By Samuel Oyadongha
Since the return of multiparty system in 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been the dominant political force in Bayelsa State, commanding such overwhelming majority that seems to have made it a one party state.
This is not because there are no other political parties in this predominantly Ijaw speaking state but they could best be described as paper tigers because they are weak. Real opposition in the state has always been within the dominant PDP fold.
The array of personalities that have so far indicated interest in the three senatorial district is a pointer to the tensed rivalry within the party. Investigation revealed that the posters of the senatorial aspirants within the ruling PDP have flooded all the nooks and crannies of the state.
In the last two dispensations, governors were to a great extent instrumental to the choice of candidates for the senatorial districts but the emergence of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, an indigene of the state as President of the country has since altered the political equation as he is expected to play a major role in who becomes the representatives of senatorial districts .
The current lobbying and horse trading by the gladiators to grab the PDP ticket is understandable because securing the party ticket is as good as winning the seat given the overwhelming dominance of the party in the state.
Interestingly, no serving senator had been returned in the state since the return of multi party system, hence the battle for the party ticket is going to be a herculean task for the trio of Senators Heineken Lokpobiri (Bayelsa West), Barigha Nimi-Amange (Bayelsa East) and Emmanuel Paulker (Bayelsa Central) all of whom are said to be interested in returning to the National Assembly for another term.
Senator Paulker (PDP) representing Bayelsa Central senatorial district, an Epie indigene from Yenagoa Local Government Area, is expected to face a stiff opposition given the array of personalities that have positioned themselves to dislodge him from the upper chamber.
Senator Paulker, a former commissioner in the state was at a point being rumoured to be nursing governorship ambition. He is at present said to be having a running battle with his people over his performance and as such may not find the party ticket an easy task. Although his closeness to President Jonathan is being viewed as an advantage his opponents are confident that he would be beaten hands down at the poll if the President’s ‘one man one vote crusade,’ is allowed to work.
Hon Steve Ereboh (PDP) hails from Amassoma in Southern Ijaw Council Area. The former Leader of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly is widely seen as a dogged fighter with a formidable war chest and resources to prosecute his ambition and represent the zone.
Aside his closeness to his constituency during his days in the assembly where he impacted positively on the people such as replacing the thatched mud house being used as secondary school at Amatolo among others, he would be remembered for his unwavering loyalty to former Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha during his travails, a trait most politicians lacked.
Ereboh’s dream for Bayelsa Central is one where people are well integrated, where development such as roads, infrastructure, electricity, water and education are made priorities.
Ereboh has become an embodiment of inspiration to many youths who looked up to him as role model. According to the politician, “Individuals differ with ideology and philosophy. Everybody has his aspiration. If a person who contested and won election has conscience, and has people’s mandate, he must lay emphasis on development. ”
In spite of intimidating credentials, his undoing might be his absence from the mainstream politics of the state for long.
Chief Rufus Abadi (PDP),is an indigene of Otuan in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area. He was the chairman of party in the state before he resigned to declare his interest to represent the senatorial district.
Though a successful businessman he could also be described as a grassroots politician having started his political career as an elected councillor in his ward about three decades ago.
Chief Abadi said his decision to join the Senatorial race was due to the poor representation offered to the people of Bayelsa Central by Senator Emmanuel Paulker.
He said he resigned from the state executive of the party to seek nomination to run as Senatorial flag bearer to honour his people
According to him, “The pressure on me to serve again at the National Assembly is a clear endorsement of my performance as the chairman of the party in the state.” He told an enlarged stakeholders meeting of PDP leaders from the three local councils areas under the Bayelsa Central Senatorial District of his readiness to offer them proper and accountable representation in the district.
Barrister Esueme Dan Kikile (PDP) an indigene of Yenagoa like Senator Paulker was the former Youth Leader and Publicity Secretary of the PDP in the state.
Dan Kikile who is also eyeing the senatorial seat had repeatedly said that complaining on the sideline alone cannot bring about the desired change in the senatorial district hence his decision to step forward to vie for the office.
His words, “I have resolved to present myself for the Bayelsa Central Senatorial District seat under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2011 election. It is my firm belief that one of the ways to resolve the crisis of leadership and under-representation that we are currently experiencing is for those who can do the job to step forward.
“Complaining by the side can no longer help us. The time for change is now. The position is up for grabs and I will surly be there by the grace of God and the good people of Kolokuma-Opokuma Local Government Area, Southern Ijaw Council Area and Yenagoa Council Area.”
Though he has overwhelming support of the youths of Yenagoa whether he can sway the votes from Kolokuma-Opokuma and Southern Ijaw council in his favour is left to be seen.
Heineken Lokpobiri (PDP) hails from Bayelsa West senatorial district. The struggle for the plum here seat will not be as stiff as in the Central zone . The near absence of formidable foes against the incumbent representative in the zone may give him an edge in the race to the National Assembly .
Lokpobiri, the pioneer Speaker of the State House of Assembly, a trained lawyer, has an intimidating followership in Sagbama and Ekeremor Council Areas that made up the West senatorial district.
He is believed to have won the senatorial poll in 2003 but was denied victory because of his face off with the former governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.
Lokpobiri, it was, as the pioneer Speaker of the state assembly, who stood up to challenge what he described as the excesses of the Alamieyeseigha government and sought the independence of the assembly, a move which turned out to be his nemesis as he was impeached in a controversial circumstance.
He however bounced back in 2007 to clinch the party ticket following the harmonization of candidates and it was learnt he is again working round the clock to retain his seat. His alleged closeness to the President camp might work in his favour.
Senator Barigha Nimi-Amange (PDP) represents Bayelsa East Senatorial district which is made up of Ogbia, Nembe and Brass council areas. This is incidentally the senatorial district of President Jonathan and he is expected to be interested in the occupant of the position.
Nimi-Amange may be faced with a herculean task of retaining his seat if the working arrangement between the Ogbia and Nembe axis is anything to go by.
Since the return of multi party system, none of the representatives of the zone have enjoyed the privilege of serving two terms due to the alleged accord reach to alternate their representation in election to the senate.
This was the situation in 1999 when late Chief Melford Okilo from Ogbia represented the zone followed by Senator Inatimi Rufus Spiff from Brass and now the incumbent Senator Nimi_Amange from Nembe.
Though it could not be immediately ascertained if the incumbent senator had picked up the intent form but sources close to Senator Nimi_Amange, one of the key loyalists of President Jonathan said the latter is staging a return to the senate.
If Nimi_Amange, an engineer/lawyer turned politician have his way he will become the first person from the East senatorial zone to break the jinx of the one term accord.