He is one man that combines generous guffaw with stone-face radiance so easily. Those who are close to him know that he is brilliance personified. He smiles without looking back and also vibrates graciously when the need arises.
Until now, his Nembe people only knew him for his resilience spirit. They knew him to be a fighter who does not give up easily, especially when it is about his rights. The Nembe man’s spirit comes on him so easily when he is to take up a fight. And his fights are almost always political fights.
That was how he fought to become chairman of Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. As chairman of the local government, Bishop Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo fought hard to make a mark in the projects he executed. In that part of Bayelsa State, it is said that no other chairman has been able to break his records.
Before he became chairman, Degi had been a councillor and later vice chairman of the local government. In Nembe, there is no other person known to have attained such political heights as Degi. So he breaks records so easily. In fact, when he was appointed commissioner for health in Bayelsa State, even though he had no background in the medical profession, Degi still broke records, doing even much more than professionals in that field had done.
Before he won the election in 2019 into the senate to represent the Bayelsa East Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Degi did not find it easy. He raced against the rest and eventually emerged victorious, not just because it was the turn of Nembe to produce the senator at that time, but because he generally sold himself and made a show of his previous political attainments to be able to win the heart of the people.
Degi got to the senate as the sixth senator for that senatorial district since 1999, when the current dispensation started. The seat rotates among the three local governments. Chief Melford Okilo, the first civilian governor of the old Rivers State, from Ogbia Local Government, took the first shot. TNN learnt that Okilo was given the right of first refusal to return for a second term after his first term, but that he turned it down and rather chose to nominate one of his political sons, Inatimi Rufus-Spiff, to succeed him. Senator Rufus-Spiff, from Brass Local Government, occupied the seat for four years. His people were said not to have been satisfied with his performance, hence the decision to replace him. That was how Senator Nimi Barigha-Amange, from Nembe emerged the next senator. With his emergence, the first cycle was completed, as all the three local governments had taken their turn.
In 2011, Senator Clever Ikisikpo, from Ogbia, emerged. Did he do well? Did he not? The outcome of the 2015 election appeared to be a referendum on his four years outing in the senate. He made efforts to return for a second term but could not make it. It was learnt that the resistance against his return was hinged more on the performance factor. So, they denied him a return ticket.
That was how Senator Ben Murray- Bruce succeeded him, from Brass Local Government. For the four years, Murray-Bruce made some common sense in front of the television camera than he was able to attract development projects to Bayesa East, according to his people. So, when it was time for another election in 2019, they looked at him in the face and told him to steer clear. Then Degi entered. And the music changed.
Sources said it was in recognition of his managerial and leadership prowess that his party, the APC, considered him for the position of deputy governor during the 2020 governorship election. unfortunately, the Supreme Court came up with a verdict that was considered controversial, which led to the annulment of the victory of the APC, on the eve of the swearing –in of Degi as deputy governor.
Those who hate his guts fought hard to get him out of the senate on the strength of the Supreme Court judgement but failed. Since the apex court did not sack him as senator, it was difficult to uproot him. And some months later, the courts were to clear him of the allegations of fake certificates.
Despite the distractions by various court cases that came up thereafter, Degi did not look bothered. Apparently, he was not distracted. Perhaps, that may have contributed to the progress he is believed to have made in the senatorial district. And TNN learnt that this must have been one of the reasons why major stakeholders from the senatorial district see him as the first person that will have their support for a record-breaking second term as senator from that senatorial district. One of the very first thing he did as senator was the sponsorship of a bill that led to the establishment of the National Oil and Research Centre, Oloibiri, the place where oil was first struck in commercial quantity in Nigeria.
Last October, the senate pushed for the immediate construction work at the research centre, by the federal government. This was after Degi, with the backing of 28 other senators from other parts of the country, had sponsored a motion urging the federal government to direct the Petroleum Technology Development Fund and concerned contractors to begin immediate construction of the oil, gas and research centre at Oloibiri.
Aside from this, Degi is also credited with the sponsorship of the bill that culminated in the establishment of the federal college of education in Nembe, among many other bills and motions. His towering performance, including the empowerment and ability to facilitate the employment of scores of people from the senatorial district, may have been responsible for his haggle-free emergence as candidate of the APC for the senate election a few weeks ago, despite the sea of contenders that had indicated interest for the party’s ticket for the election.
With the ticket already in his back pocket, there are emerging indications that Senator Degi-Eremienyo may just be the jinx breaker and the first person to succeed himself as senator for the Bayelsa East Senatorial District seat in 2023. Maybe.