The furore generated by the forthcoming gubernatorial poll in oil-rich Bayelsa State of Nigeria is no surprise to political watchers, and this is expected, for many reasons.
Located right in the heart of the Niger Delta, Bayelsa State has one of the largest crude oil and natural gas deposits in Nigeria. As a result, petroleum production is massive in the state, with huge derivation funds accruing monthly and annually to it. However, majority of Bayelsans have lived, and still live, in poverty.
The average Nigerian may never have visited the state because of its barely accessible creeks and swamps, but they know that President Goodluck Jonathan is an indigene of Bayelsa. They may not know that Bayelsans are mostly rural dwellers due to its peculiar terrain and inadequate means of transportation in the largely aquatic environment, but they are fixated on the state’s pre-guber poll activities.
Suffice it to know that in today’s nanosecond-paced information superhighway, news streams in from virtually every where on almost any phenomenon on earth. It is obvious that indigenes and inhabitants of Bayelsa are unhappy with the pace of development of the state given the amount of revenue accruable to the state’s coffers and want a change.
Some online information sites agree with unbiased public opinion that:
Health, education or other infrastructure are rare as a result of decades of neglect by the central governments, state governments, and petroleum prospecting companies. The foregoing has been a huge problem in the state since its creation and successive state governments have not been able to address and repair the issue. The state, as a result, has an almost non-existent commerce. Successive state governments have, however, embarked on various industrial projects (even venturing into the oil and gas sector) and “poverty-alleviation” programs to reverse this situation, however some argue that there is nothing on ground to show for huge sums of money spent for development by successive and present state governments.
On a Channels TV talkshow late November, a participant and concerned Bayelsan, Mr. Daniel Markson-Iworiso lamented the worrisome state of static development and poor infrastructure hindering growth and development of the state. He opined that the average Bayelsa dweller is desirous of a change of the status quo as they were fed up with current stagnation experienced, instead of transformation of one of Africa’s wealthiest regions, and thus want a change of guard to anyone other than the incumbent governor.
The local population engage in fishing on a subsistence and commercial level. The Bayelsa State government is otherwise the main employer of labour in the state.
According to various news sources monitored by TransformationWatch:
Governor Timipre Sylva has disclosed that he would open his campaign office on Wednesday December 7 to kick-start his campaign for a second term in office. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which disqualified Sylva from the governorship primaries, had produced House of Representatives member, Mr Seriake Henry Dickson as the party’s standard bearer in controversial circumstances.
Just few days ago, former governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha during the inauguration in a veil reference to Sylva had stated that no individual could fight God and government. In a statement, Time for Rebirth, personally endorsed by Sylva, he acknowledged the challenges of the last few weeks in the state, occasioned by the political row over the choice of governorship candidate of the PDP for next year’s poll, adding that he remains committed to the governorship race.
While stating that the power struggle in the past few weeks was a “contest between progressive forces of due process and reactionary forces of impunity” the governor said he would be contesting on the platform of the PDP. He expressed confidence that with the support of President Goodluck Jonathan, National Assembly members from the state, state House of Assembly members, local government chairmen and party officials at the grassroots, those bent on trampling on the rights of Bayelsans to enthrone illegality would not succeed.
He reeled out the achievements of his administration in the past four years in the areas of power supply, health infrastructure, housing programme, agricultural development drive, road construction, as well as the relative peace and stability in the state, stressing that he seeks the consent of the people to complete the goals his administration had set for itself in the sectors.
His statement reads in part: “Despite the recent distractions, I hereby reaffirm that along with my dependable Deputy, Werinipre Seibarugu, we remain committed to contesting and winning the February 2012 governorship election in Bayelsa State. We do so, on the platform of our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). And we do so because we have no doubt that at the end of the day, truth will prevail.
With the support of President Goodluck Jonathan, and the ever visible support of our National Assembly members, state legislators, local government chairmen, party and state stakeholders, and party leaders across the country, we will overcome the machinations of the few and their futile resolve to manacle the spirit of the progressive forces in Bayelsa State.”
However, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has conducted its party primaries and declared Hon Henry Seriake Dickson as the party flagbearer for the February 2012 guber poll.
Public statements made by the party hierarchy debunked any claim of illegality in its conduct of primary election in November, 2011.
Acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, yesterday, explained why the party disqualified Governor Timipre Sylva from the governorship primary, saying it was due to his untoward behaviour towards the party.
