By Ibiba DonPedro
The political atmosphere in Bayelsa State is getting deeply tensed as the governorship election scheduled for November 16 draws near. The major political parties in the fray are setting the stage ready to elect their candidates for the election. In Yenagoa the state capital all attention is on Ijaw House, Sani Abacha Road where People Democratic Party, PDP stalwarts have gathered for the party gubernatorial primary in what has been a very steeply contentious process and a large turn out of aspirants thus far. 21 aspirants lined up among them, Hon. Tariela Oliver, Keniebi Okoko, Great Maciver, Dr. Frankllin Osaisai, Chief Ndutimi Alaibe, Douye Diri, Benson Kombowei, Godknows Igali, Johnson Kiyaramo, Kemela Okara, Anthnoy George-Ikoli, Emmanuel Paulker, Nimibofa Awayei, David Alagoa, Ziperedein Igiri, Robinson Etolor, Gboribiogha Jonah, Talford Ongolo, Alfred Egbedi, Reuben Okoya and Benson Agadaga.
Apart from the two major political parties in the state; the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) which have dominated the political arena, the presence of other political parties are yet to be felt.
For the ruling PDP, where twenty-one aspirants have picked the gubernatorial forms and paid the steep N21million fees to participate in the PDP governorship primaries, political analysts had observed that some of the aspirants may step down prior to the primaries leaving the battle for those in the front line. No one has stepped down so far.
Prominent among the aspirants enjoying visibility in the governorship race are former Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC Managing Director, Timi Alaibe, Secretary to the State Government, Kemela Okara, senator representing Bayelsa Central, Douye Diri and the Executive Chairman, Bayelsa State Board Of Internal Revenue, Nimibofa Ayawei.
Of these, Alaibe,also one time Coordinator for the Presidential Amnesty Program, PAP, has been tipped to be the most credible. He has built a strong political structure in the state and arrays a personal profile spanning top positions held in a range of public sector offices. He has to his credit, philanthropy activities which have touched lives and attract supporters all over the state.
Although many Bayelsans believe Timi Alaibe is the candidate capable of winning the governorship election for PDP on the basis of his personality and urbane outlook, his public service experience and business connections, political reach across zones in the country and general acceptability across the state, the fact that he is not a member of the Restoration family may hinder his chances of winning the party primary.
The battle to produce the flag bearer for the PDP appears to have divided the party into antagonistic camps; the Restoration Family and other members of the party. This is because the incumbent governor, Henry Seriake Dickson who is alleged not to be in support of Alaibe’s ambition has earlier said he will not support aspirants that are not from the Restoration caucus.
One of the frontline aspirants in the Restoration camp is Kemela Okara. He contested against the incumbent governor in the 2012 governorship election under the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). He was later appointed Commissioner for Trade and Investment, a position he occupied until he was elevated to his current position as the Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government.
Some observers are of the view that he has the necessary attributes and skills to lead the state, as well as consolidate on the achievements of the present administration. A Bayelsa indigene Gordon Tamaraodubois however of a different opinion. He said Kemela Okara was a key member in the Restoration government but, could not influence or effect any economic development.
Gordon asks, “How are we sure he will do more than this government?. Why couldn’t he propose these noble ideas he has been preaching now? We are in for a big, deceitful trouble in Bayelsa”.
Another frontline contestant is Douye Diri. Diriwas elected Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria during the 2019 general elections to represent Bayelsa Central. He was also a member of House of Representatives for four years. Sources close to Government house revealed that he could be the preferred candidate to succeed Gov. Dickson.
Yet another frontline PDP aspirant, is Dr. Nimibofa Ayawei, a former member, Bayelsa State House Of Assembly. He is regarded as one of the most loyal personalities among the aspirants in the Restoration caucus.
But Comrade J.P Emulade, an observer of political trends in the state, had this to say; “Having weighed the changes in the polity following the ministerial appointment of former governor, Timipre Sylva, the PDP will not win the main election on November 16 with Senator Douye Diri as its flag bearer due to Diri being viewed as a lightweight and also stooge of the outgoing governor. Emulade based his position on the empowerment to the APC in the state by this powerful position of Minister for State, Petroleum and its likely impact on the electoral outcomes. He opined that the PDP would require a heavy weight politician in monetary and influence terms to counter the extra muscle the APC has now acquired. The appointment of Sylva as Minister has altered the calculus in the run up to the elections.. Seven aspirantson the APC platform among them, Preye Aganaba, Diseye Poweigha, David Lyon, Prof Ongoebi Etebu, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, Prince Ebitimi Amgbare successfully scaled through the screening process held August 24, 2019.
All eyes are fixed on the PDP, whose primary comes up September 3,2019 in Yenagoa. The APC which originally fixed its primary for August 28, 2019 suddenly announced a postponement to September 3 and 4, 2019. Political observers are of the view that this is a delay strategy by the APC to outwait the PDP, then announce its governorship candidate to upstage the ruling PDP.
The dramatic twists in the run up to the Bayelsa governorship elections promise more exciting turns in the coming days.