BAYELSA 2019: Game of Thrones? By Tamuno Ibinabo
Following the recent declaration by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of November 2, 2019 as date for the Bayelsa Governorship Election, the race for the next landlord of the ‘Creek Haven” Bayelsa State Government House, Yenagoa, is on the upward swing and fast gathering momentum.
Bayelsa State as a microcosm of Nigeria is very significant as it is majorly made up of the Ijaw ethnic nationality, with the main language spoken being Ijaw aside dialects such as Izon, Kolukuma, Mein, Bomu, Nembe, Epie-Atisa, and Ogbia.
Like all the other 35 states, it is divided into three senatorial zones, the Bayelsa Central, Bayelsa East and Bayelsa West.
Under this democratic dispensation, the first governor, Late Chief DSP Alameiyeseigha, hailed from Southern Ijaw LGA of the Central Senatorial District; his deputy, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who took over from him, is from Ogbia LGA of the East Senatorial Zone. He was succeeded by Chief Timipre Sylva, who is from Brass LGA in the same Senatorial District; followed by the incumbent Governor Dickson who hails from Toru-Orua in Sagbama LGA of Bayelsa West Senatorial District. This means that all the districts have had a fair at occupying the Creek Haven Lodge.
Of the eight LGAs in the state, Southern Ijaw, Ogbia, Brass and Sagbama have produced governors in the persons of Alameiyesiegha, Jonathan, Sylva and Dickson respectively.
Though Nembe, Ekeremor and Yenagoa have produced deputy governors in the persons of Rear Admiral John Jonah (retd), Chief Peremobowei Ebebi and Chief Werinipre Seibarugu respectively, Kolokuma-Opokuma LGA has produced neither a governor nor a deputy.
In the build-up, the million-dollar question however is who will govern the oil-rich state when Governor Seriake Dickson bows out in Feb 2020?
Over the years, the incumbent has enjoyed some level of goodwill and popularity based on his perceived excellent performance, and this has necessitated most of the guber aspirants seeking his endorsement as it is believed that possibly only the aspirant that is anointed by him would stand a chance of succeeding him.
However, there appears to be so many aspirants nursing and incubating their political ambitions, but Governor Dickson who is referred to as “the father of the state and the leader of the Restoration Team” maintains that he has been “praying for God to choose the anointed one” to succeed him.
He has typically declared that only God and the popular votes of the people of the state will determine the choice of his successor as governor in 2019, saying power only comes from the almighty God.
His words at a public event not too long ago, “Only God almighty will determine my successor. I believe that indeed power comes from God. I will most likely seek divine intervention on who succeeds me. The divine choice of the person will thereafter have the stamp of the people on whose votes the person will emerge. So, it is going to be a defining moment for the State in 2019.
And this is bad news for certain aspirants who are known Jonathan men, as they may have Dickson’s Restoration forces to contend with ahead of the primaries, more so when it is an open secret that in our clime, the incumbent governors to a large extent hold the aces on who and which local government produces the next governor of the state.
Though the governor is under tremendous pressure from within and outside to jettison the idea of zoning, the PDP will most certainly consider zoning before choosing their candidates; even as some powerful APC elements are pushing the party to consider picking its candidate from the ‘Kolokuma-Opokuma area.
Based on this premise, the PDP is equally rumored to be considering zoning of the governorship ticket to the Central Senatorial District which comprises Southern Ijaw, Kolokuma/Opokuma and Yenagoa LGAs.
So far there are about 18 likely aspirants across the parties showing interest in the race to succeed Governor Henry Seriake Dickson, and they include:
Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah (Rtd.)
Born 6 March 1954 in Nembe, Nembe LGA; he attended St Luke’s Primary School Nembe, Nembe National Grammar School, Nigerian Defence Academy Course; Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth in England and after being commissioned in July 1977, went to the Naval Engineering College, India to study Naval Engineering and later specialized in Marine Engineering at the same establishment.
He was also Chief of Naval Engineering at the Naval Headquarters, Abuja. His last appointment before voluntarily retiring from the Service was the Commandant, National Defence College Abuja.
A recipient of the Distinguished Service Star (DSS); member – Nigerian Society of Engineers, an Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON), he is married to Seleipre (nee Bonnie) and they have 5 children (Opuene, Aboye, Tonye, Daukoru and Lelegite).
He has deputized the incumbent since the first term of the Restoration Government. For his Deputy, Rtd. Jonah, whom he had often referred to as his brother, believed to be one of his favourites, Governor Dickson is not totally unaware of his desire to succeed him in office by 2020.
