The internal wrangling in the All Progressives Congress (APC), which led to the inability of the party to field governorship candidates in Rivers and Zamfara states in the last general elections, may repeat itself in the November 16 governorship election in Bayelsa State, if the party does not put its house in order.
Already, members of the party are locked in a battle of intelligence with a former governor of the state and current Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, over the choice of David Lyon as its flag bearer in the forthcoming election.
Lyon had emerged the governorship candidate of the APC having polled 42,138 votes to defeat five other aspirants in the primary election of the party conducted on September 5, 2019 by the APC Bayelsa State Governorship Primary Election Committee, chaired by the Yobe State Governor, Mai-Mala Buni.
Lyon is believed to be the preferred choice of Sylva.
The collation officer for the poll, Senator Emmanuel Dangana, who declared the results in Yenagoa, said Diseye Poweigha came second with 1,533 votes while Maureen Etebu got 964 votes.
Also, Ebitimi Amgbare polled 633 votes and the immediate past Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Heineken Lokpobiri, scored 571 votes while Preye Aganaba got 354 votes.
However, one of the aggrieved members, Chief Loveday Ondekumo, has accused Sylva of foisting Lyon on the party through a sham primary that violated the APC constitution.
He said aggrieved members have petitioned the national executive of the party and vowed that they would fight the injustice until it is reversed.
He warned that with two of the governorship aspirants, Senator Lokpobiri and Engr. Aganaba, challenging the outcome of the alleged primary in court, the party could have another Rivers and Zamfara situation, where the APC did not field candidates in the 2019 general election.
Ondekumo alleged that Sylva deliberately presented Lyon, who he said is a weak candidate, to enable the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) win the governorship contest, easily.
“Sylva wants to retain both the ministerial position and the leadership of the party in the state because of his interest in the governorship in 2024. He is not committed to ensuring that the APC wins. He is even not ready to fund Lyon’s campaign.
“We heard that he has secretly reached out to Governor Seriake Dickson so that PDP can have the upper hand in the election. That is the reason he deliberately foisted Lyon on the party because he knows he is a weak candidate as opposed to Lokpobiri or Aganaba,” Ondekumo said.
The APC chieftain further claimed that Sylva and some leaders of the party in the state knew that Lyon does not have the experience, exposure or capacity for the office of governor but that they were only interested in milking the wealthy pipeline surveillance contractor with the oil multinational, AGIP.
“They know Lyon is not marketable and that he is very scared about what he has been pushed into. That is one of the reasons he is very reluctant to speak to party members or even grant any media interview where he would speak off the cuff. No activity is taking place in the party at the moment in the state except the uncoordinated attempt to project Lyon on the social media through the personal effort of some members and his supporters. It appears the APC is not in the governorship contest in the state.
“Lyon is also avoiding meeting with APC leaders in Abuja. They are shielding him from meeting with governors and other stakeholders of the party. We wonder why he has rebuffed the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s several invitations to meet with the National Working Committee, governors and other leaders of the party,” Ondekumo said.
Another member of the party, who preferred not to be quoted, said there is also the concern that Lyon appears overwhelmed already by the enormity of the challenges before him and that he has told some of his confidants that he would prefer to have been left out of the governorship contest so he could concentrate on his security business.
“Why foist a man who does not know how to campaign and cannot imagine himself being governor with all the paraphernalia of that office? He is already overwhelmed by the number of people who now pressure him for money. They have promised him that the Presidency would deploy soldiers and other security agencies, which they will use to write the election result,” he claimed.
He called on the party leadership to intervene and resolve the serious contending issues tearing the APC apart in the state, noting that the PDP has quickly constituted a reconciliation committee to address the grievances arising from the conduct of its primary election.
Dickson had said last week that the APC is “a toothless bulldog” that lacks the capacity to win any free and fair election in the state.
He said this while addressing a meeting of the Governorship Campaign Advisory Council of the state chapter of the PDP in Yenagoa.
The governor stated that the APC was known for deploying thuggery, ballot stuffing, hijacking of electoral materials and political violence as strategies for winning elections in the state.
Dickson alleged that, “this much played out even in the recent governorship primary election of the APC when the principle of fair play was jettisoned for personal interest.”
He assured stakeholders of the party that all knotty issues would be resolved ahead of the governorship election.
Speaking with SUNDAY INDEPENDENT, media aide to Lyon, Gift Ebiki said, “my candidate is a moving train. I am sure you know David in the Bible. He is the David of Bayelsa politics today. Watch how we will win with a landslide. PDP cannot win one local government in the election.”
Another aide to Sylva who does not want to be named boasted that the APC would win the November 16 governorship election with a wide margin.
He said that the PDP candidate, Douye Diri “is too weak to win an election in Bayelsa State.”
He maintained the PDP and Dickson made a grave mistake by handpicking a candidate “who will lose the election gallantly.”