How relevant is former President Goodluck Jonathan in Bayelsa State politics? His preferred governorship aspirant lost at the recent primary. Also, his choice as running mate to the flagbearer could not fly. Senior Correspondent MIKE ODIEGWU examines the plight of the former leader, who is now left in the cold in his home state.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan is admired, not because he was an excellent leader when he was in power, but because he conceded defeat after losing the 2015 election.
That singular act of surrendering power to President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) endeared him to many world leaders and institutions. Many people, therefore, described him as the hero of democracy.
Jonathan had a meteoric rise in power. The late former Governor Diepreye Alamieyeiseigha of Bayelsa State made him his deputy. The Otuoke-born leader rose from deputy governor to become governor, following the impeachment of Alamieyeseigha. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo made him the Vice-President to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua. He became the first President from the minority oil-producing tribe, following, the death of Yar’Adua.
But, all is not well with the former president in Bayelsa, his home state. Despite his experience and political profile, Jonathan has been boxed into a corner under the leadership of Governor Seriake Dickson.
In fact, Jonathan and Dickson hitherto belonged to the same political family, the Green Movement (GM). Members of the movement, including the King of Opume in Ogbia, King A.J. Turner, and a former Chief of Staff, Chief Dikivie Ikiogha were regarded as the kingmakers.
As governor, Jonathan made Dickson his Commissioner for Justice. When the cabal, which consisted mainly of the GM crafted a plot to oust former Governor Timipre Sylva in 2011, Jonathan, who was President, picked Dickson, who was then in the House of Representatives as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to replace Sylva.
Dickson was one of the brains behind the Doctrine of Necessity that elevated Jonathan to the Presidency, following the death of Yar’Adua.
No sooner had Dickson emerged governor than his relationship with Jonathan hit the rock. The former First Lady and wife of Jonathan, Patience, authored and acted the script that led to the collapse of the relationship due to her insatiable quest to control the governor and the state.
The former First Lady and her foot soldiers, especially Jonathan’s Special Adviser, Domestics Affairs, Waripamowei Dudafa, allegedly tried to run an alternative government in Bayelsa, sidelining the governor in most of their activities. They threatened Dickson with impeachment.
The Abuja forces, hiding under the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN), tried to run a parallel government in Bayelsa. To assuage the former First Lady, Dickson made him a Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and bore all the outrage that resulted from the decision.
But, Dickson was not happy that Jonathan failed to control his wife and call her to order. The former President rebuffed all entreaties by Dickson that Patience should learn how to respect democratic authorities. The governor fought back by removing all the vestiges of Jonathan and his wife in his government. He carried out a cabinet reshuffle and replaced appointees recommended by the former first family. Therefore, Jonathan’s reverence and relevance in Bayelsa politics diminished under Dickson administration.
The governor, however, survived the presidential onslaught. The victory of the APC and President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 gave the governor a lifeline. In fact, there were reports that some PDP leaders in Government House popped champagnes immediately news filtered that Jonathan lost the presidential election. If Jonathan had won, Dickson stood no chance of flying the flag of the PDP for the 2015 election.
Though the governor organised a grand reception for Jonathan and his wife, he was said to have learnt his lessons from his previous experience as he decided to own and manage his political structures. Dickson weeded off Jonathan’s sympathisers while constituting fresh executive committees of the PDP at the state, local government and ward levels.
Shortly after his re-election, the governor for the fist time spoke publicly about his travails under Jonathan’s presidency. Speaking on 2017 Isaac Adaka Boro Day, the governor lamented that his Ijaw people, who surrounded the former President, contributed to the downfall of his Presidency. He said such persons wasted the six years the Ijaw occupied the Presidency.
Dickson said that the ministers and other presidential aides from Bayelsa were after their selfish interests, thus losing the unique opportunity of attracting development to their domains. Speaking before laying wreaths at the tomb of Boroh in the Heroes’ Park, Dickson recalled that the persons who served in the Presidency for six years failed to work with him in the quest to bring development to the state.
Instead, he said they were preoccupied with “devilish plot” of unseating him and installing another governor in his stead.
“They suffered from the Bayelsa-Ijaw disease of the pull-him-down syndrome,” Dickson said. The governor’s statement caused ripples in the state as persons against him interpreted it to mean an attack on Jonathan, his benefactor. It further created bad blood between him and the former President.