Insiders posit that he has grassroots supports, perhaps because he is virtually on top of all the economic and investment portfolios of the Restoration Administration. Added to this is the belief by many that he still has a massive war chest and wide connections.
A technocrat, businessman and politician born on 10th June, 1962 in Igbainwari Village in Opokuma, Timi began his elementary education at Isoko Primary School, Marine Beach, Apapa, Lagos; attended Christ the King School, Oromenike, Port Harcourt; Government Secondary School, Kaiama, River State University of Science and Technology, from where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) Degree in Accounting. He obtained a Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA) form Obafemi Awolowo University, and cut his professional teeth at Peat Marwick Ani Ogunde and Co (now KPMG).
At various times, he has had stints at African Continental Bank, All States Trust Bank, Cosmopolitan Bancshares Ltd, Societe Generale Bank Ltd (now Heritage Bank PLC), and later Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
He was the special adviser to two consecutive presidents on Niger Delta affairs. He contested on the platform of the Labour Party (LP) in the 2007 governorship election and the 2016 governorship primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Fondly called “The Principal”, he is yet to formally declare his intention to contest, despite pressure from the Timi Alaibe Movement (TAM), that has been rooting for him to step out to contest.
An international businessman, philanthropist, politician, and industrialist, with deep interest across diverse sectors of the economy – energy, manufacturing, agriculture, banking and tourism; Robek Industries, his brainchild and one of Nigeria’s biggest plastic manufacturing companies, is a huge employer of labour and a trailblazer in the campaign of Made-in-Nigeria products.
Bekeyei has no doubt carved a niche for himself in conflict resolution and risk management having played frontline roles of security enhancement and peace building, especially in the West African sub-region. He has been honoured by several international organizations including but not limited to Security Institute UK, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police Officers (IACP), USA.
He was an aspirant in the Bayelsa State Gubernatorial Primaries in 2015, where he emerged as first runner-up under the platform of the All Progressives Party (APC).
Born 13th May, 1975, in Odi Town, Kolokuma LGA, he attended Mgbela Primary School Odi, Community Secondary School, Zarama, Bayelsa State, and holds a diploma in Mechanical Engineering, B.Sc. (Hons) in Adult and Community Development (Rivers State University of Science and Technology) and an M.Sc. in Security and Risk Management (University of Leicester, United Kingdom).
He was a Media and Communications Aide on the Presidential Amnesty Programme, State House, Abuja; served as Special Adviser on Niger Delta Affairs to the African Representative of World Assembly of Youths, as well as Coordinator of Youths on Community-Based Organizations (CBO), under the Office of Special Assistant to the Governor of Bayelsa State (2006-2007).
Upon his return to his political family, he served his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the Head of Protocol of the Atiku/Obi Presidential Ticket at the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, Legacy House, Maitama, Abuja.
For the youthful Romeo Bekeyei, he is believed to be well-equipped to command the support of the youths in the state, and is viewed as someone possessing similar attributes of the Governor himself because of not only his urbane and liberal disposition but nationalistic approach to issues bothering on leadership.
He is a committed Christian who has undeniably touched the lives of countless individuals, especially the indigent, widows, orphans and numerous unemployed youths in Nigeria. He is married with children.
Dr. Kemela Okara
An indigene of Yenagoa, Okara is from the family of Dr. Gabriel Okara, the great Poet, who died recently at almost 100 years. Yenagoa, the state capital. Yenagoa, which is the biggest city in the state, has never produced the governor and its people have been agitating for it for many years.
An intellectual and a lawyer by profession, he is the current Secretary to the State Government. Pundits rate him as an “outsider” of sort in the political arena, despite having contested but failed the governorship contest in 2011.
Governor Dickson has also dismissed the rumoured ambition of Kemara, his Secretary to Government as mere speculations.
A lawyer by profession, Ebebi is a former two-time deputy governor of the state under Goodluck Jonathan and Timipre Sylva. He is a rugged political strategist, always able to sustain his capacity and never losing his constituency in any election to the opposition.
In the event his party, PDP, maintains the zoning principle, Ebebi who comes from the same senatorial zone as Governor Dickson, will be greatly disfavoured, despite the fact that he is from Ekeremor, a part of the state, which has never produced the governorship. He is a first cousin of Senator Lokpobri, a rumoured aspirant under the APC.
Chief Timipre Sylva
Sylva is the current state leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Bayelsa State and is yet to officially indicate interest in the race. He has at least one more chance to take a shot at the office he once occupied from 2007 to 2011.
