Aspirants warm-up for the November 16, election to Government Houses in Bayelsa and Kogi States.
The race for who replaces Seriake Dickson as governor of Bayelsa State in the November 16 offseason gubernatorial election is gathering momentum. So far six aspirants have bought the nomination forms of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, at N21million each.
Top among these is Timi Alaibe, a former managing director the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, who picked nomination form from the national secretariat of the party accompanied by a crowd of supporters. He became the second aspirant to pick PDP nomination form after Keniebi Okoko, son of the former president of the Ijaw Youth Council, Professor Kimse Okoko.
Others who have picked forms are Ruben Okoya, an architect, Joshua Maciver, Benson Agadaga, Franklin Erepamo Osaisai, a nuclear physicist and former director-general of the Nuclear Energy Regulatory Commission, Abuja.
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The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC had announced that the off-season gubernatorial election for Bayelsa and Kogi states would hold simultaneously on November 16.
This is Alaibe’s third attempt for the Creek Haven, Bayelsa State government house. He tried in 2007 but deferred to then Governor Goodluck Jonathan who was later upgraded to the vice-presidential slot of PDP with late Umar Yar’Adua as presidential candidate and went on to become the vice president. That paved way for Timipre Sylva who came a distant second in the PDP primary to become the governor of the state.
Alaibe became the senior special assistant to President Jonathan on the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme, a position he resigned to contest the gubernatorial election in Bayelsa State in 2011 under the Labour Party. He had decamped from the then ruling party which gave its ticket to Seriake Dickson. He later returned to PDP and has realigned with the party he helped to ground in Bayelsa.
A former banker now in full business, he was the managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission from 2005 to 2008. Prior to that he was the executive director finance and administration of the Commission from 2002 to 2004.
Speaking to journalists in Abuja when he declared, Alaibe said his knowledge of the Niger Delta, private sector experience and extensive national and international connections would help him take the development of rich aquatic state to the next level.
Promising to run what he called a “blue ocean economy” he said his dream is a “shared economic prosperity for Bayelsa State” with government as a “social enabler.” He would leverage on the private sector to open the State which has the longest coastline in Nigeria to all-round development and prosperity.
Looking back on his political odyssey, he said the time has come for him to fully throw his hat into the ring. “Sometimes, I had to step down for others. Anytime I did that it was based on certain political exigencies. For instance, I believe that the party is supreme. So, when the leadership of the party says something, we have to abide by it. But that era is over. It is different this time because I have carried out extensive consultation with the stakeholders both at the state and national levels. I can only say that I am humbled and overwhelmed at the magnitude of support I have received.”
On his vision, he said, “My vision for Bayelsa State can be summarized this way: I believe in a shared economic prosperity through government as a social investor and an enabler. My vision is to transform Bayelsa State to a centre of sustainable economic development, peace, and prosperity.”
He said his action plan would focus on six major areas: Economic development through emphasis on the development of a strong private sector; Education and Skills Development; Health, Housing, and Urban Development; Critical infrastructure; Security, Peace and Social Harmony and Institution Building and Entrenchment of a Culture of Good Governance Delivery. “These are part of the package I am bringing to governance.”
Okoko, a businessman and philanthropist, is an alumnus of the Harvard Business School and University of Port Harcourt. He said he would sustain and expand the achievements of Governors Seriake Dickson in the educational sector and the flow of investment the Ijaw heartland.
“With the right infrastructure in place, good roads, steady power supply, reliable security in place, good hospitals, good and quality education, captains of industries and entrepreneurs will be comfortable and willing to come to Bayelsa and invest and jobs will be created through the private sector participation,” he stated.
The race would sure be a clash of the Titans. Apart from Okoko and Alaibe, another juggernaut, Reuben Okoya, an architect, associate of former president, Goodluck Jonathan and a former coordinator, Abuja Metropolitan Management Council, AMMC, has also bought nomination form. He was an aspirant in the race in 2015 until he was made to step down for Dickson.
