Friday, February 10, 2012

2012 Guber: All Eyes On The Niger Delta: Bayelsa State

6 February 2012


FRED ITUA examines the political tensions in Bayelsa, Cross River and Edo states where the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has scheduled governorship elections for this month and July, this year.

The recent judgment handed down by the Supreme Court on the tenure elongation of five state governors has added another twist to the political discourse in Nigeria.

Governors of Adamawa, Sokoto, Kogi, Cross River and Bayelsa states fell from power last Friday when the apex court wielded the big stick on them. The decision of the Supreme Court has also laid to rest, a year long controversy surrounding the tenure of the affected  governors.

However, this year will be unusually busy season in the South-South as candidates in three states: Bayelsa, Edo and Cross River gear up to test their popularity in the gubernatorial elections coming up this month and July respectively.

As the polls draw near, analysts are busy weighing the factors that will shape the elections in these states vis-a-vis the political parties to watch out for?

Bayelsa State
Bayelsa State was created in 1999 by the then late General Sani Abacha. DSP Alamieyeseigha was sworn-in on May 29, 1999 as the first elected governor of the state and since then it became a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) state. It is difficult for the state to slip out of the PDP behemoth.

However, political equation in the state changed in 2005 when Alamieyeseigha was removed from office. President Goodluck Jonathan who was the deputy at the time succeeded the man famously called the Governor-General of Ijaw nation.

In 2007, Timipre Sylva, one of the governors sacked by the apex court became governor after Jonathan who was a candidate was picked to run as running mate to late UmaruYar’Adua who eventually won the 2007 presidential election.

The power struggle between the ousted governor of the state, Sylva and the PDP flag-bearer for February 11 polls, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson might have finally been put to rest with the recent declaration by the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega.

The INEC boss did not only recognize Dickson as valid candidate for the polls but had gone ahead to insist that the January 2011 which had produced Sylva had been over taken by events.

“The commission wishes to categorically state that only candidates who emerged after the Court of Appeal judgment of Friday, April 15, 2011 are the recognised candidates for the elections,” Jega affirmed.

Dickson emerged as candidate on November 19, 2011in a primary election which had Sylva, former Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Timi Alaibe and president of Silverbird, Mr. Ben Bruce disqualified from the race over sundry petitions written against them to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national secretariat by some party faithful.

The controversies which began in the state when Sylva was disqualified from contesting the party’s primary, technically crippled activities in the state. Dissatisfied with the position of the leadership of the PDP, Sylva approached a federal High Court and the subsequent drama that followed almost threw the state into the dungeon. INEC at a point refused to list Dickson as candidate citing the litigation as reason. Dickson’s name was however restored as the flag- bearer after he sought and got an order compelling the commissionto recognize Dickson. This, the PDP did and observers now believe the coast is clearer for Dickson to emerge as the 4th executive governor of the riverine state.
Observers also believe that the endorsement of Dickson by the Bayelsa heavy weight politicians especially Alaibe, Alamieyeseigha and Sylva’s former deputy, Chief Peremebowei Ebebi might be the last straw which broke Sylva’s back.

Aside the politicians, the traditional institution led by their Royal Highnesses King Jonny Turner, EdwardDaukoru and EbitimiBanigo have expressed unflinching support for the Henry Seriake Dickson/ John Jonah ticket for the February 11 polls.

The Bayelsa Elders Council chaired by Col. Sam Inokoba(rtd), the crème de la crème of retired military officers led by AVM Larry Koinyan (rtd) and all past PDP chairmen are working tirelessly for the victory of Dickson.

Instructively, some commissioners and special advisers in the government of  Sylva had resigned to join Dickson.

Prominent among them are:  Mr. Waripamowei Dudafa, Commissioner for Local Government;  Mr. EtifaDekeakpo,  Commissioner For  Youth and  Conflict  Resolution; Mr. Stephen Diver , Special Adviser  on Inter Party Relations and Mr. GesiyeIsowo, Special Adviser,  Mobilisation.

Meanwhile, Sylva and the other four governors have been compelled by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to declare their assts. The former Bayelsa strongman is reportedly being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over allegations of mind-boggling infractions while he held sway.

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