In the course of the week, political parties in the two states of Bayelsa and Kogi held their primary elections to determine the flag bearers for the November 16 gubernatorial elections. With Nigeria’s two main political parties, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC), at the centre of the political storm, the stage was therefore set for high-powered intrigues and calculations expected in the high premium stakes in who govern the two states going forward
After months of planning characterised by intrigues, horse-trading, intimidation, bickering and fear of imposition, Senator Douye Diri, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stalwart and incumbent Governor Seriake Dickson’s cousin emerged gubernatorial candidate of PDP for Bayelsa State.
A few hours later, in another intriguing and controversial primary, All Progressive Congress (APC) announced businessman, David Lyon, a ‘rookie’ and political godson of former governor and Minister of State, Petroleum, Chief Timpre Sylva, as the candidate of APC for the November 16 gubernatorial race.
Both primaries and emergence of both Diri and Lyon, which many see as the handiwork of Governor Dickson and former governor Sylva, were both shrouded in controversies; their emergence is not going down well with most Bayelsans. Before the primaries on Tuesday and Wednesday, many Bayelsans had craved for a smooth, free, fair and credible process to enable voters have the best options among its illustrious sons and daughter who came out with intentions to contest the election in both political parties.
But a few weeks to the primaries, their expectations became cast in doubt following moves by the Governor Dickson to install one of his own from the Restoration Group, just as the former Governor Sylva objected to all entreaties and insisted on having his way to decide who the party will present as gubernatorial candidate.
Though many believe that Dickson was working with former President Goodluck Jonathan, whose influence in Bayelsa politics is shrinking daily, the outcome of PDP’s primary shows clearly that Jonathan might have been hoodwinked or arm-twisted by Governor Dickson, who appears a more organised and ruthless politician.
Governor Dickson did not hide his desire to have either 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. Jonathan, on the other hand, cannot pretend not have seen what the governor was planning, because Governor Dickson had sounded it loud and clear at different fora. Even the aspirants who bought forms were all well aware of Dickson’s desire. Or perhaps, most of them were waiting for a miracle, which never happened on the day of the primary.
President Jonathan, all the while never showed either in his body language or speech whether he was supporting any aspirant. Feelers had it that the former president did not want to enmesh himself in the politics of who becomes governor, as he does not want to be rubbished. A close source to the former president said all the aspirants who went to seek his support for the gubernatorial primary was politely told by Jonathan to liaise with Governor Dickson.
However, sensing the plans of Dickson to install his own person prior to the primary, 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).
Led by the former Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Ndutimi Alaibi, they had argued 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.
But despite the tension and apprehension, PDP started the conduct of its governorship primary at 2:00pm on Tuesday. Governor of Taraba State and PDP’s Governorship Primary Committee, Mr. Darius Ishaku, began the accreditation with the aspirants. Ishaku assured all aspirants of a level-playing ground and that the process would be transparent and credible.
The delegates were accredited based on the alphabetical order of their local governments. One of the 21 aspirants, Mr. Talford Onglo, stepped down and reportedly collapsed his political camp into that of Senator Douye Diri. After the screening and accreditation of delegates, the voting took place at Gabriel Okara Cultural Centre which lasted until the early hours of Wednesday.
In the result declared by Darius Ishaku, Senator Douye Diri emerged winner. Diri, a Senator representing Bayelsa Central Senatorial District pulled 561 votes to win the primary.
While declaring the result, Governor Ishaku said Diri’s closest rival, Mr. Timi Alaibe, scored 365 votes, while Mr. Keniebi Okoko scored 142 for the third position.
Diri was a member of the House of Representatives from 2015 to 2019, where he represented the people of Yenagoa/Kolokuma/Opokuma Federal Constituency of the state before he was elected Senator representing Bayelsa Central Senatorial District at the 2019 general election.
Meanwhile, Senator Douye Diri Campaign Organization has expressed appreciation to delegates at the just-concluded Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship primary in Bayelsa State for electing the lawmaker representing Bayelsa Central Senatorial District at the National Assembly, Douye Diri as the flag bearer of the party for the November 16, 2019 gubernatorial election.
