Sunday, 30 October 2011

PDP ticket tears Bayelsa state apart

The entrance of Mr. Henry Seriake Dickson,
member, House of Representatives,
representing Sagbama/ Ekeremor Federal
Constituency into the governorship race in
Bayelsa State has ignited tension in the
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) family in
the state. Tempers are not only flying but old
wounds in the process of healing are being
According to political observers, the hurried
disbandment of the Bayelsa State Police
security outfit, Operation Famou Tangbei
(OFT) when Sylva was out of the country;
the careful removal of the Commissioner of
Police, Mr. Aliyu Musa; the sudden Appeal by
the Independent National Electoral
Commission(INEC) against the judgment of
the Court of Appeal on the tenures of five
governors including Sylva; the struggle to
ease out the acting chairman of the party in
the state, Chief Darius Obiene, and the
deliberate plot to drag President Goodluck
Jonathan into the politics of the governorship
ticket have heightened tension in the state
chapter of the party eroding the fragile peace
it has witnessed in the last four years, writes
Femi Folarin, from Yenagoa.
Monday, October 31, 2011
In the beginning
Between 1999 and 2005, two dominant
political groups controlled the PDP
machinery in Bayelsa state. These are the
Alamieyeseigha political structure under the
control of his cousin, Chief Abel Ebifemowei,
and the political structure of Mr. Ndutimi
Alaibe. With the successful impeachment of
Alamieyeseigha in 2005, his political
structure, though in disarray, was inherited
by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. In the 2006
primaries to elect House of Assembly and
National Assembly candidates, the party in
order to avoid a clash between Jonathan and
Alaibe political structures opted for
harmonisation between the two groups and
without any formal primaries the seats in the
state and national legislature were shared in a
60- 40 per cent ratio.
The thinking of the Jonathan political
structure under the control of the Goodluck
Jonathan Committee of Friends/ Green
Movement was that with their man set to be
governor from 2007, he had to consolidate his
power base. However, the nomination of
Jonathan as late President Umar Yar’Adua’s
running mate and the infighting that
followed disrupted the power equation in the
state, rendering Jonathan’s political structure
Jonathan was to shock his inner circle when
against the run of things; he picked Chief
Francis Amaebi Doukpola (who came a
distant third in the primaries) to replace him
as the governorship candidate of the party
for the 2007 elections, while the then
Secretary to the State Government, Dr.
Boladei Igali, was nominated as his running
mate. It was an open secret that his choices
not being part of his political family, did not
enjoy acceptability from his core loyalists.
With the conviction that some of them were
also capable of being governor, they refused to
mobilise for the choices he made and created
inroads for a new power bloc to emerge.
Political pundits, who have been following the
politics of Chief Timipre Sylva since the old
Rivers State when he was a lawmaker, say he
is a strategic thinker, who understands
politics in all its ramifications. Sylva’s
nomination to the PDP executive then was
the deputy Chairman Chief Darius Obiene
(who is from Bayelsa East Senatorial district)
but then he had no control over him. In the
governorship primaries conducted by Obiene
(after the chairman, Fred Agbedi was
suspended) and which Sylva took a political
risk to contest, he came a distant second
behind Jonathan.
While Jonathan’s political machinery refused
to back the choices of their man, Sylva moved
in and swiftly took control of the situation.
The House of Assembly passed a resolution
declaring support for the candidature of Sylva
and his erstwhile deputy, Peremobowei Ebebi,
arguing that Doukpola and Igali were not
known to the PDP grassroots in the state.
Sylva eventually emerged the candidate in
2007 and after assuming office began a
systemic decimation of existing political
structures. He was behind the change in the
PDP executive committee in the state with a
controversial congress that sacked the Agbedi
-led executive and replaced it with the Rufus
Abadi -led executive committee. In the House
of Assembly, he took control, leading to the
birth of the Sylva political structure, with the
young turks among them forming the New
Jonathan’s ascension as vice-president in
2007 rather than rub on his political family
impoverished them. With key loyalists like
Dickson moving to the House of
Representatives, Senator Emmanuel Paulker,
to the Senate and Amatele Jonny Tuner to
Abuja, the Green Movement became
moribund, leaving their foot soldiers to wallow
in political pains.
