GOV DICKSON AND THE BAYELSA EMPIRE
By Francis Sagbama.
Since the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) fixed December 5 for the governorship election in Bayelsa State, all eyes have been on Bayelsa, the Jerusalem of the Ijaw nation. Political activities have also heightened with some disgruntled members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in the state decamping to the All Progressives Congress (APC). This may have prompted the arrowheads of the opposition who want power solely to return the littoral state to the days of the swarming locust to insinuate that Dickson’s Empire had crumbled in Bayelsa. Though I am not a government spokesman but after pondering about it, I decided to deflate this obvious falsehood which was meant to give the tenuous impression to APC apparatchiks in Abuja that the party is the new kid on the Bayelsa block.
The opposition alluded to an empire built by the Countryman Governor of Bayelsa State, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson which they averred was crumbling as a result of the so called decamping of these paper weight politicians. Truth is that the governor has never had an empire and doesn’t intend to build any so I don’t know how a non-existent empire could crumble!
In the past three and half years of Dickson’s sojourn in the Creek Haven, he has demystified governance by redefining the governance culture in the state, projected the frontiers of Ijaw national interest, stood by President Goodluck Jonathan at all times and above all, the Dickson administration has embarked on a massive infrastructural and human capital development of Bayelsans so much so that Bayelsa, the glory of all lands, has been restored to its pride of place in the comity of states. In other words, Dickson has delivered concrete developmental deliverables to Bayelsans and Ijaw nation as a whole. Under Dickson’s watch, security of life and property is a top priority of government. Our Bayelsa of today has zero tolerance for crime, criminality and corruption and this explains why all the businesses shut down by the hostile actions and inactions of the Governor Timipre Sylva Government have resurrected, leading to a boom in the business and night life of Bayelsa.
Dickson declared a state of emergency in education and made education free and compulsory at the primary and secondary levels. Over N25 billion already spent on turning around primary and secondary education in the state. The Teachers Training Institute, several primary and model secondary schools and many more education projects are already lined up for commissioning in August. The Dickson Government has spent over N7billion on the scholarship of post graduate and Ph.D scholars in reputable universities abroad, the first of its kind since the creation of the state in 1996. The beneficiaries of this scheme cut across all qualified Ijaws not necessarily Bayelsans. An audacious flyover and several roads on nylon tares have been constructed across the state. A state secretariat equipped to the teeth, a first ever Traditional Rulers Secretariat, Catering and Tourism School started and completed by this administration are to be commissioned soon while work on the Ecumenical Centre, Sports Academy and a host of other projects have reached advanced stage! An airport which could compete with most airport in the country is being constructed by the Dickson administration on the Wilberforce Island.
A world class diagnostic centre with a Drug Mart named after late Professor Dora Akunyili are testimonies to the Dickson’s wonders in the state. And of course, this government has provided employment for its citizens more than any one before it. Over 500 Bayelsans and still counting have been appointed into various positions in this government. Over 4,000 Bayelsan youths have been engaged under the Bayelsa Volunteer Scheme to complement the police in securing the state while many rural communities hitherto in darkness have been electrified under the restoration rural electrification scheme.
In the face of the daunting credit crunch, when states with more revenue receivables could not pay salaries, the Countryman Governor has kept a clean slate, paying salaries and pensions of all civil/public servants as and when due. With these uncommon strides in less than four years, pundits expect Dickson to roll out the drums and posture sanctimoniously with exaggerated swagger but not the Countryman. He tells those who care to listen that Bayelsa is a work in progress. And in return for the purposeful and accountable selfless leadership to the Ijaw nation, the people have resolved to stand by him like the rock of Gibraltar. The strength of Dickson is the people on whose shoulder, sovereignty lies, not the parasitic preservers of privileges that dot the polity or an empire as alluded to by these desperate politicians. Empires come and go but human beings are constant decimal in politics. It was against this background that Dickson won a return ticket to the House of Representatives in 2011 against the wish of the then iron-fisted incumbent governor, Sylva who sponsored Mr. William Ofoni against Dickson. The people made it possible for Dickson not empire. Similarly, the governor will rely on the people and the critical stakeholders of the state, most of whom are with Dickson, for re-election. Already, the clergy, the organized labour, the muslim community, market women, youth organisations and still counting have urged Dickson to throw his hat into the ring.
In the last March and April elections, the same Sylva, in collaboration with some hawks in Abuja launched a vicious campaign against PDP, the people stood by Dickson and he trounced them. In all, Sylva lost his senatorial bid, only managed to win a House of Assembly seat for APC, his allies won a seat for APGA while the PDP swept the three senatorial seats, all the House of Representatives seats, 21 House of Assembly slots and of course, the presidential election. So if Dickson eventually declares for second term, he would be joining the race with this structure in addition to the eight local government chairmen and 103 councilors to coast home to victory.
