Since 1999 when Nigeria returned to civil rule after years of military junta, the Peoples Democratic Party PDP has tenaciously and uninterruptedly held on to political power in Bayelsa state. Though there have been pockets of political parties playing the role of opposition in the state, it has been difficult to threaten the PDP's power base. It has been a one-party structure in Bayelsa.
Even when any opposition party managed to win a sit in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, that lawmaker would hurriedly collapse into the PDP in form of defection few days or months after being sworn-in, probably for fear of being politically choked. However, the opposition parties showed some strength during the 2015 general elections. At the end of the polls, other parties than the PDP won a total of five seats out of the twenty-four seats that make up the state house of assembly. The All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, won three seats, while the APC and the African Democratic Congress, ADC, had one each. Later on, all the three members that were elected into the house under the platform of APGA defected to the PDP while the APC and ADC members remained in their original platforms till this very moment.
The latest political developments in the state as regards the 2019 general elections did not come to pundits as a surprise. It was expected. The ruling party, allegations of rigging against the opposition notwithstanding, should blame itself for its 2019 political woes. Analysts including this medium had foreseen the spoil. Political observers had forecasted possible outcomes of some of the positions. The PDP would have succeeded in shooting itself on the foot by the choice of candidate it chose to field for the various positions. Analysts had raised the alarm over the dangers of imposition of unpopular candidates on the electorate.
For insurance, the candidate of the PDP for Bayelsa east senatorial district, Chief Blessing Izagara, according to our checks, was not a popular candidate, compared to the likes of the candidate of the African Democratic Congress ADC, Sen. Nimi Amange and that of the APC, Bishop Biobarakuma Degi- Erimienyo. In southern Ijaw, Preye Oseke defeated the incumbent speaker of the Bayelsa state house of assembly, Mr Kombowei Benson. Oseke too was seen to be more popular, going to the elections. In Ogbia local government area, the PDP candidate, Fred Obua narrowly won the Ogbia federal constituency election based on the Jonathan factor. Feelers have it that the political parties had to come together to allow the candidate of the PDP to scale through to save Jonathan's face, not because of Obua's popularity.
Meanwhile, the first round of the 2019 general elections has stung the PDP in the state like a bee. The major opposition party, APC in the state has made some tremendous political incursions that should give the ruling party some sense on concern. For instance, the APC won one out of the three senatorial seats and two out of the five House of Representatives positions in the state. The candidate of the APC for Bayelsa east senatorial district, Bishop Degi Erimienyo is now senator-elect. In the same vein, the member representing Brass constituency 1 in the state house of assembly, Israel Sunny-Goli has won the Brass/Nembe federal constituency. Similarly, Mr. Preye Oseke of the APC is the winner of southern Ijaw federal constituency seat. This feat by the opposition is unprecedented in the political history of Bayelsa state. The APC also scored more than forty percent of the presidential votes in the state.
As the state gets prepared for the second round of the polls, keen observers of the political terrain in the state are of the view that more surprises are imminent. Analysts believe that the ruling party may lose more seats of the state assembly to the opposition parties as a result of some costly mistakes it has made in choosing its candidates.
PDP, APC Clash
Since the results of the presidential and National Assembly elections were announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, the ruling party has become the wailing child, complaining of rigged polls especially in Southern Ijaw and Nembe local government areas of the state by the opposition party. The state governor, Henry Seriake Dickson led thousands of PDP supporters in the streets of Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital, to protest, calling for the cancellation of election results that came from Nembe Basambiri and some parts of southern Ijaw. The governor had in a press conference accused the APC of using the military to not only rig the just concluded elections but also kill and maim innocent Bayelsans including a PDP Ward chairman in southern Ijaw
Speaking to newsmen during the protest, the Bayelsa East senatorial district agent of the PDP, Mr. Jonathan Obuebite said what happened in Nembe Basambiri on the day of the election was a rape of democracy by the APC. Obuebite, who is also the Commissioner for Education in the state, complained that there was no election in the area but the APC allegedly wrote results in a hotel at Basambiri and submitted same to INEC in Brass local government area, headquarters of the district. He also narrated how a Deputy Commissioner of Police was manhandled by Thugs loyal to the APC when the said police officer when to Brass to collect the results of Nembe Basambiri to Yenagoa "as was directed".
His words: "The deputy commissioner of police made some calls and it was finally said that we should all go back to Yenagoa, and as we boarded the gun boats and about to move, we got a call that we should wait. While the DC was waiting, they rather went and called the APC thugs and you can see the beating that they gave to the DC, they stripped him naked and beat him thoroughly. That was planned because they wanted all of us to leave so that in the night they would submit those results. True to that, they forced the woman (collation officer) and submitted those results and declared the APC candidate winner for the house of reps with forty-one thousand votes, from where? Materials did not even leave Basambiri. How come that a winner emerged? All we are demanding is that INEC should ensure that all the card readers are secured so that at the end of the day, they cancel the election and we go back to conduct a free, fair and credible elections".
The APC in the state on its part has dismissed as groundless and misguided a statement by the state governor, Seriake Dickson, in which he sought to discredit votes garnered in the state by President Muhammadu Buhari and APC candidates during the last presidential and National Assembly elections. The party also rejected what it called an attempt by governor Dickson to equate himself with Bayelsa by claiming in the said statement that "the state condemned votes polled by APC". In a statement on Thursday in Yenagoa by the APC State Publicity Secretary, Mr. Doifie Buokoribo, the party stressed that Dickson was not Bayelsa State, and Bayelsa State was neither Dickson nor a political party. It advised Dickson to explore the democratic option of seeking redress in the courts if he had any grievances about the poll results, "instead of plunging into the realm of reckless and enflaming statements"
Buokoribo said "The APC in Bayelsa State considers the government statement as baseless, ill-advised, and reckless. Dickson is not Bayelsa State. Bayelsa State is not Dickson. Bayelsa State is not a party to the general elections. Bayelsa State Government must not be confused with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). As a narrow-minded and petty politician, Dickson seems not to realise that he is governor of all, not just PDP. Or are we to assume that APC members in Bayelsa State are from Sudan? The 23 February 2019 elections have taken place, the results collated and winners have emerged. No amount of threat, psychological warfare or fake news can change the results as declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The only option open to any aggrieved party is a democratic court of law. As a lawyer, or even governor who has access to a myriad of lawyers, Governor Dickson should know this basic fact.
Working in concert with Governor Dickson is the amorphous Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) in Bayelsa State. Created by the PDP, CUPP is demanding fresh elections in Southern Ijaw and Nembe Local Government Councils won by the APC. Our advice to CUPP: go to court! The peace-loving, democracy-minded people of Bayelsa State cannot be made pawns in a crude political game by rogue buccaneers seeking power at all costs".