While expressing gratitude to the delegates and the leadership of the party, including the incumbent governor, Mr. Henry Seriake Dickson, the gubernatorial candidate said he was humbled and elated by the massive show of solidarity and the sacrifices made by all stakeholders to ensure that he emerged victorious in what has gone down as the most competitive governorship primary in the state. He also commended Governor of Taraba State and Returning Officer for the primary, Darius Ishaku, for conducting a peaceful and fair.
According to him, “Let us also commend the national leadership of our party and the Governor Darius Ishiaku led committee for a job well done, especially for allowing a level playing field.”
Meanwhile, Diri appealed to other aspirants to join hands with him in ensuring that PDP retains Bayelsa State in the governorship election, saying, “We acknowledge the efforts of other aspirants who gave their best shot for the ticket. Our victory is a collective one; so, we enjoin them as true party men to stand with us as we move closer to make this project a reality.
“In the days ahead, we shall storm communities across the eight local government areas to present to our people what we are bringing to the table in the next four years. It is going to be an interesting voyage as we intend to use the opportunity to discuss facts on competence, prosperity of our people and stable governance as a whole.”
A few hours later, on Wednesday, businessman and philanthropist, David Lyon, also emerged flag bearer of All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship contest after he was declared winner of the controversial primary said to have held in 105 wards across the state.
Lyon was said to have won with a total of 42,138 votes, while his closet rival, Mrs. Diseye Nsirim, scored 1,533 votes. Former Minister for Agriculture, Heineken Lokpobiri, scored 571 votes to come a distant third while Preye Aganaba scored 354 votes. Prince Amgbare scored 633 votes while Mr. Prof. Maureen Etebu scored 564 votes.
The Chief Coalition Officer, Sen. Dangana Emmanuel, who announced the result, said the direct mode of primary as agreed by Bayelsa stakeholders and confirmed by the National Working Committee, was what was used. Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Sylva, who took part in the exercise in Okpoama Ward 4 in Brass Local Government Area, commended the peaceful conduct of the exercise.
Sylva, a former governor of the state and leader of APC, hailed the party’s faithful in Okpoama Ward 4 for the violence-free exercise, noting that the party is going into the November governorship election as a united family to wrestle power from PDP in the state.
But immediately after the election was declared, the former minister, Lokpobiri, rejected the results of the primary. Lokpobiri said he was still trying to get details of what transpired, insisting that he and his team never participated in any primary that declared Lyon the flag bearer of the party. Lokpobiri, who is a frontline APC stalwart in the state, said there was no way he would be defeated in any election in Bayelsa by Lyon, adding that the majority members of APC were supporting him.
He wondered why a primary was said to have started in a hotel in Yenagoa and ended in the hotel and sidelining the secretariat of the party in the state. He said party members were gathered at the secretariat in Yenagoa and waited in vain for the arrival of the committee saddled with the conduct of the exercise.
He also queried why results were purportedly declared by someone other than the Returning Officer and Governor of Yobe State, who chaired the committee. Lokpobiri expressed optimism that the national leadership of the party would look into the development in Bayelsa and ensure a credible process that would throw up a popular candidate for APC.
In the same vein, Ndutime Alaibe, while saying that he would move on, questioned what he called ‘inherent flaws’ bordering on crass disrespect for legal procedures and party guidelines.
He said, “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.
“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…
“We chose to run a decent campaign in line with the constitution of our party, the PDP and the laws of Nigeria. We vowed never to engage or respond to acts of violence and abuse from any quarter. We did not envisage that the process would be smooth and easy; but we also could not believe the depth of desperation and deadly manoeuvring that we encountered along the way. We were called unprintable names and even labelled with criminal tags. But we were too focused to be distracted.
“To my supporters and friends, let it be known that no one could have been more disappointed with the outcome of our governorship primary that held on Tuesday September 3 than me. I know you are awfully disappointed, too. But our disappointment is certainly not that the outcome was against our wish to obtain the mandate of our great party, but because of the obviously flawed process that led to the primary.
“However; we must move on.”
Another aspirant, Keneibi Okoko, however, congratulate the winner, Senator Diri, saying that after due consultation with his team, he has decided to work with the winner of the primary.
According to him, “The future is still ahead of us and in the deepest recesses of my heart, I believe it looks even brighter than anyone can ever imagine.
“Therefore, after due consultations with my team, I have formally visited the winner, Senator Diri, to personally congratulate him on his victory. I have also been in touch with my brother, Chief Timi Alaibe.