For Osaisai, politics appears a new territory. He was the pioneer director-general/chief executive officer of the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission, NAEC. Prior to that, he was the director of the Nuclear Technology Centre at the Sheda Science and Technology Complex, Abuja. He is currently Nigeria’s representative on the board of governors of the Vienna based International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA.
A major determinant of who gets the PDP ticket would be the power blocs in the State, represented by former president, Goodluck Jonathan, and Governor Dickson. Both have not indicated an open support for any candidate but it is believed they would eventually endorse candidates of their choice ahead of the primary.
Dickson, on the surface, is alleged to have given every aspirant who consulted him assurance of his support. However, there are indications he may anoint one aspirant eventually. Recently, Fyneman Wilson, his special adviser on political affairs said that two aspirants are being supported by the Restoration Government of Dickson. These are: Kemela Okara, secretary to the state government, SSG; and Talford Ongolo, chief of staff, government house. These two are paperweights compared to others but with the support of the Governor, either of them may become a major aspirant.
Likewise, Jonathan has been silent about his preferred aspirant. His new status as an international envoy of peace and democracy may have made him more circumspect in local politics. It is well known that Okoya is his associate and stepped aside for Dickson in 2011 on his advice. Alaibe is also believed to have mended fences with Jonathan and Dickson, making it harder for both to ignore him.
To shield his intention, Dickson has recently waxed spiritual about his successor. “One of the most important (consideration) is that only a man after God’s heart, not a man who is not destined by God, who wants to take it by violence; no such person shall ascend the position of governor. Not one who does not subscribe, understand, submit to the authority and divine mandate of God over our lives shall ascend the seat of governor,” he told a prayer programme in Yenagoa recently. If this is the case, it suggests that Dickson’s candidate will be decided by spiritual revelation, not competence.
When the chips are down, the overriding factor in the choice of PDP candidate may be the All Progressives Congress, APC, threat. The Party would look out for which aspirant can overcome the APC challenge as the power of incumbency may count little on November 16.
For APC, the aspirants are still bidding their time. There are no clear favourites but there is a whispered possibility that former governor, Timipre Sylva, may want to borrow a leaf from Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and return to get his second term. He did not get the PDP ticket in 2011, forcing him to decamp to APC thereafter. He is being muted for a possible ministerial appointment but his supporters say he still has a point to prove in Bayelsa.
Heineken Lokpobiri, former minister of state for Agriculture and Rural Development, has just picked the APC form to slug it out with Sylva. However, sources close to Sylva in Yenagoa told the Magazine that the ticket was Sylva’s unless he decides not to run. Sylva ran in the acrimonious and violent November 2015 election with Dickson which needed rescheduled election to decide the winner.
In Kogi State, the race is also fierce. To challenge Governor Yahaya Bello of APC, Dino Melaye, a senator representing Kogi West who has been in rat race with Bello, has picked a PDP nomination form for the Luggard House in Lokoja.
He told journalists at the party secretariat: “The ambition is not mine but that of the people of Kogi State. There is the dire need to recover our State which has been completely battered, shattered and destroyed. Today, the magnitude and intensity of killings in Kogi State surpassed any other time in the history of our state. The state has never experienced such insecurity before. I have looked for people who believe that the welfare of workers of Kogi State is the basic priority of government and people who believe that security and the welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government and all these we will achieved.
“Unemployment is on the high side. Retrenchment, sack, and non-payment of salaries and pension are now a tradition in Kogi State. The economy and the economic activities in Kogi State have completely depleted. I have heard the loud cry from the Almighty and he said, ‘Who do I send?’ And I said, “send me,”
He will slug it out with another aspirant, Abubakar Suleiman, who has also picked PDP ticket. He said Kogi is in dire need of change in leadership and lamented that things have worsened in the three-and-half years that Bello has been governor. The nomination forms of APC and PDP do not come cheap at N22 million and N21million respectively. This technically eliminates shallow pockets from the race, no matter how brilliant. Ends.