• As Niger Delta governors shun funeral
By Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Defying a downpour which lasted several hours yesterday, thousands of ordinary people of Bayelsa state marched out to pay their last respects in honour of the late ex-governor of the state, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.
Curiously, none of the governors of all the nine Niger Delta states, the oil-producing area, for which cause the late politician became popular, was present at the ceremony, except the governor of Imo State, Mr. Rochas Okorocha.
Apart from Okorocha, whose arrival elicited a loud ovation, governors of the region who were absent at the occasion were the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike; Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, and Cross River Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade.
Other governors who neither attended nor had any representative at the event were Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State; Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State; his Akwa Ibom counterpart, Udom Emmanuel, and Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State.
Perhaps, to also underline the sharp political division in the state, neither ex-governor Timipre Sylva nor Timi Alaibe, a former Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Managing Director, who was prevailed upon to step down for Sylva during last year’s primary election of the All Progressives Congress (APC), were present.
The deceased, who as governor championed the ‘resource control’ battle against former President Olusegun Obasanjo was also called the Governor-General of the region for his role in the implementation of the 13 per cent derivation.
Alamieyeseigha was buried in a prepared tomb in his compound at Amassoma, Southern Ijaw local government yesterday afternoon after he was eulogised by those present at the ceremony, including the acting Peoples Democratic Party chairman, Mr. Ali Modu Sheriff, a former governor of Taraba State, Mr. Jolly Nyame, and ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
The host, Governor Seriake Dickson; minority Senate Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio; former governor of Jigawa state, Sule Lamido, and a senator representing Delta South, James Manager were present at the event.
At the commendation service which held at the Church of Nigeria, (Anglican Communion), Diocese of Niger Delta West, St. Stephen’s Church, Amassoma, Jonathan described the circumstances of Alamiyeseigha’s death as ‘bitter’
“Death is a necessary end, but the time and circumstances could leave a lasting memory, especially when it is bitter. We must all die, but the circumstances of Alamieyeseigha’s death leave a bitter taste in the mouth”, the former president said. Recalling the state of Bayelsa when the deceased politician took over in 1999, Jonathan noted that the state was under siege from armed youths who had taken over the state.
“I was deputy governor to Alamieyeseigha. The state was under siege at the time. Because of the tension, election had to be postponed in Bayelsa alone by one month. When we took over, there were two governments in Bayelsa, the one headed by Alamieyeseigha and the other by militants. He had a vision for social integration, peace and infrastructure and then education, because without it, you cannot move forward.
“Alamieyeseigha was determined to make sure we live in peace. As a deputy governor, we went into the creeks to meet the youths, even without security. At a time, our helicopter was hijacked and taken to a different location”, he said.
He added that subsequent governors have continued to build on the legacy left by the late governor in terms of infrastructure in the state.
In his remarks, Sheriff bemoaned the condition of the people of the Niger Delta, noting that Alamieyeseigha was passionate about the region.
“Death is a compulsory and unavoidable end, even for those loved by their families. Alamieyeseigha’s death was, however, shocking. He was one of the most detribalised, but he also believed in the emancipation of his people. At the time he became governor, he invited me as the Senate minority leader then and I asked myself, is this the state that produces about half of Nigeria’s oil wealth? Nigeria has been unfair to Bayelsa. I told him I believed everything he had told me, that you people are suffering. He died for the cause of the people”, the PDP boss noted.
Okorocha, who spoke briefly urged everyone present to remember the day of judgment, adding that for every journey, there must be an end. He added that many politicians were getting closer to God because of the fear of the judgment day.
Governor Dickson in his comments, noted that the late Alamieyeseigha stood for justice and everything that is right. He urged the federal government to begin the process of reconciling the entire country, because, according to him, Nigeria has become more divided.
“The Federal Government should unite our country. It is too divided. Let’s consult and build consensus. People should not feel haunted, like Alamieyeseigha was haunted to his untimely death”, Dickson noted.
Born in 1952, the deceased attended the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) and thereafter enlisted in the Nigerian Air Force in 1976 before retiring after 18 years in the service.
He became the governor of Bayelsa state in 1999 and is largely credited with opening the oil-rich state to infrastructural development, though he was impeached before he finished his second term.