Regretting the loss of power base at home, the
Jonathan political structure waited for an
ample time. It was not long in coming; the
Court of Appeal nullified the election of Sylva
in 2007 and ordered for a fresh election. The
Jonathan political structure joined by the
rump of the Alaibe structure moved to stop
Sylva from getting the ticket for the re-
election. But it was too late. Sylva, who had
established a relationship with the power base
at the centre, coupled with support from
Jonathan’s loyalists, who do not belong to the
Green Movement, fought back and emerged
the candidate winning the re-election.
Between 2007 and 2010, when he became
acting-president and president, Jonathan’s
relationship with Sylva has been a subject of
discussions. The loyalists of the former
accused the latter of slighting their man by
working against his political interests.
Recently, a tape recording of Sylva’s views on
the personality and politics of Jonathan
allegedly recorded by a former commissioner
who lost out in the power scheme was said to
have been played to the ears of the President.
Now with their man as president, and with
his promise to leave by 2015, his loyalists
believe it is time to take control of power at
home from Sylva and install one of their own
as governor. According to sources, Dickson
has been prevailed upon by the group to lead
the war because of his aggression and
experience in tactical politics.
The war script
The anti- Sylva elements having learnt from
past experience on the political deftness of
Sylva have mapped out a multi-dimensional
approach to neutralize his power base to ease
him out of power. First was the disbandment
of the OFT believed by many to be the attack
dog of the Sylva political machinery to witch
hunt political opponents. The OFT was
disbanded without concrete reasons given by
the Inspector- General Police (IGP) Alhaji
Hafiz Ringim. Next in line in the plot by the
anti- Sylva elements working in cahoots with
a top security chief in the Presidency was the
proposed redeployment of heads of the
security agencies in the state. The argument
was that with the leadership still in place, it
would be difficult to unseat Sylva. While
Ringim has already approved the
redeployment of the Commissioner of Police,
Mr Aliyu Musa,who has been replaced with
Mr. Hilary Opara, the group is still working
on the State Security Service (SSS) and the
Defence headquarters to change the heads of
other agencies in the state.
On the move to change the heads of security
in the state, the State Commissioner for
Information, Orientation and Strategy,
Chief Nathan Egba said Sylva is not
perturbed as the move was a show of
desperation and an indication that his
opponents are scared of his popularity.
His words: “We want the public to know
that Governor Sylva had never predicated his
calculations for political victory on assistance
from any security agency, whether Police, SSS
or JTF.
Infact, when he worked assiduously to deliver
all PDP candidates in the last general
elections in Bayelsa State, including Hon.
Dickson Seriake, who now seeks to stand
election against him, it was through the
enormous goodwill he enjoys from the people
and not any Security agency.
Government wishes to state categorically that
Chief Timipre Sylva as Governor will gladly
work with any Officer that is posted to the
State as head of any Security agency. He has
nothing to hide and therefore has no
preference of personnel in the Services.
After all, even within his first tenure, he has
had to work with about five Police
Commissioners, four SSS Directors and many
JTF Commanders. The good thing however, is
that none of all these people can speak ill of
him. We are therefore, not perturbed by such
actions, as long as the intention is not to
compromise the security of our state and the
people who live in it.”
The anti-Sylva elements have not relented,
the battle to remove Obiene as acting-
chairman has commenced with the acting-
national secretary, Dr Musa Babayo writing
the National Vice-Chairman (South-South)
Chief Mkpubre Okon on the need to appoint a
substantive chairman of the state chapter.
The move has further polarized the party
with Sylva loyalists reading the game at hand
insisting that they should allow Obiene to act
since the congress to elect a new chairman is
three months away.
