By Samuel Oyadongha
INTENSE battle for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governors hip ticket is afoot in Bayelsa State. The party’s governorship primaries will be held on September 3 2019 ahead of the November 16 governorship poll to elect Governor Seriake Dickson’s successor. Dickson often referred to as the “Valentine Governor” will end his second tenure on February 14 2020.
The crowd of aspirants include erstwhile NDDC Managing Director and former Presidential Adviser on Niger Delta Amnesty Programme, Chief Timi Alaibe; Senator Emmanuel Paulker; young entrepreneur, Keniebi Okoko; Reuben Okoya; former Ambassador to the Scandinavian countries, Boladei Igali; Chairman, Board of Internal Revenue, Dr. Nimibofa Ayawei; Senator representing Bayelsa Central, Senator Douye Diri,; Glory Kemeagbeye; Chief Fred Agbedi, member representing Sagbama/Ekeremor Federal Constituency; Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government, Kemela Okara; Nuclear Scientist, Franklin Osaisai; Joshua Maciver; Benson Agadaga, President of the Ogbia Brotherhood; and former Bayelsa State Deputy Governor, Peremobowei Ebebi among others.
Interestingly, the bulk of the aspirants are from Bayelsa Central senatorial district.
A cursory look at the names shows that though they are all eminently qualified to run for the top seat, some observers claim that a good number of them are pretenders and merely trying to negotiate for position in the next administration.
We will consolidate on Dickson’s achievements – Alaibe
Among the aspirants some are rooting for Alaibe, the Opokuma-born banker, finance guru and technocrat, who mix freely with every strata of the society.
To the relief of many party faithful, Alaibe fondly called “Principal” by his army of supporters after extensive consultations, last Thursday, picked his Expression of Interest and Nomination forms at the PDP headquarters in Abuja promising to consolidate on the achievements of Dickson in the area of infrastructure.
Alaibe, who is believed to have the magic wand to consolidate on the gains of the Dickson administration and take the state to a new height said: “We are clear as to what we want to do in terms of our objectives. As a PDP state, we want to retain Bayelsa State. As such we are going to, as governor, consolidate on the good and great work that our governor, Hon Seriake Dickson, has done so far in Bayelsa State.
“We are going to consolidate on his achievements, especially his work in areas of critical infrastructure in the education sector, health and other critical infrastructural projects. We will espouse our belief of using government as a social investment platform in the implementation of social infrastructural projects in security, health and environment. But more importantly, we will espouse our interest in using government as an enabler for the maintenance of a peaceful and conducive environment to attract private sector capital, experience and strategy in implementing accelerated economic development.”
He also promised to champion the cause of his people through the implementation of health and ecological projects.
Dismissing the toga of a serial contestant he is being adorned, saying: “There is no big deal in being in the governorship race severally once you have the necessary love for your state, and you are clear in your vision. The important thing is to remain consistent and focused. I want to ensure that my state is great in terms of sustainable development improves. And I want to bring into bear my experience in the private and public sectors in implementing the vision that I have for my state.”
I want to expand my philanthropic gestures to state-wide level – Okoko
Businessman and philanthropist, Keniebi Okoko, was the first to pick the party Expression of Interest and Nomination forms. An alumnus of the Harvard Business School and the University of Port Harcourt. He promised to build on the educational feat achieved by Dickson in the state. The industrialist, who hails from Obunagha, Yenagoa noted that having served his people through his private platform, the Keniebi Okoko Foundation, by bringing succour to them in terms of providing aids during perennial flooding, granting scholarships and payment of hospital bills for the underprivileged, it was time to take it to the public domain.
Okoko explained that as an aspirant, he was aware of the fact that the party is supreme, the reason he decided to follow the rules and be the first to pick up the form in the entire state even as he lauded the PDP for being the beacon of the revival of democracy in the country. He expressed confidence that the process of nomination during the primaries would be free and fair.
I’m the best man for the job – Igali
Ambassador Boladei Igali, a former envoy to the Scandinavian countries and retired federal permanent secretary is one of the many aspirants vying to clinch the PDP ticket.
