Zoning and Bayelsa’s next Senatorial by-elections


s plans are underway to conduct by-elections to fill the vacant seats for Bayelsa Central and Bayelsa West Senatorial Districts at the National Assembly, occasioned by the election of Governor Duoye Diri and Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjiakpo his Deputy, it goes without saying that zoning and justice should be of great consideration in the political equations.



While that of Bayelsa West which is made up of Sagbama and Ekeremo local governments appear settled with former Governor Seriake Dikson in contest, the battle now shifts to Bayelsa Central comprising three local governments – Southern Ijaw, Yenagoa and Kolokuma/Opokuma.



In order to ensure fair play, political stability, equity and inclusiveness, it is always better to rotate these elective offices amongst the participating local governments and sub-zonal blocks.



In the case of Bayelsa Central, it does appear that Southern Ijaw is ripe to produce a candidate especially if they possess a very strong contender who can represent not only the senatorial district but the whole state and by extension the Ijaw nation very well in the Senate. Therefore, political watchers may anticipate some horse trading, compromises, bombshells, upsets and realignment of forces.



Therefore, calculations should take cognisance of constituencies in the local government areas which currently hold heavy duty political positions and not allow aspirants from these to emerge to the detriment and/or disaffection of unrepresented units. Parties balancing acts must consider the facts and implications on general elections coming after their primaries.



These considerations with respect to Southern Ijaw Local Government may present banana peels scenarios. Furthermore, it is pertinent for the political parties to set standards and other criteria to critically assess as well as adjudge aspirants for presentation to the electorate as flag bearers.



By way of history, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area (SILGA) is the largest local council in Bayelsa state in terms of size and arguably competes with Yenagoa Local Government (the host of the state capital city) in number of registered voters in the state.



Since the creation of the state in 1996, in the spirit of Ijaw brotherhood, the Founding Fathers of the state instituted a clear intent to entrench fair, equitable and inclusive political participation through zoning and rotating the position of governor of Bayelsa State among the three Senatorial Districts that make up the state, namely: Bayelsa East (consisting of Brass, Nembe and Ogbia local government areas, Bayelsa Central and Bayelsa West.



From 1999, when the state got its first set of elected leaders till date, the beneficiaries of this gentleman agreement instituted by the Founding Fathers in the office of Governor showed that Late Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha who hailed from Amassoma, in Southern Ijaw Constituency 1, Ward 10, spent six and half years in office.



Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GCFR), who hails from Otuoke Constituency 1 Ward 13; spent one and half years in office while Chief Timipre Marlyn Sylva, who hails from Okpoama- Brass Constituency 1, Ward 4; spent five years in Creek Haven; Honourable Henry Seriake Dickson who hails from Toru-orua, Sagbama Constituency 1, Ward 2; spent eight years in office; and now Senator Douye Diri of Sampou in Kolokuma-Opokuma Constituency 1, is the present governor.



Similarly, the norm of zoning and rotating the position of Senator through local government areas also exists in the State across the three Senatorial Districts.


Similarly, below is the statistics of how this principle has been operationalised in deciding who represents the Bayelsa East Senatorial District at the Red Chamber of the National Assembly:



The Late Chief Melford Obiene Okilo from Emakalakala in Ogbia LGA was the pioneer Senator of the District from 1999 – 2003. Senator Inatimi Rufus-Spiff from Twon-Brass in Brass LGA succeeded Okilo and served from 2003 to 2007.



Next was Senator Nimi Barigha Amange from Ogbolomabiri in Nembe LGA who held sway from 2007 to 2011, while Senator Clever Ikisikpo, from Kolo town in Ogbia Local Government Area replaced Amange and served from 2011 to 2015.



Next came Senator Ben Murray-Bruce from Akassa in Brass Local Government Area who was in the Red Chamber from 2015 to 2019, and currently, the district is represented by Senator Biobarakuma Degi Wangagha from Bassambiri in Nembe Local Government Area who took office in 2019. The foregoing shows that outside the religious adherence to the rotational formula, each of the senators has only served one term.



Now to the Bayelsa Central Senatorial District by-election to replace Senator Douye Diri which promises to be the most intriguing, the following is statistics will suffice. From 1999 to 2007 the late Senator David Kobinna Birigidi from Kanyabiri in Southern Ijaw represented the District and he was replaced by Senator Emmanuel Paulker of Opolo in Yenagoa Local Government, who served three consecutive terms from 2007 to 2019; making him the longest serving Senator from the district.



Finally, Senator Diri of Sampou town in Kolokuma-Opokuma LGA replaced Paulker in 2019 and held sway until February 14,2020 when he was sworn in as the Governor of Bayelsa State. This leaves us with Bayelsa West.



Below is a breakdown of those who have occupied the post of Senator representing the Bayelsa West Senatorial District from 1999. Senator Emmanuel W T Diffa from Adagbabiri in Sagbama LGA was the pioneer Senator of the District and served from 1999 to 2003.



He was replaced by another Sagbama indigene, Senator John Kodjo Brambaifa from Agbere who served from 2003 to 2007. The position was then moved to Ekeremor LGA and occupied by Senator Heineken Lokpobiri from Ekeremor main town, who served two terms from 2007 to 2015.


Next was Senator Forster Ogola from Sagbama town in Sagbama LGA – 2015 to 2019. Senator Ewrhudjiakpo from Ofoni in Sagbama took over in 2019 and served until February 2020 when he became the Deputy Governor of the state.  The foregoing shows that the zoning formula has been a key part of the political journey of the state.




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