He is considered as the aspirant to beat if primaries were conducted in the APC, hence many people had advised that he plays the role of the party leader and leader of the Ijaw people irrespective of their political affiliation and leave the governorship stage for others.
In 2015, Dickson had then warned Sylva, his predecessor, that “he could not be governor of Bayelsa State again.” Since then, insiders confirmed, the battle line had been drawn between the two as, according to a source, “Sylva is determined to prove Dickson wrong.”
Born July 7, 1964, in Brass, he was educated in Bayelsa State and Lagos. He was a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly in the 1990s.
As a candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Sylva won the Bayelsan gubernatorial election on May 29, 2007 and succeeded Goodluck Jonathan.
Senator Heineken Lokpobri
Lokpobri is the pioneer Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly. A dogged political fighter and currently Minister of State for Agriculture.
He once served the good people of Bayelsa West Senatorial District at the Upper Legislative Chamber of the National Assembly.
If the zoning formula is adopted by his party – APC, he will not be favoured since he is from the same senatorial district as Dickson, who is completing his second term; even though he is from Ekeremor, one of the three LGAs, that is yet to produce the state governor.
He is a first cousin to Peremobowei Ebebi, who has also indicated interest in running the governorship race under the PDP.
In the APC, his only known opponent and ally is former governor Timipre Sylva, who has the main opposition party in his grip. But surprisingly, even though both men are considered rivals, they worked as a team, surprising Governor Seriake Dickson in the last general election by winning a senate seat, two House of Representatives seats and four House of Assembly positions, a move that has broken the myth that the “PDP is Ijaw’s party.”
Arc. Reuben Okoya
From Tombia in Yenagoa LGA, Okoya is a known political associate of the former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. He is a former Coordinator, Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), who also threw his hat into the governorship ring, contesting against Dickson in 2015 but lost. The Orange Movement is supporting his aspiration.
A onetime freedom fighter and former caretaker chairman of Southern Ijaw Local Government, Maciver was the first militant leader to renounce militancy in 2008. He has since been involved in politics, having pitched his tent with the PDP. Of all the aspirants, he is the only one, who has set up a campaign office even before INEC released its timetable.
A kinsman of the late Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, Ereboh from Southern Ijaw, is a former member of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly.
A philanthropist cum proponent and believer in the zoning formula, he is of the opinion that the respect accorded the existing and popular zoning formula which was designed by the founding fathers of the state, must be sustained in totality.
Etifa is the scion of a highly respected Etifa Political Dynasty. He is from the same Bayelsa West Senatorial District as the incumbent governor; a factor that will be a serious drawback for him.
From Ammassoma in Southern Ijaw LGA, Akedesuo, a retired permanent secretary in the State Civil Service, is the immediate past Director of Protocols to Dickson.
He is from Southern Ijaw LGA. Political pundits posit that he is more of a businessman than a politician.
A multi-millionaire, he is the CEO of Monimichelle Sports Facility Construction Limited. His aspiration is being promoted by youths under the aegis of Advocates for a Better Bayelsa Forum.
Known political strategist and master tactician, Agbedi is a third term member of the House of Representatives.
He was the Director General and engine room of Dickson’s Restoration Campaigns. Analysts on the political arena say Agbedi, a known kingmaker now seeks to be a king.
Dr. Franklyn Osaisai
A nuclear scientist and former Director General of the Federal Government-owned Nuclear Materials Regulatory Commission, Osaisai has been a frontline political player at the national level before relocating to Bayelsa upon retiring from civil service.
As the momentum gathers amidst high level political configuration and intrigues playing out, more and more interests are being spotted. Among those mentioned to be warming up to throw their hats into the race are;
Dr. Boladei Godknows Igali – former federal permanent secretary for the Ministry of Power; Hon. Douye Diri – immediate-past member of House of Representatives and Senator-elect for the Bayelsa Central Senatorial District; Senator Emmanuel Paulker – incumbent Senator representing Bayelsa Central Senatorial District; Talford Okolo – Chief of Staff to the Governor;
Cleopas Moses – Chairman, PDP Bayelsa State Chapter; and Robinson Etolo – former Chairman of Ekeremoh LGA, amongst others; but only time will tell who eventually gets the mandate to occupy the coveted seat, even as observers claim that the opinions of former President Jonathan will go a long way in determining who PDP and Governor Dickson will finally settle for, reason most aspirants are waiting to read the former president’s body movement.