Sylva fights back
Not known to shy away from a political
battle, Sylva who has been unusually calm
since Dickson launched his governorship
campaign is fighting back. According to
sources, aside reaching all his political
contacts to forestall the PDP from taking a
decision that would be inimical to his political
interest, Sylva has further strengthened his
power base at home to ensure there is no
infiltration. He has secured the endorsement
of members of the National Assembly.
Also the 24 members of the Bayelsa State
House of Assembly, including three
opposition members recently endorsed him for
re-election. In a statement ‘On Sylva We
Stand’ jointly signed by the 24 members, they
noted that as elected representatives of the
people, they want to endorse Sylva because
there is no alternative to him from those who
have indicated interest to contest.
The statement reads in part: “Governor
Sylva’s performance stands him out. Over the
last four years, we have come to know him as
not just an alternative to the coterie of
contenders for the exalted position of Bayelsa
State Governor, but the one we earnestly need
now to lead us in our collective voyage to the
future we all desire. We are happy with what
we have seen.
“We have been impressed with Sylva’s wide
knowledge, foresight, and clear
understanding of the peculiar nature of our
state and its people. These qualities of his
have been apparent in the many development
programmes of his government, which have
put our Glory of All Lands ahead in several
social, economic, and political spheres. The
amnesty programme, which actually had its
roots in our state, is not only a huge success
but is celebrated within the comity of civilised
nations as Nigeria’s contribution to the global
search for peace.
We are proud to be associated with a governor
that has made Yenagoa, our state capital,
one of the best lit at night in Nigeria, giving
Bayelsa State one of the best health
institutions in the country, and giving our
youth one of the most robust human
development programmes in the country”
Is Jonathan involved?
Few days after Dickson announced his
governorship ambition and received several
endorsements, reports were rife that he has
been anointed by Jonathan. It was
unexpected. Dickson aside being a close friend
of the President was also his Attorney-
General and Commissioner for Justice between
2005 and 2007. Not only that those speaking
on his behalf like HRH Amatele Turner,
Tarila Tebepah, Chief Degi, Chief Fyneman
Wilson are the foot soldiers of Jonathan in
the political terrain.
A member of the Presidential Monitoring
team, Furoebi Akene, speaking on behalf of
the Bayelsa Restoration Group would want to
exonerate Jonathan from the current plot to
oust Sylva. According to him, Jonathan had
no hand in the move, but added quickly that
the president would not be averse to any
action meant to salvage a sorry situation of
things in his native state.
A very reliable source in the Presidency
disclosed that the President would not change
this style because people want him to do so. He
pointed out that if Jonathan wants to support
any candidate, he would come out and say so.
Those close to him insist the President’s
decision not to interfere in the politics of the
state by calling his men to order was to allow
them exercise their democratic rights. They
argued that he has also travelled the road
before as governor, and has faced what Sylva
is facing with the opposition against him.
It has also been argued that by not calling his
men to back off from attacking Sylva does
not in any way confirm he has endorsed
Dickson, or that he is against his ambition.
Making reference to his disclosure shortly
after the 2011 PDP primaries that he
deliberately refused to interfere in the politics
of the state because he wanted the party
members to pick the candidates of their
choice, they insist that if former senator
Nimi Amange, a close associate of the
President can lose his bid for re-election, then
Jonathan should be ruled out in endorsing
Egba strongly condemned what the Sylva
camp described as name-dropping by the anti-
Sylva elements.
He said: “The tactics of name-dropping by
anti-Sylva elements is retrogressive and
disrespectful. Much as we concede that
everybody has the right under our democracy
to aspire to whatever position they fancy, it is
patently immoral to attempt to confuse and
even dupe the public through name-dropping
and other under hand tactics.”
The governorship primaries is few weeks away
and where the pendulum would swing and
what role President Goodluck Jonathan would
play in the destiny of the Glory of All Lands
remains in the womb of time.

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