The political class yesterday lost one of its most controversial and flamboyant figures, Chief Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, former governor of Bayelsa State.
Chief Alamieyeseigha who is credited with bringing former President Goodluck Jonathan to the limelight died at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) at about 4.30pm after reportedly developing health complications.
Jonathan was his deputy between May 29,1999 and December 9,2005 when he was impeached for corruption. Jonathan went on to replace him as governor before becoming vice president in 2007 and president in 2010.
Alamieyeseigha would have turned 63 on November 16.
‘Governor General of the Ijaw Kingdom’, as he was fondly called on account of his popularity among the Ijaw of Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Ondo States, was said to have returned to Nigeria from Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) only a few days ago midway into his medical checkup following reports that the United Kingdom had requested for his extradition to face corruption related charges.
Sources said yesterday that he may have died of High Blood Pressure (HBP).
But other sources attributed his death to a kidney-related ailment.
But the Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information, Esueme Dan-Kikili, said the former governor died of cardiac arrest. He added that he reportedly slipped into coma two days ago and was placed on life support.
His wife, Margaret, who was by his side when he died, was said to have collapsed.
Alamieyeseigha’s death came exactly a year after the loss of his son, Oyemifa, in Dubai and in a week newspapers were awash with stories about request for his extradition from the United Kingdom.
The alleged extradition request sparked tension in the state with many groups and individuals condemning it.
News of his death hit Bayelsa like a thunderbolt yesterday.
Many residents, including Governor Seriake Dickson, expressed shock and disbelief over Alamieyeseigha’s demise.
Dickson, who was counting on the former governor’s popularity to secure a second term in the December election in the state, was particularly devastated.
Alamieyeseigha was a formidable pillar of support for the governor and was being positioned to lead his reelection campaign.
Dickson, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Iworiso Markson, described Alamieyeseigha’s death as a personal loss to him, the government and people of the state.
He described the deceased as a strong pillar of support to the government.
He stressed that his demise was a very painful and monumental loss to the entire Ijaw nation, which the deceased stood firm for in all its ramifications.
He commiserated with the widow, Margaret, his immediate family, and the people of the state, noting that the Ijaw nation has lost a rare gem.
He said a more detailed reaction will be coming from the Bayelsa State Government in due course.
A PDP chieftain, Mr. Miriki Ebikibina described the death at a time the party was trying to build on the achievements of Dickson’s restoration government as tragic, painful.
He said: “late Alamieyeseigha was a truly proud Ijaw man who stood for the truth, defended the rights of his people and the downtrodden. He was fearless, down to earth and accommodating”.
Following his impeachment in December 2005,Alamieyeseigha was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a six-count charge of corruption to which he pleaded guilty and was subsequently sentenced to two years in prison on each count on July 26,2007.
He said that had he been much younger during the trial he would not have pleaded guilty and would have fought to the very end.
Since the sentences were to run concurrently and the penalty counted from the date of his arrest and he was released soon afterwards.
However, government confiscated many of his arrests including four high brow properties in London. The houses were sold.
The United Kingdom had wanted to put him on trial for allegedly jumping bail after his arrest in London in September 2005.
He had been arrested for money laundering.
The London Metropolitan Police found about one million pounds cash in his London residence, one million and eight hundred thousand pounds to his accounts in the UK, besides a real estate estimated at ten million pounds.
Alamieyeseigha is also believed to have stashed money in the United States.
The US Justice Department said in June 2012 that it had executed an asset forfeiture order $401,931 in a Massachusetts brokerage fund believed to be owned by him and a Maryland house estimated at $400,000.
President Goodluck Jonathan granted Alamieyeseigha state pardon on March 12, 2013.
The decision was roundly condemned by many Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike.
Jonathan who called Alamieyeseigha his benefactor said he had no regret for his action.