Locating Alaibe in post-Dickson Bayelsa politics

Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa.<br />

When Bayelsa State was created alongside five others in 1996, it was celebration galore for the people of the new state.

Central to the excitement of the Bayelsans was the reality of carving a separate political identity from the old Rivers State.

After 22 years of its creation, Bayelsa could be said to have lived up to the lofty expectations it nursed when its political umbilical chord was cut off from Port Harcourt.

Within a short space of time, the state produced the nation’s president and placed itself at the centre of post-amalgamation political progression of Nigeria.

Whenever the story of eventual restructuring of Nigeria would be told, the contribution of the 2014 National Conference convened by former President Goodluck Jonathan would be told because the report holds relevance to the country’s future.

Jonathan’s rise to the post of President through the office of the vice president affected Bayelsa politics in a spectacular way.

From serving as deputy governor under the late Governor-General of the Ijaw nation, Dr. Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieseigha, the former university teacher, was on his way to becoming a governor when opportunity for a higher office beckoned.

The first democratically elected governor, Alamieseigha, hailed from Bayelsa Central Senatorial District and was succeeded by Jonathan from Bayelsa East. Timipre Sylva stepped in when Jonathan left for Abuja.

Although the one term governorship of Sylva was tempestuous, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship primary of 2007 would have thrown up another Timi, in the person of Timi Alaibe, who was compensated for stepping down through the appointment as Director General of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

Perhaps obeying the power sharing arrangement in the state, in 2012 the governorship swung to Bayelsa West, where the incumbent Governor Henry Seriake Dickson hails.

By 2019 Dickson would be serving out his constitutional two terms and it would be time for the governorship to swing back to Bayelsa Central where the journey began.

Alaibe’s delayed ambition

The fortuitous circumstances that catapulted Jonathan to the pinnacle of political power in Nigeria could be seen as the accident of calculations that deferred Alaibe’s ambition to be governor of Bayelsa.

The consensus of opinion of most Bayelsans is that Alaibe is one technocrat that has the know-how to drive governance and imbued with grassroots following. But some-how the man’s intrepid political careering has not helped his cause.

Alaibe moved from PDP to Labour Party after he was shortchanged at the governorship primary. When LP could not guarantee the fruition of his ambition, he returned to PDP.

He was to move out again after PDP lost the 2015, hoping to clinch the governorship ticket of the new ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC).

But, having found himself in APC, his impatience could not bear fruit, as the party did not appear inclined to gift with him with the ticket despite the general perception that he was the candidate that could beat the incumbent.

Having waited three years in APC, Mr. Alaibe must have convinced himself that the party has not lived up to public expectations. That reality could have informed Alaibe’s recent decision to retrace his steps back to PDP.

There are growing indications that the Atiku Abubakar narrative might work in his favour depending on the disposition of the countryman governor, Dickson.

If Dickson decides to build his succession plan outside Alaibe, then the former NDDC DG will stand the risk of becoming the best governor Bayelsa is finding difficult to have.

Excited support base

SIGNS that Alaibe was preparing to make another move emerged three months ago when some youth groups started mouthing their support for him to contest the 2019 governorship poll.

The different youth groups, including Bayelsa Advancement Movement, Concerned Progressive Youths of Bayelsa, Committee for the Development of Bayelsa State, Timi Alaibe Youth Vanguard among others, said the consummate banker has all that is needed to put the state at the highest level of development.

They concluded that the Opokuma-born politician left a stamp of excellence in NDDC, stressing that he was the initiator of the Amnesty Programme that quelled militancy in Niger Delta.

Prince Ogbogbo Peres, who spoke on behalf of the groups, pointed out that during his tenure in NDDC Alaibe constructed roads, embarked on electrification of communities in the region among other achievements.

Positive signals

THE manner of Alaibe’s return to PDP gives hope that he may have had prior discussions with Governor Dickson. As such if the outgoing factors the former NDDC boss into his succession plan, then he must have hit the bull’s eye on his promise to keep APC away from governing Bayelsa.

