Governor Henry Seriake Dickson’s dilly-dallying over his choice aspirant in Tuesday’s primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Bayelsa State has thrown key stakeholders and delegates of the party into a quandary.
The Bayelsa governor, who had all along kept his choice close to his chest, recently sent out signals that Senator Douye Diri was the anointed one among the 21 aspirants that picked the party’s nomination forms for the September 3 primary.
He was said to have directed some of his associates to work toward delivering Senator Diri as the party’s governorship candidate for the November 16 election.
But few days ago, the tide appeared to have turned against Diri with the immediate past Secretary to the State Government, Barr. Kemela Okara, now said to be the favoured one. This followed rumours that the governor had changed his mind on Diri.
There was said to be jubilation at the Biogbolo campaign headquarters of Okara when information filtered in that Dickson had decided to back him. This came at a time an associate of the governor, Senator Inatimi Rufus-Spiff, also emerged as the Director-General of his campaign organisation.
While it is believed that Diri, a former Yenagoa/Kolokuma-Opokuma Federal Constituency Representatives member, is not popular enough to retain the governorship seat for the PDP in the election, he is also said not to enjoy the support of key stakeholders in the party.
Some of them recall that Diri almost lost the Bayelsa Central Senatorial Election in March this year having lost in his own Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area. He was reportedly saved by votes from Yenagoa and Southern Ijaw councils.
Creek Haven Government House sources say some of the governor’s close associates gave him the appropriate feedback based on discreet polls conducted and endorsed by him to ascertain the true frontrunners in the governorship race.
A known philanthropist and former chairman of the state’s Board of Internal Revenue, Dr. Nimibofa Ayawei, was said to have emerged as the most favoured aspirant among party members, the youths and some of the elite in the state.
Ayawei also has the backing of the governor. He reportedly waited for the right signal from Dickson before joining the race at the last minute.
Former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Ndutimi Alaibe, is the next favoured aspirant among stakeholders after Ayawei while Diri and Okara trail the duo in terms of popularity within the PDP and across the state.
Apart from Alaibe, the three other aspirants are current members of Dickson’s strong Restoration Caucus in the PDP, from which he says his successor must emerge. Without his input and support, it would be practically impossible for any of the aspirants to pick the party’s sole ticket.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan is, however, said not to be comfortable with Dickson’s insistence on either Diri or Okara. Impeccable sources say the former Nigerian leader has asked the governor to reconsider his position in the larger interest of the party in order not to create room for the opposition to take over governance of the state.
A party source, who is also a delegate, while faulting Dickson’s support for either of the duo, said none of the two aspirants is as popular as Ayawei to fly the party’s flag in the governorship election.
The source, who craved anonymity, warned that if the governor muscled his way through to produce a candidate, the party stood the risk of losing the election and the state to the opposition.
“Politics is about consensus building and negotiation. Imposition is a dangerous gambit and the governor has vowed not to impose a candidate on the party,” the source said.
Another cause for concern for stakeholders is how to prune the number of aspirants before the primary in order not to cause serious disaffection within the party.
Concerned about the development, the governor was to have asked some of them, particularly aspirants from the Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, to harmonise their interest and produce a unified aspirant.
It was also learnt that some of the aspirants rejected the move to make them stand down, with one of the front liners being offered the senatorial seat currently occupied by Diri to make it easier for the governor’s choice to emerge as the party’s candidate.