The diminishing political status of Jonathan worsened during the last House of Assembly and National Assembly elections in Bayelsa. The governor single-handedly decided the candidates of the PDP in all the state and federal constituencies. All Jonathan’s preferred aspirants failed to clinch the tickets of the PDP.
Jonathan’s preferred aspirants, who defected to other parties to contest the elections, performed woefully at the poll. They were trounced by either the candidates of Dickson or those of the APC. There was silence in PDP when Jonathan’s senatorial district fell to the APC in the last election. Results of the elections showed poor performance of the PDP in Jonathan’s Otuoke community in Ogbia Local Government Area and his East Senatorial District comprising Ogbia, Nembe and Brass local government areas.
The senatorial candidate of the APC, Mr Degi Eremienyo Wagara, and the APC candidate for Nembe-Brass Federal Constituency, Isreal Sunny-Igoli, won at the district. Jonathan was said to have backed Senator Barigha Amange, who lost the PDP ticket but defected to the African Democratic Congress (ADC) to contest the senatorial poll. But again, he failed to win the poll.
Following the abysmal performance of the PDP in Jonathan’s zone, some stakeholders accused the former President of anti-party activities.
The Ogbia Renaissance (OR) said in a statement by its chairman, Mr Obhioru Mitanoni, said Jonathan, his wife, A.J Turner and other PDP chieftains committed brazen anti party activities. Mitanoni claimed Jonathan secretly sponsored candidates of the APC, Accord Party and the ADC.
Jonathan was rendered politically impotent in the build-up to the governorship primary of the PDP for the November 16 election. Before the primary Dickson promised to consult the former President to decide the flag bearer. Both leaders were seen together in public functions in what many people described as strange romance. However, their political differences tore them apart.
Undoubtedly, Jonathan was said to have preferred a former Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Timi Alaibe for the PDP ticket. There were reports that both Jonathan and former President Olusegun Obasanjo appealed to Dickson to allow Alaibe to fly the flag of the party. But Dickson insisted that only a member of his Restoration Team would get the ticket of the party.
Though Jonathan made no public declaration supporting Alaibe, all his foot soldiers and his political associates including the king of Opume, A.J. Turner publicly identified with the aspirant. In fact, Turner, a monarch, accompanied Alaibe to Abuja to collect his expression of interest and nomination forms. But they were up against Dickson, who had mapped out strategies to disgrace them at the internal poll. The governor has always said he would retire some old politicians from politics.
To further ensure the emergence of his preferred candidate, Dickson formed his personal political family, which he tagged the Restoration Caucus of the PDP. It was under the platform he delivered a Senator representing the Central Senatorial District, Douye Diri, as the candidate of the PDP for the forthcoming governorship election. Jonathan and his co-travellers were stunned at the defeat of Alaibe at the primary election.
In his quest to be in charge, the governor also shut out Jonathan from the running mate slot of the PDP. Despite calls from many stakeholders to honour Jonathan with the slot by picking anybody from Ogbia, Jonathan’s local government area, Dickson remained adamant as he personally chose Senator Lawrence Ewrujakpor, who hails from his Sagbama Local Government Area.
By all indications, Jonathan has no political structure in Bayelsa to accomplish any interest, unless he goes cap in hands to beg Dickson. Many people are worried that the former president has no stake beyond being a member of the PDP in the party’s quest to retain the state.
But analysts said Dickson should not be blamed for the travails of Jonathan. They cited the alleged abysmal performance of the former President in Bayelsa and the Niger Delta. According to them, there is nothing tangible on the ground to remind the state and the Niger Delta that they once had the office of the presidency.
Others said Jonathan’s Ogbia local government is an eloquent testimony that he failed his people and would never attract any grassroots political support. They said it was inexplicable that there are no basic infrastructures in Ogbia.
But, Dickson has maintained that there is no love lost between him and Jonathan. He said they were in good terms, insisting that their cordial relationship was displayed during the last state functions.
“That event should have shown to most people that there is no problem between us. He is my elder brother and leader and he will continue to receive his respect. Even in this transition. That event shows that we are united when it comes to what we do for our people.
“There is no relationship that had lasted longer than our relationship. There is no issue. But, aides and people around make careless statements and they manipulate stories and take advantage of the proximity they have with the former President.”