After assessing the place of the Ijaw nation in the unfolding political situation in the country, political leaders in Bayelsa State visited Timi Alaibe and urged him to come out and be the voice of his people. Will he heed the call? Segun James went in search for the answer

The delegation to the Lagos home of Chief Timi Alaibe was made up of eminent Bayelsa state leaders both in the polity and traditional institution. The mission: the political reality in the country requires that someone outside government should come out and speak on behalf of the Ijaw not just as the voice and conscience but as a leader at this critical time in the history of the country.

They told him that they have come to urge him to lead the people and that he could not afford to refuse them.

It was not an unusual request but it is coming at a time Alaibe had given politics a wide berth to concentrate on his business. But how should he respond to his people? This was his dilemma as he considered the people’s request and a return to the familiar terrain of politics.

In 2006 as part of the runs towards the 2007 general election, Alaibe as the Executive Director, Finance and Administration of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was clearly the leading and favourite aspirant to pick the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship ticket; after all, the state’s party structures were under his control and he was expected to secure the ticket.

But barely a few weeks to the party’s governorship primaries, a most bizarre thing happened. In a freak political mistake, the Bayelsa State PDP chairman, Chief Fred Agbedi, at a private gathering at Alaibe’s home handed the PDP flag to him saying that was the way the flag would be handed to him after the primaries.

It was a fatal mistake. His enemies immediately cashed in on it. The video of the event soon surfaced in Abuja and before long the chairman was suspended and Alaibe lost control of the party structures, a situation which allowed the incumbent governor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to coast home to victory at the primaries. Like a true party man that he is, Alaibe decided not to contest against Jonathan.

Following the turn of events, President Olusegun Obasanjo persuaded Alaibe who still had the advantage not to contest against Jonathan. The then president then advised that all elective positions both in the National Assembly and the state’s house of assembly be shared between Jonathan and Alaibe at two to one ratio respectively.

To further placate Alaibe, Obasanjo promoted him to the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). As the managing director, Alabe decided to concentrate his efforts at creating the Niger Delta master plan for development instead of the arbitrary development engaged in by his predecessors.

Since then, Alaibe has never seriously considered contesting again even though he did make one or two attempts after that. This was the situation until the coming of the elders.

Alaibe was born on the 10th day of June, 1962 in the Ijaw village of Igbainwari in Opokuma, Bayelsa State, Nigeria, to the family of late Pa Emmanuel Mmadu Alaibe. He is the third of five children. His early life was quite tumultuous and difficult as his parents were of modest, but hardworking background. However, despite his humble beginning, young Timi encouraged by his parents, was very determined from an early age to get education.

When not in school, Timi would accompany his parents to the farm a trip that entailed crossing the river in crude wooden canoe. It was this experience that taught young Timi the importance of hard work, at an early age.

This invaluable work ethic has guided him all through his life. When he is not attending to chores or helping his parents in the farm, young Timi spent much of his childhood with his age mates frolicking in the local village river and going fishing with locally made fishing rods and hooks. The bond of friendship he forged with his childhood playmates during those early years of his life are still as strong today.

His formative years were spent at the cities of Warri, Port Harcourt and Lagos. And in each one of these cities, Timi quickly gained popularity among the neighbourhood kids for his remarkable swimming skills.

Despite his having achieved great success in life, Timi Alaibe is a man who has not forgotten where he came from. He is always at home in his village of Igbainwari in Opokuma.

He began his elementary education at Isoko Primary School, Marine Beach, Apapa, Lagos from 1967 to 1970. When his parents moved to Port Harcourt in 1970, he was enrolled at Christ the King School, Oromenike, Port Harcourt between 1970 through 1973. There, he earned his First School Leaving Certificate. Upon completing his primary education, young Timi returned to his village of Igbanwari in Opokuma.

He enrolled at the Government Secondary School, Kaiama, in Bayelsa State for his secondary education from 1974 through 1979 where he earned his West African School Certificate. Academically, Timi Alaibe was an exceptionally brilliant student distinguishing himself in both English and mathematics.

Timi still managed to graduate with honors, despite the fact that he had to cross the local river on canoe to attend school at Kaiama – a testament to his tenacity and dedication to learning. He never allowed his underprivileged background to hinder his academic progress.

Timi soon gained admission into the Rivers State University of Science and Technology from where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in Accounting. After a brief professional career, Timi felt a need to enhance his academic credentials. He figured that a post graduate degree would further equip him for the corporate world.

He applied to, and gained admission into the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile Ife, Nigeria for his post graduate studies in Business Administration. He obtained a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.

Upon completion of his Master’s degree program, Timi Aaibe returned to professional life at Peat Marwick Ani Ogunde and Co (now KPMG) initially as a trainee accountant.

In 1986, he joined African Continental Bank as Head of Operations and rose to become Branch Manager at Okrika branch, in Rivers State. He worked at different positions at the bank for several years, before deciding to move on to other professional challenges. He then soon secured a position at the All States Trust Bank in 1991, as Assistant Manager in charge of risk management and credit control.

A year later, in 1992, he was appointed the vice president of the Cosmopolitan Bancshares Ltd a top tier finance and investment company.

In 1994, he joined Societe Generale Bank Ltd (now Heritage Bank PLC) as Manager, Corporate Banking Division. He served as the Bank’s Assistant General Manager in 1998 and then its General Manager, Corporate and Investment Banking in 2000.

During his years in the private sector, Alaibe has always known that at some point he would have to venture into the public sector of the country to contribute his talent in fixing some of the ills hampering the country’s development. His foray into the public sector came in 2001, when the Obasanjo as president noticed his managerial and leadership capabilities, appointed him as the Executive Director, in charge of Finance and Administration, at the then newly created Federal Government’s Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

His office instituted an effective and efficient governance structure that guided the management of the commission. Along with his colleagues, he set in motion a coordinated response mechanism to address the short, medium and long-term challenges of the Niger Delta.

These included integrated regional development master plan, interim action plan for key projects in the Niger Delta states, as well as programmes for skills acquisition, re-orientation and empowerment of youths in the region.

Due to his passion and dedication to ending violence in the Niger Delta region through empowerment, Alaibe was appointed as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the commission a position he held until April 2009 when his tenure expired.

He was soon saddled with the more challenging task of nurturing the Demobilisation, Rehabilitating and Re-integration of ex-youths from the creeks back into society. His immediate constituents were 20,192 warring youth who accepted the amnesty proclamation in 2009. He took the challenge with the zeal of priesthood. Although he held the office for about a year, he put in place a five-year framework for the efficient implementation of the Demobilisation, Demobilisation and Reintegration Program. Today, as the Federal Government reflects on some of the initial successes of this program, Timi Alaibe stands tall as the midwife of that process.

With the delegates gone, is Timi Alaibe venturing back into politics and public domain, he refused to say as the lure to contest the Bayelsa state governorship may draw him into the foray.

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Due to his passion and dedication to ending violence in the Niger Delta region through empowerment, Alaibe was appointed as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the commission a position he held until April 2009 when his tenure expired.