The just concluded sale of nomination forms for the November 16, governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states has confirmed that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is still a choice party in the country. Thirty-four aspirants from the two states bought the PDP nomination and expression of interest forms at the close of nomination on July 24. This yielded N674 million to the party. A breakdown showed that 22 governorship aspirants came from Bayelsa State while 12 were from Kogi State.
Among the aspirants are two females. In 2014 when the party was in power, it garnered a total of N3.14 billion from 286 aspirants who obtained its nomination and expression of interest forms to contest the governorship elections in 29 states. Then, the forms went for N11 million as against N21 million presently.
This notwithstanding, the interest shown in PDP by the aspirants despite increase in nomination fee, speaks volume. PDP is the party in power in Bayelsa State. It, however, lost Kogi to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015. The elections will be the first off-season election after the 2019 general elections, and therefore, a test ground for PDP and the ruling APC. PDP did not have problem choosing its governorship candidates in Bayelsa and Kogi states in 2015 because the sitting governors – Seriake Dickson and Idris Wada, enjoyed first offer of refusal.
This may not be the case this time around. Dickson is completing his second term in office while Wada who did not return in 2015, is contest again. Perhaps, this is the reason for the high number of aspirants in both states.
Though, PDP is smiling to the bank from the proceeds it made from sale of nomination forms, choosing its governorship candidates for the two states might not be that easy. The party is parading star studded aspirants in the two states. In Kogi State, apart from Captain Wada, Abubakar Idris, eldest son of former governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, security expert, Dr. Joseph Erico Ameh; former President, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Idris Omede and serving senator, Dino Melaye, were among those who have obtained the PDP nomination form.
In Bayelsa, former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NNDC), Chief Timi Alaibe is leading the pack of aspirants. And because Dickson is not seeking reelection, almost all his appointees are rooting to succeed him. Among them are the Deputy Governor, John Jonah, the Chief of Staff, Talford Ongolo, the Secretary to the State Government, Kemela Okara, former Speaker of the House Assembly, Kombowei Benson and former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power, Ambassador Godknows Igali.
Others are a serving senator, Doye Diri, a member of the House of Representatives, Fred Agbadi, Senator Emmanuel Paulke, an associate of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Reuben Okoya, as well as Keniebi Okoko among others. No doubt, the party will have a herculean task choosing its candidates from this number. Already, analysts are predicting rancorous primaries.
There were also insinuations in some quarters that some of the aspirants were sponsored to obtain the nomination forms so as to cause confusion during the primaries. According to an analyst: “Only a united, purposeful and determined PDP stands a chance against the ruling party, which is expected to once again deploy both state and federal might at its disposal, as witnessed during the past elections.” Though the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) assured free and transparent primaries, internal wrangling in the party, especially in Kogi State, if not properly handled, may affect the party’s chances in the November 16 governorship. Nevertheless, several factors will determine who eventually picks the party’s ticket. In Kogi State, PDP stakeholders in the state who met in Abuja about two months ago, agreed to retain the party’s ticket in Kogi East senatorial district.
The zone has been producing the governors since Kogi State was created in 1991 until the emergence Governor Yahaya Bello in 2015. Bello, who is from Kogi Central, is a beneficiary of unfortunate cause of events. He became governor following the death of Prince Abubakar Audu hours before the result of the first election was announced. PDP is still retaining its governorship ticket in Kogi East probably because of its population and voting strength. Although, Senator Dino Melaye, who represents Kogi West in the Senate, obtained the nomination form, it is believed that PDP candidate for 2019 governorship election will come from Kogi East. In this wise, former Governor Wada and Abubakar Idris appear to be top contenders. Given past experiences, the former governor stands a better chance. But his predecessor in office, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, wants his son as PDP candidate.
The over bearing influence of Alhaji Idris is said to be responsible for the internal crisis in Kogi PDP. This was blamed for the party’s loss of the two senatorial and all the House of Assembly seats to APC in the general elections. A party source told Sunday Telegraph that the squabble between the former governor and former PDP National Chairman, Senator Ahmadu Alli is responsible for the misfortune of PDP in Kogi State. Incidentally, the two are from Kogi East. Alli has not attended any Kogi PDP stakeholders’ meetings for sometime now, because of Idris.
The Abuja meeting had reportedly said that the party’s would be candidate must have the war chest to prosecute the campaign. Both Wada and Idris are equal to the task. But most Kogi leaders detest former Governor Idris imposing his son on the party. Most aspirants obtained the nomination form to stop this from happening. Also, the leaders were said to be looking for a candidate who will not be easily intimidated by Governor Bello. Most aspirants who came to obtain the PDP nomination form said there was no election in Kogi State during the general election.
On two occasions, PDP leaders were held hostages on the eve of the general elections by security operatives allegedly deployed by the state governor. Wada is tipped to pick the PDP ticket in Kogi State if the party will make an impact in the governorship election. The Bayelsa scenario is a bit complicated. There was no clear pronouncement on zoning. Perhaps, that was what attracted aspirants from the two senatorial zones.
The three senatorial districts of the state have produced the governor but only Bayelsa West has completed its second term in office. Bayelsa Central where former Governor DSP Alameiyeseigha came from, served only six years before he was impeached. Bayelsa East senatorial zone where former President Goodluck Jonathan and Timipre Sylva come from, also served six years (Jonathan’s two years and Sylva’s four years).
Bayelsa is made up of eight local government areas. And according to report, all the local government areas have produced either the governor or deputy governor of the state except Kolokuma/Opokuma. Pundits argue that for equity, the next governor of the state should come from the area. Kolokuma/Opokuma is in Bayelsa Central senatorial district, which is favoured to pick the PDP ticket. This makes Alaibe, who incidentally is from Kolokuma/Opokuma local government, a serious contender. However. Alaibe is not the only aspirant from the area.
He has to contend with Senator Diri, a serving senator representing Bayelsa Central. Also, in Bayelsa Central are Southern Ijaw and Yenagoa local government areas, which as well, parade intimidating aspirants with equally political experience. Senator Emmanuel Paulker, the SSG Kemela Okara and Keniebi Okoko are from the Yenagoa council while Ambassador Igali, Ongolo (the Chief of Staff), and former Speaker Kombowei Benson are from Southern Ijaw. The forces against Alaibe said he is not steady in one political party.
The former NDDC Managing Director, who has been running for governor since 2003, has contested under PDP, Labour Party and APC. He returned to PDP not too long ago. The PDP family in Bayelsa state still see him as an ‘outsider’. But in terms of experience, connection, acceptability, grassroots support and the financial muscle, he is a man to beat. The ‘Restoration Group,’ Dickson’s political family is insisting that it must produce the governor’s successor.
That probably was the reason of large army of aspirants from the group. But in doing so, they are invariably creating opportunity for Alaibe to pick the sole ticket. PDP has fixed its primaries for September 3 to choose its candidates for Bayelsa and Kogi states’ governorship elections. And despite the number of aspirants who obtained the nomination form, only one will emerge in each of the states. Whoever emerges will be decided by the delegates to the primaries