By Daniel Iworiso-Markson
After months of consultation and seeking the face of God, the Bayelsa State Governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson, last Tuesday finally declared his intention to run for a second term in office.
And he did so in a fashion which sent out a loud message particularly to the opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) as a formidable candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the December 5 elections in the state. Although politics is dynamic especially since APC is yet to unveil its candidate but going by the overwhelming crowd of party supporters, PDP heavyweights, well-wishers and indeed the strategic endorsements, Dickson’s outing at the Samson Siasia Stadium will naturally elicit a second look at its winning strategy by the opposition.
It’s a political imperative.
In spite of the intermittent showers of rain, everyone remained calm until the event began at about 3pm. From that moment till the end, the arena was ecstatic amid singing and dancing by party faithful who came in various groups, uniforms and clutching banners bearing messages of hope and confidence. Traditional musicians and contemporary ones were also in joyous mood, blaring out tunes to entertain the people.
Present at the rally were the former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, his wife, Dame Patience Jonathan, former Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, Ondo State Governor and Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, Olusegun Mimiko, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State, Kelechi Igwe, Deputy Governor of Delta State, Dennis Otuaro and the Deputy Governor of Kogi State, Yomi Awoniyi.
Other personalities were the Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Hon. Konbowei Benson, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce and all members of the National Assembly from the state, Senator James Manager, Larry Koinyan, Leader of the defunct Niger Delta Volunteer Force, Asari Dokubo, King A.J. Turner, former Ebonyi Governor, Walter Feghabo, former Deputy Governor, Peremobowei Ebebi, Leader of Women for Change and member PDP BoT, Remi Kuku and the Director-General of the Restoration Campaign Organisation, Fred Agbedi.
From the Nollywood came popular actors Kenneth Okonkwo, Zack Orji, Rosemary Imgbi, Ngozi Nwosu, Stephanie Okereke and Yemi Black. The duo of Terry Gee and Timi Dakolo, popular artistes, also entertained the crowd.
Also present were various NGOs, student leaders, members of ALGON, traditional rulers and representatives from all the Niger Delta states, and other socio-cultural bodies.
In his address, Jonathan evaluated major issues in governance both in the states across the country and the Federal Government in relation to what obtains in Bayelsa State and concluded that in relative terms, Governor Seriake Dickson has so far performed creditably well to deserve a second term and he accordingly endorsed him. The former president, who spoke both in English and pidgin for effect, scored Dickson on four major parameters: payment of workers salary, non-indebtedness to the World Bank and lending institutions, infrastructure and security.
He reflected that when he was the governor of the state, the challenge of roads and bridges occupied his thoughts and decided that he would build at least a road per year but events later overtook the desire, noting that he was pleased that Dickson has done well in that area by building roads and bridges to link up the state, citing the Ebeni bridge as one of such landmark achievements of the Dickson administration.
“If you compare Bayelsa with other states, Dickson has tried. All the things he has done are many—be it in roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, agriculture etc. It’s good to talk when people do good things. When we see that somebody is focused, we will know and we should encourage him. When I looked at all these things, I realized Dickson has tried to perform as a governor and I accordingly gave him my support for a second term”, he said
While stating that PDP remained the party to beat in the state citing historical basis, Jonathan decried the lack of unity among the Ijaws which, he said, was not in the best interest of the people. He also noted that there were some good people in the opposition party, saying after Dickson’s second term one of them could be supported to become governor and asked all to come together and work for the good of the state.
He stated: “The problem with the Ijaw people is that we know how to spoil ourselves. We use our mouths to destroy ourselves. We give our people to others to kill. If we go with that spirit, Bayelsa won’t develop. Let us allow Dickson to do four more years. We know there are some good people in the other party but Dickson is the best person for the next four years. Those of them who want to be governors should come and work with us. When Dickson finishes his second term, we would look for one of them and support him. I am appealing to everybody to come together as a group and develop the state. Let us think about our children and our children’s children. We should not think about our belly alone.
“I want to tell you all our brothers and sisters, all leaders and representatives from across the Niger Delta and the leadership of our party that we are totally committed to deliver Dickson. This election that is coming is for us as a people to redefine ourselves, to reposition ourselves in the Nigerian geo-polity. And I think supporting Dickson is the best thing now. Dickson will never betray our interest. He will continue to work with us for our future, for the interest of our children and children’s children. “
It was obviously a happy day for Governor Dickson, who stepped forward to address his party supporters, leaders and well-wishers in an inspirational manner which justified the various endorsements, promising a better Bayelsa of deepened and consolidated restoration of development and prosperity. He was welcome to the podium by the popular artiste, Terry Gee, who in his characteristic “swagger” sang two of his popular numbers which sent the crowd jumping and dancing.
