By Emem Idio
Unarguably, this is going to be the most keenly contested elections ever in the Bayelsa East Senatorial District. Bayelsa East is arguably the smallest senatorial district in the country with three local governments.
Ever since the legendary Senator Melford Okilo, the first civilian governor of the old Rivers State set the example by serving only one term between 1999 and 2003, for the purpose of allowing each local government serve one term, the pattern has been for every senator to serve one term. The three council areas are Ogbia, Nembe and Brass.
The incumbent Senator Ben Bruce is from Brass LGA, and therefore the seat now rotates to Nembe LGA, this explains why all the political parties picked their candidates from the area.
Gone are the days where whoever emerges PDP is guaranteed the slot; but things have changed, the stakes are high and the political space have been thrown wide for grabs.
Senator Nimi Barigha-Amange (ADC). He served in the Senate between 2007-2011. Amange is a close ally of former president Goodluck Jonathan but left the PDP after the party’s primaries which he said was manipulated. He is now flying the flag of the African Democratic Congress, ADC. There has been insinuations that he has the backing of Jonathan, allegations he has dismissed as ” wicked and diservice to Jonathan.”
He said: ” After the PDP primaries, I voluntarily withdrew my membership of PDP because of the undemocratic manner in which primaries were conducted. The PDP should blame itself for hand-picking its candidates instead of blaming it on others. Those crying foul and insinuating that I am being used by Jonathan to cause political unrest in the PDP is ridiculous and disrespectful.
Mr Ipigansi Blessing Izagara (PDP)
A surprised package in the race. Among the top contenders, Izagara is perhaps relatively less known. He is a product of Seriake Dickson’s swelling political family and had served as chairman of the Bayelsa State Independent Electoral Commission, BYSIEC.
His greatest advantage is that he is the candidate of a dominant party and has the backing of his principal and enjoys the support of the strong party structures. By this virtue, he is a major and contender and favourite but if he loses, there will be no too much fuss.
Bishop Degi-Eremienyo (APC)
Also formerly of the PDP, Degi-Eremienyo was an ally of former President Goodluck Jonathan. He has held various political appointments in the state.
His main advantage is the fact that the APC has lately built up capacity in the senatorial district. But how that could come to his advantage is still an issue.
Iniruo Wills, (Labour Party)
A lawyer by training, and with an activism background Wills is seen as the dark horse in this contest. Going by his massive campaigns around the three local government areas, it is apparent that he came into the race prepared.
His campaign is based on issues of environmental degradation and harnessing the tourism potentials of the Senatorial District where part of it is located on the fringe of the Atlantic Ocean.
Sylva Opuala Charles (Accord)
A banker by training and former Commissioner of Finance when Chief Timipre Sylva held sway as governor. Going by his family ties with the former governor, many had tipped him to get the APC ticket but he was eventually defeated by Bishop Degi-Eremien, forcing him to look elsewhere to realised his Senate ambition. He is said to be favoured by his deep pocket.