No fewer than eight aspirants are competing for the governorship ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Bayelsa State. But, the intra-party contest is between Senator Heinekein Lokpobiri and Chief David Lyon. Senior Correspondent mike odiegwu reports.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Bayelsa State will pick its governorship candidate on Saturday No fewer than eight aspirants are competing for the ticket. However, the battle is between former Minister of State for Agriculture Senator Heineken Lokpobiri and, a businessman, David Lyon.
Former Governor Timipre Sylva is out of the contest. He is now Minister of State for Petroleum Resources. Before, it was, a contest between him and others.
The race would be as keen in the APC and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as Sylva is throwing his weight behind Lyon.
The Lyon’s option was a last-minute decision taken by Sylva and his camp, shortly after his inauguration as minister. The move by Sylva’s camp forced other aspirants to return to the drawing board and review their strategies. Even the Restoration caucus of the PDP, led by Governor Seriake Dickson, is rethinking some of its decisions, following the body language of Sylva.
There are puzzles:
Can Sylva succeed in his agenda to annoint Lyon? Can another aspirant sping a surprise? Some are saying that it will be like a camel passing through the eye of a needle for any aspirant in the APC to become the candidate without the backing of Sylva. They argue that Sylva owns the party structure and being a ‘super’ minister and state leader of the APC with a rising political profile, he is a great factor in the exercise.
But, others believe that other aspirants, especially Lokpobiri, also have equal rights in the party as Sylva. They posit that Lokpobiri as a minister played a crucial role in setting up the current structures of the APC and that many party members are loyal to him. Yet, people believe that all the aspirants should be judged by their qualifications, experience and credentials.
The APC aspirants are Lokpobiri, founding members, Preye Aganaba and Chief Ebitimi Amgbare; David Layon; former Commissioner of Police, Deseye Poweigha and former Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Frankland Briyal.
He is one of the most experienced public servants in Bayelsa State with a rich resume. Lokpobiri, who hails from Ekeremor Local Government Area in Bayelsa West Senatorial District, was a member of the House of Assembly where he became a two-time Speaker. He was a two-term member of the Senate and headed Senate Committees on Sports, Transport and Water Resources.
Lokpobiri, who studied Law at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, also holds a Doctorate Degree from Leeds Beckett University, U.K. He was one of the most vocal senators in his period. He left the PDP for the APC in 2015 through the assistance of Sylva, who supported him to become the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development. He also supported Sylva, who flew the flag of the APC in the 2015 poll. If experience, qualifications and credentials are the requirements, Lokpobiri, according to observers, would have emerged an indisputable candidate of the APC.
However, the odd against Lokpobiri is his senatorial district of origin. He is from Bayelsa West with Governor Dickson, who for the first time in the history of Bayelsa, is completing eight years as governor. Many people are of the opinion that in the interest of zoning, equity and fairness, other zones will resist any candidate from the west, which has two local government areas, at the general election. Lokpobiri is also battling a cold war with Sylva. But, Lokpobiri will always dismiss argument for zoning, saying since all the senatorial districts had tasted governance, the slot could go to any other zone beginning with local government areas like Ekeremor, which is yet to produce a governor. He has also declared that he had no problem with Sylva.
He comes into the race with many success stories from his private business. Aganaba, who hails from Kolokuma-Opokuma in Bayelsa Centra, floated a company, Freenet Global Resources, which has investments in dredging, marine consultancy, reclamation, shore protection works, sweeping and clearing of oil wells. Aganaba is an electrical engineer. Despite not holding any public office. The prince from Odi Kingdom has sponsored cultural festivals and attracted many federal projects to his constituency.
He has been a frontline progressive and a founding member of the APC. He donated the first secretariat to the party when people persecuted few members during the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. Aganaba was a member of the APC Primary/Convention Committee in 2014 and the Secretary, Media and Publicity sub-committee. If being a loyal party member could fetch one the ticket of the party, many people believe that Aganaba would be solely considered to fly the flag. He is also favoured by zoning, following the public sentiment that the governorship should return to Bayelsa Central.
