Human rights issues in Bayelsa polls

Posted by News Express | 24 July 2019 | 1,557 times

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Bayelsa State is the ancestral home of the eastern Ijaw ethnicity in the deep south, and is the first spot where the first successful crude oil well was explored in Nigeria over six decades ago.

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 environment is in urgent need of sustainable face-lift. The current administration in Bayelsa headed by a former federal lawmaker, Mr Henry Seriake Dickson, is almost at the verge of winding up. The election to select his successor is due to take place on November 16.

The current governor is credited with making some positive strides in so many areas, including the 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 companies. 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 such facilities for the betterment of the good people of the state.

It follows, therefore, that the election for who would succeed the outgoing governor will certainly not be a tea party. The two dominant political parties in Nigeria – namely, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – have already begun strategy sessions on how the standard-bearers of their parties would emerge. The political parties have also started the primary elections to select from among 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 Peoples 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 N22 million. This makes 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 Peoples Democratic Party, which is the focus of this article, two key human rights conscious technocrats are among 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. But the governor does not seem to have any preferred candidate as 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 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, Igali appears to be much more of a global figure because of his high level of attainments as a diplomat and for his meritorious services to Nigeria in different capacities. Igali picked the 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 has been unleashed on the environment, which rendered farmers and fishermen unemployed and unproductive. Igali, former Nigerian Ambassador to the Scandinavia, said his focus is to create an entrepreneurial and productive society.

His words: “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.” 

The governorship aspirant, who is a former permanent secretary, Ministry of Power, also pledged to build on the developmental project of the incumbent governor. Mr Igali said government is a continuum and that 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.”

Igali holds a PhD in Political and International Studies from University of Venezuela, a Masters’ in International Law and Diplomacy from University of Lagos and BA (Hons) in History from University of Port Harcourt. He also holds a Postgraduate 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 1982 and rose to the level of an ambassador. He has served in different parts of the world as a diplomat during which period he exhibited exemplary commitment, creativity and selflessness in the performance of his assignments in Nigeria’s foreign policy objectives, so wrote a commentator with vast knowledge of the diplomat.

He was Consul-General to Cameroon from 1999-2005, Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government, between 2006 and 2007, as well as Honorary Adviser/Chief Negotiator to the President on Niger Delta Matters in the same year.

Igali was also Nigerian Ambassador to Sweden from 2008 to 2010 as well as Federal Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources and Ministry of Power between 2010 and 2015. He has Timi Alaibe to contend with among 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 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 bany-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, in spite of his indigent environment, Alaibe gained admission to study Accounting at the Rivers State University of Science & Technolgy, graduating with a B Sc 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 Olusegun Obasanjo appointed Alaibe to the position of Executive Director, Finance and 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 was named Managing Director of NDDC. He 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, 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, Alaibe superintended over 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 stabilisation of security conditions in the oil-rich Niger Delta.

Chief 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.

Given the foregoing background of the two candidates, one can only say: The die 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.

•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist (www.huriwanigeria.com, www.emmanuelonwubiko.com), is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).


Source: News Express

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