From Femi Folaranmi Yenagoa
Barely 14 months before the general elections in Bayelsa State, politicians in the state, have started horse-trading, alignments and realignments, to position themselves for the available elected positions. Although the governorship election would hold later in 2023, the National Assembly and House of Assembly elections will involve lots of intrigues, horse-trading and high level politics, as different tendencies in the state aim to have the upper hand for the general elections, as well as to ensure they are in good standing ahead of the governorship election.
Diri unusual politics
As the state governor, Duoye Diri is the indisputable leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state. He runs a political structure he nicknamed ‘Prosperity Family;’ an offshoot of the ‘Restoration Family,’ which was the former governor, now Senator Henry Seriake Dickson’s political structure. So far, Diri has maintained a cordial and decent relationship with his predecessor. He has also built a good rapport with the opposition elements in the state. However, that political relationship would be put to a major test ahead of the general elections when the candidates are expected to emerge from the primaries for the national and state assembly elections.
There have been complaints from some loyalists of Diri that he is still walking in the shadow of Dickson and has been shy to fully take charge of the political structure of the PDP in the state even when Dickson has literally surrendered the structure to him.
Diri’s leadership of the party would go through the political crucible in 2022 as lobbying has intensified for those angling to retain their positions in the national and state assembly as well as those angling to take over from them.
All the PDP lawmakers in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly had the backing of Dickson in 2019, but political pundits believe that Diri would definitely replace some of them. And in the national assembly, Diri would need to take a decision on the brewing political rift between Dickson and the current federal lawmaker representing Sagbama/ Ekeremor Federal Constituency, Fred Agbedi. The latter wants to take over from Dickson as Senator for Bayelsa West in 2023, while there is pressure on Dickson to retain the seat.
Diri as governor would play a major role in the emergence of the party flag bearers in the various elective positions. How he would do it without rocking the political boat and jeopardising his second term ticket will definitely shape the politics of Bayelsa in 2022.
Can Sylva strike again?
The former governor of the state and current Minister of State for Petroleum, Timpreye Sylva is the leader of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state. Having warded off internal insurrection, the APC structure in the state is firmly in his grip. A very calculative and strategic politician, Sylva who is deep in the national politics of the APC will seek to repeat the electoral victory of the APC in 2019.
During the 2019 election and against all odds, Sylva ensured the victory of APC in Bayelsa East Senatorial election, Southern Ijaw Federal Constituency and Brass/ Nembe Federal Constituency. He was also pivotal to the victory of the opposition party in Nembe Constituency 2 and 3, Brass Constituency 1 and 2 and Ekeremor Constituency 2.
The icing on the cake of the APC’s political victory was the 2019 governorship in which the party won by a landslide before the Supreme Court truncated its victory with a judgment that halted the inauguration of David Lyon.
During a stakeholders’ meeting, Sylva had told APC members what to expect as the party prepares for the general election. “Whether anybody likes it or not, I want to assure you that in 2023, we are going to win all the House of Assembly seats and all the National Assembly seats. That is the elections we are focused on now,” he said.
Sylva is expected to have a say in all those to be picked as the party’s candidates. The Achilles’ heel of APC in Bayelsa State has always been the mode of emergence of its candidates which had caused grumbling among stakeholders. The hope is that the party would pick its candidates without rancour so as to present a common front in the election. The ball on how this would happen is in Sylva’s court.
Dickson still holds the ace
After making history as the first governor to serve for eight years in Bayelsa, Seriake Dickson, now a Senator, still has a say in the politics of the state. His political structure has been adjudged the most effective in the state. Though he has surrendered the structure to Diri, he still has the skill to remobilize foot soldiers to prosecute political battles. Apparently irked by the antics of some party members, he had cause to warn them not to sow seeds of discord in the party.
“Now when I see things and hear things, it is not everything a father sees that he says. PDP leaders in governance and out of should know that this was given to us by God’s grace and mercy. All the small shenanigans and pettiness should stop. For those of you speculating, saying all kinds of rubbish, this is our and it would remain so. So, stop speculating and don’t give room for people to sow seeds of discord. Don’t open yourself up for manipulations based on greediness by the other side that I defeated and would always defeat and which I am still prepared to support the governor to defeat at any time,” he had told the party members.
Dickson’s major political battle is how to retain his position as Senator which is clearly under threat from his erstwhile political associate, Fred Agbedi, who has declared his intention to go to the Senate based on the reported zoning arrangement between Sagbama and Ekeremor Local Government Areas.
