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Opinion: On Campaign Trail Of Seriake Dickson  

By Stanley Jacobs

Politics remains one huge fascination especially to the aficionados in spite of delimiting factors for genuine democratization of the process and benefits in our clime. Those who share this undying love for the prospects which politics offers the people for a better life in a just and humane society are wont to believe that despite the imperfections, some politicians are still worthy of leadership and should be supported in their aspirations to effect a change.

But regrettably, this class of political leaders are few as most of those who fill the political space are seen as jobbers and charlatans, who resorted to politics as a short cut to wealth and fame. And this may be a disincentive for the people to trust and believe politicians when in their usual cycle of electioneering campaign, they go round shopping for votes.

Thus the challenge is for the electorate, through relevant civic education and activism, to demand for a saner approach to our politics which should seek to enhance true development and welfare of the people, a new social contract of commitment that emphasizes genuine public service rather than self-serving orientation of a political class common in the polity.

These were issues of interest and due observation when this reporter was recently on the campaign trail of the governor of Bayelsa State, Henry Seriake Dickson, who significantly comes across as one politician making a difference in the proper sense of the utility of politics as a means to renewal.

Perhaps, the question of values and individual convictions and of course the fervent recognition of the critical role of history in the affairs of men and verdict of posterity may be the driving force but no matter, Seriake Dickson is an emerging political leader who may play a bigger role on the national stage in the future. The nation certainly needs many of those with his attributes in our collective quest for development rather than the usual refrain of a nation of potentials.

Seriake Dickson is real, visionary and engaging. He is arguably a grassroots mobilizer, a proud Ijaw man, pro-people and obviously a liberal. I looked at him closely, interpreted his thoughts and came to the conclusion that Bayelsans are lucky to have such a brilliant man as their governor. The tremendous achievements of his on-going first term, particularly the quality of his work, the deep thoughts shaping them and future implication for a prosperous Bayelsa State only formed background of my assessment and judicious verdict.

Following his campaign trail reveals a man genuinely loved by his people. In Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, the “Community-to-Community meet the people tour” afforded the governor the opportunity to tell his story of a successful first term now winding down and prospects of a re-election to do more by his restoration administration and the need for the people’s endorsement.

Yenagoa is still largely a community-based kind of society and each with common socio-economic development challenges. While the locals and their leaders and other stakeholders are committing their resources towards the cause of development, they, nonetheless, still desire government’s greater attention to raise the general level of development in their respective domains.

From Amarata, Okaka, Ekeki to Kpansia, Yenizue-Gene, Agbura to Azikoro in the Epia clan down to Swali, Ovom and Yenagoa, the popular receptions tell vividly that the governor knows the people closely as they too could relate with him as a favoured son of the soil.

The crowd is usually a large one comprising of men and women, young and old, turning out rapturously in their local rendition of goodwill and entertainment to welcome the august visitor, who would meet with them at the respective palaces of the paramount rulers of these communities or at the various town halls.

The Ijaws, it was observed, place premium on elaborate hospitality to the visitor and why an assortment of drinks were usually offered to the governor and members of his entourage as important part of the ceremonies.

Dickson would prove to be street smart in his knowledge of the entire communities, at times, giving direction to his entourage or meandering through those narrow short cuts to important locations where the votes actually reside and need to meet the people in the several town hall meetings, telling the same story of the change his restoration government had made since he came on board as governor in 2002 and the greater possibilities regarding the unfinished business awaiting in his second term.

Of course, the locals usually made specific presentations to the governor on what they still want him to do for them as they acknowledge those he had also done, recognizing the fact that he had been a performer and in all places visited, Dickson’s re-election was given a resounding support, a fait accompli. On his part, the governor is either making one commitment or the other,taking important decision on the spot in response to the various requests, solving those he could immediately or reserving others for further consultation on socio-economic interests of the people.

