BY SAMUEL OYADONGHA
THE forthcoming senatorial election in Bayelsa State may be full of upsets and surprises as leading opposition parties – the Labour Party (LP) and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) are poised to break the PDP dominance in the predominantly riverine state.
Interestingly the ruling PDP had been in control of the state’s three senatorial seats since 2003 relying more of power of incumbency than performance to sway the outcome of previous polls in favour of its candidates.
With increased awareness on the part of the electorate on the need to defend their votes in line with President Goodluck Jonathan’s one-man-one vote mantra, the outcome of the senatorial elections in the state may not be determined by party but the personality of the individual candidates and their ability to convince the people on their development agenda for their respective zones.
It is the contention of analysts that whoever emerges victorious at the poll would have been the candidates that worked hardest since all contestants irrespective of their party affiliation were at one time or the other members of the PDP family.
The array of personalities being presented by the three major parties in the state for the next month election is a pointer to the tensed rivalry expected at the polls.
As expected, the PDP candidates are still basking in the euphoria of the recent presidential campaign where President Jonathan openly declared that as a party loyalist and leader he would work for the victory and continued dominance of the PDP in his home state.
But the opposition parties are not relenting, as according to them, “the Presidential comment was not unusual as it was meant to shore up the sagging confidence of some of the party candidates who are not sure of themselves at the polls in the light of his one-man-one vote crusade.”
The race for the West senatorial district, which could best be described as Bayelsa “wild west” is expected to be fierce. Bayelsans are expected to see fire work from the zone where the two leading candidates for the prized slot, the incumbent Senator Heineken Lokpobiri of the PDP and former Deputy Governor of the state, Peremobowei Ebebi of the Labour Party incidentally are from the same Ekeremor local government area. The ACN did not field candidate for the senatorial district ostensibly due to the intimidating presence of the two gladiators from Ekeremor.
Heineken Lokpobiri, PDP
Lokpobiri, the incumbent senator is expected to face a fierce contest from his rival, Peremobowei Ebebi. Unlike in the PDP primaries where he had easy ride being one of the returnee senators favoured by the governor, the pioneer Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, has a formidable foe in the person of his nemesis, Ebebi also a former Speaker and later Deputy Governor to contend with.
The towering presence of Ebebi notwithstanding, Lokpobiri, who is a lawyer has an intimidating followership in Sagbama and Ekeremor council area that make up Bayelsa West Senatorial District.
He is believed to have won the senatorial polls in 2003 but was denied victory because of his face off with the former governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, a development which cost him his speakership position in the state which turned out to be Ebebi’s gain. As speaker, Lokpobiri stood up to challenge what he described as the excesses of the Alamieyeseigha government and sought the independence of the assembly. This however turned out to be his nemesis as he was impeached in a controversial circumstance and Ebebi became the beneficiary.
He however bounced back to reckoning in 2007 when he got the party following the harmonization of candidates and his subsequent victory at the election.
His alleged closeness to the President Camp sources said might work in his favour. But observers of events in the West senatorial district had cause to question his second journey to the National Assembly insisting that no meaningful federal projects had been attracted to the zone during his first term sojourn in the senate.
Interestingly, the incumbent senator is not taking chances as his electioneering campaign is not limited to his riverine Ekeremor and Sagbama councils alone but could be noticed in mainland Yenagoa where his campaign vehicles are always seen due to what his close aide described as the large concentration of the indigenes of the zone residing in the capital city many of whom traveled home to register during just the last voters’ registration exercise and would be returning to vote at Ekeremor and Sagbama.
Peremobowei Ebebi, LP
The Aleibiri-born two-time former Deputy Governor of the state was also a two-time former Speaker of the state House of Assembly. He is widely seen as a dogged fighter and has the resources to prosecute his ambition for the senatorial ticket. Aside his intimidating credentials as two-time Speaker and two-time deputy governor of the state he is believed to be a grassroots’ man.
Fondly called Odudu (literarily meaning the big masquerade), Ebebi would be remembered for daring his erstwhile boss Timipre Sylva which led to his ouster from office by the state House of Assembly. He was however reinstated by the Court of Appeal but had not returned to office.
Anti Ebebi forces do not see him as threat to the PDP candidate, Senator Lokpbiri who enjoy a cozy relationship with the President and the state Governor.
Ebebi’s impeachment without any resistance, according to them, indicated that he was not a long distant runner and no reinstatement order could bring him back from political oblivion. To them, his defection from the PDP was a relief for the party saying the omission of his name from aspirant list for the party governorship primaries was part of the plot to ease him out of the party.
