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Bayelsa East Senatorial District: Will The Zoning Principle Continue?

Bayelsa East Senatorial District: Will The Zoning Principle Continue?

The Bayelsa East Senatorial District is made up of three local government areas. They are Ogbia, Nembe and Brass.  Since 1999, the Bayelsa East Senatorial District has held on tenaciously to the gentleman's agreement of zoning the senatorial seat amongst the three local government areas that form the zone. Though political zoning has no constitutional backing in Nigeria, political analysts believe that the formula engenders equity and fairness to avoid political hegemony against weaker regions.

Accordingly, each local government does only one tenure of four years and allows the next to takeover. The rotational formula has been perfect since then. In fact, it is on record that among the three senatorial districts in Bayelsa State, only the Bayelsa East has maintained a hundred percent undistorted zoning arrangement. Others have had theirs tainted with what analysts describe as parochial political interests.

The Chronology:

In 1999, the former civilian governor of old Rivers Sate, late Chief Melford Obiene Okilo, who hailed from Ogbia local government area, took the first shot at the senate from the district under the present day Bayelsa State. At the expiration of the 4- year tenure in 2003, Okilo handed over the mantle of the senatorial leadership to Senator Inatimi Rufus-Spiff of Brass Local Government.

Rufus-Spiff was succeeded by Senator Barigha Nimi-Amange who hails from Nembe local government area. Having tasted the sweetness of milk and honey for four years, Amange was tempted to renege on the principle of zoning so as to do another four years. But the senator's second term aspiration was harshly rebuffed by the political stakeholders of the district who maintained that the zoning arrangement must be sacrosanct. Not even his close political relationship with the  then president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who also hails from that district, could help actualize his second term ambition. At the end of the day, Amange had to succumb to pressures and jettisoned his plan to return to the upper legislative house of the National Assembly, despite his popularity at the time.

Still in the spirit of zoning, the mantle of the Bayelsa East Senatorial seat returned to Ogbia in 2011, Amange having bowed out of the race. At this juncture, Senator Clever Ikisikpo, a native of Kolo community in Ogbia local government area stepped in and represented the district at the National Assembly from 2011 to 2015. Ikisikpo had been a two time member of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly and enjoyed a very warm relationship with former President Goodluck Jonathan.

Preparatory to the 2015 general elections, Ikisikpo threw caution to the wind and declared his intention to return to the red chambers. He relied so much on his relationship with Jonathan to clinch the Peoples Democratic Party ticket for his re-election bid. He was, however, disappointed as he was denied his party's ticket. To express his grievances with his party and political godfather, Jonathan, for placing the zoning arrangement above his interest, Ikisikpo defected to the All Progressives Congress, APC, to actualize his dream. He has since gone into political oblivion in his new party. Not much has been heard from the Ogbia born politician.

In 2015 when the electioneering season came calling, the battle for the Bayelsa East senatorial seat shifted to Brass Local Government area in tandem with the continuous rotational formula. Consequently, a fierce battle ensued between a former governor of the state, Chief Timipre Sylva and a media mogul, Ben Moray Bruce. While Sylva contested under the platform of the APC, Bruce ran under the PDP. The two candidates, all from Brass LGA, went to the political field to do battle but it was Bruce, a long time friend of Jonathan, that gained the upper hand. Bruce, who is the chairman of Silverbird Television and Rhythm FM, is the current senator representing Bayelsa East Senatorial district in the National Assembly.

What Next?

Ordinarily, going by the chronology of political events in the Bayelsa East Senatorial district since 1999 till date, one does not need to read further mathematics to be able to know which side the senatorial pendulum should swing, come 2019. Simple arithmetic could suffice.  

As it were, both Ogbia and Brass local government areas have  represented the district twice each, within the period under review while Nembe is yet to achieve that feat as it has only done once. Therefore, Nembe stands a better chance of producing the next senator for the Bayelsa East Senatorial District if the existing zoning pattern is anything to reckon with.