A cursory look at the defectors/anti Dickson elements shows clearly that over 98 percent of them have never supported Dickson’s bid to be governor. Almost all of them were either appointees under Sylva or former federal and state lawmakers imposed on the people by the Sylva government but who lost out in their return bids or in their bids to seek higher offices in the new Bayelsa. Former Senator Heineken Lokpobri, former House of Reps member, Hon Warman Ogoriba, former Commissioner for Agriculture and Chief of Staff to Government House, Chief Dikivie Ikiogha and former acting governors of the state, Hon. Werinipre Seibarugu and Hon. Nestor Ibinabo represent this tendency of defectors. And the second category of the elements shouting ‘‘dethrone Dickson’’ are those encouraged and funded by the former first lady to supplant Dickson. The former Commissioner for Local Government under Sylva and Special Assistant on Domestic Matters to former president, Goodluck Jonathan, Hon Weripamowei Dudafa leads this pack. These same people were those that led the defunct Transformation Ambassadors of Nigerians (TAN) in Yenagoa to undermine Dickson in the build up to the last general election. The third category is made of politicians who are moving to APC to spite the former president. This group is led by the immediate past senator representing Jonathan (Bayelasa East), Chief Clever Ikisikpo and Dr. Tarila Tebepah.
So those of us who know the antics of the politicians defecting to APC are not losing sleep. I can beat my chest that if Sylva or any of them throws his hat into the governorship ring, he will kiss the ground the way Sylva did on March 31 when Ben Bruce trounced him in the Bayelsa East senatorial contest.
Already, the mainstream women and youth groups in the state, the clergy and Ijaw elders in Bayelsa have condemned the ambition of Sylva and the gale of defection of some Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) members to APC, many of whom were aides, appointees and associates of Sylva. The groups have consequently led the charge in the re-election of Governor Henry Dickson. Tagged Operation Retain Dickson in Creek Haven, the groups particularly the elders, clergy, organized labour, women and youth organisations said they must return Dickson to government house to prove that there is reward for hard work and selfless service to fatherland.
At separate events, these groups endorsed the re-election of the Countryman Governor. Rising from an emergency meeting in Yenagoa last week, the elders led by the financial expert and political heavy weight, Chief Francis Duokpola cursed the APC and the PDP politicians defecting to the APC, describing them as vultures and a shame to the Ijaw nation. They wondered why a party that controversially wrested power from Dr. Jonathan, an Ijaw icon would be embraced by desperate politicians whom they describe as self-seeking. They vowed to stop APC from gaining root in Bayelsa State even as they declared; ‘‘The APC has declared war on the Ijaw nation. Right from the days of our forefathers, the Ijaws have never been conquered and our generation cannot be conquered by APC!’’
Curiously, over 50 percent of those defecting want to govern the state at the same time. While the remaining 50 percent either pooh-pooh Dickson out of petty jealousy as a result of his rising profile or for not opening the public treasury for them to loot as they had done in the past. It is no wonder that Sylva and many of them are currently undergoing trial in court. The ELECTORATE has never been with many of them and in this era of card reader, their emptiness and unpopularity will be more than ever exposed. Without the wind blowing, nobody sees the rump of the fowl and the December 5 polls is the wind that will expose their weakness!
The politics of Dudafa and Ikiogha as well as their banal blackmail of Dickson is laughable but not new to Bayelsans. Two months to the 2012 governorship polls, they resigned from the Sylva government to join Dickson. Dudafa wanted to be Dickson’s running mate but couldn’t succeed. He turned against Dickson and started scheming to be governor, yet Governor Dickson compensated him with a contract to build a referral hospital in Kaiama. Chief Ikiogha, another beneficiary of government contracts parted ways with the Countryman Governor when he lost his bid to go to the National Assembly. With this short insight, is it not crystal clear that their disagreement with the governor is propelled by self and not the people?
We in Bayelsa know these defectors as serial traitors who are trying to reposition themselves to either be governor for the fun of it or to trap favour from the federal government controlled by APC. I cannot agree less with the factional chairman of the APC in Bayelsa, Chief Richard Kpodoh who told reporters recently in Yenagoa that those defecting to APC are corrupt individuals who had plundered public funds while in office and stressed that they were joining APC to be shielded from prosecution by the APC-controlled federal government.
If the defectors are blind to the concrete developmental deliverables of the restoration government, political watchers expect them to give credit to the governor for restoring peace and civility to the polity, a development that made it possible for the defection to take place in the first place. If the defection had taken place in the days of Sylva, Boko Haram would have been imported to Yenagoa to bomb the venue of the event as evident in 2011 when Sylva held sway as governor. It was also to the eternal glory of the Sylva administration that the presidential campaign of General Muhammadu Buhari in Yenagoa in 2011 was disrupted as the general and his team were pelted with stones. But the reverse was the case this year when he launched his campaign in Yenagoa. The state government provided tight security for the event to the admiration of President Buhari because a new governor with democratic ethos was in charge!
In no distant future, the chicken will come home to roost, and the governor, being a committed party man and consummate democrat will receive the defectors back to the fold for the new Bayelsa accommodates the good, the bad and the ugly!
Sagbama is a Public Affairs Analyst and Coordinator of Restoration Continuity, a support group for Governor Dickson’s Re-election 2015.