How the Bayelsa State All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate will emerge is a major challenge to the party. Correspondent Mike Odiegwu takes a look at the issues that will shape the the party’s shadow poll.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) is the most beatiful bride in Bayelsa State. Politicians of note and their supporters are defecting to the party. The rate of defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaves many guessing what will become of the ruling party before and after the governorship election.
In spite of the APC’s popularity, analysts believe the only hurdle standing before it and electoral victory is the emergence of a credible and acceptable governorship candidate. They are of the view that the only way APC can scale the hurdle is to provide a level playing field for aspirants and allow them to slug it out in an open and transparent primary. According to observers, given the array of aspirants, an open primary will save the party from a post-primary crisis. The transparency of the process that produced President Muhammadu Buhari made other aspirants to concede defeat and pledge to work for his success at the poll.
It is not easy to unseat a governor. But, with strong determination and collective will of the people, the problem is surmontable. That undersores the need for unity of purpose among members of the APC; who need to go to the poll as a united fold, if the party must take over power from the PDP in the oil rich state.
A major problem threatening the unity of APC is the divisive tendency of old members trying to label the defectors as new comers. Rather, APC should treat every member equally irrespective of when he or she joined the party.
Of the eight local governments in the state, only one has neither produced a governor, or a deputy governor. The first governor, DSP Alameiyeseigha, hails from Ijaw South Local Government of the Central Senatorial district. His deputy, Dr Goodluck Jonathan from Ogbia Local Government of the East senatorial zone took over after Alameiyeseigha was impeached . He won the PDP ticket for re-election but was given the vice presidential ticket in 2007.
The exit of Jonathan threw up Chief Timipre Sylva, who is from Brass Local Government Area in the Senatorial District.
After Sylva came the incumbent Governor Dickson who hails from Toru-Orua in Sagbama Local Government Area of Bayelsa West Senatorial District. Some leaders of the APC are of the opinion that the party’s ticket will be contested on the basis of disparity and political inequality in local government areas.
Among the eight local government areas in the state, Southern Ijaw, Ogbia, Brass and Sagbama have produced governors in the persons of Alameiyesiegha, Jonathan, Sylva and Dickson respectively.
Though Nembe, Ekeremor and Yenagoa have produced deputy governors in the persons of Rear Admiral John Jonah (retd), Chief Peremobowei Ebebi and Chief Werinipre Seibarugu respectively, the Kolokuma-Opokuma has produced neither a governor nor a deputy.
Observers believe that the quest to govern the state was the major reason behind the grand reception for the APC in Kolokuma-Opokuma. Most political heavyweights from the area have dumped the PDP for the APC to present a common front for the party’ tickets.
But, others have faulted the moves of the people of Kolokuma-Opokuma. For instance, APC members from Yenagoa are arguing that the APC ticket should be zoned to their area. Proponents of this idea argue that Yenogoa, the state capital has not developed to the status of a state, headquarters when compared with other states’ headquarters. The reason for the under development, according to them, is that Yenegoa has not produced a governor.
Besides, they argue that having the largest voting population and highest concentration of non-indigenes, Yenagoa deserves the party’s ticket.
Apart from Yenagoa, APC members from Sagbama, are also demanding the party’s ticket. They are of the view that APC stands a clearer chance of winning the election if it shops for a candidate from Dickson’s enclave. They further posit that it will enable them complete their tenure in case the incumbent governor fails to make it. But others are of the opinion that instead of conceding the party’s ticket to Sagbama, APC should select its party’s running mate from the council to divide the votes.
Besides, the contentious issue of party membership and loyalty has cropped up in the race for the party’s ticket. The old members of APC are warming up to confront former members of the PDP who they accuse of planning to reap where they did not sow. They swore not to allow new members to outsmart and push them aside in the race.
APC members, under the aegis of the Third Force (TF), brought the argument to the fore recently. Speaking in Yenagoa, the spokesman for the group, Mr. Ebideinmo Perekeme, said only tested and trusted party loyalists should be allowed to fly the flag of the party.
Perekeme said: “We also urge the national leadership of the APC to support only steadfast and tested party loyalist, whose love for the APC predated the election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“We implore the party’s national leadership to pick only candidates, who will add value to the progressive ideal of the APC and ensure its victory in the forthcoming governorship race”.
He said it would be counter-productive to allow those he described as fair-weather politicians, who never believed in the ideals of Buhari and the ability of the APC, to take over the party.
“Such politicians are stomach infrastructure politicians who will grab power to water their selfish ambition to the detriment of the populace who are yearning for change as exhibited by Nigerians on March 28, 2015 with the election of President Buhari.
Perekeme advised the APC to intensify grassroots mobilisation, which, according to him, is the basis for winning elections. He commended an APC chieftain and candidate for Bayelsa Central Senatorial District in the last election, Mr. Preye Aganaba, for driving grassroots support for the party.
He said Aganaba embarked on tour of 20 wards in Kolokuma-Opokuma and Yenagoa local government Areas where he called on ward committees to start working for APC’s victory.
He said: “Going forward, we call on other APC leaders in the state to emulate the efforts of Aganaba in strengthening the party’s ward structures with the aim of building a strong, united and vibrant APC that will march triumphantly into Creek Haven come February 2016.
But, the Chairman of APC, Mr. Tiwe Oruminighe, said all members of the party are equal, despite their membership status He said everybody is welcome to the party and will be allowed to aspire to any position of their choice.
He said the APC ticket is open to aspirants who must be willing to go through a strict primary election. He asked members of the party to disregard insinuations in some quarters that the party will settle for a consensus candidate.
The party chairman said: “On the issue of adoption of candidate and whatever the public must have heard about the APC, we want to reiterate that this party in Bayelsa State will follow strictly what the national party has demonstrated at the national level.
“Everybody in Bayelsa that wants to join the party somehow has an ambition. They want to be governor or any other elective offices. Yes, it is good to keep an ambition, but this party wants to tell the public that whoever is joining us should keep an ambition at quiet end and join the party to work so that the party can deliver.
“We will not make the mistake of saying we are adopting a candidate. There will be proper party primaries to select whoever that will fly the flag and I believe that the leadership in of this party is capable of producing a good standard bearer that will win election for Bayelsa State.