Bayelsa’s Imbroglio: Of Benefactors And Beneficiaries

In recent weeks, especially in the last ten days or so, the fall-out of the loss of the PDP’s nationwide stature as the ruling party at the centre has reverberated with enormous negative impact on the affairs of the Bayelsa State chapter of the party.

The home-base of ex-President Jonathan, led by his widely acknowledged political protégé, Governor Henry Seriake Dickson, has witnessed what one web-based journal describes as a “tsunami of defections to the APC” the new ruling party. This has come at a time when the party is gearing up for an unseasonal gubernatorial election scheduled for December 5th.

This contest is occasioned by the fact that the previous Governor Chief Timipre Sylva was ejected from the seat by his then party the PDP in 2011 and replaced with Governor Dickson in 2012.

Transfer of loyalties

Ironically while in the elections of this year the party recorded a 99% success only a few months ago suddenly a substantial number of its most vocal and effective supporters in the past have declared that they are ready to transfer their loyalties wholesale to the new ruling party.

What began as a trickle shortly after the elections ended has suddenly turned into a flood with the announcement that the APC’s “A team” led by Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo, and national Chairman John Odigie-Oyegun will storm the state capital Yenagoa this weekend to receive a slew of new members including some of the most illustrious former PDP stalwarts in the state.

This circumstance provokes serious reflection on Bayelsa State’s political provenance in the 19 years since it was founded during the Abacha regime.

It has become clear that the most substantial aspect of the domestic economy in the small but vitally important oil producing state is neither agriculture nor industry but political patronage.

Right from the onset of its existence even during the military era it became a noticeable factor in the governance of the state for the leaders to reward their cronies, associates, and family members with privileged positions in government and especially lucrative government contracts.

This trend was consolidated and made more acceptable in the democratic order under civilian governors who gradually perfected a system of patronage that was portrayed as being a form of payback for the years when the Ijaws, the dominant ethnic group in the state, were perceived as having been side-lined in the Federal scheme of things.

Unfortunately this trend was hijacked by the PDP’s penchant for political impunity and as a result Bayelsa State grew to be regarded as being increasingly the representative of a clique of personalities whose link to the centre served as their conduit to personal economic and political ascendancy rather than a genuine means of transforming the state into a politically viable and economically strong entity.

In the elections though, most of those who have now begun to jump ship worked tirelessly to distance themselves from the then opposition APC. Only Chief Timipre Sylva himself and a few of his diehard followers represented Bayelsa openly in the APC’s campaign team.

Many of those who have been listed as being ready to be anointed as the APC’s new broom handlers in the state were vocally proactive PDP supporters in the campaigns.

However as the new circumstance has become solidified and the APC makes its agenda of change increasingly visible many of the political beneficiaries of the past order are worried about their ability to continue to benefit from a system that has changed hands.

This is the context in which the overwhelming degree of claims to disgruntlement and disenchantment that now attends their efforts to justify their switching allegiance must be considered.

Switching of allegiance

Many of the new APC champions insist that if the Dickson Administration was ditched by the PDP as it ditched Sylva they would have remained in the party.

The state party EXCO in fact challenged and suspended its Chairman for allegedly undermining the Governor’s agenda for selection of candidates. It also became widely acknowledged that the Governor was supposedly embroiled in a tangle of disagreements between the President’s wife’s supporters and his own interests.

To outside observers this circumstance must have been highly confusing and difficult to unravel. It served however to reinforce the impression which we have mentioned before that political patronage and privilege has become the main source of power and wealth in the state.

Dickson’s forthright rhetoric against the continuation of this situation and his impressive efforts at diverting resources away from patronage towards concrete infrastructural development did not help matters. Many of his detractors say openly that as a benefactor he has proven to be less generous than any of his predecessors.

Governor Dickson is an articulate and highly confrontational individual and his response to these challenges has been to defend his positions without apology. This enrages his critics and throws them on the defensive even more than before. As a result many of them are seeking refuge in the APC.

Defeated leader

In other words their abandonment of the party that actually gave them their credibility has been a response to the governor’s refusal to act like a defeated leader since in the context of the state he is not one.

It is unlikely that the majority of these former PDP beneficiaries would have seen any ideological or even personal benefit in absconding from the party if Dr. Jonathan had not lost the election at the centre. Most of them would probably have swallowed the conduct of the governor and remained secure under the umbrella of the party that nurtured them for over decade and a half.

Their conversion into supporters of the new ruling party is therefore no more representative of the feelings and welfare of their constituents than was their service as recipients and beneficiaries of the largesse of the PDP when it was in power.

This is a sad commentary on the fate of the state in the hands of political jobbers who continue to seek to enjoy the perks of power while ignoring the definite options for service and development that the nature and condition of the state’s reality demands.

The sad truth is that no matter which party rules in Bayelsa State it’s progress as an economic and political entity will continue to be held back by the lack of genuine commitment to selfless service on the part of those who have seized the political high ground, unless there is a major change of attitude by the political class in the state. (Vanguard)

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