The fifth session of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly is gradually winding up. Once the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, gives certificates of return to the members -elect, the 6th assembly will be inaugurated for a full swing lawmaking business. So, who will be the speaker of the 6th Assembly?.
Of course, the incumbent speaker, Rt. Hon. Kombowei Benson's probability of retaining the speakership of the house is completely ruled out. He is not returning to the house. He contested the just concluded election into the Southern Ijaw federal constituency which he lost to the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Mr. Preye Oseke. With that, the influence of incumbency will play no role in determining who emerges as number three citizen of Bayelsa State.
From all indications, a lot of high wired intrigues are expected when the house will be electing her speaker. External influences will play very key role. The state governor, no doubt, will have vested interest in the case of who the head of the state legislature should be. As usual, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party will definitely be calling the shot on that auspicious day when the election will be held on the floor of the house.
The PDP lawmakers in their majority will decide who emerges and with the existing rift between the ruling party and the opposition parties, there is no likelihood that the PDP may cede the leadership of the house to the APC which is in the minority. The PDP is having 17 out of the 21 seats already declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission, while the APC has four seats. Three seats are billed for a rerun on March 23.
Interestingly, names of some of the lawmakers-elect under the platform of the ruling party from among whom the speaker of the assembly would emerge, are already on the lips of political pundits. Going by the principles of power sharing, some of the legislators are automatically disqualified from contesting for the exalted position.
For instance, Bayelsa, like any other state, has three senatorial districts. Normally, the senatorial district where the governor of the state comes from ought not to produce the speaker. That scenario played out in 2012 when Mr. Seriake Dickson became governor. Before Dickson's emergence, the then speaker, Mr. Nestor Binabo was from Sagbama in Bayelsa West Senatorial District where Dickson hails from. To balance the political equation, Binabo had to relinquish his position as speaker, thereby paving the way for the incumbent from Bayelsa central to come in. In the same way, the senatorial district where the deputy governor comes from is not expected to produce the speaker. A deputy speaker can suffice rather. While the governor is from Bayelsa West, comprising Sagbama and Ekeremor local government areas, the deputy governor, Rear Admiral Gboribiogua John-Jonah is from Bayelsa East, comprising Brass, Nembe and Ogbia local government areas.
Based on the above analysis, the odds now favour Bayelsa Central where the outgoing speaker is from. Bayelsa Central is made up of three local government areas namely: Southern Ijaw, Yenagoa and Kolokuma/Opokuma. In each of the three local governments, there is a potential speaker.
For example, the member representing Southern Ijaw Constituency 11, Monday Bolo Bubou is well positioned by all standards to clinch the juicy office. As a third timer, Bubou has gathered all the experience he needs to pilot the affairs of the state legislative chambers. However, there is a hurdle on his way. Will the lawmakers consider Bubou worthy of the speakership since his local government has produced the outgoing speaker for over seven years? Will the principles of equity and fairness not take the centre stage in determining the next speaker? That is a nut for the legislators themselves to crack.
In Yenagoa Local Government, a name stands out. She is Koku Obiyai, representing Yenagoa Constituency 11. Obiyai has not only gathered the requisite experience as a second term member of the house, but is also very vibrant and articulate. The female lawmaker is a one- time state chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC. She can therefore competently handle and coordinate the activities of the house. But would her male counterparts allow history to be made in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly by allowing a female to be speaker for the first time?
Also, another force to reckon with as most likely to clinch the speakership of the house is Tonye Isenah, representing Kolokuma/Opokuma Constituency 1. Isenah has been a voice in the state's sacred chambers. He is coming in for the third time. He is equally the current chief whip of the house. Isenah has all what it takes to be speaker of the 24-man state assembly. One, he is experienced. Secondly, the Odi born politician is outspoken, bold and intelligent. However, some of the lawmakers, who spoke to TNN in the course of this report said the man had his weak points too. Some of his colleagues refer to him as a man who could be overbearing if entrusted with such an exalted position. He is not seen by most of his colleagues as a humble person. Will this be his undoing?
Nevertheless, the state governor's choice would largely shape the outcome of the upcoming speakership election. Though the legislature is supposed to be an independent arm of government, past experiences have shown that the executive arm has always been indirectly involved in ensuring that an 'obedient' speaker is installed.
This is not limited to Bayelsa, it happens across states including the presidency. Who is the governor's anointed one for the plum job? Or will the lawmakers muster the courage to do their own thing their own way and elect an independent speaker? Will they not succumb to external and financial influences?