By Fred Itua, Abuja
SENATOR Paulker Emmanuel has embarked on what many would probably classify a suicide mission. What has happened?
Barely 24 hours before Bayelsa Governor, Henry Seriake Dickson formally declared his second term ambition, Paulker had stormed the Wadata Plaza headquarters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to submit his expression of interest and nomination forms to contest the December 5 governorship poll in his home state.
Before Monday, September 7, many people were not aware that Paulker harboured such ambition because it was believed that Paulker and Dickson belonged to the same political family led by former president Goddluck Jonathan.
Although Dickson’s September 8 second term declaration was graced by party topnotchers; the move is now shrouded in controversy as some loyal party members are discussing in hushed tones, Jonathan’s endorsement of Dickson for a second term when the door was still supposed to be opened to other aspirants.
Perhaps, had the ex-president realised that the move would draw huge flak and upbraids from the PDP circle, he would have framed his views on the governor’s ambition in a different way.
President Jonathan hinged his endorsement of the Governor on the ground that “Bayelsa is not a cursed state. On the notion that governors in Bayelsa cannot do eight years, it slows down development and except there is continuation in government, development will be truncated. Performance is not about satisfying individual needs, so we need to encourage Governor Dickson to go for second term.”
He added: “If you compare what has happened in other parts of the country, you will praise Dickson. People should think more about the way the state is being run and prepare for our future generation.
“Bayelsa is not a cursed state. On the notion that governors in Bayelsa cannot do eight years, it slows down development and except there is continuation in government, development will be truncated. Performance is not about satisfying individual needs and so we need to encourage Governor Dickson to go for second term.”
No sooner had Jonathan made the endorsement than the camp of other PDP governorship aspirants took on the former President. To them, such endorsement would have made meaning if the party’s primary had taken place and Dickson emerged the candidate.
“I don’t know the basis for the endorsement , is he saying that other aspirants are not good enough to be governor and should not have bought the expression of interest/nomination forms? Jonathan should have acted like a leader for all; regardless of where his interests lie,” a PDP chieftain in the state said.
Beyond the PDP circle, however, several political watchers were taken aback that the ex-president and some PDP bigwigs including the Acting National Chairman, Uche Secondus, openly backed the governor.
Dr Olusegun Badmus, a political analyst based in Abuja said “the political community was scandalised by the endorsement of an aspirant by a former president when the party is yet to conduct a primary. President Jonathan goofed with his action. How do you expect other aspirants to feel? Of course, that will tell them that they mean little in a party they helped build and sustain against the onslaught of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
He also stressed “somebody like Senator Paulker Emmanuel is a great leader a prominent member of the party. He has contributed so much to the growth of the party and he is contesting for the governorship of the state on the same platform. He deserves the respect of Jonathan and other PDP leaders.” Not a few Nigerians and, indeed, Bayelsa residents will agree with Badmus. He has been in the party since its formation and has been in the vanguard for the provision of a leadership that will focus on the improvement of the standard of living for Nigerians.
A serving Senator, Paulker has won election to the Upper Legislative Chamber for three consecutive terms, a feat which clearly show the level of grassroots support he enjoys.
A peep into the senator’s credentials gives insight into the reason several people are livid that PDP leadership and indeed Dr Jonathan treat the party’s heavyweights like Paulker shabbily by outrightly endorsing Gov Dickson .
This is the lawmaker’s story. The ushering in of the present democratic dispensation in 1999 gave the Senator the platform for full time politics where he pitched his tent with the PDP where he has remained till date. He cut his teeth in government with his appointment as Commissioner for Lands and Housing by the then governor of Bayelsa State Chief D.S.P. Alamieyeseigha. The appointment made him the first Commissioner in Epie Clan. Of course, his policies in the housing sector raised his political profile as he emerged the best serving commissioner for lands and housing in Nigeria(2001).
In 2007, the game changed for the Senator. The Bayelsa Senatorial district, the place of birth of Paulker asked him to represent it in the Senate. The clamour was loud and compelling that he could not resist it . It was not surprising that he recorded a landslide victory in the election .
At the senate, he was named the Chairman Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream).
Based on his performance in the chamber, he was re-elected in 2011. Again the Senator was appointed as Chairman Senate Committee on PetroleumResources (Upstream) this time around.
In the last election , Paulker made history again when he broke the jinx and was elected to the senate for a record third term to represent his people. By this feat, history did not only make him the first Senator to have emerged in the present day Yenagoa council but also the first in Bayelsa State to have achieved the third tenure and as well, the first Senator to have emerged from the University of Port Harcourt. This has made him one of the highest ranking senators in Nigeria.
The senator was not only restricted to the oil committees, he served in other committees. For instance , he was a member of Senate Committees on Privatization, Local and Foreign Debts, Co-operation and Integration in Africa and NEPAD.
Apart from his performance at the Senate, another thing that has helped the political career of Paulker is his closeness to the grassroots . He has used his position to positively touch the lives of his people . He has done that through different parastatals, agencies, commissions, etc, prominent among them are the Nigerian Custom Services Nigeria Immigration Service, NSCDIC, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), NNPC, Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Authority, National Biotechnology Development Agency, PTDF, Nigerian content Development management board, NIMASA, Nigeria Defence Academy, PTDF Scholarship overseas.
Hear his aide, Timothy Ogbotobo: “At the home front, Senator Paulker has continued to provide a profitable answer to our bagging questions. As far back as 1995, he mid-wived the established of the Central EpieSecondary School Opolo that now serves as a base for our Youth to further their quest for knowledge. He did same to the Yenagoa Rural Development Authority, Opolo (2006) that was denied us at the first instance by the state Government. Today, that singular act has provided jobs for the Epie/ Atissaextraction.
In 2007, he brought the construction of a concrete walkway project in the old settlement of Opolo Community, thus removing completely the challenge of muddy soil that made movement almost impossible in the rainy season.
“As we speak, Senator Paulker has constructed over 60% of concrete road with composite drainage at the new Opolo 11 layout and work is still ongoing including a solar street light system.”
He maintained “Furthermore, very recently, Distinguished Sen. P.I. Emmanuel facilitated the squadron Security Outfit; a federal Government sponsored project vested with the responsibilities of security of our pipe-lines and its related facilities in the riverine areas of Bayelsa State. It is pleasing to note that this very programme has absorbed over one hundred and fifty BayelsaYouth predominantly in the Central Senatorial District.”
The December 5 Bayelsa governorship poll is generating widespread interest for two major reasons. First, it is an opportunity for well heeled politicians to test their strength both within and outside the party. Secondly, it is a battle that will prove the veracity or otherwise of the claims of being on ground by leaders of the PDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
To a large extent the handling of the primaries by the two parties will give a clue to the party that may win the race. It is for this reason that many are kicking against the endorsement of any aspirant by PDP . Such move may be counter productive . Other aspirants may gang up against the party and that will narrow the chances of the party at the main election. Certainly that is what candidates of other parties are praying for.
Is PDP ready to hurt itself that way, this is one question that its answer would be given by things that will play out in the next few days; especially after the screening exercise in Yenagoa today.
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