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(FRANK TALK) Seriake Dickson: Winning without campaigning

By Steve Nwosu

Last Friday, I had an urgent transfer to do at the bank and had rushed to the neighbourhood branch of my bank, just early enough to beat the 4 pm closing time. But the bank premises was, to say the least, all bedlam. Tens of customers had besieged the premises, desperate for cash, and all wanting to get into the banking hall at the same time.

I decided to take my chance.

But no sooner had I moved towards the security man than I began to hear barely suppressed murmurs directed at me.

My offence was; I had come in a vehicle that falsely suggested I was some ‘big man’, and, therefore, one of the oppressors of the masses who got caught up in Godwin Emefiele’s cashless misadventure. The security man made things worse by pointing me to a corner, away from the crowd, where he asked me to wait a little. I was soon joined by another ‘big man’ customer who also had two cheque leaflets. But no sooner had he joined me, with the security man reassuring us that we would soon be allowed in, than the people in the queue began chanting “No VIP”… “No VIP”… “No VIP”.

Their reading of the situation was that the two of us were going to get preferential treatment, and be allowed to shunt because we were ‘big men’. They would have none of it. Not even the explanation by the security man and the other ‘big man’ that we were going to a different section of the bank from those in the queue could calm them down. They were agitated, spoiling for war.

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They were ready for combat, if not burn down the bank outright. I read the situation, put two and two together, and quietly stepped back. Luckily, I had already filled out my cheque. So I handed it to the security man to drop at the counter, which was all I wanted to do in the first place, and disappeared.

As they say in the streets, Eye don red. And everyone is running on a short fuse. It was, therefore, a most welcome piece of news when the CBN announced it had directed all deposit money banks to work through the weekend to help ease the self-imposed cash crisis. But that achieved very little. By the time I returned to the same bank on Monday, there was an even larger, more agitated crowd.

The debacle of cash scarcity, and the sufferings therefrom, continue unabated.

But we definitely would not have got to this sorry pass if we had spared a moment to listen to a certain Henry Seriake Dickson, who, like the proverbial lone voice crying in the wilderness, had forewarned of these dire consequences when the Presidency, the CBN and their cheerleaders in the National Assembly were desperately pushing to foist the policy.

Dickson had asked that the 9th Senate dispassionately interrogate CBN’s new cash policy proposal a little more. That was when President Muhammadu Buhari’s nominees to the board of the Central Bank appeared before the lawmakers’ screening committee in December the last year.

But his colleagues, many of whom were blinded by partisanship and poorly thought-out self-interest, insisted that the nominees take a bow and leave. And they did. Leaving unanswered all the obvious questions and clarifications that ought to have been made before the policy was rolled out.

But Dickson had questioned the timing of the policy, with just a few weeks to the general elections. He raised concerns about the timing of the policy against the backdrop of raging insecurity in the land. He further questioned the readiness of the CBN, the relevant institutions, the economy itself, as well as the readiness of all the small businesses and ordinary Nigerian masses who are so dependent on daily cash inflow and transactions for their survival and sustenance.

The former Bayelsa State governor who now represents Bayelsa West Senatorial District in the Senate also sought to know what had changed since even the CBN had confessed that it had had to put off the rollout of the policy three times in the last seven years before the December date. He also wondered why a government that was quick to push the removal of fuel subsidy to the incoming administration, more than a year ago, would insist on going ahead with a currency swap programme that is laudable but wrongly timed.

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And now, after what would pass as three of the most tortuous months in recent memory, the CBN is gradually returning to the exact advice Dickson offered on the currency swap policy: caution, gradual and phased implementation.

That is the kind of foresight for which Senator Henry Seriake Dickson has come to be known for. And that is just a tip of the iceberg of the package the recently re-elected lawmaker would be bringing to the 10th Senate. It is a quality that has remained an open secret to those who have worked closely with him in the last 35 years, either as a student, policeman, or lawyer. Or in public service: as Commissioner, Member of the House of Reps, Governor, Senator, or Party Leader.

It was for this and several other qualities that Dickson’s constituents practically refused to allow him to campaign for re-election. While the other visible opponent was crisscrossing the entire senatorial district trying to sway the electorate, the same constituents, including members of the Hon. Feynman Wilson-led Senatorial Campaign Council, were busy deploying their personal resources to print posters, billboards, and flyers for Dickson. Rather than campaign rallies, they organised zonal receptions and carnivals, to which they invited Dickson.

They used the opportunity of the carnivals to celebrate the man they fondly call Ofurumapepe (The Great White Shark). They thanked him for positively changing both the landscape and the development narrative of modern Bayelsa. They also celebrated him for the sterling representation he has given not only Bayelsa West but also the entire Ijaw nation, the Niger Delta, and the entire country. The receptions were also an opportunity for the constituents to endorse him for yet another term (a full term) at the Red Chamber – having been elected there 18 months earlier in a bye-election.

Rather than subject him to the rigour of a fresh round of campaign rallies, the people of Bayelsa West Senatorial District were working towards ensuring he ran unopposed. That did not eventually happen. The APC hoisted a candidate, in the person of Wilson Dauyegha. But the eventual victory was so resounding that it would appear Dickson was metaphorically running against himself. PDP – 27,231, APC – 8,375 was the final tally. Countryman won in all the councils and all the wards of the Senatorial District. Put simply, Dickson won without campaigning!

And now that Bayelsans have put forward their best foot in the Senate, the former two-term governor of the state spells out his work plan thus: to continue to work towards deepening electoral reforms in the country, to restore credibility and transparency to elections in Nigeria. His words: “The next four years will see a renewed work on constitutional amendment and the pursuit of devolution of powers and restructuring.

I will work with the Federal Government to ensure that the restructuring of Nigeria comes to the fore.

“I will work for environmental justice for our people, for their inclusion in all aspects of our nation’s life, and for the Federal Government to support the development of Bayelsa State, Niger Delta, and the Ijaw nation at large.

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“Key development should not be left to the state governments and Bayelsa State in particular to handle.

“The same goes for the oppressed and deprived Ijaw people, for whom every opportunity I have, will be utilized to ensure that they benefit from key federal projects either directly from the federation or development agencies”.

Of course, Dickson understands that these can only be achieved if he works as a team player and leverages his wide network of friends, colleagues in and outside of the Senate, associates, and contacts.

“In all, I look forward to a very exciting tenth Senate and hope to work with a lot of friends, and colleagues, the majority of whom I have seen today, having been elected. I saw colleagues from my days in the House of Representatives, colleagues in the ninth Senate, colleague former governors, and many others and I hope to leverage all of these contacts and network for the good of Bayelsa West Senatorial District, Bayelsa State, Niger Delta, and Nigeria at large”, he reasons.

So, as the 10th Senate settles down to business this June, beginning with the election of its leadership and principal officers, it would be doing itself a world of good by looking in the direction of PDP’s Henry Seriake Dickson. It would be going for the experience, commitment, boldness, intelligence, visionary leadership, clarity of thought, and patriotism all rolled into one. It would be going for a man with international clout, massive followership in his zone, and considerable contacts and alliances across other zones of the federation.