As voters in Bayelsa State in the South South geo-political zone head to the polls to elect a governor on November 11 2023, it is important for voters and all stakeholders in the electoral process to familiarise themselves with the gubernatorial candidates, the salient issues and the political landscape.
The Gubernatorial Candidates
On June 6, 2023, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) published the final list of candidates for the governorship election scheduled for November 11, 2023.
INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of the Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said in a statement that the commission approved the final list of candidates for the three off-cycle governorship elections scheduled to be held in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi at its regular meeting.
According to INEC, 16 candidates from 16 political parties are vying for the governorship position. Of all the 16, only two are female candidates, while the remaining 14 are male.
Of all the 16 candidates, the three leading contenders are the incumbent governor, Duoye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Timipre Sylva of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and Eradiri Udengmobofa of the Labour Party (LP).
It is important to note that the three leading candidates have had various stints in government over the years. Sylva Timipre of the APC served as the governor of Bayelsa state between 2007 and 2012. He was later appointed as the minister of state petroleum in August 2019. Timipre is seeking a second term in the November 11 election.
Duoye Diri, the incumbent governor, is seeking a second term after being declared the winner by the Supreme Court four years ago. The Supreme Court sacked the initial winner of the election, David Lyon and his deputy, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, after nullifying their election over discrepancies in the document submitted by David Lyon’s running mate. Duoye Diri of the PDP, who came second, was subsequently sworn in. Having completed his first four year tenure, Diri is contesting for re-election.
Eradiri Udengmobofa of the Labour Party (LP) is largely perceived as the third force in the highly anticipated Bayelsa gubernatorial election. His foray in competitive politics started in 2011, when he contested for the Federal House of Representatives for the Kolokuma / Okpokuma Yenagoa Federal Constituency seat under the Labour Party. He however lost and has since then served in various other capacities including as Bayelsa state Commissioner for Youth Development between 2018 – 2019, and Commissioner for Environment, between 2019 -2020. Eradiri served in the cabinet led by Duoye Diri; whom he is contesting against in 2023.
Education Qualifications of the Candidates
ERADIRI, Udengmobofa Udengs, of the LP is a graduate of the University of Benin with a degree in Production Engineering and a certificate in Dredging Technology from the A&M University Texas USA.
Duoye Diri of the PDP studied at the College of Education, Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, where he obtained a National Certificate in Education (NCE) in 1985. He graduated from the University of Port-Harcourt, obtaining a Bachelors of Education (B.Ed.) degree in political science in 1990.
Timipre Sylva of the APC graduated from the University of Port Harcourt with distinction in English (Linguistics) in 1986. He was the best graduating student from his department and departmental valedictorian.
Therefore, the highest qualification (tendered and published by INEC) of the three leading aspirants is a first degree.
Based on the published list by INEC, of the 16 candidates, just two are woman. Oguara Nengimonyo of the Action Democratic Alliance (ADP) and Ogege Kemelayefa Mercy of the Action Peoples Party (APP) are the two female guber candidates slated for the November 11 election. They are 41 and 35 years old respectively.
In addition, two women were chosen as running mates by the candidates of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the Action Alliance. They are Doibo Ebinabo and Okoya Ladebi Lillian aged 40 and 35 respectively.
This breakdown shows that of all the 32 candidates drawn from 16 political parties, four represent the “women constituency.” However, neither of these four is among the three dominant political parties in the state.
Of all the 16 governorship candidates, the Action Peoples Party (APP) is fielding the youngest in the race at 35 years old while the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has fielded the oldest candidate at 66 years old.
For the deputy governorship candidates, the Action Alliance (AA) has the youngest candidate at 35 years old while the Labour Party (LP) has the oldest candidate at 64 years old. The average age for the governorship and the deputy governorship candidates stands at 47.3 years.