2011: UNENDING DRAMA IN BAYELSA POLITICS
During the political crisis that engulfed the country as a result of the protracted illness of late President Umaru Yar'Adua and attempts to frustrate Dr. Goodluck Jonathan from becoming the Acting-President, a group of Senators had decided to serve as the engine room for the former Bayelsa State governor.
The move was to galvanize support for Jonathan in the National Assembly. Based on the quest to be politically relevant, the three Senators from Bayelsa were in the group of pro-Jonathan Senators.
An impeccable source was quoting one of the Senators as revealing that they had to stand by Jonathan to become acting-president so that in the event of Yar'Adua's demise, their return tickets to the Senate would be guaranteed.
The calculation is that under Jonathan, their political future appears to be more guaranteed than Sylva who is spoiling to show them the way out once he has the opportunity. Not only have the three Senators been the arrow head of opposition against Sylva, they have teamed up virtually with everybody that has an axe to grind with the governor to attack his policies and tear his style of governance apart.
In the build up to the 2011 elections especially with Jonathan as President, loyalists and supporters of the Abuja based National Assembly members including the three Senators, four House of Representatives and others boasted of the formidable opposition that would be mounted to thwart the re-election bid of Sylva as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
However, the realities on ground going by the event of Wednesday, September 29 when Sylva went to return his Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms at the PDP national secretariat accompanied by his traducers indicated that their campaign of matching Sylva at the electoral field was mere hot-air.
Indeed going by the level of altercation between the two camps, the general belief is that some of the Abuja based National Assembly members have committed political suicide and are on the way for a long walk into the cold.
Taming the Regicides
Since 2008 when they started their renewed opposition against Sylva, most of the National Assembly members with their loyalists and supporters have stopped attending government functions in Bayelsa. The only exception was Warman Ogoriba representing Yenagoa Federal Constituency. Sources said Sylva actually initiated some peace moves in 2009, which paid off with Hon Seriake Henry Dickson representing Sagbama/Ekeremor Federal constituency but others showed indifference.
At a point, the Ijaw National Congress (INC) embarrassed by the verbal war between the two camps had to intervene and banned the two camps from making any public statement regarding their political differences in the public. But this did not stop the cold war, which was more raging.
This was the situation until the Yar'Adua illness controversy started which eventually culminated in the emergence of Jonathan as President. With the commencement of the Jonathan's presidency, coordinated opposition against Sylva was given currency and the word on the streets of Yenagoa was that it was just a matter of time.
However, Jonathan's ambition to contest the presidential primaries has altered whatever plans the opposition within PDP has for Sylva as he has gained the upper hand with the central role PDP governors are playing in the 2011 Jonathan project.
The first test of might was the bye-election to fill the vacant seat left by the Deputy- Governor, Mr. Werinipre Seibarugu in the House of Assembly. While the Sylva camp wanted Mr. Ebipadei Fekoweimo, those in Abuja with the promptings of a serving Senator wanted Bolobo Orufa. The power tussle got to head with the substitution of Fekoweimo's name by the national secretariat of the PDP with that of Orufa. This attracted the attention of the Sylva camp and the Presidency waded in directing that Fekoweimo's name, which was presented by the state chapter of the party should be upheld.
Reading the handwriting on the wall that the game was slipping out of their hands, the opposition to avoid being caught napping rallied their loyalists and supporters under the aegis of the Concerned Bayelsa PDP threatening that the state executive of the party must be dissolved so as to pave way for new people that would conduct credible delegate elections and primaries in the party instead of allowing Sylva to handpick delegates. They threatened that failure to adhere to their wish, they would ensure PDP loses Bayelsa in the forthcoming election.
Checks revealed that the threat did not work as sources said most of them are actually now on their knees begging Sylva. Impeccable sources said Senator Heineken Lokpobiri representing Bayelsa East had made frantic efforts to see Sylva but the latter rebuffed all the attempts. Frustrated that time was thinning out, Lokpobiri had to solicit the help of a presidential aide who is close to Sylva to facilitate a meeting with the governor.
The source said the meeting eventually took place and both men had frank talks with Sylva promising that he would ensure that there is a level playing ground in the primaries.
The source also said the Wife of the President, Mrs. Patience Jonathan had to intervene on behalf of Senator Emmanuel Paulker who has been going round looking for ways to plead with Sylva as he believes his chances of returning to the Senate without the governor's support are slim. Senator Nimi Barigha Amange, the source disclosed has already lost out with Jonathan's local government, Ogbia insisting on the zoning principle that alternates the Senatorial seat between Ogbia, Nembe and Brass. And Mr. Clever Ikisikpo representing Ogbia Federal constituency in the House of Representatives has been favoured by the Presidency ahead the likes of Mr. Rex Ogbuku who before now was in the forefront to take the seat.
As for the House of Representatives, Dickson and Ogoriba had sealed their return to the National Assembly but Donald Egberibin and Nelson Belief are sure to lose out because it was harmonization that took them to the House of Representatives. Eye-witness account said the way the National Assembly members were pushing to be captured by the camera when they accompanied Sylva to submit his forms was enough evidence to their loyalists and supporters that the game was up.
Lokpobiri in an interview with journalists denied that there was any problem with the Bayelsa chapter of the PDP.
According to him, people can disagree on the grounds of principle and later such differences can be sorted out amicably. He captured it better thus: 'There is no problem whatsoever among the people of P.D.P. If there was any problem at all, it must have been as a result of misinformation or misconceptions in the mind of the people or a creation of the media. Right now, there is no problem. We are all working together for the progress of the state. As you can see, we have come to show solidarity, and support for our governor'.
The road to 2011
A very reliable source said the action of the National Assembly members has already demoralized their core loyalists and supporters who are now feeling used and betrayed. They were said to have been irked when they got information that one of the National Assembly members even proposed to move a motion to adopt Sylva as the sole candidate for the governorship primaries.
The fear is that by pleading with Sylva, they have already opened their flanks for him to attack them as he did not give them any commitment as regards ensuring they secure the ticket. To them, all what Sylva might have promised them were political talks that should not be taken with seriousness considering the smartness of the governor.
Though he is said not to be a vindictive person but someone who has had experience with him before said Sylva's words to you as a politician should be weighed seriously as he could say the same thing to 20 people.
Instances were cited during the commencement of the process to impeach his former deputy, Peremobowei Ebebi with Sylva promising not less than 15 people including the incumbent that they would become the Deputy- Governor. Even if some of the National Assembly members fail to return after their public show of solidarity, the possibility that their supporters would fight back is next to naught as every party man that wants to contest elective posts in the state is now queuing behind the governor.