Senate Race: All Eyes on Dickson, Degi-Eremienyo,This Saturday
In 2019, the APC made a serious in-road into the Bayelsa State. It was the first time an opposition party would have such an impressive showing in an election in the state. It won a senate seat and two House of Reps seats also.
Before the 2019 election, the PDP had always been in charge. The successes the APC recorded during the general election may have emboldened them during the governorship election which took place towards the end of that year. Of course, the APC candidate, David Lyon won and was preparing for his inauguration when the Supreme Court sacked him and his deputy, Chief Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, a sitting senator.
At that time, hundreds of people who made the PDP thick had left for the APC. Leader of the party and current minister of state, Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva had brought in many people into the party and they worked towards success at the polls. The APC won on ground but lost in the court hall. Since then, the APC has not been the same.
A former minister, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri appears to be a thorn in the flesh of the party. He leads wing of the APC and has successfully caused so much harm to whatever gains the APC must have had in the state.
He has a parallel secretariat and a parallel exco. It is not clear how the crisis within the party would end. And if care is not taken, the APC may not be able to contest the 2023 election in the state.
Last month, a high court in the state sacked the exco led by Dr Dennis Otiotio and also nullified all the primary elections conducted by his exco. The court’s position was that the processes leading to the emergence of the state exco was faulty. So, since the foundation was faulty, every other thing that was placed on it, including the primaries, could not stand.
The ward, local government and state congresses held between the 3rd and 4th of September, and 16th October, 2021 were annulled.
Justice Timipre .J Corcordia, who presided over the case upheld the eight prayers of aggrieved members of the party- Ompadec Victor, Esuenifen Obi, and Seimiegha Ebibofe Agbozu – who filed the suit number YHC/107/2021. The same claims were made in the further amendment of the originating summon with Alex Izibenikiebo Blankson as plaintiff and State Chairman of APC, Otittio and three others as defendants.
But the party’s director of administration, Emmanuel Ojise Ayakpo who reacted to the judgement had said in a statement that “the judgement delivered by Hon Justice I.T Cocodia of the High Court of Bayelsa state, has nothing to do with the candidates of the All Progressives Congress in Bayelsa state as all our candidates for House of Assembly, House of Representatives and senate are legible and qualified to contest and win the forthcoming general elections.
“As you are aware, the Bayelsa state chapter of the All Progressives Congress raised alarm on the 5th January, 2023 over the brazen and unsuppressed display of bias/lack of impartiality and judicial excesses as set out above.
“The instant suit is that of the skin of Esau and the voice Jacob as members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party that have laboured under the illusion that getting an architect job done in this will disqualify the candidates of the All Progressives Congress from contesting the forthcoming general elections, have boasted and made it clear to the APC family that they will ditch out the Zamfara and rivers state experience to members of the APC in Bayelsa state.
“Curiously Hon. Justice I.T Cocodia has filial ties with the State Adviser to the governor of Bayelsa state, High Chief Collins Cocodia thereby breeding a fertile for the judgement to be settled as a family business.
“In the course of the proceedings, Hon. I.T. Cocodia practically descended to the arena of the conflict by refusing to hear all the various application filed by the counsel to the Defendants, the ridiculous dimension to this quagmire is that the Defendants filed for application for Hon Justice I.T Cocodia to recuse himself from hearing Suit NO YHC/16/2022 between Mr Alex Izibenikibo Blackson and the All Progressives Congress and others but he dismissed the applications Suomoto without hearing from the parties and held unto the records from previous proceeding without releasing same to the registrar to frustrate appeals.
“The All Progressives Congress petitioned the Hon. chief judge of Bayelsa state and the National judicial council on the ignoble and dishonorable conduct of Hon. Justice I.T. Cocodia and same was brought to his attention, but in utter defiance to his oath of office As a judge, he ignored all the applications and petitions and adjourned the matter for judgement to his perfect architect assignment.
“Again before the delivery of the judgement on the 20th January, 2023 to the 1st and 4th Defendants Mr. Sammie A. Somiari SAN and I.S Damibide informed His Lordship, Hon. I.T Cocodia of the tendency of an interlucuting(sic) Appeal with motion for the sitting of proceeding and the records fully transmitted to the court of Appeal, which by law requires Hon. Justice. I.T. Cocodia stop proceedings pending the outcome of the matter on the Appeal but he proceeded to deliver judgement in favor of the claimant.
