Power struggle during election times is as common as sunshine during the dry season – Dele Sobowale (2006)

The topic of discussion today raised some controversies and questions when I first muted the idea to some close friends, a controversy synonymous to the witch conference scheduled for University of Nigeria, Nsukka. The thought was that either the statement was misplaced or misrepresented. What came to their minds which is very common within this side of the world is: ‘To God Be the glory’. But herein I am going to give glory to the guns for achieving triple election victories in two states in Nigeria – Kogi and Bayelsa States. Please, note that, I am not trying to downplay the choice of the people within the confines of those who eventually emerged victorious in the three elections under discuss, but one established fact remains that the might of the guns played a pivotal role in the deciding factors during the course of the elections; even my most ardent critic will agree with me on this.

I will love to x-ray three political actors as it relates to the recently held elections in the two aforementioned states: Yahaya Bello and Dino Melaye of Kogi State, and Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State. These three actors played very important roles in the elections that was conducted in these two states recently, and I will sincerely within the ambit of my powers try to analyze what played out before and during the elections, pointing out some possible deciding factors that swayed the votes for and against each of the candidates. 

Senator Dino Melaye came to prominence as a member of the House of Representatives who orchestrated a fight in the hallow chambers, an event that ceased national spotlight within the period. He eventually made it to the Senate and became a thorn on the flesh of President Goodluck Jonathan even though the duo were of the same party (PDP); he joined forces with the opposition APC and defeated the seating PDP from the presidential stool. He again became a thorn on the flesh of President Mohammadu Buhari led federal government. He left the APC and went back to the PDP to join forces with Atiku Abubakar in a bid to fulfilthe presidential ambition in the PDP. 

Atiku lost but Dino won back his seat to the senate for a second time. But Dino Melaye had fought against the gods of the land hence must be pulled down by every means. This is not to say that his major opponent was a push-over, Smart Adeyemi (Former National President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists) who fought under the banners of the APC for the senatorial seat. After a protracted legal firework, Dino Melaye was sacked by the court which ordered for a rerun election for the senatorial seat where Dino was seating. 

Dino Melaye embarked on a rigorous campaign to make sure that he retains his seat, but the odds appear to be against him this time. Eye-witness account had it that while Dino was busy with vote-buying, Adeyemi led APC was busy with gun battle. And the first set of results that were collated and declared, Dino Melaye was already 20,000 feet below ground level. And I told those who cared to listen that it will take a combination of the wisdom of Solomon and the age of Methuselah for Senator Dino to win back the senatorial seat, this is owing to two facts: one, the deficiency he was facing was going to be hard to upturn, and second, the APC appears to be specialists in supplementary elections, and they have never lost such elections whenever they are united. And in this case, they are all united against Dino Melaye.

The supplementary eventually came and Smart Adeyemi was declared winner of the Senatorial election and relegating Senator Dino Melaye with the tag: former Senator. And with the techniques employed by both parties, the guns had the glory hence I say, ‘Tthe guns be the glory’.

Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State doesn’t seem to have many friends but it appears that he has enough friends who understand the tricks needed to win an election in Nigeria. Before the election, he mended fence with many of his past political foes. One of the biggest fish he was able to bring back within his friendship zone was Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu, an astute political technician and mobilizer. He was credited to have boasted that nothing was going to stop his being re-elected, and that Senator Dino Melaye was never going to go back to the Senate under his watch as the governor of Kogi State. 

While many believed Bello was not going to find his re-election very easy owing to the protracted war between the governor and civil servants in the state, he shocked everyone with a resounding victory at the poll. It was alleged that Bello applied both the stick and carrot approach to win the election. Monies were shared, and the services of the guns was also applied; though the main opposition party (PDP) was said to have done similar things, though it appeared Bello had a greater resources and greater gun-powder at his disposal.

 And again the guns delivered the needed victory at the poll, and I am moved to say once more, ‘To the guns be the glory’.

Governor Sierake Dickson of Bayelsa State had been described as a cat with nine lives having survived many political tsunamis and turmoil, but it appears that he forgot not to overstretch his luck or needed a tenth live to survive this particular political battle. The two leading parties in the state – PDP and APC had their internal political problems after their primary elections, while it appeared that the APC had learned some lessons from her past experiences in Zamfara and Rivers States, the PDP had the pomposity and overconfidence led by Dickson who boasted that Bayelsa had always been a PDP state right from the fourth republic and will remain so. I described this as a smack of disrespect on the intelligence of the people of Bayelsa State.

Before the election, strings of accusations were levied against Dickson for having an ulterior motive of going to the Senate hence the anointing of Senator Diri as the governorship flag bearer of the PDP, this is even when majority of the party members would have preferred another candidate for the party, in the person of Timi Alaibe, a former MD of NDDC. 

It is also worthy to note that the choice of the deputy governorship candidate of the PDP generated its own controversy too; both the Senator Diri and his running mates are serving senators. 

But Dickson won’t allow anyone talk him out of his plans. This action led to the mass defection of many of the PDP party stalwarts to the APC. Enter David Lyon of the APC, an unknown political figure within the murky waters of politics, a political loyalist of a former governor of the state and present minister of state for petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylver. 

Lyon was loved by many, he made inroad within the strongholds of the PDP; he got endorsement from both the mighty and the small. Even with this goodwill, many still doubted his capability of defeating the PDP led by the rugged Dickson, but the people of Bayelsa State wanted something new and alas they got it. David Lyon shocked everyone and defeated the PDP led candidate, making history as the first person to have defeated the party in a governorship election in Bayelsa State since the Fourth Republican Nigerian. 

Even though we have to acknowledge the dominant will power of the people, but we cannot relegate the gun factor in the political arithmetic of the state. David Lyon ironically is from South – Ijaw Local Government Area of the State, and the local government is known for her proficiency in gun power when it comes to election matters, hence the gun specialists were at work in making sure that one of their own won the election, hence I am poised to say: ‘To the guns be the glory’.

The elections have come and gone, the winners and losers have been declared, but if I may ask, what can be done to sanitize our electoral process? How can the electorates ensure that their votes’ counts amidst the dangerous trend our electioneering system has taken? What are the parameters that can be used to measure the best among the candidates standing for an election? And how best can we ensure that the best in every given election is elected?



Azowue O. Emmanuel  

Department of Political Science and International Relations

University of Abuja