Disclaimer: The following analysis is based on discussions with State-level actors and so reflects their perceptions, not the view of the Peace and Security Working Group. These scenarios were produced prior to the 2014 primary elections and are thus subject to change. Where relevant, updates have been made to reflect evolving dynamics.

Bayelsa At-a-Glance

Current Governor
Henry Seriake Dickson

Current Ruling Party
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)

Key February 2015 Elections
State House of Assembly
(no gubernatorial elections)

Bayelsa State has been considered high level risk state (Red Category) according to CLEEN’s latest report. Intra-party violence could occur in the 2016 gubernatorial elections.

CLEEN Map of Hot Spots for Election Violence
Peace Map ( Violence Heat Map Jan 2009-Dec 2014

Elections in 2012
There were no elections in 2011, however, in February 2012 Henry Dickson (PDP) was elected as governor after a period of uncertainty in the wake of Governor Timipre Sylva’s termination in January 2012.

During the 2012 elections, Bayelsa State was polarized by the intra-party violence within the PDP. The ruling party PDP at the state level was led by the then Governor Timipre Sylva, while the major opposition party was led by Timi Alaibe. The opposition within the PDP had the support of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and was made up of his grassroots political structure, called the “Green Movement.” This created a volatile atmosphere prior to the election, including several reported explosions at party secretariats, cultist violence targeted at political aspirants, a reported assassination attempt, kidnappings, and general political thuggery.

Ethnic Tensions in 2011/2012: Bayelsa, a majority Ijaw state, was not reported to have experienced ethnic tensions prior to or during the 2012 elections.

Response: The JTF responded to various incidents of insecurity, including alleged dynamite attacks on political headquarters. There were accusations that the State Security Services (SSS) were mobilized specifically against opponents of the Green Party. President Goodluck Johnathan also intervened during a crisis at the state House Assembly, where the Speaker, Konbowei Benson, was impeached, calling for calm.

Gaps in Government Response: The government response was sometimes perceived as biased. Local and state security services, including the police, were accused of inaction or slow response in the face of violence perpetrated against certain candidates and their supporters. There were no hotlines for victims of violence and intimidation and no legal recourse for those who had been harassed or threatened.

Key Political Developments Since 2011

  • The extreme factionalization within the PDP during the 2012 elections played out as a “federal vs. state” election, and these divisions continue to persist within the party.
  • State security agencies, thought to be in the employ of the opposition in 2012, and are still regarded with distrust by factions within the party.
  • Due to the perceived bias of the state security services in 2012, there was free stockpiling of arms during the election which is believed to have continued to present day.
  • Within the last one year, the PDP has been plagued with a new dimension of crisis. Godfathers within the Dickson-led administration have fallen out with the governor and his supporters, due to a continued power struggle within the party.
  • Governor Dickson has been trying to rebuild his own power structure, ranging from political appointees and breeding his own set of aspirants to take over from the existing office holders sponsored by his former political and financial benefactors.
  • In response, it is believed that the Godfathers are also scheming to take over the party machinery to stop the Governor from getting the party’s ticket for a second term.

Major Political Players in Bayelsa State

Name Position Elected/
Party Additional
Seriake Dickson State Governor 2011 PDP (1)
Gboribiogha John Jonah Deputy Governor PDP
Lokpobiri Heineken Senator 2011 PDP
Paulker Izibefien Emmanuel Senator 2011 PDP
Clever Marcus Ikisikpo Senator 2011 PDP

Additional Information:
(1) Governor Dickson is running for a second term in 2015.

Elections in 2015

Conflict Drivers

  • Political polarization within the PDP, including between Governor Dickson and his former political and financial benefactors.
  • Perceived polarization and bias of the security services.
  • Monetary inducements by both the current governor and his former backers to various political aspirants.
  • Politicization of cult groups.
  • The existence of stockpiles of arms left over from 2012 elections.

LGAs with the potential to experience violence:

  • Yenagoa
  • Ijaw South
  • Nembe
  • Ogbia
  • Sagama

Possible Types of Violence:

  • Political Thuggery
  • Abductions/Kidnappings
  • Violence during Rallies
  • Intraparty Violence (power tussles)
  • Intimidation of political aspirants and candidates.

Sources for Situational Awareness:

  • Local radio
  • Social Media (Facebook and Twitter).

The State PDP Godfathers may seek to position their allies within the Senate and House of Assembly in preparation to remove the governor, Seriaki Dickson, in 2016. This jostling may add to generalized insecurity during the 2015 general elections. The Governor, on the other hand, may want to return Sen. Clever Ikisikpo from Ogbia LGA because he is a product of the Sylva administration and not a product of the Godfathers, while the godfathers will want to replace the senator with Amange from Nembe LGA because he is loyal to them. Despite all of these scenarios, the traditions of these LGAs have been to rotate these seat between them and this tradition may prevail. However, as we progress to 2015, there could be electoral violence among the three senatorial districts, depending on the nature of the deepening tensions between the current governor and his former political backers. At the national level, the state is expected to be delivered to the Jonathan campaign.

Before Elections

  • Continued and rising tensions between the Governor and the Godfathers as they jockey their political candidates for positions within the Senate and House of Assembly.
  • Rallies and protests in support and against political candidates may turn violent, particularly if state security services are perceived to be intervening on the side of one party.
  • Cult groups may be paid to stir up violence and engage in abductions and kidnappings.
    Possible emergence of new or splinter cult groups.

During Elections

  • Use of state security deployment to intimidate candidates
  • Use of cult groups to intimidate electorates and foment violent rallies
  • Vote buying and selling.
  • Use of stockpiled weapons during political rallies and other functions.

After Elections:

  • Increased intraparty tensions.
  • Deepening distrust between security services and local populations.
  • Continued tensions in the run up to the 2016 Senatorial elections.

These reports are a collaborative effort of The Fund for Peace and other members of the Nigeria Peace and Security Working Group (PSWG) in Nigeria. These reports reflect the result of a participatory process with national and local-level stakeholders on potential risk factors and scenarios for the February 2015 Nigeria general elections.

For more information, please contact:
Nate Haken at The Fund for Peace, [email protected].