Igali, an indigene of Eniware in Southern Ijaw local government area, who once served as Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government, sees himself as the most qualified aspirant in the crowded field. “Among these aspirants, I am the only one that has rich experience in the public service and years of exposure in the civil service. It is not only about what you have done before but your vision for the state. My vision is to properly harness our Ijaw people and galvanize our people to be entrepreneurial,” he said
Agbedi rides on experience, rapport with stakeholders
Chief Alfred Agbedi, who is expected to pick the Expression of Interest and Nomination forms on Tuesday, is from Bayelsa West like incumbent Governor Dickson. While Dickson is from Sagbama Local Government Area, Agbedi is from Ekeremor Local Government Area. Opponents said Agbedi’s ambition has shattered the zoning arrangement in the state. His supporters countered that since all the three senatorial zones have had a shot at the governorship seat since 1999, any zone can take the first slot in the next dispensation.
An experienced and grassroots politician and former State Chairman of the PDP, Agbedi, had been involved in the emergence of all democratically elected governors in the state since 1999.
He was the State PDP Chairman when Dr. Goodluck Jonathan assumed the position of governor in 2005 and their relationship has remained cordial. Even former Governor Timipre Sylva, now of the All Progressives Congress, APC, benefitted from the political sagacity of Agbedi in the 2007 governorship election.
Chief Agbedi was again at the forefront in the emergence of incumbent Governor Seriake Dickson in 2012. He then served as Director-General of the Restoration Campaign in 2011 and 2015 which brought Dickson into office for two terms. Agbedi has over the years built bridges of friendship, loyalty, dedication and unity across the state.
Why I deserve the ticket – Okoya
Reuben Okoya, is another aspirant who has left no one in doubt of his preparedness to go the hog and clinch the party ticket. The Gbarain-Ekeptiama architect-turned politician has made inroads to virtually all the nooks and crannies of the state through his foundation and the orange movement, a group sympathetic to his cause. A known personality in the political space of the state, he midwifed the building of the state owned Niger Delta University, Amassoma during the administration of late Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.
The case for Jonah
However, one personality that analysts have claimed has the right credentials, exposure, experience and capacity for the job but has not declared interest and being overlooked is Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah, retd, current Deputy Governor of the state.
Those urging the deputy governor to join the contest argue that having had rancour-free reign with Governor Dickson in the last seven and a half years, he should be given the opportunity to take-over the mantle of leadership.
From the inception of the Restoration Administration, he has been part of the conceptualization and implementation of various programmes and projects of the government. Indeed, Admiral Jonah has been one of the key stabilizing factors of the Restoration Administration. He has also demonstrated commitment and loyalty to his boss which earned him the confidence of Dickson, who has always acknowledged him publicly as a dependable and reliable ally.
A stakeholder, Ebidou Tariowei, spoke on the need to support the choice of the incumbent deputy governor to succeed his boss in the interest of peace and continuity saying, “given our recent past, elections in Bayelsa State are becoming more violent by the day. Elections in the state have been characterized by violence, largely due to the impetuous attitude of key players in the opposition. Such elements in Bayelsa State believes strongly that elections can only be won, using violent tactics and strategies. Essentially, their plans to win elections are simply to unleash terror and brigandage on the entire process.
“Therefore, for the PDP to win the forthcoming gubernatorial election, the party needs somebody that has the capacity, strategy and network to serve as a counter-force to the evil machinations of the opposition politicians and Admiral Jonah (rtd), with his robust military background can never be cowed or intimidated.”
According to a source, the deputy governor is expected to pick the party Expression of Interest and Nomination forms today.
The field is no doubt crowded as more aspirants are expected to pick forms in coming weeks. However, given the pedigree of aspirants jostling for the party’s ticket, some concerned party chieftains are of the view that as they approach the primaries, the PDP, without sentiments, should look inward and carefully support an aspirant that is sellable and can win the election convincingly.