Baraje, who spoke to journalists after a closed-door meeting with former President Olusegun Obasanjo at the inner chamber of the Presidential Lounge of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, said the party was not satisfied with some of the actions of the governor, which he alleged contravened its constitution and rules and regulations.
He maintained that Sylva’s disqualification was not new in the party, as it had taken such disciplinary action in the past against a sitting governor in Anambra State.
He noted that Sylva’s case became a subject in the media because he was seeking re-election on the platform of the party.
“We don’t have any fears. PDP is fully on ground in Bayelsa; it is a PDP state. Maybe because Sylva is a serving governor and for the very first time PDP is disqualifying a serving governor. It has happened in PDP before. We have disqualified a governor in Anambra before. He was a serving governor, so it not new.
“We did not disqualify Sylva because of anybody. We have our rules and regulations. We have constitution and the party is not very satisfied with some of the actions of Governor Sylva in line with our constitution. And we called his attention to it and he accepted.
“But as a serving governor, you don’t expect him to come out and say I have offended my party and that is why they disqualified me. That is our own internal matter and we are solving our problem in the very best way,” he said.
Baraje insisted that the party did not receive any court order restraining its from conducting the primary, stating what the party received was a “motion on notice” requiring it to respond to why the prayers in the motion should not be granted.
“There is no drama in Bayalsa; there is no injunction and there is no court order. What we have was a motion on notice and we said that to the press that what we have is not a court order. What the PDP had was a court notice, motion on notice for the PDP to show why some of the prayers in the notice should not be granted and we have done that since yesterday (Friday). That is why we are going ahead with our primary.”
Baraje stated that the party would let Nigerians know Sylva’s ‘sins’ after its national congress in Abuja, saying it would not want to ridicule the governor.
In contrast however, feelers getting to TransformationWatch observed that about 5 or more aides and political appointees in Governor Sylva’s administration have resigned for various reasons in the wake of the PDP decision to field Hon Dickson. As Sylva wades through the loss of the bid to remain in Creek Haven for another four years, more of his intelligent, disciplined and fine aides are seeing reasons not to sink with his perceived non-performance. One of such is Mr Solomon Apreala who until his resignation was the executive chairman of Bayelsa State Board of Internal Revenue.
In every geopolitical terrain, the voice of the people is not mere propaganda. In this light, mention must be made of efforts by notable Bayelsa elders and opinion leaders. In a statement made available to newspeople in Nigeria and Overseas, titled,
BAYELSA ELDERS AND OPINION LEADER: THE FIRE WITHIN, the elders and opinion leaders aasserted thus:
We the Bayelsa Elders and Opinion Leaders have viewed with grave concern, the ongoing debate concerning the upcoming Governorship elections in Bayelsa State and would like to state the following that;
1. There has been undue meddlesomeness by various groups in the internal matters of Bayelsa State and the PDP. The PDP should be allowed to utilise their internal machinery to determine the right candidate for the party for the gubernatorial elections. Likewise Bayelsans should be allowed to determine who governs them at all levels.
2. What appears very disturbing about the Bayelsa situation is the attempt by the Governors Forum to interfere in the PDP governorship candidacy by putting pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure the return of Governor Timipreye Sylva. It is worrisome that the entire PDP governors will leave important state duties in their various states to converge in Abuja to lobby the president en-masse and try to convince him to ensure the return of Sylva irrespective of whether he has performed well or not in the eyes of Bayelsans.
3. The chairman of the governors’ forum, Rt Hon. Chibuike Amaechi as a democrat himself knows that this is not the best way to force through the candidacy of a colleague. The future of Bayelsa state should be left in the hands of the people of that state and not in the hands of other elected governors who in the name of camaraderie want to push at all cost the electoral fortunes of their colleague.
4. There is nothing wrong if the PDP Governors give a helping hand to a colleague through campaigning for him if he is the party’s candidate, but until that decision is made, they have no moral right to influence his adoption by the party. The crucial acid test must be based on the performance of Governor Sylva over the past four years and the decision must be left in the hands of the people who are the best to decide the extent of his performance during that period.
5. We are aware of the huge funds dedicated by the Bayelsa State Government to lobby various persons involved in this matter. We wish to thank all dedicated Members of the party who have rejected these offers and call upon Bayelsans all over to rise up against the squandering of her resources by the State Government in a pursuit of his personal agenda. Such funds should be used for the development of the state which is in dire need of development after 5 years of impoverishment by the administration of Timipre Sylva.
