Four more years! This is the rising crescendo as Bayelsans and friends of Bayelsa call on Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson to come out quickly to re-contest for the position of Governor of Bayelsa State after a first term of uncommon leadership and unprecedented development that is changing the state for good.
Indeed, undergirding this cry is a felt need to separate the men from the boys, the many who are making a play for leadership of the state whose credentials are still a work in progress but who in the context of our democracy are very much welcome to join the fray.
Endorsement of candidates is taking a virtual hold on the political pendulum as various parties signify where their interest lies.
With a clear understanding of the prevailing situation on both sides of the major political divide in the state, there is no longer any dull moment: all permutations and clever moves are geared towards the forthcoming governorship election which, as things stand today, will pitch the incumbent governor, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson, of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with any candidate who emerges from the crisis-ridden and all-comers opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC) in Bayelsa State.
Although Dickson has not formally declared to re-contest having hitherto told his associates and supporters to wait as he continued to consult, many are of the view that there is no longer doubt that the governor is now set to declare for his second term bid and going by a huge show of appreciation and solidarity which his supporters staged in Yenagoa, the state capital, last Tuesday, it is now a fait accompli.
As a matter of fact, what was said to be a welcome reception for him after a short vacation turned out to be nothing short of a carnival, an indication of the shape of things to come. A gale of endorsements which has effectively challenged the governor to action, shows the way for what is expected to be the flag-off of his re-election campaign.
As early as 8am last Tuesday, the state capital, Yenagoa, was woken up to an unusual traffic and mass movement of people, particularly the youths.
From the main major road leading to the state capital and the adjoining roads from the other ends of the city, the drift of activities pointed to the popular Peace Park, a short distance from the Government House.
And judging from the mood of the people and the numerous youths in their bright attires and group affiliations, their mission and intent were all too evident. Politics was literally in the air.
Amidst loud music, dancing and intermittent political sloganeering, members of the different bodies and political interest groups drawn from the eight local government areas in the state swarmed the Peace Park arena in their multitudes, with each holding aloft banners and professing unflinching support for the yet undeclared second term bid of Governor Seriake Dickson.
Some of the groups included Grassroots Restoration Force, Restoration Ambassadors of Bayelsa, Dickson 2016 Action Group and Bayelsa Grassroots Movement.
It was a marked outpouring of both emotion and grit by the various groups which in total numbered about 50 and who struggled to outdo one another for their voices to be heard on why the Bayelsa State governor deserved a second term in office.
Of course, the justifications came in so many ways much of which were quite dramatic and represented the true conviction of the marchers. It was proving to be quite a memorable day for all.
It was in this mood that Governor Seriake Dickson and his entourage sauntered into Peace Park amidst deafening ovation and jubilation among the people.
The governor was moved to let down his usual studied guard and to be swept away by the mood of the occasion. He responded with exhuberant gestures, saluting the crowd and intermittently raising his fingers in the victory sign.
He joined in the singing and dancing round the arena until he made his way to his seat.
In his address, Dickson said he was overwhelmed by the obviously spontaneous show of love and support from the people of the state which he described as highly gratifying. He thanked Bayelsans for their understanding and for maintaining the peace in spite of the trying times.
He also called for more support to enable the Restoration Government he heads to consolidate on the gains it had so far recorded.
The governor urged the people to spread the gospel of restoration to every nook and cranny of the state especially as electioneering campaigns for the forthcoming governorship election gather momentum in the state.
He assured the people that the state government would continue to partner with the Federal Government towards achieving greater peace, security and prosperity for the state and the country at large.
Acting chairman of the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Serena Dokubo-Spiff, also expressed gratitude to Bayelsans for turning out in their numbers to receive Governor Dickson back home.
According to him, the huge crowd at the event was a further confirmation that the PDP is the party to beat in the coming election in the state.
Dokubo-Spiff, however, cautioned the people to be careful about those he said were about to bring money into the state for distribution with the hope of influencing them, saying it was this kind of attitude which contributed in large measure to the under-development of the state until the incumbent governor came into the saddle of leadership in the state.
