How far can APC, PDP running mates go in Bayelsa?

How far can APC, PDP running mates go in Bayelsa?


As the campaign for the November 16 governorship election in Bayelsa State gathers momentum, the choice of the deputy governorship candidates of the two major parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), have become a major issue that could influence the voting pattern on poll day. Correspondent MIKE ODIEGWU reports

Running mates or deputy governorship candidates are indeed assets to political parties in any electoral contest. They can influence or sway the voting pattern positively, particularly in a local election, like the November 16 governorship poll in Bayelsa State. Analysts, however, believe that the capacity of running mates to attract votes and help their principals and their party win elections depend on their popularity, experience and the negotiations that led to their emergence.

In Bayelsa State, the personalities of the running mates to the two major political parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) are unique. The deputy governorship candidates of the PDP, Senator Lawrence Ewrujakpor, and that of the APC, Senator Biobarakumo Degi-Eremienyo, are both first term incumbent senators.

They were elected into the Senate at the last general elections. While Degi-Eremienyo represents Bayelsa East, the senatorial district of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Ewrujakpor represents Bayelsa West, the senatorial district of Governor Seriake Dickson.

 

Ewrujakpor

Erwujakpor is, no doubt, an experienced public administrator. Born on September 5, 1965 in Ofoni Federated Communities in Sagbama Local Government Area, he is interested in knowledge and learning; he studied Secretarial Administration and later Law. He took his academic quest to Said Business School, Oxford University, United Kingdom, where he studied Change Management. He obtained Masters in Science of Coaching and Consulting for Change, in HEC School of Management, Paris, France.

Ewrujakpor’s love for education is legendary. He went further to obtain a Master’s degree in International Human Rights at the Birmingham City University, United Kingdom. He is a thoroughbred scholar and professional. He served as a Principal Partner in Goldmark Chambers and had served in some professional bodies as an executive member. He also served the Federal Government, old Rivers State and Bayelsa State in many capacities, especially in the health sector.

In April 2012, Ewhrudjakpo was appointed by Governor Dickson as Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure. He only left the position in 2018 to contest the senatorial election. He demonstrated a lot of passion for the development of the state when he held sway as commissioner. He was described as a workaholic commissioner, as he was always with uncommon energy supervising and inspecting projects across the state.

The slim, versatile and loquacious Ewrujakpor, who is applauded for his native intelligence, is a close confidant of the governor; perhaps because both of them hail from the Tarakiri clan. It was gathered that the senator served as Dickson’s legislative aide when the governor was at the House of Representatives.

In terms of academic prowess, competence and experience, Ewrujakpor is qualified to run as the deputy governorship candidate. Politically, however, Ewrujakpor may not be able to add much to the party’s electoral fortunes, because he has a low popularity rating.

The fact that he is of Urhobo ethnic stock, whose forebears originally came from Delta State, may be a baggage of sort for him as the campaign gathers momentum. His community, Ofoni (Ughelli-Urhie), is an Urhobo community in Sagbama Local Government Area. When he emerged as the senatorial candidate of the party, prior to the 2019 general elections, hell was let loose, as many Ijaw stakeholders protested. Following his victory, some Urhobo groups acknowledged him as the second Urhobo senator in the National Assembly after the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege.

Already, his choice as a running mate to Diri has attracted criticisms from some stakeholders, who are insisting that they would not have an Urhobo as their deputy governor in a homogeneous Ijaw state. It is believed that the sentiment may hunt the PDP at the poll.

Besides, the emergence of Erwujakpor as a running mate created a lot of bad blood in the PDP, as many stakeholders believed it was against the zoning formula in the party and at variance with the principles of equity, balance and fairness espoused by Dickson. The issue tore the PDP apart, with many people telling the governor to reconsider his position. They told the governor that it stood logic in the head for him to insist that his kinsman, Ewrujakpor, should be a running mate, despite the fact that his Sagbama Local Government is about completing eight years of governorship.

Many observers feel that Dickson’s insistence on Ewrujakpor is self-centered and in line with his ambition to go to the Senate, by contesting in the by-election, if the PDP wins the poll and Erwujakpor’s seat becomes vacant. Most stakeholders appealed to the governor to zone the position to Bayelsa East and consider giving it to Ogbia, the local government area of former President Jonathan.

Others argue that, even if the governor wanted the position to remain in his senatorial district, he should consider Ekeremor and not his own local government (Sagabama). Following the pressure mounted on him, Dickson promised to reconsider the matter and explore an option of substitution in a stakeholders’ meeting. But, the meeting, when it eventually held, failed to attach any importance on the running mate crisis.

