Bayelsa: Alaibi, TO, others may slug it out for Government House

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Former CEO of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi Alaibi, seems to be on the front line of those eyeing the seat of power in Bayelsa in 2020.

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The governorship election in Bayelsa State may be over a year and half away, but interestingly, the roll call of those itching for the number one seat has started although some political watchers say it is too early given the fact that the 2019 general elections would take place before the state goes to the polls.

Among the names being touted for the governorship race are former Government House Transport Officer, Abel Ebifemowei of the Young Democratic Party (YDP) and Timi Alaibe of the All Progressive Congress (APC).

Others are one-time Speaker, Bayelsa State House of Assembly and former Deputy Governor, Peremobowei Ebebi, Speaker of Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Konbowei Friday Benson, Keniebi Okoko, a young businessman and Reuben Okoya, an architect all of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) among others.

Alaibe has been in the ring before as a member of the PDP when he contested the party primary against former President, Goodluck Jonathan while he was governor of the state; he also the candidate of the Labour Party (LP) for the 2007 governorship election before contesting the governorship primary of the APC in 2016.

At one time, he was seen as the only man capable of leading Bayelsa State as he had all the credentials especially due to his time at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as Director of Finance and Administration and later Managing Director.

Ebifemowei is not new to politics in the state: as cousin to late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, he was in the corridors of power, a kingmaker in the PDP with a large following before spending time as Chairman of the Bayelsa State Environmental Sanitation Authority under Governor Henry Seriake Dickson.

From Southern Ijaw Local Government Area in the Central Senatorial District, his political journey took him from PDP to the APC before now berthing in the YDP where he is about throwing his hat into the ring to contest the highest seat in the state.

On his part, Ebebi was the Speaker, Bayelsa State House of Assembly from where he became Deputy Governor to Jonathan after the impeachment of Alamieyeseigha and still continued as deputy to former Governor Timipre Sylva before he was impeached.

A lawyer by profession, Ebebi has remained a strong political heavyweight in Ekeremor Local Government Area, Bayelsa West Senatorial District and in fact, the entire state; and has been instrumental to the victory of the PDP in several elections even at one time nearly losing his life during one of the general elections.

Benson is a three-term member of the state House of Assembly and is in his second term as Speaker while Okoko, who is believed to be the youngest so far among those being touted for the governorship position is somewhat new to the state politics.

But, one name that has continued to reverberate around the state is Reuben Okoya, a one-time Commissioner for Special Duties under former President, Goodluck Jonathan while he was governor of the state, due to the untiring efforts of a non-governmental organisation, Campaign for Democracy and Development in Bayelsa (CDDB).

Okoya boasts an impressive curriculum vitae as he was also Coordinator of Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), Chairman, Committee on Security Requirement for Public/Private Institutions in FCT, Chairman, Steering Committee on the FCT Public Building Safety Scheme, Vice Chairman, FCT Taskforce on City Clean up and Chairman, Committee on Mass Housing Scheme, FCT.

Due to his handling of tough tasks in both the state and centre, it widely agreed that he is a hard working and dedicated professional with considerable international experience in the successful management and delivery of architectural, engineering and construction projects to demanding time and budgetary constraints. 

Since his adoption and presentation to Bayelsans as the man who ticked all the boxes to govern the state, members of the CDDB which has a formidable network in the local government areas, constituencies, wards and communities across the state have been marketing him in various ways.

So, even as formal preparations for the forthcoming gubernatorial election are yet to begin, Okoya is already becoming a household name, while his qualities and capacities are being touted by the CDDB.

Already, the CDDB has offered the two major political parties and others the opportunity to unilateral endorse him as their governorship candidate and save the state the pain, misery, mourning and destruction of lives and property that was witnessed during the past governorship election in parts of the state.

Such a move, if it materialises, could see a drastic reduction in issues of conflict and therefore violence during the election, deepen democracy and garner united support which is of immense benefit especially during post election era to usher in development and progress.

Supporters of the architect agree that Okoya possesses sound skills in feasibility studies, strategic planning, master planning, construction management and conflict resolution while combining a committed and creative approach with strong technical aptitude coupled with the ability to manage and motivate. 

Okoya is a member of the American Institute of Architects, Royal Institutes of British Architects and Nigerian Institute of Architects and holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Design, masters degree in Architecture and looking forward to a doctorate degree in Environmental Management. 

Bannerman Embiowei, a gospel artiste and stakeholder in the Bayelsa Project in a recent interview in Yenagoa, the state capital, told BusinessDay why he has thrown his support for Okoya’s governorship bid and why he is joining others to mobilise support for him.

Embiowei explained that Okoya is from the Yenagoa axis of the Central Senatorial District that ought to produce the next governor of the state and that if someone from the area becomes governor, he could develop the capital the way Governor Dickson has transformed Toru-Orua his country home.

He expressed disappointment at Governor Henry Seriake Dickson for allegedly stating that his successor would come from Southern Ijaw Local Government Area which is contrary to the zoning arrangement in the state since the area had produced the first civilian governor in late Alamieyseigha. 

“The Southern Zibai people are clamouring to produce the next governor which is wrong. Even Dickson went to the Ebenanaowei of Amassoma’s palace and promised that the next governor is coming from Southern Ijaw which is wrong. The next governor should come from Kolokuma/Opokuma or Yenagoa local government areas,” he stated.

An outspoken man, Embiowei also stated that unlike most of the others who are nursing governorship ambition, Okoya does not have any issues alleging “in Bayelsa, we are few we know ourselves. A lot of them have one issue or the other. They are not clean. They are not clean. And if someone who is not clean decides to lead the people, they will end up sharing the monies and looting the monies.”

He also explained that as an experienced architect, Okoya has the capacity to develop Bayelsa State the way Governor Nyesom Wike is doing in Rivers State and Akinwumi Ambode is developing Lagos State and that the state needs someone like him to be at the helm of affairs.

Embiowei further described Okoya as a sympathetic man who does not turn away the needy, does not cage himself with security, accessible and God-fearing, and is quite unlike other politicians in the state in a number of ways.

He recalled that in 2015, he accepted to step down for the incumbent when party leaders prevailed on him due to his humble character stressing, “we need that kind of cool headed person.”

In his words: “In the past, all the persons that had become governor from Alamieyeseigha had issues bordering on forgery, drugs, fraud; we don’t want such issues again. Some pretend to be Christians, but still have Indians and native doctors around them. That is why I prefer Reuben to any other person. He is a workaholic.”

He stressed that Okoya’s “mission is to stimulate and sustain the overall development of both human and material resources of Bayelsa State and at the end establish a culture of social justice, good governance, democracy and development.

“He shall mobilise and organise the people to take active part in the development of the state by first assisting the people to develop their goals and aspirations in life based on the idea of mass participation in development.”