Alaibe still a factor
Popularly known as Principal, Ndutimi Alaibe’s political influence over the years has not diminished even though he has not held any positions for a number of years. He was the favourite to win the Bayelsa PDP governorship primaries, until Dickson who backed Diri bulldozed his way in connivance with the PDP national leadership to railroad Diri to victory.
Diri seems not to have forgiven Alaibe for contesting against him, and he is, apparently, nursing grudges against him by shutting him out of the party in Bayelsa. Alaibe, who has a rich network of political associates across the state, is still visible in the national politics of the PDP. At the past national convention of the party, the Bayelsa PDP did not invite Alaibe nor accord him any respect, but the neighbouring Rivers State under the leadership of Governor Nyesom Wike did, which still showed how relevant Alaibe is in the political calculations of the country.
Benson’s eyes on the ball
The Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government (SSG), Friday Konbowei Benson has emerged as one of the most influential politicians in the Diri administration. Being the longest serving Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly before becoming the SSG, Benson’s political tentacles in Southern Ijaw, the largest local area in Bayelsa State, is far-reaching. He has been described as a silent political dexterity whose politics is devoid of bitterness.
Benson is said to be the brain behind the recently floated political support group, Divine Prosperity Movement (DPM), which is to drive support for Diri in Southern Ijaw and other local areas in the state.
DPM activities, sources said, would intensify in 2022 as it drives support for Diri and the PDP across the state.
Political observers believe that Konbowei, who contested and lost the House of Representatives election in 2019 and the governorship primaries, is being propped to emerge as the PDP candidate in 2022 to contest the national assembly election in 2023.
APC young Turks
The duo of Israel Sunny-Goli and Preye Influence Oseke, federal lawmakers for Brass/ Nembe and Southern Ijaw Federal Constituencies respectively have emerged as a factor in Bayelsa State. Principally because of their age and politics of development, the duo has large followership.
It is believed that the achievements of Sunny-Goli and Oseke have complemented what Sylva is doing in the state and has continued to endear APC to its followers.
Sunny-Goli, popularly known as Adi, is a core loyalist of Sylva, who owes his emergence as a member of the House of Representatives to Sylva. Recently, he empowered his constituents with 576 bikes and 40 mini buses, while 400 Small and Medium Scale Enterprises operators were given N100, 000 each.
Oseke, a loyalist of David Lyon, is now the leader of APC in Southern Ijaw, following the political blunder Lyon made by turning his back on Sylva. Oseke, an articulate speaker, is raising the flag of the APC very high in his local
Sylva is likely to entrust the ticket of APC into their hands in the 2022 primaries for another term in the House of Representatives.
Fred Agbedi’s titanic battle
The former campaign Director-General of Dickson Campaign Organisation, and former political adviser to Dickson, is in a titanic battle with his former boss for the Bayelsa West Senatorial ticket. Agbedi, who is expected to round off two terms of four years each in the House of Representatives by 2023, is angling to pick the PDP Bayelsa West ticket for the senatorial election in line with the rotational zoning of the national assembly seat between Sagbama/ Ekeremor.
It is a tough call for Agbedi because Dickson is not ready to vacate office based on calls by stakeholders that his voice is needed to rally support for the Ijaw nation. Sources said Agbedi is battle-ready and would do everything within the limits of the law and politics to ensure that he gets the ticket ahead of Dickson. And if he fails in PDP, those in the know said he would not mind going to another party to contest against Dickson.
Dennis Otiotio bares his fangs
Otitio, a Doctorate degree holder in law, and chairman of APC in Bayelsa, has his job cut out for him as the head of the party in Bayelsa. Unlike the nondescript leadership of Jonathan Amos, Otiotio since he emerged as the party chairman has shown early promises of an opposition party chairman ready to keep the Diri on its toes. His few interviews, which were critical of policies and inactions, had provoked spontaneous actions from the
On the direction the party would go for the 2023 elections, Otiotio, who is a kinsman and loyalist of Sylva, has made it clear that the party under him would ensure the emergence of qualified candidates for the party for the general election.
“As chairman of APC, I am going to ensure that candidates we present for any elective office are people we can trust; people who are competent, who have the experience, the charisma and dynamism to occupy those offices, and not bring just anybody, so that we can begin to project a viable alternative for Bayelsa State,” he said.