Though he complained bitterly in the presence of President Goodluck Jonathan over the non-listing of his name, announcing that he was on his way to LP nobody listened to him.
It is left to be seen if he will prove himself to be the cat with nine lives.
Lady Gesiere Brisibe-Dorgu CPC
Brisibe-Dorgu is the only female candidate gunning for West senatorial seat. A two-time governorship aspirant on the platform of the PDP in 2003 and 2007, this Amazon from the famous Brisibe political dynasty is married to the former Executive Secretary of the Federal Capital City Development Authority, Engr. Charles Dorgu and former PDP state chairman in Bayelsa State.
Though she may not have the financial resources at the disposal of the PDP incumbent senator representing the zone and that of the Labour Party candidate, Mrs. Brisibe Dorgu is counting on the support of the ordinary people of Bayelsa West senatorial district especially the women and the youths who constitute the bulk of the voters in the zone to upstage the duo even as she has embarked on grassroots campaign to convince the electorate on the need to have a woman and mother represent the zone if the desired change they yearned for was to be actualised.
Senator Emmanuel Paulker (PDP)
Paulker is the incumbent senator representing the zone. He is an Epie indigene from Opolo in the Yenagoa local government area. It is not going to be an easy ride for him as he is expected to face a stiffer opposition given the array of candidates that have positioned themselves to scuttle his ambition from returning to the Red Chamber.
Those opposed to his return to the Senate have hinged their argument on his alleged inability to give proper representation to the zone.
Although his closeness to President Goodluck Jonathan is being viewed as an added advantage that could sway the much needed votes in his favour, his opponents are confident that he would be beaten hands down at the polls if Mr. President ‘one man one vote crusade,’ held water.
However, his supporters have listed his role alongside other Bayelsans in the National Assembly in pooling their constituency project funds in giving the hitherto ailing Federal Medical Centre, the only referral federal institution in the state a facelift and NNPC mega filling station in Yenagoa.
Chief Rufus Abadi (ACN)
Abadi, an indigene of Otuan in Southern Ijaw local government area, was the state chairman of the PDP but resigned from the state executive of the party to seek nomination to run for the Senate, accusing the current representatives of the district as being “poor and lacking coherence.”
He defected from the PDP to ACN, describing the former as lacking sincerity in its dealing.
Though a successful businessman, who could also be described as a grassroots politician having started his political career as an elected councillor about three decades, Chief Abadi will face a tough battle outwitting not only the incumbent senator but also Chief Gospel Kpokpowei of the Labour Party, an oil magnet who has scores to settle with him.
Chief Gospel Kpokpowei, LP
Interestingly, this Ukparatubu-born business mogul could best be described as a political neophyte having spent the better part of his life as civil servant and astute businessman. If it were the resources to prosecute his ambition by way of reaching out to the electorate in the zone this oil magnet who like Abadi defected from the PDP to Labour Party could not be said to be lacking.
Bayelsa East is incidentally the senatorial district of President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP is expected to come out victorious here as a mark of respect for the nation’s number one citizen.
Clever Marcus Ikisikpo PDP
An indigene of Kolo Creek in the Ogbia council of area, Ikisipo is a two-time House Representatives member and is expected to replace the incumbent Senator Nimi Barigha-Amange if he wins the race.
Ikisikpo like Senator Lokpobiri and Paulker was on Governor Timipre Sylva slate. He is a renowned grassroots’ politician and advocate of power shift to Ogbia citing what he described as the existing arrangement between the Ogbia and Nembe-Brass area.
His collaboration with four other federal lawmakers from the state in pooling together their constituency project funds to give the dilapidated Federal Medical Centre, Yenagoa a facelift may count in his favour as a man concerned about the well being of not just the people of his constituency but the entire state.
He also has the support of Ogbia youths many of whom are clamouring to see an indigene of their area as the next occupant of the East senatorial district seat at the National Assembly.
It is on record that 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 rotational representation accord reached between the groups in the zone.
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.
It will therefore be a huge task for the Labour Party candidate, Walter Feghabo and the ACN candidate Nyatagoa Alagoa, to wish away Ikisikpo, who is riding on the crest of President Goodluck Jonathan popularity in the zone to actualise his ambition at the poll.
A retired Naval Captain, Feghabo, has been away from partisan politics for sometime and it is doubtful if he commands the needed followership in the area to derail the PDP train in the zone which appears to be in full blast and is banking on the Goodluck factor.