Politicking is about group interests, intrigues, surprises, and calculations. All these are at play in the politics of who takes over from ‘Country Boy’ governor, Seriake Dickson, of Bayelsa State. The riddle that is being solved in Bayelsa right now is who would fit the succession hurdle and vision for Bayelsa state governor, as envisioned by its outgoing office occupier, Dickson.
Is Real Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah (rtd), Dickson’s deputy, in good stead to clinch the PDP ticket and then move on to win the elections and become governor? Does Timi Alaibe, who once moved away from the PDP to the opposition party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), and then returned to PDP, fit the template?
Or would it be some other persons who have joined the race, among whom are Anthony George-Ikoli, Godknows Igali, Erepamo Osaisai and the Secretary to the State Government, Kemela Okara and Chief Reuben Okoya? Do Bayelsa State Board of Internal Revenue chair, Dr. Nimibofa Ayawei, the immediate past Director General, Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission, Dr. Franklin Osaisai, an oil magnate, Mr. Keniebi Okoko, former chairman of the state’s PDP, James Dugo, Chief Great Joshua Maciver, and Chairman of the state’s Land Use Allocation Committee, Mr. Joseph Akedesuo have any chances?
No one would ever think that other parties’ candidates other than those of the PDP would win the November 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa State. However, in politics nothing is impossible. The assumption is that given what is on ground, APC’s chances are quite slim in upstaging PDP in Bayelsa.
So, who are the likely PDP candidates that stand the chance of clinching the party’s ticket to contest the election? Dickson had said the candidate of the PDP, and eventual governor of Bayelsa, should be one who has the consciousness and capacity to play opposition politics in the country, and should not be left in the hands of “lilly-livered politicians who only play establishment politics and shy away from the realities on ground.”
He, Bayelsa’s next governor, Dickson said, should be one with courage, commitment, vision and grits, adding that these qualities are needed for his successor to protect the interest of the state and the Ijaw nation. After his pronouncement several Bayelsa and Ijaw citizens have been looking at the candidates that are in the race under PDP.
One of the prominent contestants is Alaibe, former Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), who is currently ratcheting up his campaign on local and national media.
Not many in the Ijaw nation are pointing their fingers to Alaibe, as fitting the Dickson’s job description. They say, Alaibe’s political prostitution puts a blight on his card. He defected to the PDP from APC in October 2018, when he described the PDP as the party of the Ijaw nation. He had initially identified with the PDP from 2003 to 2009, when he served as Executive Director of NDDC and subsequently the commission’s managing director. He joined APC in August 2015, following the election of Mohammadu Buhari as president that year.
Not even Ambassador Igali, with his sound profile, having worked for the Olusegun Obasanjo and the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua governments. He once tried to run for the office of Bayelsa governor under PDP in 2011 but did not make a good success of it. He was permanent secretary in power ministry, under the Buhari government. Very few are giving him a chance in this second bid.
Now several Bayelsans who spoke to The Guardian, including some aides of Dickson, who do not want their names in print, seem to be pointing to Jonah as one who the cap fits to succeed Dickson. Jonah himself recognizes this and is aligning himself with the Dickson vision. He said that the driving force behind his ambition is the passion to serve the people, continue the developmental works initiated by Governor Dickson.
“I clearly understand the challenges of governance and (I’m) better placed to continue and consolidate on the achievements of Dickson, especially in the education and health sectors,” John-Jonah once said.
He is in support of providing a level-playing ground for all aspirants and the need to play by the rules, saying that there should be no preferred aspirant in order to avoid divisiveness within the ranks of the party.
Many at Creek Haven, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State Government House, including the current occupant, see, however, the coming into the 2019 governorship race by Jonah as belated. They believe he took his boss by surprise, when his body language all along had suggested he was not interested in the race. According to them, the governor had given his words to some candidate(s), at it now appears too late for Jonah to get Dickson’s support. They argue that, as one who had worked with the governor, Jonah should have carried the governor along before making his decision.
True, Jonah had never planned to throw his hat into the governorship ring of Bayelsa. He wanted to retire quietly to his modest home, from where he was called to serve with Dickson the people of Bayelsa, as Deputy Governor.
Many in Bayelsa argue with much fervency that he has performed his role very well. He is considered to be a very supportive deputy governor to Dickson, one who has helped and contributed immensely to the forward-looking visions and successes of the Dickson administration.
His coming into the race at the time he did, according to source, is connected to pressures from Bayelsa’s stakeholders, who were able to convince him that they still needed his wealth of experience and capacity to continue the good works of the Dickson administration.
