Features: PDP and fears over imposition of candidates in Bayelsa

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By Samuel Ese, Yenagoa

The simultaneous submission of expression of interest and nomination forms by key members of Governor Henry Seriake Dickson’s Restoration Team who are seeking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket in the forthcoming primary elections in Bayelsa State could be an indication of moves to impose candidates on the party, writes Samuel Ese in Yenagoa.

On Thursday, September 6, 2018, key members of Governor Henry Seriake Dickson’s Restoration Team with National Assembly ambitions submitted their expression of interest and nomination forms at the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) State Secretariat along DSP Alamieyeseigha Way in Yenagoa.

They include Douye Diri representing Yenagoa/Kolokuma/Opokuma Federal Constituency, who wants to represent Central Senatorial District, Fred Agbedi representing Sagbama/Ekeremor Federal Constituency, who wants to retain his seat and Friday Konbowei Benson, Speaker, Bayelsa State House of Assembly, who wants to represent Southern Ijaw Federal Constituency.

Others are Steve Azaiki, one time Secretary to the State Government and chairman of the Governing Council of the state owned Niger Delta University (NDU) who wants to represent Yenagoa/Kolokuma/Opokuma Federal Constituency and Helen Bob, former Special Adviser to the Governor on Talent Hunt for Nembe/Brass Federal Constituency.

Two others who submitted their expression of interest and nomination forms, but could not be ascertained as members of Governor Dickson’s Restoration Team are Birijyai Dambo for Bayelsa East Senatorial District and Soduaguo Omoni for Ogbia Federal Constituency.

One interesting observation about the event is that it was pre-planned with special invitation to select journalists to cover the ceremony; as if to tell all other aspirants for the positions that they have the nod of someone higher up and there was nothing anybody could do about it.

From the manner in which it happened, it could also be described as a show of force meant to intimidate other contestants into submission, cow the party leadership and ultimately pave way for the emergence of a list of adopted aspirants to get the party ticket for the general elections.

While the above could be said to be features in politics, it goes without saying that they could also be interpreted to mean a continuation of the previous processes that robbed the party of some vital seats in the state House of Assembly in 2015, which also resulted in an exodus of some serious members.

Israel Sunny Goli of the All Progressives Congress (APC) defeated then Deputy Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Sam Ateke to represent Brass I Constituency, Ebiye Tarabina then of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) won in Kolokuma/Opokuma Constituency II, Gibson Munalayefa won the PDP at the tribunal while Gabriel Ogbara then of African Democratic Congress (ADC) won the PDP candidate at the Appeal Court.

Investigations revealed that the constituents voted against the PDP candidates in protest at the flagrant disregard of their interests by the party and in the case of Tarabina, the constituents openly stated that they were PDP, but decided to vote the APGA candidate as he was their choice against Olaitari Ikemike.

Prior to the election, there were signs that the electorate were against the unpopular PDP candidates particularly in the Brass I election; they communicated their rejection to Governor Dickson when he was in Twon-Brass during his Operation Show Your PVC campaign.

Findings at Ogbia Constituency II where Ogbara won the PDP candidate at the Appeal Court showed that even core PDP members supported him as they spoke against what they described as imposition of the candidate, Naomi Goli who lost as according to them, the ADC candidate had contributed immensely to the development of the constituency.

For Munalayefa, during his unveiling at Ayama, headquarter of Ogbia Constituency III, the traditional rulers and community leaders recounted his contributions to the educational advancement of the area and vowed to support him against former Commissioner for Health, Anapurere Awoli who was the PDP candidate.

The same scenario could be playing out again as some groups have voiced their concerns over the issue of imposition of candidates citing boasts by some aspirants that they have been endorsed by Governor Dickson, although the concerns were dismissed by groups loyal to the governor.

Even after the dismissal of those concerns, they, however, raise some fundamental issues regarding the party if the lesson of the past four years was ever learned and if there was a deliberate attempt to correct those mistakes or misdeeds for the future and strengthen the bond of brotherhood within the PDP.

There is no doubt that the PDP remains the dominant political party in Bayelsa State and all the other political parties put together amount to no strong opposition if past records during elections and activities on ground were anything to go by.

An aspirant, names withheld, who reacted to the simultaneous submission of expression of interest and nomination forms did not mince words on the perceived titling of due process in the emergence of party candidates in free, fair and credible primary elections saying simply that “PDP will fail.”

Ekiyor Welson, Executive Director of Centre for Democracy and Development in Bayelsa (CDDB), urged the people not to read any special meaning to the development other than showmanship aimed at intimidating those contesting against them and sending a message to them.

Welson stated further that it is “Political grandstanding of a high dimension of ignorance. Political grandstanding that is completely baseless. They should not give the impression that they are being favoured because that is what they are trying to portray.”

Continuing, he stated: “As we speak, H.S. Dickson has learnt a bitter lesson on bringing up unpopular and unacceptable candidates. He had a major political battle in his hands after the last general elections. As it is, it will be politically suicidal for Dickson to impose candidates on the state in all the positions both in the House of Assembly and National Assembly because he needs every member of PDP in the state for his next political adventure which is basically on two fronts.

“One is his personal politics and the second is general. What happens to the governorship in 2019? Therefore, he needs PDP to be intact for these two political adventures. Any attempt to impose candidates will divide the party in the state.”

Welson, however, urged the people to give Governor Dickson the benefit of doubt saying that if 100 expression of interest and nomination forms were collected for 24 seats of the state House of Assembly, it was an indication that the governor was ready to do the right thing.

Hear him: “If 100 forms were collected for the House of Assembly, the space is open, the field is open, which means the governor is ready to do the right thing, which is politically correct. Any other thing will destroy his plans till the end of his tenure.

“Never in the history of Bayelsa State have we heard this number of people are interested in the House of Assembly. We hope the governor will sustain this momentum and allow free and fair election devoid of discrimination and favouritism.”

When contacted on the development, a PDP chieftain and State Vice Chairman (East Senatorial District), Alfred Imbasi dismissed the concerns saying it was improper for the party to do such a thing, saying Governor Dickson only directed the aspirants to consult with their people first in order to avert breach of the peace.

Imbasi stated: “You know the party cannot do such a thing. The governor only directed aspirants to consult with their people to know if they are popular before contesting in order to avert breach of the peace. The party is ready to do the right thing.”