Abraham Ogbodo
Abraham Ogbodo

The Turn-By-Turn Politics In Bayelsa

By Abraham Ogbodo,


Bayelsa is described as an all-Ijaw State. The visible divisions are not along ethnic lines. There are however dialectical variations which are often exaggerated in the cut-throat competitions for positions and privileges.

In other words, the monolithic character of Bayelsa State does not translate to a single viewpoint or common front in all matters. And where this is most noticeable is politics where the state as many other states in Nigeria runs on a tripod with the three senatorial districts representing the different stands of the tripod.

No one is to blame for these divisions in a nation where justice and fairness are subordinated to loyalty and other affiliations and adequate share in the common patrimony comes only by direct participation in the process or belonging to the hegemony. The urge to fight to finish is so attractive that nobody wants to wait till tomorrow to take his proper turn. Everybody wants the same thing at the same time thus increasing the competition among contenders.

Specifically, in Bayelsa State, it may not be a written rule or agreement but the rotation of the governorship among the three senatorial districts of Central, East, and West has been a binding arrangement since 1999.  It is, in fact, the same practice in many other states including the neighbouring South-south states of Delta, Edo, Akwa Ibom, and Cross River where the governorship has moved on a turn-by-turn basis since the start of this dispensation in 1999 to manage the arising competition for power among stakeholders.

Chief DSP Alameyesiegha of blessed memory had kick-started the rotation game in Bayelsa State when he was voted governor in 1999. He was from the Central Senatorial District and had been electorally processed to exhaust his constitutionally guaranteed two tenure of eight years before his impeachment by the State House of Assembly midway into his second tenure of four years. His deputy, Dr Goodluck Jonathan ran the remaining years as the substantive governor. Jonathan’s plan to start afresh on his own slate was shelved for a higher calling when he became running mate to the PDP candidate in the 2007 presidential election, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who won the election. Interestingly, this was also the point at which Timipre Sylva who came a distant second in the PDP’s primary got introduced into the Bayelsa governorship politics.

Dr. Jonathan who had preferred Francis Dukpola who came third in the primary to Mr. Sylva could not prevail. The party stuck to Sylva and suddenly his dream of becoming governor which had appeared so farfetched in the political and electoral calculations became more assured. One, Goodluck Jonathan primed to become the Vice President would not want to lose his home state to an opposition party. Altogether, the political tailwinds moved in Sylva’s favour who won the governorship election without much ado. He came into Creek Haven after Alameyesiegha and Goodluck Jonathan had lived in and vacated the place.

Alameyesiegha who started the rotation was from Bayelsa Central and he was followed by Jonathan and Sylva both from the East Senatorial zone. The immediate past Governor of the State, Seriake Dickson from the West completed the cycle thus bringing the process to the starting point with the incumbent, Douye Diri who is from the Central Senatorial District. By this time-honoured arrangement, the governorship can only shift elsewhere when Diri must have fully exhausted his time which is in 2028. After him, the East Senatorial District is next, and very likely, this same argument will be used, when the time comes, to crop out contestants from the Central and West Senatorial Districts of the State.

It should however be mentioned that this turn-by-turn arrangement that ensures the participation of all sides has endured subtle resistance in spite of its beauty. Each electoral season has come with attempts by free players to offset the arrangement on claims that the monolithic character of Bayelsa State does not call for such delineations to produce a sense of belonging among the people. Other times the argument is that instead of this affirmative scheme, the government contest should run on merit so that the best candidate can emerge. For now, this is a minority and more precisely an elite opinion without grassroots buy-in. This is the same reason why the Timipre Sylva venture is seen in many quarters as a misadventure.

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