Many see Jonah as quiet, unassuming, and as a deputy governor, he took his due back seat only coming forward when the governor invited him to do so. Though sources told The Guardian that Jonah had eventually intimated his boss of his intention, the governor appears to still be unhappy that his deputy was coming forward too late. Though the governor appears to be giving the impression that he does not have any preferential candidate, sources say he has given his commitment to some candidates before his deputy made his intention known.
It was also gathered that when the intention of his deputy to contest for the governorship race was made known to Dickson, he tried to persuade his deputy to drop the idea, and even offering to pay back the money with which Jonah purchased the expression of interest form. Sources claim that Jonah humbly told his boss that he would try his luck at the party’s primary, where the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidates for the election would be elected by party delegates. He had also said to his boss that he was in a better position to improve on the visions of the ‘Country Boy Governor’ for Bayelsa State and the Ijaw as was propagated by the governor himself, having worked closely with him.
Truly, it appeared at some point that Dickson had a preferred candidate, but he had come out recently to say he was looking onto God to choose his right successor. This gives some hope that the governor would be neutral in the choice of who becomes his successor.
One Dickson’s political aide describes Jonah as cool, calculated, disciplined, time conscious and focused, and ordinarily immensely qualifies to succeed his boss. He said, however, that the odd that seems to be against him is the zoning factor, which some are arguing should be used for picking the next governor of Bayelsa.
Zoning factor falls flat when properly examined
But arguments advanced to knock out Jonah’s candidacy with regards to zoning do not run deep. Those against Jonah claim his South-east senatorial zone has produced two governors for Bayelsa. They are Goodluck Jonathan and Timipreye Sylva. But they fail to note also, that the South West has also produced two governors, Dickson and Nestor Binabo. The same for Bayelsa Central from where DSP Alamieseha and Werinipre Seibarugo come to occupy the position of governor of Bsyelsa.
Seibarugo became (acting) Governor from April 16, 2008 to May 27, 2008, when Governor Sylva’s election was nullified, the same way Jonathan became governor when Alamieseya was impeached. Binabo, also was (acting) Governor from January 27 to February 14, 2012.
When you puncture the argument based on senatorial zones they moved the post to another area of local governments saying that out of the eight local governments in the state, only one has neither produced a governor, or a deputy governor.
They argue that among the eight local government areas in the state, Southern Ijaw, Ogbia, Brass and Sagbama have produced governors in the persons of Alameiyesiegha, Jonathan, Sylva and Dickson respectively.
Other local governments Nembe, Ekeremor and Yenagoa have produced deputy governors in the persons of Jonah (retd), Chief Peremobowei Ebebi and Seibarugu respectively. They argue that the Kolokuma-Opokuma has produced neither a governor nor a deputy.
But those who puncture the zoning politics point out that those who argue in favour of zoning refuse to acknowledge that Binabo who was once Bayelsa House speaker and became acting governor in 2012, is from Sagbama local government, yet in that same year, Dickson emerged from the same local government to be governor. The point made by this side of the argument is that, if it is reckoned to
Jonathan the short period he spent as governor as the due of Ogbia Local government, then it can rightly be said the same for Sagbama as having had two governors in Baylesa, irrespective of the short spell of Binabo.
The argument is that Sagbama Local Government has produced two governors for Bayelsa state. Nembe, which Jonah is from, has never produced a governor, neither an acting governor.
Rear Admiral Ombo (rtd), a Bayelsan, says he does not believe in the zoning argument, but that the election of any Bayelsa governor should be based on free and fair election and on merit.
According to him any Bayelsan, with the character, foresight, attitude, integrity, astute leadership qualities, and a manifest fear of God in all endeavors, devoid of thuggery, and with a vivid display of his or her capabilities across political boundaries, to pursue the legacies put in place for growth and development of the State and its citizens, should be elected by Bayelsans.
Ombo, who has worked very closely with Jonah said the current Bayelsa Deputy Governor fits the bill. This is what he had to say about Jonah: “He is a quiet, hardworking and totally committed gentlemen in every endeavor he pursues. In his time as Admiral Superintendent of the Naval Dockyard, the Nigerian Navy built and launched its first home built ship”
“He, thereafter, became the Chief of Naval Engineering that birthed several engineering partnerships that are still functional till date. Jonah retired from the Nigerian Navy as the Commandant of the prestigious National War College and was thereafter appointed as the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State”, he added.
According to him Jonah has all the character, courage and foresight to advance the growth and development of Bayelsa State, improve the standard of living of Bayelsans, create and leave lasting industrial legacies for the future generations. He is the bastion of peace in Bayelsa State.