“Interestingly, as Hon Justice I.T Cocodia during the course of the hearing of the matter, demonstrated obvious and uncommon zeal to deliver judgement against the All Progressives Congress, the counsel to the All progressives also prepared there Notices of Appeal with motion for stay of execution of judgement and have filed same. The legal effect of the foregoing is that Dr Dennis Otiotio PhD led state Executive committee is still in power and shall remain in office until the matter is decided by the Court of Appeal.”
It is not clear if the party has been able to secure a stay of execution from the appeal court where the matter is pending. The party chairman, Dr Dennis Otiotio did not pick the calls made to his phone, neither did he respond to our messages.
But generally, the contest for the three senate seats in the state will be between the PDP and the APC, in most places, though the LP and the SDP are also in contention in a few other places.
Bayelsa Central Senatorial District
Chief Orunimighe Timipa Tiwei, a former chairman of the APC in the state will be facing Chief Friday Konbowei Benson of the PDP. Benson is a former speaker of the state house of assembly. The duo are very strong on the ground, even though it is believed that Benson may have been winning his elections through the support of the system. People say he is a grassroots politician, but not too free with money, unlike Tiwei.
In Southern Ijaw where both of them come from, the APC seem to be having an upper hand, at least judging from the outcome of the last governorship election. Virtually all the repentant militants are from this local government and most of them are believed to be working for the interest of the APC. Even the former APC gubernatorial candidate whose victory was annulled, David Lyon, is from here. Already, he has picked his nomination form for the next gubernatorial election and will want to prove a point, that he is still popular.
However, the PDP is in power right now and a good number of those who defected to the APC in 2019 have gradually found their way back to the PDP and may help the party win this weekend.
Between Tiwei and Benson, the race is too close to call. It is an open contest really, and any of the two may just pick it. If Benson prays and works hard enough to get the APC out of the contest, then he might just heave a sigh of relief. Otherwise, Tiwei will give him a hot fight.
Candidates of the other political parties may just be there. They may not make any serious impact this Saturday.
This is where you have the lion king versus a tiger-Chief Seriake Dickson of the PDP being the lion and Dauyegha Wilson Ayakpo of the APC being the tiger. Ayakpo may have a few things going for him: he belongs to the APC and may have financial support from the centre, including what Sylva may give to boost his chances. Besides, many APC chieftains are from this axis of the state, especially Ekeremor Local Government. This is where Lokpobiri also comes from. This is where Peremobowei Ebebi, a former speaker and Sylva’s deputy(governor)comes from. But again, will the APC be on the ballot?
If they appear on the ballot, Dickson may just feast on Ayakpo with so much ease. They call him the Ofruma Pepper, that is the great white shark that terrorises other fishes in the ocean. They call him the grandmaster of Bayelsa politics. He knows it the way the late Adedibu used to know the politics of Ibadan. A lawyer, former policeman, former commissioner, former governor of the state, Dickson is seen as the father of Bayelsa politics, at least within the PDP family.
Ordinarily, Dickson was not supposed to present himself for this election. It was supposed to be the turn of Sagbama to produce the senator. But just a few months into his first term in the senate, Dickson started bulldozing his way in the senatorial district. The governor, Senator Douye Diri had to talk to Dickson’s major challenger, Dr Fred Agbedi, to drop his ambition and allow Dickson to pick the PDP ticket.
With the ticket now safely in his hands, Dickson did what he knows how to do best-advanced politicking. Already, virtually all candidates from the other political parties have surrendered for him. So, he now has only Ayakpo to contend with. And unless something strange happens, Dickson is already on his way to a second term inauguration party. He has the PDP with him. He has the governor with him. He has the finances to pull through. And he has some political and native sense to get what he wants. Dickson is tipped to win this one.
The table may turn upside down against the PDP in this senatorial district because of the personae and character of Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, the current occupant of the senate seat.
He however has the immediate past chief of staff, Government House, Chief Benson Agadaga, of the PDP to contend with. Degi is a fighter. He does so with so much dexterity. He deploys all arsenal when he is fighting his battles. He it was, in 2019, who was able to upset the PDP and beat them to their game to emerge senator in a state that was known to be an enclave of the PDP. He is an ally, a very close ally of Sylva. He is a bishop in the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star. Degi is not just an intelligent politician, he is equally very rugged and thorough, with so much grassroots appeal.
Like Dickson, Degi was not expected to contest the election because the seat has always been shared between Ogbia, Nembe and Brass. All others have taken it once but Degi was able to get the APC ticket, against all odds, to run for a second term.