However, Aganaba is considered by some persons as lacking the required experience in public administration. His Kolokuma-Opokuma local government area is the most politically-disadvantaged council in the state. It has the least voting population. Others are also questioning his popularity, structures and networks to withstand the ruling PDP in the forthcoming poll. But, Aganaba always dismissed such doubts, saying he remains the candidate to beat.
Lyon has been a silent force. Little was heard about him publicly. To many people, Lyon was made popular by Dickson, when the name featured prominently in most live media chats of Dickson during the last general elections. Lyon, who hails from Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, is a big time player in the oil sector. He reportedly owns six ocean liners that lift oil for multinationals, including the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Lyon played a crucial role in curbing illegal oil bunkering and restoring daily production quotas of oil companies in Bayelsa through his security agencies.
Lyon, however, became popular for his generosity. Over 7000 persons are said to be in his monthly payroll. Almost all the ex-militant leaders in Bayelsa are receiving huge amount of money monthly from Lyon’s company to safeguard pipelines and other oil facilities in the state. Lyon has a functional scholarship scheme that recruits students from across the eight local government areas. Some of the earlier beneficiaries are studying abroad. Many people described his philanthropic and humanitarian gestures as second to none. Since he joined politics, he has remained loyal to the APC. He became the major financier of the party and he has propelled his associates into leadership positions. One of them, Preye Oseke, is currently a member of the House of Representatives on the platform of the APC.
Apart from being a successful oil magnate, nothing much is known about his public life. Lyon was a senior prefect in the class of 1988 at the Secondary School in Olugbobiri. He studied Chemistry at the Rivers State College of Education in the early 90s. He was a Youth President in his community, Olugbibiri, between 1996-98 and has been involved in politics from the days of NRC and SDP. He once contested councilorship election in 1993; chairmanship in 1997 and 2002. He also contested for membership of the House of Assembly. His major strength is his popularity, Sylva’s support and zoning.
But, those against his aspiration said he lacked experience. They also said the governor has linked him to electoral violence. Besides, many people accuse him of inability to speak in public and articulate issues. But, his supporters dismissed the allegations, saying they are at variance with his personality.
He is the immediate past Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Cross River State. He became a REC on June 30, 2017 and resigned his appointment in August 2019 to join the race on the platform of the APC. Prior to his resignation, stakeholders under the auspices of Bayelsa Grassroots Development Initiatives (BGDI) led by Prof. Emiemokumo, shut down Yenagoa, the state capital, in a rally and asked Briyai to return and join the governorship race.
They cited his generosity, his academic background, administrative acumen and performance in all the offices he had held as reasons why he should join the race. Prior to his appointment as REC, Briyai, who hails from Southern Ijaw and served for 16 years in the Nigerian Airforce, was a Senior Lecturer in the Biological Science Department, Niger Delta University (NDU), Amassoma. He restored sanity in the university as Dean of Students’ Affairs.
Since joining politics, Amgbare, who hails from Sagabama Local Government Area, has been a progressive. He was the governorship candidate of the Action Congress in 2007. He instituted and won a legal case against the election of former Governor Sylva. The court voided the election and ordered a fresh poll; a development that permanently altered the political calendar of the state. Though he lost the fresh election, Amgbare has grassroots support and he has been an active player. His highest odd is coming from Dickson’s local government where power has resided for about eight years.
Poweigha is the only female governorship aspirant. She is a retired Commissioner of Police with a mass appeal among the women. Most people have been congratulating her on mustering the courage and boldness to join the men in the race.
Apart from the personalities of the aspirants vying for the APC ticket, another major issue in the party is the mode of primary. The camps are divided over whether the party should adopt direct or indirect poll of conducting the primary. While the camp of Lokpobiri wants the indirect method, those of Aganaba and Sylva want the direct primary. But, there are indications that the direct primary will be the mode. The party can not hold ward and local government congresses required to elect delegates for a direct primary. It is too late.