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The Defeat that gave APC an entry into the South South

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The Independent National Electoral Commission had declared the All Progressives Congress governorship candidate, David Lyon, winner of the November 16 Bayelsa governorship election.

Returning Officer, Prof. Faraday Orumwense, Vice-chancellor, University of Benin, announced at the INEC Collation Centre in Yenagoa, that the APC polled 352,552 votes while the PDP scored 143,172.

When results of the Bayelsa Governorship elections started trickling in on social media at about noon time shortly, after the voting exercise had ended, it was almost dismissed by members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party as a mere social media results until the major announcement went public.

There were reports of violence and unrest that was witnessed in most areas of the Oil rich state, according to reports by Independent observers. one of those organizations that rated the elections short of best practices, was YIAGA Africa

“The Bayelsa governorship election still experienced political parties building their campaign strategy around deploying sufficient money to buy the elections, acquiring arms and paying thugs who are willing to disrupt the process.”. The group condemned the violent activities carried out by the various stakeholders in the state as well as activities by non-state actors in disrupting the entire process.

But one of the major fallout away from the violence and vote buying from that election, is that, Bayelsa State, which for over 20 years has been known to be a PDP territory, decided to vote for the APC. Historically, the state, since democracy returned to Nigeria in 1999, has always been loyal to the PDP.  Bayelsa state was also the first state from the south south geopolitical zone to produce a Vice-President, Goodluck Jonathan, who later became president after the death of Umaru Yar’Adua (under PDP). 

The outcome of the polls sent shockwaves to various camps outside the state but not for observers within the state who were almost sure of what the election results would read like. NewsWireNGR decided to go beyond the headlines to find out why Bayelsa decided to go against the PDP. There have been accusations and counter accusations on why the PDP was defeated.

Dr. Godknows Boladei Igali, a Nigerian public servant, diplomat, and a long-time member of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, as well as a chieftain of the party in the South- South who also contested the Primary elections for governor within the party, explained what transpired.

Dr. Igali said, “it was clear they were (the election), was going the direction of APC because of the perceived cold relationship between former President Jonathan and his godson, Governor Dickson and people felt it was a day to payback the Governor for having a cold relationship with the president,”.

” The Ogbia people, before the election (decamped), everybody, and I want to repeat, decamped officially for APC apart from President Jonathan, – every other important person went to APC, so it was clear, that the people were going to APC, they felt that president Jonathan was not respected at all and they complained of being neglected in the scheme of things, in the state. They felt the Governor in his second tenure did not do enough for them and they were waiting for a payback time”. He explained.

Governor Seriake Dickson, of Bayelsa State had said that the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are using ex-President Goodluck Jonathan “to legitimise the illegitimacy that happened on Saturday”.

He made the remarks after the victory of David Lyon, candidate of the APC in the Bayelsa governorship election. He maintained that the perception that he alienated PDP stakeholders, including the former president, was unfounded as he had made several attempts to meet with the former President Jonathan, who at the end chose to support a candidate that did not mean well for him.

Ambassador Godknows Igali, a respected leader of the PDP in Bayelsa State, explained to NewsWireNGR, that, one of the winning strategy for the APC was that they pulled their candidate from southern Ijaw local government which makes about 30% of the population of the state.

“If a particular candidate already has 30%, definitely he will secure his homeland and southern ijaw people, voted massively for their son.,”.

He said, the deputy governorship candidate of the APC was from the same Nembe which is the ancient community where the pre-election violence took place.

“Therefore, the Nembe people, being one of the largest communities, voted almost 90% for their son. By the way, the deputy governorship candidate of APC, also a chief, is one of the most respected community leaders from there, he holds an ancient title from one of the ancient original war canoe leaders who accompanied “king koko” in 1895 on the “akasa (spelling) raid, so he has a big traditional title and is one of the most respected chiefs in the area, so it was expected that he will carry that massive support of his people.” He added.

In Southern Ijaw Local Government, the APC candidate polled 124,803 votes while his rival got 4,898 votes.

The ambassador also explained, that, the Ogbia local government, a Jonathan community massively voted APC because, while Jonathan was still in PDP, his people had all left for the APC.

Bayelsa State has one of the largest crude oil and natural gas deposits in Nigeria, but a predominantly fishing community. Amidst the oil wealth, the majority of Bayelsans live in poverty.

They are mainly rural dwellers due to the terrain and lack of adequate transportation, health, education or other infrastructure as a result of decades of neglect by the central governments, state governments, and petroleum prospecting companies.

 Some Observers and political analysts outside the state, with an understanding of happenings within the PDP, also share their views on the inner workings of the party and why the party had to suffer defeat.

“PDP lost the Bayelsa Governorship elections because there were no plans to win in the first place. The party at the National and state level bungled the chances to have won the Governorship election” Mr. Jackson Ude, a popular political commentator and a former director of strategy communications under the Goodluck Jonathan administration, tells NewsWireNGR.

There were concerns by political analysts about the party’s lack of direction towards the polls, the party also had the Kogi governorship election to focus on (another election they lost).

On betrayal of the party by the former President, Jackson insisted that, “Jonathan did not betray the PDP. Jonathan is a loyal party man and a former President. He would never work against the Party that made him. Jonathan simply had an opinion and a choice like everyone. But when his opinion & choice was not respected, he remained in the party and tried to galvanize support for the preferred candidate”.

According to him, Jonathan campaigned for Senator Diri, the PDP candidate and even went as far as holding reconciliatory meetings before the elections as expected of a national leader..

“They (Bayelsans) decided they have had enough of the shenanigans and greed of the Serieke Dickson Govt. There was nothing Jonathan could have done to save PDP. The rumor that he betrayed PDP or Dickson is false and a figment of the imagination of those who do not understand Jonathan’s politics” Ude concluded.

Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylvia, who before now, was not “friends” with former President Jonathan, was also seen at the former Presidents home, all slimes after the PDP defeat, he said to newsmen that, outgoing Governor Seriake Dickson made their job very easy by his actions.

He said APC victory has given the party not only a foothold in the oil rich region, but has enhanced its national outlook and went on to commend former President Jonathan for his fatherly roles.

But beyond the smiles between former governor Sylvia and the ex-President. There were also other counteracting factors that led to the PDP’s loss in Bayelsa as Ariyo-Dare Atoye, a political analyst & partner Eagle Badger Consulting tells NewsWireNGR.

“In the case of Bayelsa, two important factors caused the defeat of the PDP. The perceived nonperformance of the Governor by a significant segment of the populace, which he failed to address at a reasonable time and the issue of alleged ill treatment of the former President’s Goodluck Jonathan’s family”.

“There is nothing altruistic about the decision of Jonathan’s family to support David Lyon. It was purely personal and also based on self-interest, which they were also entitled to in a way being the one that installed Gov. Serieke Dickson. Lest we forget, it was also the same reason adduced by former president Olusegun Obasanjo and others who ditched the PDP and worked against it” Ariyo-Dare Atoye tells NewsWireNGR.

Ariyo maintained that, “a political party has the responsibility to Internally reform and correct its mistakes. Members of a political party can disagree. But when it finally settled for a choice, members ought to put their differences aside and work for the party and not necessarily about their feelings towards the candidate”.

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