Already,  from reliable sources, Amange is frantically warming up to take another shot at the senate. He said the dream he had eight years ago to go back to the National Assembly but was temporarily cut short by the zoning jinx has refused to die. We gathered that the Nembe born politician is capitalizing on the zoning formula to actualize his ambition. An impeccable source told our correspondent that the senator is already holding consultative meetings with political stakeholders, including Jonathan and the state governor, Seriake Dickson so as to obtain the PDP ticket for the race. Amange used to be popular and enjoyed the goodwill of his constituents while he represented them between 2007 and 2011. No one can tell if that goodwill still exists since he left office.

While the 2019 general polls are fast approaching, there is a puzzle that is begging for an answer. Will the zoning formula in the Bayelsa East Senatorial District continue? That arrangement was put in place when the PDP was more or less the only viable political party in the region. Now that other parties have sprung up with the APC as an alternative party, will the zoning stuff cut across party lines?

TNN learnt that Ikisikpo is yet to drop his ambition to return to the senate. It is equally not clear whether the serving senator will not run as his actions of late suggest that Bruce may want to break the jinx of zoning in the area. Another strong contender for the seat is Chief Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo. He is the APC.

Bruce:

The incumbent senator representing Bayelsa East Senatorial district has the constitutional right to vie for any political office if he so wishes with zoning or no zoning. But would he defy the verbal gentleman agreement put in place by his kinsmen to ensure equity of which he is a beneficiary? Or would he consider to bow out when the ovation is loudest in lieu of the recent move by his constituents to recall him on the allegation of none performance? The media guru is up to the task.

Ikisikpo:

If Ikisikpo, a former state and national  lawmaker, would  have his way, he  would punish the PDP and its leaders in Bayelsa State. He is of the feeling that his closeness with the then leaders of the party was enough to have earned him a second ticket to the senate irrespective of the so-called zoning arrangement. He is now in APC and getting prepared to take his mandate that was denied him in 2015. But a chieftain of the PDP from Ogbia extraction who does not want his name in print told this medium that Ikisikpo does not make the list of political heavy weights in Bayelsa East. "Senator Ikisikpo lacks political clout in every sense of it, not even in his ward", he added.

The clock is ticking and 2019 is drawing nearer. Political gladiators are putting spanners to work, aligning and realigning, with the soul aim of arm twisting their perceived opponents. The question echoing from the Bayelsa East Senatorial District is will the zoning arrangement still continue?

Degi-Eremienyo

This man is one of the major political stakeholders from the senatorial district. He used to belong to the PDP but defected sometime around 2015. He is known to be very intelligent and an astute administrator. Those who know him very well say he pays too much attention to details. The former chairman of Nembe Local Government was said to have done so much for the local government during his tenure. But it is not clear if he has the financial muscle to pursue the dream project; although it is said that many Nembe people are mobilising support for him.

Opuala Charles

He is a former commissioner in the state and served under the Chief Timipre Sylva government. Dr. Silva Opuala-Charles attended the University of Port Harcourt. In 1995, he received a Bachelor of Science (Economics) degree with second class honours (upper division). In 1998, he received a Masters of Science (Economics, money and banking). He subsequently earned a doctorate in Economics majoring in monetary economics. He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Certified Economists of Nigeria (ICEN)and a Fellow of the Association of Certified Commercial Diplomats (FCDipl.) London, England. He is also a distinguished Fellow of the Public Management of Nigeria(FIPMN) and a distinguished Fellow of the Institute of the Strategic Management of Nigeria(ISM).He is also a graduate of Breakthrough Program For Senior Executives(BPSE) and an Alumnus of IMD Business School, Lausanne, Switzerland. In September 2016, Dr Opuala-Charles was awarded the prestigious Global Executive MBA degree from the three affiliate Universities of London School of Economics and Political Science, London; New York University, Stern Business School, New York; HEC Business School, Paris.

Opuala-Charles worked in banking for 15 years, reaching the position of regional manager of the south-south area in the then First Inland Bank. He developed a banking product for domestic account mobilization (HYDOM) and opened a branch of the bank in Uyo. He is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Economists of Nigeria (ICEN). Opuala-Charles is also a fellow of the Association of Certified Commercial Diplomats, (FCDipl), London.

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