6. The Governors Forum as a body especially the South-South Governors Forum should desist from applying undue pressure on the PDP and the President to subvert the internal democratic process of the Party which is crucial to the enthronement of enduring democracy.
7. Equally, the Members of the National Assembly should remember that they have a mandate to represent the will of the people and not pursue their own personal interest and agenda. They should concentrate on the passage laws and mobilising support for the development of the state
8. We all recall that the Governor was rejected by the people early this year when he was publicly rejected several times by Bayelsans especially in September last year during the Presidential rally in Yenegoa.
9. Paragraph 16(f) of the electoral guidelines for primary elections is very clear in stating that “only aspirants whose appeal of the gubernatorial screening appeal panel has upheld shall be qualified to participate in the primary election”. In this light Timipre Sylva is not qualified to contest as the appeal panel has not cleared him. This is the position as at today and until the NWC of the PDP clears the Chief Timipre Slyva.
10. We wish to commend the PDP for going through a through Internal Democratic process in the determination of their candidate. No longer should any candidate be it a Governor , Senator, House of Representative member or Local government Chairman be selected to run by any godfather, clique or pressure group. They must all go through the internal democratic process of the party namely; the Screening panel and appeal panel and then the final approval by the NWC. This process as has been done by the party in the case of Bayelsa is highly commendable, the President, Governors, Senators, Honourable members or any other pressure group have no power to interfere in this process.
11. We believe that various groups and interest are deliberately angling to discredit the administration of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who is a man committed to upholding the rule of law. Pressurising him to do otherwise would amount to subverting the same ethos that has been the guiding principle of his administration
12. The Bayelsa case is not unique. There are precedence of underperforming PDP governors being denied a second tenure; the case of Governor Mbadinuju of Anambra State easily comes to mind
13. The electability of Timipre Sylva as Governor of Bayelsa is a decision that the people of Bayelsa state and his party, the PDP should determine. It should not be the decision of the President or any Governor or National Assembly members for that matter. The Governors Forum should mind its business and leave Bayelsans to decide the fate of their Governor.
Enough is Enough, please.
BAYELSA ELDERS AND OPINION LEADERS
COL. SAM INOKOBA (Rtd)(CHAIRMAN)
MR. FOSTER OGOLA (SECRETARY)
ENGR. CHARLES DORGU
HON. (MRS) MARIE EBIKAKE
CHIEF (Rtd) NAVY CAPT WALTER FEGHABOR
MR. MARTINS AGBEDE
CHIEF BECKY KETEBU-IGWE
CHIEF ITIEDU ALFRED
MR. BLESSING IZAGARA
CHIEF IKIOGHA D.B.
CHIEF IBORO IGE-EDABA
CHIEF NYANAYO TUBO
DR. STELLA DORGU
SEN J.K BRAMBAIFA
PROF. T.T ISOUN
HON. WARIPAMOWEI DUDUAFA
LADY GESEIRE B. DORGU
HON. CHUBBY BEN. WALSON
HON. ADOLPHUS OFONGO
HON. EBIKETEN DIONGOLI
CHIEF CLIFFORD APINA
BARR. AJOKO PEREDIGHA
HON. MITEMA OBORDOR
HON. DEIN BENADOUMENE
MRS. FAITH OPENE
HON. NELSON BELIEF
ENGR. NUMOIPRE WILLS
CHIEF MARTINS AGBEDE
SEN. EMMANUEL DIFFA
On social media, TV talkshows, on the streets of Yenagoa, the state capital, in the creeks, and indeed the Niger Delta, words on the lips of most people is ‘change’. Ruling parties in Nigeria are always seen as the beautiful bride. Even though there are other choices of parties to make and use, the incumbent Governor Sylva seems adamant and still have not positioned himself on a different political platform baring the fact that the PDP has a new suitor in Hon Henry Seriake Dickson.
We are urging aggrieved parties to seek statutorily laid down means of redress to avoid heating up the polity, in the president’s home state, especially as he has been saddled with the onerous task of confronting various daunting novel security situations in Nigeria’s history. We implore all to be empathic and have utmost unconditional positive regard towards one another as no man is bigger than a people or a state. We expect an all-hands-on-deck attitude by all parties in the Bayelsa Guber poll, come February 2012.
Vox populi, vox dei.