He fought the good fight, he finished the course, he kept the faith. But whether there is a crown laid for him is subject to greater controversies, writes EMMA ALOZIE
To many Nigerians the death of Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, former governor of Bayelsa State came from the blues. Nothing prepared his followers and even political opponents for the shocking news of his demise.
In fact he has been more visible in the political turf of Bayelsa in recent times. He has been in the forefront of campaigning for the reelection of Governor Seriake Dickson.
Therefore when the news of his death hit the airwaves last Saturday, it took many by surprise. The man jocularly known as the governor general of Ijaw nation was said to have died of complications arising from kidney disease. Some say he died of hypertension while some others say he died of complications arising from diabetics.
Whichever one caused the death of the former governor, Nigerians and even political opponents have continued to mourn his sudden death. The All Progressives Congress, APC, the party he relentlessly fought ahead of the Bayelsa guber polls said it received the death with “great shock, considering that he was not publicly reported to have been gravely ill.” The party prayed that his soul should rest in peace.
The man for whom DSP fought his last political fight, Governor Dickson, the death according to him was very personal. “Alamieyeseigha was a strong pillar of support to the restoration government, its also a very painful and monumental loss to the entire Ijaw nation, which he has always stood firm for in all its ramifications,” he said.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan, who was DSP’s deputy as governor of Bayelsa State described the late former governor as a man who had a clearer vision for the development of Ijaw nation.
“I convey my deepest condolences to the Bayelsa State Government, and the family of Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, over his sudden passage, the news of which I have just received. Chief Alamieyesaigha was the first Executive Governor of Bayelsa state with whom I served as the Deputy Governor. He was a leader that was totally committed to the development of Bayelsa State and Ijaw land. I knew his vision for the advancement of Ijaw land and his commitment to the mainstreaming of his people into the national development and growth agenda.”
Former Senate President, David Mark, described the former governor as a political colossus who left an indelible mark. “DSP Alamieyeseigha was a man who identified with his people. He was in more than equal proportion loved by his people. No wonder he was crowned as the Governor- General of Ijaw nation”.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a close political ally of DSP, said he was a true democrat and a true Ijaw leader. “No one can dispute the fact that the late Governor General of the Ijaw nation, as he was fondly called, stood firm like a rock in preserving the interest of the Ijaw people, and was a strong supporter of democratic governance in Nigeria.
“The news of the demise of Alamieyeseigha came to me as with many Nigerians as a rude shock. He was a true leader of the Ijaw people, and also contributed his own quota in the development of Bayelsa State when he was governor of the state.
“I recall with fond memories the deep appreciation which the late Alamieyeseigha had for democratic governance in Nigeria. Irrespective of the divergent opinions of Nigerians about his legacies as the governor of Bayelsa State, Alamieyeseigha died earning the respect and admiration of the people of Bayelsa State and, I dare say, the people of Ijaw land. He was a friend and a brother and just like the people of Bayelsa State, I will miss him, too,” Atiku says.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the party DSP co-founded and under which platform he became the governor of Bayelsa State, described him as a humble democrat and a brilliant administrator. “The PDP mourns the demise of this great Nigerian, who made immense contributions and sacrifices towards the unity, stability and development of his state and our dear nation both as a military officer and a politician. Chief Alamieyeseigha was a true democrat; humble leader, brilliant administrator who had extraordinary love for his people. He was an outstanding party-man, who, despite his travails, remained loyal to the PDP at state and national levels to the very end,” the party said.
Of all the encomiums showered on the late Ijaw leader, that of Governor Ayo Fayose seems to be a deviation. The Ekiti governor put the entire blame of the sudden death of Alamieyeseigha on the doorstep of the federal government, whom he accused of masterminding the death. According to a statement issued on behalf of the governor by his media aide, Lere Olayinka, the governor said, “It is painful that the All Progressives Congress (APC) led Federal Government finally succeeded in hounding an Ijaw leader to death just because of his staunch stance on the upcoming Bayelsa State governorship election.
“Obviously, the Federal Government was behind the plot to extradite the Alamieyeseigha to the United Kingdom to face fresh trial, a situation that made him to abandon his medical treatment in Dubai.
“Even though I am not against anti-corruption fight, it is painful that in the present day Nigeria, political vendetta is being allowed to override the sovereignty of the country, such that the Presidency
was eager to release to a foreign country, a citizen of Nigeria that had been tried, convicted and later pardoned in accordance with the laws of the country.
“Having been tried and convicted eight years ago, served his sentence and forfeited properties to the Bayelsa State Government; methinks Alamieyeseigha should have been allowed to live his life without unnecessary political intimidation and harassment.”
DSP Alamieyeseigha remained controversial even unto death. Elected as the first civilian governor of Bayelsa State in 1999, he went on to be known as the governor-general of Ijaw nation, the largest ethnic group in the South South. His political stature grew and he was seen a potential political threat. In 2005, he fell foul of the law and was arrested in the United Kingdom for money laundering. He jumped bail and landed in Nigeria. The then President Olusegun Obasanjo masterminded his impeachment as governor. He was subsequently arrested, prosecuted and jailed. In 2013, when his deputy governor then, Dr Goodluck Jonathan was the president of Nigeria, he granted DSP state pardon amidst controversies.
He was a pillar of support for President Jonathan during his embattled years as president. He was almost the lone voice supporting Governor Dickson, boasting that Ijaw people would not be conquered. Then from the blues, the story of his extradition back to the UK came up.
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Andrew Pocock, had recently in a newspaper interview said that DSP Alamieyeseigha still had a case to answer in the United Kingdom. The High Commissioner was quoted as saying, “The former governor skipped bail in the UK on a charge of money laundering and returned to Nigeria. So, he has an outstanding charge in the UK, which is there for him to answer. We have already discussed it and the Nigerian government knows our views. But we would like to see him return and answer charge in the UK.”
This move alone and the confirmation by the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay that Nigeria would corporate with the UK in the proposed extradition is suspected to be behind DSP’s sudden death.
“Alamieyeseigha allegedly committed a separate crime by laundering money in Britain and that is not a crime in Nigeria but a crime against British Criminal Law and so, Goodluck Jonathan cannot pardon him for that. Certainly, the case can be stalled but there is a pact between Britain and Nigeria which obliges us to extradite offenders who they are looking for. There is a process. A judge will give consent once there is evidence that there is a prima facie case against him in England,” Sagay said.
Despite the controversies that have trailed him both in life and in death, DSP Alamieyeseigha gave a good account of himself. He ran his race and finished his fight, but whether there is a crown waiting for him in the hereafter, is a different kettle of fish.