Foremost Lawyer, Anthony George Ikoli, (SAN), a scion of the great nationalist Earnest Sisei Ikoli is a native of Twon-Brass in Bayelsa State. He began his practice as a lawyer and Associate Counsel in 1981 rising to become Partner/Head in 1987 and later Civil-Commercial Litigation Department till 1996. He set up a full service law
Foremost Lawyer, Anthony George Ikoli, (SAN), a scion of the great nationalist Earnest Sisei Ikoli is a native of Twon-Brass in Bayelsa State. He began his practice as a lawyer and Associate Counsel in 1981 rising to become Partner/Head in 1987 and later Civil-Commercial Litigation Department till 1996. He set up a full service law practice chambers; George Ikoli & Okagbue in Victoria Island, Lagos in 1997. Following a brilliant career in the legal profession spanning 25 years, he was awarded the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 2006. He has had the privilege of running the oldest law firm in Nigeria, Irving & Bonnar and served as the Honourable Attorney General of Bayelsa State from 2007 to 2012. He contested the PDP governorship primaries on the platform of the PDP which was won by Senator Douye Diri. He speaks on the upcoming Bayelsa election and other issues as they affect Ijaw Nation.
How do you feel towards the Bayelsa Saturday governorship election?
Like every election in Nigeria, it is as though the entire whole world is going to come crashing down on that day of election and the heavens will fall under the weight of the political gladiators and their supporters. As a society, we generate too much negative energy for what should ordinarily be a contest to herald positive development for the people. We really must find a way to mature our politics.
Why do you think Bayelsa still needs PDP?
The PDP despite its many internal failings remains the best party for inclusiveness and ultimately the protection of the interests of the minority groups like the Ijaw nation. Rather than gravitate into a new party that has an uncertain direction, I strongly believe our remit is to stay, reform and rebuild the PDP into the party it should be. It is party that best serves the interest of the minorities. Bayelsa going into the hand of the opposition at this stage is too big a gamble for Bayelsans and is not a chance they should take.
Looking at the power of incumbency, some political commentators believe the table can still turn in Bayelsa State. What is your reaction to this?
I don’t pay much mind to political commentators as it is often difficult to differentiate what is objective commentary from what is agenda, but what I believe is that the PDP is poised for electoral victory as it has very strong connection to the grassroots and a history of winning.
Would you say the performance of Governor Seriake Dickson in almost eight years could make PDP win the election?
I like to align myself with a school of thought that says posterity is often the best judge of the tenor of political office holders. Obviously, coming from a person loyal to the party like me, my judgment will always be biased in the affirmative, but the real judgment is what the people say of him in the next 5, 10, 20 years from now. In Nigeria today, after all the politics of bitterness has subsided and the biases have passed, people still identify political leaders for their achievements by their achievements. Till tomorrow, Okilo is still reckoned with kindly and needs no one to sing his praises.
Can you give us an insight into why the PDP settled for Senator Douye DIri?
The word “settled for” is a strange one. We had primaries where over 20 aspirants contested and one individual had to emerge. At this point, we are focused on moving forward as a united family to ensure our party retains the state, despite ongoing attempts at reconciling some of our aggrieved members.
There seems to be a coalition of forces against the PDP’s governorship candidate. How is your party responding to this?
The facts on the ground speak to alignments and counter alignments as is customary in our political clime during election season. I cannot speak to the emergence or the pendency of any grand coalition against the PDP that is something out of the ordinary.
How acceptable is the PDP candidate?
Senator Diri is a serving senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who has represented and still represents the interests of his senatorial district, his state and his region. His acceptability is a foregone conclusion as he is not an unknown quantity. He has the pedigree and experience to win the election.
Some analysts have described the battle in Bayelsa State as a straight fight between Timipre Sylva and Seriake Dickson. How true is this?
Timipre Sylva and Seriake Dickson are both stakeholders in the Bayelsa project and their interest and influence in the outcome of the elections cannot be overemphasized, but I think it is important to note that they had their own “straight fight” in 2015, this election if we are to call it a two-horse race is actually between Douye Diri and David Lyon and we should accord them both and indeed all the other aspirants contesting the elections their due.
Some other analysts have described the APC candidate as the most visible choice for the good people of Bayelsa State. Don’t you see the electorate voting A PC in November?
PDP still remains the party to beat in Bayelsa. There exists an emotional bond between the people and the PDP that is not so easily broken and the people themselves know that their interests are best served and protected with the PDP.
Some key members of the PDP recently resigned and joined APC. Will this not affect the chances of the PDP?
As I said earlier, this is the season for alignments and counter alignments, so none of this a surprise or unexpected. In the same vein, some persons have decamped from the APC and joined the PDP. What is important is to have a sound and strategic game plan heading into the election on Saturday.
There are those who believe that the PDP and APC candidates do not have the political mettle and exposure to rule Bayelsa State. Do you have this fear?
I can only speak about our party’s candidate who has the singular privilege of being a serving Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If he has the mettle to represent our state at the Federal level and by all accounts acquit expertly, I do not see how his mettle and exposure can be questioned. As for the APC candidate Mr. Lyon, I am not too familiar with his background and qualifications, but I believe Bayelsans will know whom to choose and who has their best interests at heart, when the time comes.
Why are you endorsing Diri’s gubernatorial ambition?
Beyond the fact that as a loyal party man, I am duty bound to support our party’s candidate, I am convinced that the distinguished Senator has the wherewithal to deliver good governance to the state and that Bayelsa is safer with the Peoples Democratic Party.
What are the plans of the PDP for the good people of Bayelsa State?
In a nutshell, Inclusive economic growth, a strong focus on modern education for our children, meaningful infrastructural development that properly integrates our state from end to end, qualitative, consistent and accessible healthcare, and expansion in private sector led industry that takes our youth of the streets.
The Bayelsa governorship race is a challenge to the South-South PDP. Should PDP lose, what should the party do?
I am not envisaging anything outside of a victory on Saturday November 16, but I think it is important that all actors in the political space begin to learn to imbibe a sense of good sportsmanship in our electoral contests. I think a spirit such as this will reduce potential flashpoints which sadly are a hallmark of elections in our state and region.
There has been widespread speculation that Mrs Patience Jonathan plans to support the APC candidate. Are you not worried about this development?
I am not aware of such development.
Some Bayelsa PDP members are in court. What is the situation now? Has the party made any concession?
The party has set up various committees to reconcile aggrieved members and I believe those committees have been working assiduously to reach a compromise between all the aggrieved parties and indeed concessions and consensus have been reached.
What is the PDP government doing to handle youth restiveness and insecurity in Bayelsa State?
Restiveness and insecurity is not just a Bayelsa problem it is a Nigerian wide phenomenon that requires tough solutions from the actors who control the macroeconomic levers of the country. Sadly, the PDP is no longer at the helm and as such those who currently control affairs of state are better placed to execute the difficult choices that need to be made.
What is your message to the good people of Bayelsa State?
My message to the people of Bayelsa is to make the election peaceful and to stick with the PDP rather than take a chance on any other party. I enjoin my fellow Bayelsans to come out massively on the 16th of November and vote for the better candidate Senator Douye Diri.