HUMAN RIGHTS’ ISSUES IN BAYELSA POLLS By Emmanuel Onwubiko

EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO'S COLUMN OPINION

Bayelsa state is the ancestral home of the Ijaw speaking ethnicity in the deep south and is the first spot whereby crude oil explorations in Nigeria began over four decades running.

Bayelsa is unique in the sense that apart from the South East of Nigeria whereby the entire population speaks a common native tongue of Igbo, Bayelsa state is amongst the few in the country with only just a single native tongue.

However, the positive advantages of Bayelsa state as clearly stated above have not in any way translated to sustainable development of the state in the areas of sustainable peace; aggressive infrastructures, security of lives and property and environmental sanity. 

Indeed Bayelsa is one of the crude oil producing states whose devastated ecosystem and polluted environments are in urgent need of sustainable facelift.

The current administration in Bayelsa headed by a former federal lawmaker Mr. Henry Seriake Dickson is almost at the verge of winding up even as the election to select his successor is due to take place on November 16th of this year. 

The current governor is credited with making some positive strides in so many areas including the area of establishment of educational institutions because of the claim by the governor that he is deeply interested in human capacity development. His administration is not known for attending to the much needed environmental solutions to the devastated ecosystem which has resulted in the deprivation of the right to full employment for millions of fish and agricultural farmers displaced by the activities of crude oil exploration and exploitation.  But in some key economic indices such as education and healthcare, observers say he performed some feats significant enough to require a successor good enough to maintain and upgrade these facilities for the betterment of the good people of the state. 

It follows therefore that the election for who would succeed the outgoing governor in Bayelsa state will certainly not be a tea party. 

The two dominant political parties in Nigeria namely the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have already begun strategy sessions on how the flag bearers of their parties would emerge.

The political parties have also started the process of staging primary elections to select from amongst their members who would run to succeed the current governor who is rated in some quarters as an above average performer. 

The state is known as one of the spheres of control of the People’s Democratic Party and it would seem that contestation for who picks up the ticket has intensified with many notable persons buying the extremely expensive forms which goes for as much as #22 million which automatically still make Nigerian elections very expensive and indeed one of the most expensive elections globally.

Bayelsa as a dominant crude oil producing state suffers from the twin evils of environmental degradation and poverty which afflicts the greater percentage of the young population. 

It follows therefore that the choice of who becomes the next governor need not be business -as- usual but ought to throw up business-minded and highly committed professional technocrats and not career politicians if the state ever hopes to sustain the giant strides reportedly made by the outgoing governor.

In the People’s Democratic Party, which is our focus in this first piece, two key human rights conscious technocrats are amongst the earliest to pick up nomination forms and are at the early stages of canvassing for votes of the delegates who would decide who succeeds Dickson. 

Dickson does not seem to have any preferred successor, to the best of our public knowledge.

However, he seems to know who should never succeed him. 

To him, his successor must never be a man/woman who has no fear of God, whatever that means. 

The outgoing governor has therefore introduced the God factor in the calculations of who should succeed him.

Well, from a purely human rights perspective, this writer has decided to focus on two of such persons who are God fearing but most importantly, have demonstrated quality leadership and the character of a philosopher king.

These two are Ambassador Godknows Igali and Mr. Timi Alaibe and  of the two; Ambassador Igali appears to be much more of a global figure because of his high levels of attainments as a diplomat of the highest level and for his meritorious services to Nigeria in different capacities. 

He (Igali) picked up his nomination form and immediately spoke to the issues of immediate human rights needs of the people which he will confront and tackle.

Igali made a pledge to make Bayelsa productive when he spoke with journalists shortly after obtaining his nomination and expression of interest forms at the PDP National Secretariat in Abuja. Productivity goes to the roots of sustainable development and also captures the desire to ameliorate the devastation that have been unleashed on the environment which rendered farmers and fishermen unemployed and unproductive. 

Mr. Igali, who is former Nigeria ambassador to Scandinavian, said his focus is to create an entrepreneurial and productive society.

“We are a state where almost everybody works for government or our traditional method of fishing and farming. But there is no state in this country that has the endowment of Bayelsa.

“We have about 30 per cent of oil and gas. We are going to focus a lot on agriculture but we will create jobs.

“We will put a lot of young people into entrepreneurship and productivity. We will make Bayelsa a productive society where everybody is producing something, “he said.

The governorship aspirant, who is a former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power, also pledged to build on the developmental project of the incumbent, Governor Seriake Dickson.

