Nigeria: Battle for Bayelsa's Government House

31 August 2019
opinion

Augustine Oboh writes that the Oshiomhole-led party should do everything to win the state

One of the major concerns of All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders and supporters is whether the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) would be able to deliver at least one oil-producing state. This concern assumed greater urgency as the preparations for the governorship election in the oil-rich Bayelsa State gathers momentum.

This is mainly because of the outcome of the last general elections when APC failed to meet the expectations in the oil producing states in the South-south and Southeast states.

For example, many analysts had argued that in the oil-rich Rivers State, where APC was once the ruling party, it would have easily reclaimed its position by defeating the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). This was not to be as Governor Nyesom Wike of PDP was re-elected though APC stakeholders described the election as controversial. Until today, most insiders said APC's loss of Rivers State to PDP cannot be blamed only on the so-called controversial election but also on in-fighting and obvious mistakes of some of the top stakeholders in the state.

Also noting the phenomenal forays of APC in Akwa Ibom, another oil producing state in the South-south geo-political region, many thought the party was poised to dislodge PDP in the last governorship election. This also was not achieved.

The same was also the case in Imo and Abia States, the two Southeast oil producing states. Until the last governorship election, APC, under former Governor Rochas Okorocha, was the ruling party in Imo. It was most unfortunate that due to intrigues and disagreements over the choice of candidate for the governorship election, the party entered the race as a divided house, a development that made it easy for PDP to defeat APC at the poll.

For Abia State, another oil producing state, reports showed that APC's growth and influence have become so much pronounced that analysts thought the party could possibly defeat the PDP which has been ruling the state since 1999. That also was not to be as the party failed to win the governorship election there.

Given this unfortunate reality, supporters of APC and the party leaders are understandably anxious that the Oshiomhole-led party should do everything necessary to win Bayelsa State.

At the risk of repeating an obvious truth, let me say here that to win the November 16 governorship election in Bayelsa State will ultimately depend on how APC will handle the governorship primaries and who it will eventually give its ticket to.

Although opinions may differ, many believe that the loss of Rivers and Imo states to PDP should be blamed more on APC's poor handling of the critical issues that threw themselves up before the primary elections. Chief of these issues of course has remained mainly the choice of the governorship candidate and then, how the elders handled this critical issue. Many still believe that if the national leadership of APC and Okorocha had seen reason enough to make the necessary sacrifices and resolve their differences over the choice of Okorocha's successor, the party would not have lost Imo, a strategic oil producing state and the only Southeast state under the governance of APC. Till date, most of the major stakeholders in the unfortunate intrigues that led to APC's loss of Imo still refuse to accept blame.

This is not an avenue to lay blame but simply an opportunity to inform the leaders of APC, especially the Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC that the Imo experience should serve as an important lesson to APC. We also make bold to remind APC leadership that the Imo experience almost repeated itself in Ogun State. So, as the party prepares for Bayelsa State governorship election, one feels compelled to advise the party leaders both in Bayelsa and in Abuja to ensure that everyone is carried along. Timipre Sylva, Minister of State, Petroleum Resources as the leader of APC in Bayelsa State and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, as the National Chairman of the party, should ensure that a level-playing field is provided so that only the best candidate would emerge. In doing this, the party should carry everyone along.

Politics is a very intricate game. This is because it is aimed at providing governance for human beings, who are the most complex phenomenon in existence. Human beings are so complex that it takes so much to satisfy them. But experience has shown that the worst mistake political leaders make, especially in our clime, is the tendency not to listen to the aspirations of their followers when they want to take critical decisions on who should be empowered to lead the people. It may not be wrong to say that this error is primarily responsible for major election failures. Once a leader, at any level, exhibits this careless propensity, the tendency is that his opponent, including weaker opponents, will take advantage of the situation and carry the crown. We all know that a divided side is prepared only for failure. But this must not be case for APC in Bayelsa State.

As it stands today, two political leaders, the immediate former Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri and Prince Preye Aganaba, a businessman, have emerged as the frontline aspirants on the platform of APC in Bayelsa. This is because the leader of APC in the state, former Governor Timipre Sylva, is not likely to contest again since he is now a minister.

Unlike PDP, which currently has about 21 aspirants, APC has fewer aspirants and so is in a better position to manage the situation to its advantage. In fact, it would be correct today to say that the APC contest for the governorship ticket has been narrowed to Lokpobiri and Aganaba.

These two aspirants are well known in the state. Without prejudice to anybody's special interest, everybody knows their precedence and so if the party leaders and members are true to themselves; it would be easy to give the right counsel on how to reconcile all interests in order to bring out the very best at a time like this.

Aganaba, a prince of Aganaba Kingdom in Odi, is one of the pioneer members of APC in Bayelsa. Ever since the formation of APC in the state, he has been playing active role in the building of the party.

Given his wealth of experience and rare political stature, Lokpobiri is seen by most Bayelsans as a rare asset at a time like this. Born March 3, 1967, his robust political career dates back to 1999 when he emerged a member of Bayelsa State House of Assembly. While there, Lokpobiri served at the highest level as the Speaker of Bayelsa State House of Assembly from June 1999 to May 2001.

After this grassroots assignment, Lokpobiri, a lawyer, was in April 2007, elected a Senator on the PDP platform in Bayelsa State, for the Bayelsa West Constituency. He later served as the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development.

Given his solid background as an experienced and balanced grassroots politician, who have served at all critical levels both in Bayelsa and outside, there is no doubt that Lokpobiri understands the politics of Bayelsa and has further garnished his political experience through his sojourn at the national level, both at the legislature as a senator and in the executive as a minister. He also understands the dynamics of Bayelsa PDP, having won elections on that platform.

Oboh wrote from Yenagoa, Bayelsa State

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