In Bayelsa East, aspirants jostle to replace Ben Bruce

Although much political activities have not started in Bayelsa State ahead of the 2019 general elections, senatorial aspirants are warming up and quietly consulting with the powers-that-be. Gubernatorial election will not hold in the state until 2020 when the tenure of Governor Henry Seriake Dickson will end.

The three senatorial districts in Bayelsa State are relatively calm politically. However, it was learnt that interested aspirants are busy consulting with those they believe would play active roles to decide who becomes what in the state.

Bayelsa is the home state of former President Goodluck Jonathan and many Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) bigwigs, as well as former Governor Timipre Sylva of the All Progressives Congress (APC), among others. While politicians in the PDP are trying to keep the state as the party’s stronghold, those in the APC are working hard to make a positive impact.

In the Bayelsa East senatorial district, where Senator Ben Bruce currently represents, there’s not much political activity going on as the seat is rotated among Ogbia, Nembe and Brass, the three local government areas that make up the zone. And the senatorial district is said to always stick to a one tenure arrangement. With this arrangement, there is the likelihood that Senator Bruce would not attempt to go for a second term.

According to the zoning arrangement, it is the turn of Ogbia Local Government Area to produce the next senator. Already, Mr Foingha Jepthah, an aide to Governor Dickson, has indicated interest to run for the office. He is said to be engaged in consultations, with the hope of getting the endorsement of the PDP.

Also, a House of Representatives member from the area, Dr. John Idumange is said to have been consulting for the senatorial seat and will declare his intention when the time is ripe.

Bayelsa East has strong stakeholders from the PDP who still dominate the political space of the area, including former President Jonathan and the current deputy governor of the state, Rear Admiral John Jonah (retired). It is said that without their consent, it would be difficult for anyone to alter the senatorial rotation among the three local government areas that make up the district.

Also, a chieftain of the APC and former governor is from this senatorial district.

Speaking to Daily Trust on Sunday, Comrade Jeremiah Ebieremi from Brass Local Government Area said the issue of senatorial election did not pose any challenge for the district as they have always practised a single tenure arrangement right from the inception of the current democratic dispensation in 1999. He said that based on the zoning arrangement, Bruce would not present himself for senatorial election again.

It was learnt that in 2015, the then senator representing Bayelsa East, Clever Ikisikpo made an attempt to break the jinx and go for a second term, but he was bluntly rejected. He was defeated in the primary election of the PDP despite being a close ally of the then President Jonathan. He later defected to the APC.

A socio-political group in the area, the Ogbia Brotherhood, is said to be a very strong advocate of rotation being practised in the senatorial district since 1999 when the present democratic dispensation started. The group has made it difficult for the gentlemanly arrangement to be altered.

Speaking on the performance of the present Senator Bruce, a constituent, Mr Frank Constance, said though he had done his best in terms of being one of the vocal senators in the present National Assembly, the constituents have not felt the impact of his representation in terms of human empowerment. He added that even if he would do something miraculous in the coming months, the zoning arrangement would not change.

“Here in the Bayelsa East senatorial district, even a child knows that we always have a single term for the position. It rotates among the three local government areas of Ogbia, Nimbe and Brasss. So by 2019, Senator Bruce will complete the turn of Brass and leave the seat for an indigene of Ogbia.

“We are very organised in the way we do our things here. Our leader, former President Jonathan always guides us well and nobody will want to dare the rotational arrangement adopted to bring peace and harmony in the district and Bayelsa State,” he said.

In August 2017, some constituents threatened to recall Senator Bruce from the National Assembly, citing his inability to offer the people the needed representation.  The matter later died because it was learnt that some prominent sons in the senatorial district intervened.

Daily Trust on Sunday, however, learnt that the other two senatorial districts, Bayelsa Central and Bayelsa West, currently represented by Senator Emmanuel Paulker and Senator Ogola Foster respectively, do not adopt the zoning arrangement as it is done in Bayelsa East.

Senator Paulker is already doing his second term for the Bayelsa Central senatorial district, but has not yet declared his intention to contest for another term. He is said to be doing well in the National Assembly.

A stalwart of the PDP in the district said though Senator Paulker had done well in the Senate, he had been there for quite a long time. He, therefore, said it was time he gave way for the younger generation.

His constituents have adjudged him as one of the best lawmakers in terms of human development. Last month, he organised training for rural farmers.

Governor Dickson is from this senatorial district and will certainly have a say on who emerges the next senator.

Our findings have shown that, at the moment, no aspirant has come out openly in Bayelsa Central and West. This suggests that the two senators may contest for re-election. Interestingly, however, the governor’s tenure will end on February 14, 2020 when the general elections must have been concluded.

In a recent interaction with our correspondent in Yenagoa, the chairman of the APC in Bayelsa State, Mr Joseph Fafi, said the party was prepared to win all the elective positions in the state come 2019. He said the PDP-led government had failed Bayelsans. He said the party was planning a mega rally where they would receive defectors from other political parties, mostly the PDP.

“We have set our structures in every nook and cranny of the state. We will soon present our flag-bearers for the presidential, gubernatorial, National Assembly and state Assembly elections,” he said.

Also, a newly registered political party, the Young Democratic Party, is preparing to fill candidates for the 2019 elections in Bayelsa State. The bulk of members of the party are made up of defectors from the PDP and the APC.

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