Through the various encomiums and deep felt interest, words of encouragement and boisterous entertainment, the crowd of supporters signified they weren’t rented as some politicians do but genuine desire to have Dickson back at the Creek Haven, the seat of power in the state.

In presenting his case for re-election, the governor’s concern had been the need for continuity of his vision where Bayelsa State could continue to enjoy uninterrupted development in infrastructure provision, particularly opening up the state by connecting those inaccessible but important locations by roads and bridges, thereby enhancing commerce and civilization,manpower development through his free and compulsory education, scholarships,  health, job creation and the very broad plans for the diversification of the state economy focusing on such ambitious projects like the Agge deep seaport, the LNG in Brass, investment in power generation and the eco-industrial park as well as the completion of the airport at Amassoma now about 60 per cent ready. He is also interested in further entrenching a governance culture based on transparency and accountability just as he would want the security of the state maintained to avoid a relapse to the past.

The above were the basis on which he relentlessly criticized his opponent in the All Progressives Congress (APC), Timipre Sylva, whom he accused of recklessness during his term as governor, pilling up a cumulative debt of N432 billion out of which he has paid N242 billion but not without reminding the people that he is yet paying N2 billion monthly in a harsh economic situation and that the liquidation of the debt will last till 2017.

On this note, Dickson would further inform the people of his party’s “Operation reject Sylva and APC” and enjoined them to take the message home for Bayelsans to join in the crusade to refuse the party any foothold in the state.

It was fun all the way as he presented the serious issues in the campaign to the people, mocking Sylva and the APC either in his mannerism, gesticulations or humorous demonstrations of the evil he said the APC constitutes if allowed any opportunity in the state and his repeated admonition to reject APC and its candidate, Sylva, like a plague.

Although the presence of APC in Bayelsa State is a good thing in a democracy as it creates room for competition, its possible impact in theDecember 5 governorship election may not be quite positive as many had thought. Hope seems dimming following a number of strategic errors and effects especially on the part of Sylva and the inability to manage the initial semblance of success of the APC in Bayelsa State. The expectation is that one would see its huge presence in the state especially the capital, Yenagoa, holding big rallies, campaigning strongly but it wasn’t so. Unlike the governor, who is gaining ground by the day from very strategic constituencies like one witnessed during the 4th Bayelsa State Thanksgiving Day where core and influential clergymen openly endorsed him for re-election with such a very large crowd in attendance.

Sylva’s case for any appreciable outing in the election has now worsened by the defection of core loyalists of Timi Alaibe to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on account of the irreconcilable differences that signposted the controversial primary elections. Alaibe had reportedly asked his followers to support Sylva but that is now lost.

On the campaign trail, Dickson’s deep connection with the people says something about him as a politician. Besides being a compelling campaigner, hitting on the soul of those issues and concerns the people could relate with, he bonds so well with the folks as one of them, demystifying the governor status. For this street sense of believing Governor Seriake Dickson is your next door neighbor kind of leader, he is better recognized and called the ‘Contriman governor” and for his reliability as one governor who fulfills his promises you hear of “Talk na do governor” among the folks.

At Swali, a community in Yenagoa Local Government, Dickson asked the people to remember he is a man who never forgets his friends and people he met along the way, intimating that he rewards loyalty and that those who work hard enough to actualize his re-election would be compensated. He also repeated similar messages at Agbura, Azikoro, Okaka, Ekeki, shaking hands with the commercial tricycle riders and passengers  to press home his message as he walked the over one kilometer road to attend  yet another town hall meeting at Kpansia, a community in the state capital which ended late into the night.

It is still early to pronounce a definite verdict but based on political tendencies observed and the possible effect on the election -day, Dickson is favoured to be re-elected as a reward for his performance and perhaps with a tinge of sentiment as the APC has yet to prove the important point of being truly a credible alternative. The party has been regrettably marred by image problem and inability to duly subscribe to the ethics of democracy, now buffeted by crisis of confidence on the part of both the leadership and the followers.

Stanley Jacobs, is a freelance journalist and editor at large of an online media


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