In from Timothy Enietan-Matthew . . .
The clock is ticking and fast too. In another forty eight hours, the process of electing another governor for Bayelsa State or renewing the tenure of the incumbent governor will be underway. Bayelsans will be going to the polls to choose between incumbent Governor Seriake Dickson, former Governor Timipre Sylva and a litany of lesser known candidates to preside over the affairs of the state for another four years.
The Bayelsa election has so much in common with the truncated governorship election in Kogi State, with so much at stake for the two leading parties in the country; the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
For starters, Bayelsa State, a key oil producing state remains a strategic one for both parties despite its relatively small size and none of the two will be willing to lose it to the other. Both the PDP and APC will do whatever it takes to win the state.
Why PDP must win Bayelsa
To say that Bayelsa State is strategic for the PDP is like stating the obvious. The PDP as a party attaches so much premium to the state, not just because it is one of the notable cash cows of the country because of its rich crude oil deposit but because of the pride attached to retaining the state.
Bayelsa has always been one of the traditional strongholds of the now opposition party since the return of democratic governance in the country in 1999 and it is also the home state of the immediate former President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Loosing Bayelsa to the ruling APC will be an insult taken too far for PDP and Dr. Jonathan. A defeat for PDP in Bayelsa may as well signal the terminal end of the former ruling party that almost turned the country into a one party state, and a total disgrace for the former President.
It is a matter of pride for both the party and Jonathan to retain Bayelsa under the grips of PDP.
Aside party and Jonathan’s pride, the economic consideration is also important here. If the PDP hopes to return to power in 2019, as they have been boasting, then Bayelsa and other keys states in the South South and South-East must be firmly retained. Unfortunately, uncertainty still hangs on Rivers and Akwa-Ibom states with the judgments of the elections tribunals in those states.
For the PDP not to be financially crippled in reclaiming it’s lost glory at the centre, it’ll have to work as hard to retain states that can finance it’s resurgence, one of which is Bayelsa.
APC’S obsession with Bayelsa
Followers of the Bayelsa State governorship election will be quick to point to the fact that the ruling party at the centre is obsessed with winning the election in Bayelsa State. The party has not hidden its resolve to make concrete inroads into the South South and the South East, where it suffered humbling defeats at the last general elections.
According to sources in the party, the leadership of the APC feels it will be foolhardy for the ruling party to leave the affairs of strategic economic states in the hands of the opposition, hence its resolve to win Bayelsa at any cost.
Another reason the APC would want to annex Bayelsa State is to prove to Nigerians that it’s victory over the PDP and former President Jonathan was not a fluke as many are wont to believe. A victory in Bayelsa will most certainly demystify the PDP and Jonathan in the state and to a large extent, in the southern part of the country.
There is no doubt that the choice of former Governor Sylva as the APC’s gubernatorial candidate has injected a dramatic dimension into the contest.
Sylva, a charter member of the PDP when he served as governor, fell into disagreement with some of the party’s leaders in the state and was stopped from a second term. He was replaced with Hon. Seriake Dickson who was then a member of the House of Representatives. Now, while Sylva’s supporters view his return as payback for the PDP throwing him out, supporters of the incumbent PDP government portray the ex-governor’s re-emergence as proof that APC in the state represents nostalgia for the bad old days, rather than genuine change.
The campaign of Governor Dickson has focused largely on drawing comparisons between his commitment to infrastructural expansion that he initiated when he took over from Sylva and the insecurity and political confusion that characterised much of Sylva’s reign.
The APC campaign in Bayelsa, just like in Kogi State, has harped on the need to belong to the ruling party at the central, claiming the state has more to gain by doing so and a lot more to lose if it chooses the PDP.
Whichever way this is viewed, Saturday’s election in Bayelsa will be decided both on the basis of political expediency and traditional political ties. Which of the sentiments will overcome is yet to be seen.
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