Perhaps what made it very easy for him was his performance rating in the eyes of the people. Even those who hated his guts saw in him a man who had shown so much capacity and ability to attract all kinds of projects from the federal government to his senatorial district. He is believed to have done exceptionally well during his first term.
So, his PDP opponent will need to go to the Heavens and back, to wrestle power from Degi. Yes, Agadaga, is from Ogbia. And the belief is that it is actually the turn of Ogbia people to produce the senator. But can Agadaga stand Degi’s locomotive force?
What Agadaga has in his favour is the backing of the government in power. Besides, the governor and the entire PDP may want to pull all resources together to secure victory for him, against Degi. If Agadaga will win on Saturday, then it would just be that the people will be doing so for the sake of the governor, whom people believe has done well to project the image of the PDP in the state. Otherwise, Agadaga will find it difficult to leave the wrestling ring without some bloody nose and mouth, by the time Degi finishes with him.
Brass/Nembe Federal Constituency
In this federal constituency, the battle promises to be fierce and interesting. It is between Israel Sunny-Goli of the APC and Marie Ebikake Enenemietie of the PDP. This federal constituency is the base of the APC. Sylva comes from this area. Sunny-Goli, the current occupant of the seat is like the Rock of Gibraltar, very solid.
He will have Ebikake, a grassroots women mobiliser and PDP chieftain to contain with. The belief is that if the APC candidate was able to emerge victorious in 2019, against all odds, he will do it again this weekend, especially with the support of Sylva.
But Ebikake also has the state government behind her. She is a woman and the women are likely to surround her and work for her victory. How this will end is yet to be seen. If the APC candidate runs the race at the end of the day, it is almost certain that he will win. But the victory is not likely to come easily.
Ogbia Federal Constituency
It will be a four horse race in this federal constituency. The battle will be between the Marvin Ebinyo Turner of the PDP, Opubere Morris of the Labour Party, Daniel Iworiso-Markson of the SDP and Orubor Edigirisi Paul of the APC. While the APC is very popular in this federal constituency, the PDP also has so much strength. But the LP candidate is also not a push away. He will make some impact this weekend as his people will want to make a point and take a stand against the two major parties.
Iworiso-Markson was a commissioner under Dickson’s government and had to move to the SDP when he could not grab the PDP ticket. How he will win Saturday’s election is yet to be seen because the SDP is generally unknown in that area.
Between the APC and the PDP, the PDP is tipped to win. But it will be a after a hard fight.
Sagbama/Ekeremor Federal Constituency
The contestants here are basically the PDP and the APC. PDP’s Fred Agbedi will not have too much work to do here because of Dickson and the sitting governor. This aside, Agbedi has paid his dues and is said to have represented the people well in his first four years. His records in the party will speak for him. As stated earlier, he was supposed to be contesting the senate election if he had not been told to step down for Dickson. So, it is almost a given, that Agbedi will stroll back to his seat.
His closest opponent, Bless Olomu Michael of the APC may just have to put up some fight. But even the combined force of Michael and the LP candidate, Okporu Bofade Toruson may not change anything.
Southern Ijaw Federal Constituency
The PDP and the APC will have it hot here. Preye Oseke will have to give a good account of himself if his dream of becoming the next governor is to come to pass. He is currently in the House of Reps and desires to return to the seat. He is also an ally of Sylva and is believed to have done his best in his current position. Analysts believe that he is popular in Southern Ijaw and the combined force of Tiwei and himself is likely to give him victory, besides the support of some repentant militants from the area who are very committed to the cause of the APC.
But the PDP may not let him have his way. Many top shots in the current government are from here and will do everything possible to get Southern Ijaw. Even the governor and his supporters from this land will put up a serious fight because whoever gets Southern Ijaw has got the state. they have majority of the votes in the entire state. in fact, whatever Kano means to Nigeria is what Southern Ijaw means to Bayelsa. The contest for this seat will certainly be tough. The election will go either the way of PDP or APC here.
Yenagoa/Kolokuma/Opokuma Federal Constituency
This is the federal constituency of the sitting governor. And Diri is very highly respected and revered here. It may be safe to say that the PDP candidate, Oboku Abonsizibe Oforji is a lucky man, as he may not have to sweat so much to win on Saturday.
His closest rival is likely to be the APC candidate, Fekoweimo Ebipadei Basil. This is one contest that the winner is almost known before the race begins. It will be very strange if Oforji does not win here.