At the annual All Nigeria Editors Conference (ANEC) in Yenagoa, Bayelsa, in August 2015, Governor Seraike Dickson was at his humorous best. As the chief host of the event, he did his very best to put his guests – the Editors – at ease.
That was the first time I got to know his nickname is ‘Countryman Governor.’ It was clear he relished the name. As he dashed from one end of the stage to another delivering his opening speech, his huge frame reminded me of Idi Amin Dada of Uganda. And so did his propensity for lewd humor.
He said he was willing to host the ANEC the following year if only the Editors were willing to guarantee good performance presently. By good performance he meant the Editors must take advantage of the many, many beautiful girls in Bayelsa and enjoy themselves to the fullest. By the time the Editors were in Yenagoa for the next meeting, the following year, they should be able to see the fruits of their nocturnal labor. We all laughed.
Seraike Dickson was known as Goodluck Jonathans blue eyed boy in the beginning. It was Jonathan who as Governor of Bayelsa appointed him Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice from 2006-2007. That singular appointment opened the gate for his rapid political ascension.
By 2007, he was elected into the Federal House of Representatives. By then, Johnathan had become Vice-President to Yar-adua. Soon, Yar-adua became ill and died in office, paving the way for Jonathan to emerge as President. Bayelsa experienced some political turbulence because as the sitting President, Jonathan was certainly interested in who would emerge as the governor of his home state. When Jonathan moved to the presidency in Abuja, Timipre Sylva, who had run against Jonathan in the PDP primaries and came second was elected in his place as Governor.
For some strange reasons, Jonathan now the Vice President did not want Timipre to have a smooth sail right from day one. His election was nullified by the court and he had to do a re-run in 2018. Timpere saw the hand of Jonathan in all this. He said in an interview that Jonathan never wanted him to be his successor. He won the re-run but getting a second term in office as Governor of Bayelsa was something else. By now Jonathan was a full-fledged President and did not hide his opposition to Timipre’s second term ambition at all. Poor Timipre had fallen out of power.
Not only did he fail to win reelection or even his party’s flag for the election, he was literary chased out of office. Even out of office, his traducers did not leave him alone. The EFCC soon came calling with allegations of stealing state property. The amount of money he was alleged to have stolen was frightening.
In 2012, the blue eyed boy Seraike Dickson was given presidential support to uproot Timipre from the Governor’s office in Yenagoa. He won the election by acclamation, almost. In the beginning Dickson started well. At least he tried to ingratiate himself to his godfather. The first Lady Patience Jonathan was appointed a Permanent Secretary in the Bayelsa state civil service even when she did not have the mental or physical presence for the job. Her spoken English was staccato and as First Lady to the President of Nigeria, she had such a tight schedule in Abuja that one wonders what time she had for the job of a Permanent Secretary.
Still, this did not save him from the vagaries of Presidential anger. By the time his first term was coming to an end, it was clear that relations between him and his principal, the President were as dead as dodo. He managed to survive that one anyway.
The problem was the second term which pitched him in a do or die wrestling match with Jonathan. As a rule, every governor who has served his two terms out makes sure he hand picks a stooge to take over from him. He then moves over to the Senate which has been turned into a retirement ground for former Governors. The signals were bad for Dickson at the elections earlier this year but he tried to hold his turf. Even for all his efforts, for the first time, PDP was losing her grip of Bayelsa since 1999. A significant number of elective offices, both at state and federal levels were won by the APC. This should have sounded a warning signal to the Countryman Governor. But he was too far gone with his fantasy of installing a stooge as a successor.
This is one lesson state governors have refused to learn. They will select a successor believing he will not have the spleen to challenge them. But it hardly takes one year with the new helmsman in office before things fall apart. Dickson’s insistence on a particular aspirant in the PDP camp led to the eruption in the party, pitched him against such powerful people like Goodluck Jonathan and led to the disaster he has on his hands today.
It is a sad end for a man whom I thought was doing a good job. The road to Nembe and the Bayelsa state airport are a few out of the many exemplary projects I saw in Bayelsa which he embarked on for his state. For a man who did all these to abandon his high ambitions about good governance and prefer a narrow and limited vision of supporting the ambitions of his godson is a tragedy that could have been avoided. For now the countryman governor is gone and I shall miss his terrific sense of humor.