Lokpobiri and other APC aspirants’ battle for Bayelsa ticket




Until recently Bayelsa was solely a PDP state but then since the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as alternative , elections the state are no longer one-sided. Joy Emmanuel writes with the November 16 governorship election in view.

When was the cock that crows

The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had been having her way all through since 1999 when democracy returned to Nigeria after years of military rule.

 However, since the formation of the APC about five years ago, elections in Bayelsa state have become keenly competitive, unlike when members of the ruling PDP would throw lavish ceremonies after merely winning primary elections. The political game has changed.

As the two major political parties are putting spanners to work to ensure they present formidable and acceptable candidates for the main battle -the Bayelsa state governorship election come November 16, 2019, all eyes are on the opposition APC especially on who the party would present to face the ruling party.

For now, a total of seven aspirants have picked the N22.5 million APC election forms. They are: Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, Prince Ebitimi Amgbare, Mr David Lion, Mrs Pouwegha Insirim, Dr Frankland Briyai and Mr Preye Aganaba. Below are their standings. 

Heineken Lokpobiri

Senator Heineken Lokpobiri is a household name in Bayelsa state. Lokpobiri is a native of Ekeremor in Ekeremor local government area of the state, who has been in the game of politics for as old as Bayelsa state itself. Lokpobiri is the pioneer Speaker of the Bayelsa state House of Assembly.

As the first speaker of the state assembly, Lokpobiri started the legislative business on a rough financial foundation. Yet, he made his marks. It was Lokpobiri who created extra twenty-four local government areas which have now become Rural Development Areas to complement the eight original local government councils.

He was later elected senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and represented Bayelsa West senatorial district on the platform of the PDP. His constituents say they never regretted having Senator Lokpobiri to represent them at the National Assembly. According to one of his constituents, Mr Peres Peretu, who is a former chairman of Sagbama local government council, Senator Lokpobiri did not only sponsor many people-oriented bills in the Senate but also touched lives of his constituents positively. This, he, did through individuals direct capital development and empowerment projects.

When he later joined the APC, Lokpobiri’s leadership qualities were again spotted as he was appointed Minister of State for Agriculture during the first term of President Muhammadu Buhari where he empowered farmers across the country. Political observers have often described the politician as one of the most politically influential and experienced personality in Bayelsa politics. 

Pundits are of the view that Lokpobiri’s political experience and closeness to the APC-led presidency would give him an edge over other aspirants at the party primaries. Apart from his national connections, Senator Lokpobiri is also seen by analysts as a grassroots politician who has built political structures across the state over the years. This was evidenced during the past general elections where he delivered his constituency for his party in the state assembly elections.

He is also believed to have direct bearings with party delegates having been consistently and actively been involved in the party politics. Another thing that favours Lokpobiri is the none existence of zoning arrangement in the APC. As it stands, political eggheads in the state believe that the odds highly favours Senator Heineken Lokpobiri over his co-contenders ahead of the primaries.

At the moment, the former Minister is being widely considered as the most formidable opponent to wrestle power from the ruling party PDP in the state on November 16 when Bayelsans shall go to the polls to elect Seriake Dickson’s successor. 

Ebitimi Amgbare

Prince Ebitimi Amgbare came to limelight in 2007 when he contested the state governorship election under the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and lost to Chief Timipre Sylva, the then candidate of the PDP. Even though the election was annulled by the court and another election conducted, Amgbare lost again to the PDP candidate. Since then, the Sagbama local government born politician has not been heard of. He seems to have hibernated in political oblivion all this while. 

Amgbare, who served as a commissioner when Goodluck Jonathan was governor, may have, in the opinion of many, lost contact with the people and disenchanted with the political affairs of his party. Furthermore, some think Amgbare does not seem to have the financial war chest to effectively prosecute a governorship election against a ruling party.

David Lion

Mr David Lion is a native of Southern Ijaw local government area. He is an oil baron- the managing director of Dalon Security Surveillance, a contracting firm to International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in Southern Ijaw local government area of the state. Mr Lion is said to be rich and has empowered many youths in Southern Ijaw through provision of casual jobs. 

But political watchers seem to see him as a political neophyte who lacks clout, experience of the rough political field filled with landmines. They think David is greatly disadvantaged in many fronts and worse still lacks the experience needed to handle the leadership of a state.

Critical observers of political activities in the build up to the governorship election in the state are worried that if given the ticket to represent the APC in the November 16, he might be a walkover for any PDP candidate.

Stakeholders of the Bayelsa project are of the view that the state is too complex to be left in the hands of people with limited educational background and leadership qualities. Secondly, David Lion is not a known politician that is in touch with the party faithful across the state to deliver him at the primary election of the APC that is billed for August 29.

Pouwegha Insirim

Mrs Pouwegha Insirim is a retired commissioner of police. She is known to be a seasoned police officer and veteran crime fighter who showed her professional prowess in the fight against criminality across the country during her days of active service. She could be of good help in resolving the lingering issue of insecurity plaguing the state if given the opportunity to serve as the chief security officer of the state.

However, Mrs Insirim may have an uphill task becoming the flag bearer of an opposition party that is in dare need a powerful and influential person to outshine the ruling party and get to the Creek Haven for the first time.

Until recently when she indicated interest and went to pick the APC nomination forms, not many Bayelsans heard about her. She hasn’t been in the political picture of any of the political party and its activities. Therefore, the APC, according to inside sources, is not ready to consider her candidacy due to the issue of unpopularity.

Another major disadvantage to the former police chief is the problem of gender inequality which has been a thorn in the flesh of female politicians in Nigeria. It might not be a surprise that on the day of the APC governorship primary election, fellow women who are delegates would be the first to cast their votes against Mrs Insirim’s candidacy.

Frankland Britain

Dr Frankland Briyai is a free born of Bayelsa. Until August 8, 2019, Dr Briyai was the Resident Electoral Commisioner (REC) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Cross Rivers state. The news of his purported resignation and subsequent collection of the APC governorship primary election forms for the November 16 gubernatorial election, came to the national leadership of INEC as a rude shock. 

INEC’s expression of grievance over the said resignation of Dr Briyai as Cross Rivers REC was contained in a statement released on August 9, stating that it was yet to be informed of such resignation but only heard of it in the media. In the statement signed by Festus Okoye, National Commissioner, Information and Voter Education Committee, INEC quoted relevant portions of the commission’s guidelines on resignation of its staff which it said Briyai did not meet. The statement went on to describe Dr Briyai’s action as being partisan.

Based on the foregoing, political analysts in the state posit that the embattled INEC’s REC may have shot himself in the foot. They opined that the APC would not want to be involved in the candidacy of anybody that may eventually attract deadly litigations to the detriment of the party. Therefore, Briyai’s chances of becoming the flag bearer of the APC in Bayelsa state, according to political watchers, are very slim.

Preye Aganaba

Mr Preye Aganaba is a young politician, who in the eyes of political observers seems an underdog having not been entrusted with any major political office or position of authority either in the state or elsewhere.

Though Preye is said to be having large youthful followership in the state, it is not clear whether the APC would hand its flag to a political greenhorn to face such a fierce battle in the November governorship war.

Another obstacle that may reduce the chances of Preye Aganaba is the perceived notion in some quarters that he is being fronted by a powerful politician and member of the APC in Rivers state who is said to be at loggerheads with the leader of the party in Bayelsa state, Chief Timipre Sylva.

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