He recalled that the implication of money politics was the tendency to mortgage development for the selfish agenda of those he referred to as “ special interests” which, he noted, led to corruption and abysmal performance in government by Dickson’s predecessors.
He, therefore, called on the people to shun money politics but support those who are interested in the development of the state. “Money politics is destructive and why we must all resist such attitude which can only serve a short term interest and the rot will continue. We can’t afford to return to the past, we already have a clear path to restoration which I ask you today to continue to support. You have all demonstrated your resolve in this regard today and I believe we can all make history together in due course. Bayelsa remains a stronghold of the PDP”, he stressed.
Also in his brief speech, the Chief of Staff Government House, Yenagoa, Rt. Hon. Talford Ongolo, said the occasion speaks volumes about the level of acceptance of the present leadership in the state. He added that the gesture of the people towards the governor could only ginger him to do more as the people will be rewarded with purposeful and accountable leadership.
Earlier in his remarks, representative of the various groups, Prince Isiki, stated that though the governor had not officially declared his re-election bid, they had met and concluded that they will work for his re-election.
He noted that while Dickson was not the first governor in Bayelsa State, he was the only one who had shown the most commitment to the common good by placing the interest of the people above all other considerations.
He recounted the various development projects carried out by the Dickson administration which, he said, were geared towards the poor and who would therefore rally round him to ensure the continuity of development.
Accordingly, he asked that the governor should come out and announce his re-election without further delay so that the various groups present at the event can further spread the message of restoration. He assured that the crowd of jubilant supporters did not wait to be prompted to work for the governor’s re-election as they were determined that he had to return to office to complete the transformation of the fortunes of the state.
“Our actions here today are symbolic of what many of us have been doing in our various local governments and this is to let our governor know that we are behind him and his aspirations. It is not that we have not had governors before in this state but none has done as much as Governor Seriake Dickson to make the development of our people such a cardinal objective and preoccupation. Look at what has happened to education in Bayelsa in the last three years, look at health, look at empowerment and we can also look at our roads and bridges. Look at the first ever flyover. Even those places where we never thought is possible have been linked up to the state capital. Who can ever think we would by now drive straight to Nembe? This is why we have come here today to show our governor our solidarity and we are ready to vote for him”, he declared.
What came to light at the end of the event was the implication of such rousing support for the incumbent governor. It spoke volumes about the governor’s popularity. But it also drove home how much the people appreciate the unprecedented efforts at development and why such a course may now be irreversible.
But beyond the carnival-like outing, the PDP must also be ready to do a serious battle in order to win the state in the election slated for later part of the year.
The thinking by analysts of the emerging trend of politics in the state is that intra- party feud and desperation leading to power struggle could gravely undermine the PDP in the state imperilling all the gains of development of the last four years. Concerned party members may take some solace from the fact that such fractiousness is not limited to the PDP.
The same factors are also rearing their ugly heads in the opposition party, a development which has necessitated the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari. But how far such intervention could go in dousing tension in the party remains to be seen.
For now, the ruling PDP, judging by what transpired in Yenagoa last Tuesday, is on course for an encore with Dickson as the standard bearer.
While PDP chairman, Dokubo-Spiff, believes intra-party feud is dangerous for electoral success, he was quick to note that it was no longer a major issue in the party in the state. He conceded that it happened in the past but those who disagreed with the leadership of the party and the state government had since gone to the opposition party and that the PDP was now a settled party devoid of crisis.
This, he said, will help the party to sweep to victory in the state, adding though that the efforts of the reconciliation committee would continue to be critical.
On his part, Prince Isiki urged anyone who had disagreement with the party to give peace a chance by channeling their misgivings to the appropriate quarters in the party just as he believed that the PDP had come to a stable clime in Bayelsa State and was only waiting to trounce the APC at the polls. “It is true we had some disappointing instances in the past but with what we had here today, PDP has returned to normal and we are on sure winning ways in the state,” he stated.
*Daniel Iworiso-Markson is the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to Governor Henry Seriake Dickson.