“In this regard, I have decided to fully support the winner of the PDP Primaries, Senator Diri, in the interest of Bayelsa and PDP and to work for his victory in the November 16 governorship election. We cannot afford to lose this state to the opposition.
“Like I said earlier, the future ahead of us looks even more blazing. In my private capacity, I have done my utmost best to lift the people of my state in my own little way. I will not relent! Together, we can achieve much more. Let’s keep the faith!”
With the stage now set for another epic battle, political pundits believe that the contest between Dickson, who wants a continuation of his legacy, and Sylva, who wants by all means, to prove a point.
Senator Diri, despite the opposition mounted during his campaign, has a rich history. He was the first pioneer Secretary General of pan-Ijaw socio-cultural organisation, Ijaw National Congress (INC), Executive Secretary, Centre for Youth Development, former Commissioner for Sport and Youth Cevelopment and Principal Executive Secretary to Governor Dickson. He was a member of the House of Representatives before he won yet another election in 2019, as Senator representing the Bayelsa Senatorial District.
On the other hand, APC’s candidate is only know as a businessman and a holder of the National Certificate of Education (NCE). His only pedigree is his philanthropism, which has seen a lot of Bayelsans enjoying scholarship schemes he sponsors. He is also an employer of labour, with over 5, 000 youth in the pipeline surveillance contract he has with the Agip oil company.
On the other hand in Nigeria’s North Central state of Kogi State, the governorship primary election of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may have come and gone, but not without surprises. Mr. Musa Wada’s victory over his elder brother, former Governor Idris Wada was most unexpected. Observers said the activities preparatory to the primary did not indicate that the younger Wada would emerge the number one aspirant in the contest. He was said to have engaged in silent campaign across the state.
His strongest political base is said to be the West Senatorial District, where he allegedly garnered a lot of votes that gave him the victory. As eventual winner of PDP’s primary, Wada will square up at the poll with the incumbent governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, who has already emerged candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) for the November 16 gubernatorial election.
A few hours to PDP’s primary, five out of the 11 governorship aspirants from Kogi East were alleged to have collapsed there structure into that of Wada, the immediate past governor of the state and elder brother to the eventual winner.
Spokesperson of Kogi East Elders’ Council, Arc. Gabriel Aduku, disclosed this on Tuesday morning while addressing journalists in Lokoja ahead of the primary. According to him, a meeting had been held between the council and nine governorship aspirants from Kogi East, where some sort of consensus was reached that only one person with experience and ability to deliver the state should emerge. At the end of the meeting, five aspirants agreed to step down for the former governor of the state.
Those who allegedly stepped down for Wada were AVM Salihu Atawodi, Muhammed Tetes, Emmanuel Omebije, Mrs. Grace Iye Adejor and, Dr. Victor Adoji. Aduku. They said Wada had just one term to spend and as such it would be good to give him a chance to complete his tenure as governor of the state.
Also, the former deputy governor of old Benue State, Sule Iyaji, said they decided to back Wada because of his experience, stressing that it was the main reason they appealed to other aspirants to step down for him.
However, some of the aspirants alleged to have stepped down for Capt. Wada (rtd) denied the statement. In a statement signed by his campaign organisation, Adoji denied stepping down for Wada or anyone else. Also, Adejor told The Guardian shortly before the commencement of the primary that she had not stepped down for anybody.
Meanwhile, PDP went into the primary amidst controversies. The build up to the primary election was characterised by lots of intrigues, horse-trading, and camping of delegates in hotels by aspirants. Thirteen aspirants actually scrambled for the 2,578 delegates that voted in the primary. Preparatory to the exercise, the camps of two former governors of the state, Ibrahim Idris, whose son, Abubakar, contested the primary as well as the immediate past governor of the state, Wada.
Those who worked for the emergence of Abubakar Idris argued that Wada’s woeful performance as governor of the state between 2012 and 2016 led to PDP’s failure in the 2015 governorship election. Wada was defeated in the election by the late political icon of Kogi State, Prince Abubakar Audu, who died shortly before the announcement of the election results and was replaced by the incumbent, Bello, who came second in APC’s 2015 primary election.
A member of PDP, who spoke with The Guardian on condition of anonymity, hinted that the former governor’s emergence would have also led to PDP suffering another disgrace in the November 16 governorship election. However, Wada said recently that he had learnt from his mistakes and promised to do things differently if given a second term.
