When the 2019 general elections will be held in Bayelsa state, special attention will be paid to the Southern Ijaw Federal Constituency election into the House of Representatives. This is because of those involved in the race. The contest is going to be between the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who is also the Speaker of the state house of assembly, Rt. Hon. Friday Kombowei Benson and his All Progressives Congress APC counterpart, Mr. Preye Oseke.
While the speaker is regarded by observers as a political veteran, having served three terms in the state house of assembly, his opponent, Oseke is being considered as a neophyte, having not contested for any elective position before now. However, Oseke looks set to spring surprises at the polls, going by his followership in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area.
According to our checks, the APC flagbearer is said to be enjoying more grassroots support than the PDP candidate despite Kombowei's influence. The speaker who represents Southern Ijaw Constituency in the state assembly, has spent 12 years in the house and wanted to do a consecutive fourth term but the constituents rebuffed the move. They felt that the lawmaker did not give them the expected representation and should therefore allow a fresh hand to go and represent them.
Preparatory to the party primary elections in September 2018, the constituents staged series of protests against the speaker. Some of the protests were carried out in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital. The protesters told newsmen then that they would do anything to preclude the legislator from returning to the house for the fourth time because, according to them, the speaker did not forget anything at the state assembly complex that he was going back to collect.
Sensing danger ahead, Benson had to jettison his fourth term ambition and rather opted for his party ticket to contest for the SILGA federal constituency. He defeated the incumbent member representing the constituency, Mr. Henry Ofongo. Despite securing the ticket to run, the coast seems not to be clear for the Korokorosei born politician. It appears that the electorate are gearing up for a different candidate.
TNN learnt that between Benson and Oseke, the language of who is "reaching out" to the people and who is not reaching out is speaking volume, going into the election. Some of the constituents who spoke to this medium concerning the federal constituency election said they won't vote the speaker because he allegedly failed to use his position as the number three citizen of the state to alleviate the sufferings of his people.
Efeke Olotu, who said he was of the PDP, told TNN that he would defy party politics to vote for a candidate that would engender good governance and be sensitive to the plight of the people and not those who would go to the National Assembly to amass wealth for themselves. "If they could not attract meaningful development to their immediate constituencies as state legislators, especially the man who had the opportunity to serve as speaker, what would they be going to the National Assembly to do? Is it not to go and amass more wealth for their selfish interests?"
Another constituent, Mr. Emmanuel Orufa averred that "we have become wiser. Let them not deceive themselves, we won't be fooled again this time. Those who failed to reach out will be voted out. What did the speaker do with the 12 years he spent in the state assembly? If he could not represent just a constituency adequately, how will he be able to represent the whole of southern Ijaw, the largest local government area in the state? Sharing of peanuts to the electorate to buy votes would not help them this time. Their antecedents will either speak for or against them at the polls, come February", he noted.
In the midst of this, the candidate of the opposition party might be the beautiful bride afterall. Oseke, who is the publicity secretary to Dalong Security Service, a contracting firm to Nigerian Agip Oil Company on security surveillance in Southern Ijaw is said to be more in touch with the people. "Preye Oseke has been reaching out to the people and he is a grassroots man. With his current position, he has helped many youths of the area by providing casual jobs for them. By so doing, he has been able to pull many of them from cultism, sea piracy, kidnapping, robbery and other anti vices in the area. What have our representatives done for us?", a constituent who preferred anonymity said.
However, a source close to Benson told our correspondent that the speaker is well positioned to emerge victorious at the polls going by his "track records" that are speaking for him. "I have not seen any candidate from any political party that can match the track records of Mr. Speaker. He has displayed high sense of effective and vibrant representation in the state house of assembly. As the speaker, you can see how he has been coordinating the house and ensuring that there is cordial working relationship between the legislature and the executive which has led to the unprecedented development recorded in the state under the present government", he added.
The speaker is said to be relying on the political strength of the PDP, which is the ruling party in the state and his close political relationship with the state governor, to mobilize support for him and coast to victory at the polls. The APC candidate on the other hand, is riding on his grassroots support as well as the mobilization that may come from his party at the central to emerge victorious at the end of the day.