Correspondent Maudlyn Eduke, in this week’s Spotlight, talks about the journey to fame, fortune, wealth and death of Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha.
The story of Bayelsa State, written or verbal can never be complete without the mention of Chief Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha. As the first democratically elected governor of the state, Alamieyeseigha laid the foundation for the new Bayelsa that successive governments came to build on.
Born November 16, 1952 in his hometown of Amassoma in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state, he attended the Bishop Dimeari Grammar School, Yenagoa and later joined the Nigerian Defence Academy as a Cadet Officer in 1974, which led him to join the Nigerian Air Force, where he served in the department of Logistics and Supply. He held various positions in the Air Force and moved from Enugu, Makurdi, Kaduna and Ikeja before his retirement in 1992 as a Squadron Leader.
When he left the Air Force, he became the Sole Administrator of Pabod Supplies Port Harcourt, River State and thereafter Head of Budget, Planning, Research and Development of the National Fertiliser Company of Nigeria (NAFCON).
Though, he was doing exceptionally well for himself, his love for service and his political aspirations led him to seek for the number one office in Bayelsa under the umbrella of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Thus, on May 29, 1999 he was sworn in alongside his deputy, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
During his first term, he built the premier state university, Niger Delta University (NDU), Wilberforce Island, in his home town of Amassoma. It was a great feat that has remained indelible in the hearts of his kinsmen, as the institution further opened the community and brought rapid development to the area.
The NDU also gave more indigenes of the state access to tertiary education and increased the level of literacy among the people. It as a result of that vision that the state has been able to produce thousands of graduates, most of whom are performing exceptionally well in their chosen industry.
Alamieyeseigha built the Bayelsa State School of Nursing and other structures as well as several roads that lifted Bayelsa State out of its previous rural enclave status. He made Yenagoa to look different from the “glorified local government headquarters” that it was before.
His performance perhaps earned him a re-election in 2003. Sadly, he couldn’t complete his second tenure as powerful forces moved against him. He was arrested and tried on allegations of corruption and money laundering.
He, was reported to have jumped bail in December 2005 from the United Kingdom by allegedly disguising himself as a woman, (a claim he denied before his demise) and fled back to Nigeria.
Chief Alamieyeseigha was impeached by the Bayelsa State House of Assembly on December 9, 2005 and was tried in the Nigerian court where he pleaded guilty to six count charges and was sentenced to two years in prison on each charge, that ran concurrently. He spent just a day in prison and regained his freedom.
According to Alamieyeseigha, he only pleaded guilty due to his age and would have fought the charges had he been a younger person. Many of his assets were ordered to be forfeited to the Bayelsa state government while over £5 million recovered from him was returned by the British Government to the state in 2012.
It was the presidential pardon by his former deputy, who was then President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan that absolved him of all wrongdoing and removed the ex-convict tag on him. Jonathan had said that “Alamieyeseigha meant well for Bayelsans; stood very firmly for the Ijaw people and wanted to advance the South-South cause”.
Alamieyeseigha died of cardiac arrest at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital on October 10, 2015 at the age of 63. The immediate past Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Henry Seriake Dickson renamed the Banquet Hall of the state Government House after him. It is now known as the Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha Memorial Banquet Hall.
Dickson described the former governor as a man who lived and died well and whose ideals should be supported by all Bayelsans and Ijaw people.