Those loyal to Wada, particularly from Kogi West and Central, are of the opinion that since Wada had only one constitutional term to run, power will automatically shift to the areas considered as the old Kwara, if he had won the primary. But observers, however, were of the view that the odds were more in favour of Idris whose father and former governor is believed to hold the structure of Kogi PDP. This assertion has however been punctured with the emergence of Wada.
Not withstanding that 11 other aspirants went into the primary, political watchers were of the belief that the fight would just be a straight fight between Idris and Capt. Wada. That position has also been defeated. However, Some aggrieved members of the party who participated in the July state congress went to court to seek redress, alleging irregularities and hijacking of the process. This is yet to be resolved.
One of the aggrieved members, Alhaji Muhammed Omuya, who contested PDP’s chairmanship position at the congress, alleged that the outcome of the primary was not free and fair. He is currently in court to seek redress.
Some members of the party, who spoke with The Guardian on condition of anonymity, said the stakeholders and the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party needed to address issues that might affect the outcome of the exercise. According to them, if the national headquarter goes ahead with the governorship primary and the court decides to annul it, what happened to APC in Zamfara State may likely be the case with Kogi PDP.
Sadly, the process, which started peacefully all through Tuesday night, was brought to an abrupt halt when sporadic gunshots rent the air at Confluence Stadium while vote counting was going on. The accreditation of delegates and voting had gone on smoothly until about 1.45am when unknown gunmen invaded the stadium.
At this point the race was being closely contested, with Engr. Musa Wada, Abubakar Idris, Capt. Wada, Senator Dino Melaye going head to head. Four other aspirants earlier cleared for the primaries reportedly stepped down from the race on Monday night.
Earlier, Chairman of the Electoral Committee for PDP’s primary, Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa, had said 2,388 delegates were accredited out of a total of 2,578 PDP delegates from the 21 local government areas of Kogi. He added that 600 ballot papers had been provided.
”We have 13 aspirants for Kogi PDP governorship primary and no aspirant has signified interest to step down. So, we have 13 agents representing all the 13 aspirants,” he said.
Also speaking before the commencement of the process, PDP’s Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the party had taken necessary steps to ensure free, fair, credible, transparent, and peaceful election. According to him, the names of all the delegates across the state were earlier published in different national dailies and online media. He added that every delegate had his or her photograph on the accreditation card.
He explained that all other aspirants had pledged to support whoever won the primary among them in the governorship election in November 16.
However, votes in eight out of the 10 ballot boxes had already been counted and sorted out before the disruption by the gunmen. At least one person was reportedly killed during the shooting. One Abdullahi Loko Ibrahim from Kotonkarfi Local Government Area of the state was allegedly hit by bullets, killing him instantly.
Meanwhile, the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, described the shooting incidence which took place in the early hours of Wednesday during the opposition PDP’s primary as sad and unfortunate. Bello who expressed his disappointment with the unholy development stated that such dastardly act was an affront to the security of lives and property which are the primary achievement of his administration and the one thing Kogites have come to take for granted in recent times.
Also Capt. Idris Wada’s Campaign Organisation condemned in strong terms the violent attack and disruption of PDP’s governorship election primary. In a press statement issued by his campaign organisation and signed by his media aide, Mr. Jonathan Jibrin, the former governor sympathised with the families of those who lost loved ones and those injured in the process.
However, the party promptly rallied its members and agreed to complete the process. Chairman of the Primary Committee, Fintiri, met with aspirants and their agents and final counted and collated the remaining two ballot boxes. At the end of the process, which lasted several hours, Mr. Musa Wada, an engineer, was declared winner of the governorship primary of PDP. He beat twelve other aspirants, including his older sibling and former governor, Capt. Wada.
Wada scored a total of 748 votes to beat his closest rival, Alhaji Abubakar Idris, who pulled a total of 710. Capt. Wada scored 345 votes to come third, while the embattled Senator Dino Melaye came fourth with 70 votes. Others are Abubakar Aminu Suleiman who scored 55 votes, Victor Adoji 54 votes, Salihu Attawodi 11votes, Joseph Erico Ameh 4 votes, Emmanuel Omebije 9 votes, Mohammed Shaibu Tetes 4 votes and Bayo Michael who scored 2 votes.