And Saraki’s Fence-Mending Mission

By Kenneth Jude


The race to the Bayelsa and Kogi States governorship primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party generated ripples, accusations and counter accusations.
In Bayelsa State, with incumbent governor, Seriake Dickson supporting his cousin for the party’s ticket, a titanic battle was in the offing given that former President Goodluck Jonathan and some major stakeholders of the party in the state were rooting for Mr. Timi Alaibe, a former Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
In Kogi, 11 aspirants eyed the party’s governorship ticket, among whom were the rambunctious Dino Melaye who, at the time, was still a Senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District in the upper chamber of the National Assembly before last week’s nullification of his election by an Appeal Court sitting in Abuja.
Prior to the primary election in Bayelsa, the quest by the incumbent governor, Seriake Dickson, to have his cousin, Douye Diri, his Chief of Staff, Onfold Ongolo, his Secretary to the State Government, Kemela Okara or any other member of the Restoration Group become the candidate of the party was not hidden. At every fora, he sounded it loud and clear to anybody who cared to listen about his choice of successor.
This, understandably, did not go down well with 20 other aspirants who had also picked interest in flying the party’s ticket in the November 16 governorship election. The aspirants felt there would be no level playing field for the primary given that the governor had pitched his tent with Douye Diri.
In fact, as a counter move to the incumbent governor’s choice, some of the aspirants made efforts to challenge the governor by standing up to him in ways that showed their unhidden dissatisfaction for Seriake Dickson’s stance over who flies the party’s flag in the November poll.
In one of those instances, some of the aspirants had approached the court to challenge the delegates’ list. They sought the disqualification of the newly elected local government officials and ad-hoc delegates from participating as delegates in the primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
They hinged their argument on the grounds that since the elected officials failed to satisfy the 90-day ceiling in the case of local government officials and one month timeline in the case of ad-hoc delegates in line with the provisions of PDP’s constitution, they were not qualified as delegates for the internal poll. But the case was struck out on the day of the primary by Justice E.G. Umukoro who presided over the case at Sagbama High Court, which sat in Yenagoa, the state capital.
Having failed to stop what many described as the governor’s grand design to foist his preferred candidate on the party, some of the aspirants grudgingly went into the internal election with doubts over the process despite assurances by the Governorship Primary Committee Chairman and governor of Taraba State, Mr. Darius Ishaku, that the process will be transparent and credible.
But when the dust settled, Diri, a Senator representing Bayelsa Central Senatorial District, won the primary with 561 votes against his closest rival, Timi Alaibe, who polled 365 votes, while Mr. Keniebi Okoko scored 142 for the third position. While the winner, Diri Douye hailed the outcome of the primary and called for all contending parties to join hands with him ahead of the governorship election, Timi Alaibe, believed to be the choice of Goodluck Jonathan, frowned at the process that threw up Douye as the PDP standard bearer.
In a statement shortly after the primary election, he was quoted as saying: “We all know that the basis of our party is the constitution in addition to the rules and regulations that we set for ourselves from inception in 1998, and the fact that our party has become reformed. Consequently, for anything to be legitimate, it must derive authority from our constitution. Unfortunately, certain aspects of the processes of the just concluded primary election rudely violated the provisions of our party’s constitution.
He gave more evidence to this assertion: “For instance, by the provisions of Section 50(1) of the party’s constitution, the authority to formulate guidelines for all matters relating to the governorship primary is vested in the NEC of PDP. The election of ad-hoc delegates is one of such matters. Strangely, the panel set up to undertake this exercise simply imposed on us a list of electoral and returning officers prepared by the state officers of the party who are avowed members of the orchestrated Restoration Team. Thus, the process was deliberately handed over to the Restoration Team. Our protest was ignored.”
While the third runner-up at the poll, Keneibi Okoko, may have accepted the outcome and congratulated the winner, there are still whispers in some quarters to the effect that some key members of the PDP are not favourably disposed to supporting Diri Douye for the race to the state’s top chair. And with the D-day fast approaching, time is not on the side of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party who face the risk of losing the state to their perennial rivals, the All Progressives Congress who are fielding David Lyon, a political godson of former governor and Minister of State, Petroleum, Chief Timpre Sylva, for the November 16 poll if they don’t fix their house.
Sensing the discordant tunes within the party and the risk of going into the poll as a divided house, the party leadership in the state set up a nine-man committee to reconcile aggrieved members of the party following a cantankerous internal election that produced Diri Douye as candidate of the PDP.
But while the committee is still making efforts to mend shredded walls in the rank and file of the party who are looking to retain the state come November 16, the PDP at the centre has also stepped in to douse the tension and acrimony that the primaries generated in both Bayelsa and Kogi States. This is meant to ensure that the PDP goes into both elections as a strong and united body as they bid to continue their dominance in Bayelsa State while seeking to topple the APC in Kogi State.
The Kogi State primary, like that of Bayelsa, did not come without some interests clashing. The emergence of Mr. Musa Wada, the younger brother of the former one-term governor of the state, Idris Wada, ruffled feathers given that not many people gave him much chance at the poll due to the calibre of politicians that were in the race.
The younger Wada who is said to have latched onto his support base in the West Senatorial District of the state to trump other aspirants, also had to overcome the hurdle posed by 5 of the 11 aspirants who allegedly collapsed their structures for his elder brother and former governor, Captain Idris Wada prior to the poll. Though the primary was said to have been disrupted by gunmen who stormed the Confluence Stadium shooting sporadically, the process later continued from where Musa Wada, an engineer, came tops.
As the governorship election inches closer, there are rumblings within the party especially with some of the aspirants who lost out insisting that the primary that threw up Wada was marred by irregularities. With this and other fissures confronting the party, the national leadership of the PDP has swiftly set up a committee to reconcile warring factions in both Bayelsa and Kogi States as the party look to Post a good showing in both elections.
Headed by a former governor of Kwara State and immediate past Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, the Reconciliation Committee, according to the National Chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, is tasked with the mandate of mending the cracked walls of the PDP in both states and unite all factions ahead of the November 16 polls.
The Saraki led committee surely has its work cut out given the sheer onerous task it has on its hands with the polls just a heartbeat away. Among the issues the committee should proffer immediate solution to is the relationship between former President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Seriake Dickson. Jonathan, himself a former governor of Bayelsa State, despite his gentlemen mien and uncombative disposition, is still reckoned as a powerful politician in the state whose support the party needs to win the governorship election. The cold relationship between the two political heavyweights, analysts say, will not help the party’s fortunes at the election.
The five-man reconciliation committee is also expected to pacify Capt. Idris Wada, a former Kogi State governor who came agonisingly third in the primary. The former governor is at loggerheads with the state chapter of the party over the outcome of the primary election. Given his political stature and strong support base, Idris is a strong politician whose support is needed if the PDP must give the ruling APC a run for their money. Facing an incumbent governor in Yahaya Bello means the opposition PDP must get all its arsenal ready for the task ahead.
As the Saraki led five-man reconciliation committee set down to work, all eyes are on them as they seek to unite all feuding camps in both states within the shortest time possible. Given his shrewdness, many are of the view that Dr. Saraki has the clout to calm frayed nerves ahead of the November 16 guber polls in Bayelsa and Kogi States.
Will the committee deliver on its mandate and put PDP on a solid stead for the elections? Time will tell.

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