Then the governor began his address which centered mostly on his record of achievements, strength of PDP in Bayelsa State and giving hope of future possibilities as he said his next four years if elected would concentrate more on the welfare of the people.
He reckoned that contrary to what the APC had said about the PDP, it was still the dominant party in Bayelsa State, emphasizing that PDP had been in power in the state since 1999 and recently won all major positions in the last elections, having all the 105 councilors, all 8 local government chairmen, 21 members of the state house of assembly while one went to the opposition and one other inconclusive, all members of the National Assembly from the state, the governor and deputy and of course the former President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife and other strategic leaders to boot.
In his estimation, Dickson believed with this array of support, it would be unimaginable to have APC defeat him and his party in the next election, stating emphatically that Bayelsa State is an “unshakeable PDP territory”.
According to him, to know the strength of the PDP in the state is to realize that since 1999, the party had been in power, producing four governors, three of whom, he said, were at the Samson Siasia Stadium to endorse him, aside the new toga of one of them, Jonathan, as the immediate past president and indeed his wife, Patience, all combining their political strength to push his case for re-election. This is significant as political capital.
“Of the four of us, only one has strayed, only one has gone the wrong way. Bayelsa State has no room for APC. It’s you the people that are saying so and it’s your voice on that day, your votes, more than anything else, that will count. I am sure wherever they are looking at us today, they’ve seen all of you, all the leaders who make things happen, the various communities, various wards, various local government areas, they are all with us. Now they’ve not seen anything yet. There’s no doubt that they will hear your voice loudly on December 5. They are not on ground, they are not our match”, Dickson told the crowd.
He enjoined the people particularly the youths to keep the peace and not allow themselves to be used by politicians for electoral abuse. He also criticized the APC leadership for what he described as “repeated boasting but without any programme or message for the people”, as he assured his supporters of victory and that they will never be intimidated.
“it is not because they have programme or message for our people. Not because the people are behind them. But they say they have Federal might, they have police, they have INEC. But we have you and love of God. We will win. They cannot intimidate us, they can’t take Bayelsa by force. Propaganda doesn’t win election. It’s you the people who make electoral victory possible. We expect the Federal Government and all its agents to be alive to their responsibilities”.
Dickson enumerated his achievements in education, health, infrastructure, agriculture, security as pillars that will be consolidated in the next four years if re-elected, stating that “we have a complete record of performance; we have changed the governance culture”.
On the focus of his next administration if elected, he said it would be a time for consolidation with emphasis on the development of the people, stressing the importance of the December 5 election as one for a collective destiny.
“The next government with your support will emphasize more on your development and empowerment. Now that we have infrastructure in place, we will emphasize more on you and your future. This election is not about me as has been said; this election is about you and your future. We are counting on you all to work with us for our collective destiny. And this is important because of the need not to go back to Egypt now that we are going to the Promise land”, he said.
The mood and challenges of the declaration were also not lost on Dickson’s colleagues as Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum and Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, was on hand to add fillip to the occasion. He told the crowd and with specific attention of Dickson that all the PDP governors were behind him in his journey to a second term. After eulogizing Jonathan for what he regarded as his “subscription to democratic ethos and civilized essence of democracy”, Mimiko informed his host that he and other colleagues were in total support of his aspiration. He pointed out that the struggle was not that of Dikson’s alone but that of all that PDP represents. He also said his colleagues were endorsing him for his achievements in office and called on the Ijaw people to be discerning by voting for Dickson.
”We have come to identify with you; we have come to solidarise with you. We are proud of your investment in education, we are proud of your investment in health and infrastructure. But how will the Ijaw man pay PDP,” he asked, and challenged the people to support Dickson for continuity.
While the Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Hon. Konbowei Benson, hailed the governor’s achievements in projects across the state, Senator Foster Ogala who spoke on behalf of all members of the National Assembly from Bayelsa State said everything that had been said about Dickson on his performance were true. As he puts it, “ They are correct. Another name for Governor Seriake Dickson is development,” listing the various strides of his administration in the last three and half years in the saddle.
Although the abduction of the governor’s top aide, Chief Fyneman Wilson, less than 24 hours after his declaration will likely be a troubling signal to INEC and other security agencies as the campaign begins, the expectation is that the beauty of democracy will still come to play. Judging by the sights and sounds of last Tuesday’s declaration, it is almost certain that the countryman governor will return to Creek Haven with a resounding victory. Bayelsans wil no doubt heed the call of Timi Dakolo in his recorded song for the campaign which he sang at the event that his people should vote for Dickson as the right thing to do. Dickson would be making history once he is declared winner in the December 5 election, thereby accentuating political culture and relevance.