Mr. Igali said “government is a continuum” and “Dickson has done appreciably well.

“Nobody can reinvent the wheel. Any candidate that comes to say that I am going to reinvent the wheel has not tasted governance.

“Government is a continuum and you have to continue with what has been done, especially if is in the right direction.

“But there is always a possibility for you to bring your experience, other ideas you have to improve on things.

“Experience comes in different ways: in private sector, public sector and how to make money to be available for governance.”

Ambassador Igali holds a Ph.D. in Political and International Studies from University of Venezuela, Masters in International Law and Diplomacy from University of Lagos, and B.A. (Hons) in History from University of Port Harcourt.

He also holds a Post Graduate Diploma from the Diplomatic Academy, Islamabad, Pakistan and studied at the Foreign Service Academy, as well as Bible Faith Training Centre both in Lagos.

He started his working career as a Foreign Affairs Officer with the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs in nineteen eighty-two and rose to the level of an Ambassador and has served in different parts of the world as a Diplomat where he exhibited exemplary commitment, creativity and selflessness in achieving targeted goals in the Nigeria’s foreign policy objectives, so wrote a commentator with vast knowledge of the diplomat.

He was Consul-General to Cameroon from nineteen ninety-nine to two thousand and five, Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government between two thousand and six and thousand and seven as well as Honorary Adviser/Chief Negotiator to the President on Niger Delta Matters in the same year.

Ambassador Igali was also Nigerian Ambassador to Sweden between two thousand and eight and two thousand and ten as well as Federal Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources and Ministry of Power between two thousand ten and two thousand and fifteen. He has Timi Alaibe to vontend with amongst others but observers believe that if the test of the pudding is in the eating it follows that experience being the best teacher has thrown up Ambassador Igali as a very meritorious successor to the current governor of Bayelsa state. 

On June 10, 1962, there was born in Opokuma, in Kolokuma-Opokuma Local Government Area of the present day Bayelsa State, a boy who was destined to become one of the most influential, as well as one of the most feared men of his generation. His early education began at Isoko Primary School, Marine Beach, Apapa Lagos from 1967 to 1970 and later enrolled at Christ the King School, Oromenike, Port Harcourt for his secondary school. Alaibe’s parents were of modest means who engaged in fishing and farming to make ends meet but Alaibe was not deterred by his circumstances.

As captured in a prepared CV sent to me by his aide Chief Henru Ugbolue, he wrote that in the course of time, in spite of his indigent environment, Alaibe gained admission to study Accounting at the Rivers State University of Science & Technolgy, graduating with a BSc. in Accounting and capped it with an MBA from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife.

Upon completion of his Master’s degree, he joined Peat Marwick Ani Ogunde & Co (now KPMG) as a trainee accountant. He further served in several top positions in the banking sector, rising to the position of General Manager, Corporate & Investment Banking, Societe General Bank Ltd in 1994.

In 2001, President Obasanjo appointed Timi Alaibe to the position of Executive Director, Finance & Administration, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). His office was instrumental to the establishment of a prudent fiscal regime that ensured the efficient management of the financial resources of the Commission.

In 2007, he became the Managing Director of NDDC and set in motion a coordinated response to the vagaries and challenges of the Niger Delta, which led to the formation of an integrated Regional Development Master Plan. The plan included key projects for the Niger Delta States including skill acquisition and youth empowerment.

Long before his foray into politics, Timi Alaibe had been known within political circles as an effective advocate of peace within the region. A champion of non-violence in the Niger Delta, his grand master plan for the region was aborted by President Goodluck Jonathan. He was however appointed the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta in 2009. On that job, he doubled as the Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme. On this position, Timi Alaibe superintended the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration of militant agitators in the entire Niger Delta who accepted the offer of amnesty from the Federal Government. The Amnesty Programme under Alaibe led to the speedy stabilization of security conditions in the oil-rich Niger Delta.

Chief Timi Alaibe continues to play active roles in Bayelsa, the Niger Delta and Nigeria in general. Currently, he serves as the Chairman of Zomay Group of Companies and sits on the boards of several companies with interests in dredging, civil engineering and offshore marine logistics.

The die they say is cast. 

But this piece is only but the beginning of our continuous assessments which will inevitably lead to the decision on who to endorse as the best philosopher king for Bayelsa state by Human Rights Writers. 

*Emmanuel Onwubiko heads HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and blogs@www.emmanuelonwubiko.com,www.huriwa.blogspot.com,www.thenigerianinsidermews.com.  

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