The stakeholders, under the auspices of the Bayelsa East Forum for Justice (BEFJ), captured the feelings of most people, with its campaign to rubbish Dickson’s bid to install Erwujakpor as the next deputy governor. The Chairman of BEFJ, Monday Eribo, described the feelers that the slot for running mate had been zoned to the West as sad and an attempt to deprive the people of the East what was due them politically.

Eribo said the plot was motivated by greed and warned that if not rescinded it was capable of handing over the state on a platter of gold to the All Progressives Congress (APC). He said: “So, we are therefore condemning and rejecting it and calling on our beloved Governor Seriake Dickson not to fall for such grievous political mistake. We are also calling on party leaders at the national and state levels to wade into the matter and on time.

“Let us state categorically that the man they are planning to use as running mate, Senator Lawrence Ewrujakpor, is a bad market at this point in time, because he hails from Sagbama Local Government Area. If Ewrujakpor is a true party man we urge him to come out now and disassociate himself from the plan to foist him on us.

“Let us remind our countryman governor that he must win the governorship election for our party first before talking about his senatorial ambition. Also, those clamouring for speakership from our zone should not forget that if we lose the election, their ambition of becoming speaker will hit the rocks.”

But, some persons also defended the choice of Ewrujakpor and appealed to those against his choice to sheathe their swords. Former PDP ward chairmen, under the auspices of the Patriots, have backed Erwujakpor’s choice, saying the attacks on him were unwarranted and disappointing. The stakeholders said those descending on the senator with campaigns of calumny were deliberately misinforming the public and spreading false tribal sentiments to discredit Ewrujakpo.

In a statement by their Co-convener, Mr. Ogorika Kakandar, the stakeholders said the people of Bayelsa seemed to have forgotten the workaholic and service-oriented attributes of the senator when he was the Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure. Kakandar said the senator was one of the brains behind many landmark projects of the restoration government before he was elected as senator representing Bayelsa West.

 

Degi-Eremienyo:

Senator Degi-Eremienyo is a grassroots politician. He is also an astute public servant. More than anything else, it was his selflessness and philanthropy that made him popular among the people. He studied Agricultural Economics/Extension at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1990. He holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the same university.

While Ewrujakpor is a better scholar, Degi-Eremienyo is seen as a better politician. The APC running mate started his political career in 1980s. He became a member of the local chamber in Nembe Local Government Area in 1990. He became the Vice-chairman in 1993 and emerged the Chairman of Nembe Local Government area in 1999. The chairmanship position has brought him closer to the grassroots, as he was said to have used local resources to touch many lives.

He bagged the award of best performing chairman among the eight local government chairmen in the state under the administration of the late Governor D. S. P. Alamieyeseighay. It was generally believed that his performance as a local government chairman attracted him to Jonathan, who made him Commissioner for Rural Development and Chieftaincy Affairs and later, Commissioner for Health.

Degi-Eremienyo’s belief in community development, women/youth empowerment, job creation and a better future for the youths stood him out as a politician. It was unsurprising when he emerged the senatorial candidate of the APC and went ahead to win the PDP candidate in the election. The running mate was named the Senate’s Vice-Chairman of the Special Duties Committee and the Gas Resources Committees in the Red Chamber.

The APC running mate is said to have hit the ground running at the Senate. Many people described him as a resourceful lawmaker. Degi-Eremienyo recently endeared himself to the people when the Senate adopted his motion and urged the Federal Government to direct the Petroleum Technology Development Fund and concerned contractors to begin immediate construction of the Oil and Gas Research Centre at Oloibiri, Ogbia Local Government.

Degi-Eremienyo while presenting his debate at the plenary said that 63 years after discovery, exploitation and production of crude oil, the Oloibiri oil field and its surrounding communities had suffered neglect and environmental degradation. He recalled that the design and foundation stone of the centre was laid by ex-President Shehu Shegari in 1983, but that the project was halted as soon as it commenced. He said the Federal Government had removed the project from the National Commission for Museum and Monuments and domiciled it with the PTDF in 2011, but regretted that the project remained moribund, despite the transfer. He said the inability of government to complete the project has left inhabitants of the host communities with nothing but negative memories of oil exploration and production.

Degi-Eremienyo’s motion reverberated in Bayelsa and earned him plaudits ahead of the election. Also, his emergence as the running mate was observed to be rancour-free within the ranks of the APC. But the major angst against his nomination is that he hails from Nembe, the local government area of the incumbent Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral John Jonah (retd). Most people feel that the slot of deputy governorship should not be the birthright of the Nembe people, having held the position for eight years. They wondered why the APC did not consider Ogbia or Brass, if it insisted the position must go to Bayelsa East.

 



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