Blessed with uncanny level-headedness, Alaibe is unarguably one politician that all political tendencies in the state hold in respect.

The fact that he has undertaken many wild political excursions could work to his advantage if he clinches the PDP ticket.

Speaking when he received Chief Alaibe back to the party, Dickson attributed his return to the supremacy of PDP and touted the move as the eventual end of APC in Bayesla State.

Dickson maintained that APC did not have the capacity to defeat PDP, stressing that the leadership of the ruling party at the centre has exposed gross lack of interest in the well being and development of Bayelsans.

While pointing out that the state remains a PDP strong base, the governor declared that no well meaning and decent person would sustain a durable relationship with the APC based on the high level of criminality and falsehood it has chosen as its official policy.

The governor stated: “The APC in Bayelsa is a party of criminals, cultists and terrorists. PDP has the majority of the good and decent, patriotic people. I used to say there are few APC members in Bayelsa that are good and patriotic.

Now, you can imagine the few good ones have now left. So, the APC in Bayelsa is completely a party of criminals, cultists and terrorists.

“When we come to campaign, we will wait for them to tell us the roads and bridges from Abuja that they have brought to this state, to show us the major appointments, benefits and patronage that they deceived this good and decent people to go to their dry party that doesn’t mean well for our people. The APC clearly is being folded up in Bayelsa with all of you leaving.”

Turning to Alaibe and other defectors, the governor praised them for dumping APC, assuring them of immediate and full integration into PDP, even as he disclosed that a mega rally would be organiseed to formally receive them into the big umbrella.

Dickson added: “We are here to formally receive and welcome you back home to your party and I have told the chairman and the political desk working with your team that we would  organise a formal reception to receive you because you are a big fish.

You cannot come into PDP and people will not know you have come. So what is happening today is a prelude to your formal reception.

“We were pained when you left at a time we needed you most but all of that is history. What is important is what is ahead of us and I want to assure you that you are all valued leaders in the party once again.”

Bouncing off from the governor’s kind words, Alaibe praised him for his administration’s commitment to the cause of Ijaw nationalism as well as the integrated development of the state.

While describing PDP as a party of the Ijaw people, the former NDDC boss said his decision to quit the wilderness and return home to PDP was basically to support Dickson in the greater interest of Bayelsa State.

Alaibe said: “I want to thank you for some of the fantastic projects and programmes you have implemented in Bayelsa including this state-of-the-art office for the people of Bayelsa State.

I want to thank you for the continuous commitment to the Ijaw nation, the commitment that has inspired some of us to continue to remain as a people in the space called Nigeria.

“PDP for me, as an individual, is home. My political life was defined by the PDP. My political public service, work and all the political positions that I have held were facilitated by the PDP and for a lot of us here, it was the PDP. So for us, PDP is home. It is a good come-back home.”

He assured the governor that his movement away from PDP could be likened to a child, saying: “Just like a child will not know the richness of his mother’s soup until he tastes his neighbour’s soup. We have gone out there and we have tasted our neighbour’s soup, and we have made comparison and our own soup, the soup you pilot, is sweeter. And that’s why we are here.”

State chairman of the party, Mr. Moses Cleopas, described Alaibe’s return as a show of patriotism and love for Bayelsa State. He assured him and his supporters that “we are receiving you with our spirit, soul and body.

It is our belief that you are coming to add value to this party and not with any fear that you shall by any way make the party less of what it is today.”

Apart from his supporters, other eminent stakeholders that joined Alaibe back to PDP include, former Secretary to Bayelsa State Government (SSG), Gideon Ekeowei, onetime Commissioner for Youths and Sports, Chief Keme Prefa, ex-Chairman of Sagbama Local Government Council, Barnabas Edure, former Executive Secretary, State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) Rhodesia Whyte, and former state lawmakers.

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