Bayelsa: The beautiful bride and the Battleground State
By Rev. (Prof.) Alex O. Akpodiete Atawa
I was sitting perusing the dailies, while at the same time following the updates on the supplemental governorship elections results in Imo, Abia and Taraba States when I came across an article in Sunday Leadership titled: Bayelsa 2016: Uncertainty Surrounds Dickson.
The writer seems to be postulating about the chances of the current Governor, His Excellency Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson, winning re-election for a second term in office. I was just wondering in my mind, not another election again. Then I realized that Bayelsa, Kogi, Edo, Ekiti, Osun, Ondo and Anambra States were the only seven (7) States out of our thirty-six (36) States that did not hold governorship elections on April 11, 2015. The governorship elections were held this month in the following twenty-nine (29) States of the federation: Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara.
Bayelsa is unique among the seven States because it is one of the newest States last created in Nigeria by late Gen. Sani Abacha. When Bayelsa was carved out of the neighboring Rivers State on October 1, 1996, there were great expectations because the State has one of the largest crude oil and natural gas deposits in the federation. Nigerias first oil well was erected at Oloibire in Bayelsa State and petroleum exploitation is a major activity in the State. The name, Bayelsa, is an acronym of three former Local Government areas BRASS (BALGA), YENAGOA (YELGA) and SAGBAMA (SALGA) in the then Rivers State, whose personalities were in the forefront of the State creation movement.
Bayelsa is made of various ethnic groups including Ijaw, Kolokunu, Ekpetiama, Igbriran, Atissa and Biseni with four major spoken languages of Izon, Nembe, Epie-Atissa, and Ogbia). The Ijaws (Izons) make up the majority. Significant sectors of the population are fishermen because of the water dominated terrain, while the government is the major employer of labour. The Skills acquisition programmes embarked on by successive governments and projects by the lucrative Oil companies in the State have not yielded the expected gains. So, economically, the citizens of Bayelsa are badly in need of a political Messiah. Who will rescue the State?
Today, the almost two million Bayelsans are yearning for a government that will usher in a new dispensation and give them the so-called dividends of democracy because many are still living in abject poverty. The State which will celebrate its nineteen years of creation in a few months has arguably not much to show for its existence. At nineteen, a teenager should have finished secondary school and looking forward to university. However, the average Bayelsan will tell you that the State is yet to graduate from primary school and like the Apostle Paul said to the Christians in Corinth, “I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able. (1 Cor. 3:2). In other words, the State is not where it is supposed to be. Solid food belongs to those who are of full age. (Hebrews 5:14).
In nineteen years, Bayelsa has been governed (ruled) by ten Chief Executives four military administrators, 4 civilian elected governors and two civilian acting governors. Timipre Sylva seems to have undergone more political gymnastics than any other governor. First Werinipre Seibarugo became Acting governor for six weeks after Timipre Sylva’s election was nullified in 2008, while Nestor Binabo was Acting governor for a month in 2012 after Timipre Sylva’s tenure was terminated by the Supreme Court. All the elected governors to date have been PDP governors and the state seems to be a solid and strong PDP State. In fact, PDP won ninety percent (90%) of the votes in the 2012 governorship election.
Whether the incumbent governor will win the PDP primaries for a shot at a second tenure remains to be seen as he is allegedly not in the good book of the First lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, especially when it was alleged that his supporters and those of the First lady clashed during the PDP Presidential rally in Yenagoa February this year. This is also coupled with the allegations by Senator Heineken Lokpobiri that Gov. Dickson supposedly led thugs to ransack a Federal High Court to prevent the court from delivering a judgment on his case against the governors preferred Senatorial candidate, Foster Ogola.
The incumbent Governor, Seriake Dickson may also be faced with a bad omen. No Governor to date has ever finished two terms in office since the return to democracy in 1999. The closest was Diepreye Alameiseigha who was re-elected but impeached two years into his second tenure. He was replaced by the current President who did not run for re-election because he was picked as a running mate (Vice-presidential candidate) to late Umaru YarAdua. His replacement, Timipre Sylva did not get the PDP ticket for a second term after doing almost five years that was truncated by a Supreme Court decision. The incumbent governor replaced Timipre Sylva, who has now joined the All Progressives Congress (APC). Diepreye Alameiseigha and Sylva are purportedly interested in coming back for a complete second tenure to finish what they started and claim whatever they left behind at Creek Haven in Yenagoa.
In the eight (8) Local Government Areas of Bayelsa (Brass, Ekeremor, Kolokuma/Opokuma, Nembe, Ogbia, Sagbama, Southern Ijaw and Yenagoa), the story is the same. The people are disenfranchised and want a change with visible development, but with a PDP governor come Valentines Day 2016.
War drums are beating as over ten (10) candidates are already preparing their war chests.
Whoever emerges, the point is that at the time of creation of Bayelsa State, it was a beautiful bride adorned with oil and gas deposits that will make any young man salivate as he imagines spending the night deflowering his new bride. In a few months, however, Bayelsa will become a serious political battleground, especially as the Commander-in-Chief retires to Otuoke.
Rev. (Prof.) Atawa writes from the neighboring state of Delta. Contact him on 08138391661 or firstname.lastname@example.org.