Bayelsa Guber: Head Or Tail, Voters Largely Non-committal
THE two leading candidates for Saturday’s governorship election in Bayelsa State, incumbent governor Seriake Dickson and his predecessor, Timipreye Sylva are not new to each other as opponents. They both contested for the PDP ticket in 2011, with Dickson backed by the then President Goodluck Jonathan coming out tops, in the party’s primary.
However, since then, a lot of water has passed under the bridge, as the former ruling party lost out to the APC at the centre, while Sylva now has the advantage of the patronage and support of the ruling party in Abuja. The APC has two things going for it at the moment. One is, its candidate was once governor, hence has a political structure on the ground. This paid off for him at the party’s primary election, as he won the ticket twice. Another factor is the defection of some political bigwigs from the ruling PDP in the state, as well as from the less- endowed Labour Party. The ruling party at the centre has been able to attract certain interests to itself for obvious reasons, while the ruling party in the state is also well rooted, drawing strength from the Ijaw nation as well as on the personality of the former President Goodluck Jonathan.
On their perceived strengths, both are believed to have faired poorly in office. Bayelsans rate both men below average in terms of performance and would have preferred a fresh face. However, in the absence of a better option, sources confided in The Guardian, philosophically that they are only drawing inspiration from the defeatist mantra that says ‘’what you see, is what you get’’ in life. They have, they said, resigned to fate and would make do with what is available in the situation.
Generally, the people are non-committal, even as they throng various campaign rallies organised by the rivals. However, despite all misgivings by the people, they are almost equally divided between the two gladiators. While some profess love for the former governor and APC candidate, others root for the incumbent. Sylva, who enjoyed ‘’bountiful harvests’’ through substantial federal government monthly allocation during his tenure, dazzled his people with lots of goodies, especially those who were close to the power. This has endeared him to a section of the people, who are now bent on seeing him ascend the ‘’throne ‘’ again.
In his own case, Dickson attracts the attention of the traditional PDP base in the state, which is quite substantial. The loss of the Presidency by their ‘’son’’, Dr. Jonathan, has made a substantial section of the population to have a distaste for anything APC, and this has to some extent brightened the chances of Governor Dickson.
Some developments have given the challenger the lead. One is the media machinery of the former governor, which seems to be more proactive while that of the incumbent is reactive. An example of this was an incident that took place last week Tuesday.
An incident happened last Tuesday. The hyperactive APC snatched the initiative to make the state government look bad in the eyes of the populace by organising what it called ’’Operation Clean Up Bayelsa’’.
Youth and women faithful of the party, stormed certain parts of the state and evacuated refuse heaps that hitherto dotted different parts of the state. Director of Media and Publicity of the Sylva/Igitri Campaign organisation, Nathan Egba, in the elaborate media- driven event dwelt heavily on the shortcomings of the state government, especially in the area of environmental sanitation.
The Sylva camp mobilised women and youth of the party to evacuate heaps of refuse in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, in the early morning of that day, as they (APC) rolled out refuse trucks, caterpillars and other earth-moving equipment to carry out the cleanup of the various areas of the state capital, where there were heaps of refuse. Scores of party faithful, comprising young ladies, women and youths were also on hand to assist the operators with the refuse evacuation.
The party faithful, donning colourful vests with the inscription, ‘APC cleans Bayelsa’, had trooped out with their brooms, buckets, shovels, rakes and other sanitary items to clean the state capital, as they mobilised in groups to different parts of the metropolis to clear up dumps of garbage at strategic locations.
But the Bayelsa State Government, which has at various times told the residents of the state it couldn’t clean up the dump sites, due to paucity of funds, oblivious of the implications of its action, shot itself in the foot in a counter productive, move as it hurriedly mobilized some contractors to evacuate refuse littering other parts of the city. Residents of the state were initially dumbfounded but later amused at the sight of the APC members and government contactors clearing the heaps of refuse side by side.
Explaining the exercise, the Director, Media and Publicity, Sylva-Igiri Campaign Organisation, Chief Nathan Egba, told journalists that the government had not been able to manage the environmental sanitation situation in the state. “The reason for doing this is simple: everybody living in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, now knows that the government is not able to manage the environmental sanitation situation in the state. As a result, epidemics and other diseases are likely to break out. There are instances where such rubbish piled up in front of schools and market places. The private residence of the deputy governor is suffering similar fate.’’
The Dickson campaign team, the Restoration Campaign Organisation, in a counter-offensive through its Director of Media and Publicity, Jonathan Obuebite, blamed the APC for being responsible for the heaps of refuse in Yenagoa, even though he did not elaborate. He alleged that the APC was just dissipating energy just to score cheap political points. He further described the exercise as “the deceitful style of campaign” of the opposition. The governor’s campaign organisation advised Bayelsans to be wary of the antics of the APC members “who are desperate to grab power through the back door by advancing various dubious means.”
Some foot soldiers have been noticed that can influence people in their communities. In Bayelsa East, the home base of Chief Timipre Silva, the APC candidate who hails from Okpoma can count on the support of big time politicians like Jephta Nengi, Senator Nimi Barigha Amange, former Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission, George Turnah, his campaign Director of Media and Publicity, Jonathan Obubite, Chef Austin Adigio and the former Acting Governor of the state, Hon. Nestus Ibinabo,
Governor Dickson can also ruffle some feathers in the area, with the backing of some other politicians like his Deputy, John Jonah, Secretary to the State Government, Chief Alex Oguru, A.J.Turner, Serena Dokubo, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce and the former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Coming to Bayelsa West where the governor hails from, Dickson can count on the support of the former Deputy to Chief Sylva, who was also a one-time Acting Governor of the state, Prememobowei Ebebi, Senator Foster Ogola, member of House of Representative, Fred Agbedi. For the APC, Sylva’s running mate Wilberforce Igiri is from Bayelsa West. Others promoters include the former Speaker and Acting Governor, Hon. Nimipre Sebaragu, the Chairman of state chapter of APC, Tiwei Oruminighe, Chief Rufus Abadi and others who are firmly grounded in the politics of the area.