2011 Fever and the incident in Yenagoa
The Nigerian democracy continues to produce wonders. The latest is the news coming from Yenagoa, the capital of oil rich Bayelsa state south-south of Nigeria. Of all the oil producing states in Nigeria, Bayelsa sate is unique for many reasons. The first is that it
has got Oloibiri, the town where oil was first discovered for the first time in commercial quantity. The second and probably more significant is the fact that it is the home state of incumbent President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Before he was invited to become the running mate of former President Umaru Y' Adua, President Goodluck was then preparing to govern Bayelsa State for the second time. And so as part of his routine duties as President, Goodluck Jonathan visited his home state a on the Friday 21 st October 2010. The Nigerian President was however met by embarrassment. Not by the skies that poured showers on the day and got every body wet, but by an angry mob that interrupted the speech of incumbent state Governor Timpre Sylva. The venue was the prestigious Samson Siasia sports complex named after a Bayelsa son and a distinguished national coach. Just as the state governor started his speech, pebbles, sachet water, foot wears started flying freely in the air to the direction of the governor. It was a free for all as shouts of 'you must go' you must go' rented the air. It was a huge shock to the visiting President and many other state governors and dignitaries who graced the occasion.
A murmuring citizenry Since the incumbent governor took over leadership in the state, there has being rumors and rumors of bad governance, financial recklessness, intimidation of political opponents and general insecurity. But for some strange reasons many citizens kept quiet. When you sit to take a drink in any restaurant in Yenegoa, you will easily meet two or three people clustering together and bemoaning the increasing poverty, frustration and under development that have bedeviled the state under its current leadership. Civil servants were not paid as at when due, few government agencies received their subvention as at when due and governance almost came to a halt. Only one group of people had all the financial resources to engage in mindless profligacy. These are the ones in the political good books of the governor. These are made up of young men particularly drawn from ancient Nembe Community where the governor comes from. Often times citizens out of frustration, anger and bitterness took laws into their hands. This was the case during the Presidential visit. Even as violence is condemnable, it is often times a pathway when citizens are starved of the dividends of democracy by their leaders. The media is awash frequent instances of security breakdown in Yenagoa as well as very pronounced political wrangling between the incumbent governor and his impeached former deputy Hon. Ebebi. These lingering matters have cost the government valuable time, money and distraction from the programs that will impact the lives of citizens.
Many unanswered questions According to Governor Sylva himself in an interview that he granted to CNN international, Bayelsa State Government receives about thirty million dollars every month. But yet when you drive around the street of Yenagoa, you can only but see poverty, absence of infrastructure in the eyes of many. A few courageous citizens of Bayelsa state have openly accused Governor Sylva of 'massive stealing, brazen corruption and embezzlement of public funds. One of the people who have petitioned him to an anti corruption agency in the nation's capital Abuja is one Mr. Joe Ambakererimo. Mr. Joe, who calls himself an independent anti- corruption activist accused governor Sylva of massive abuse of office and reckless appropriation of funds without recourse to the state or the national assembly. One of the many allegations against the governor is award of a consultancy contract on feasibility studies for the establishment of Bayelsa Micro Finance Bank at the whopping cost of 1.8 billion to a company suspected to be phony. The same petitioned had alleged that Gov Sylva allegedly diverted forty million dollars purportedly meant for marginal field development by the Bayelsa Oil and Gas Company. Other forms of financial recklessness were alleged to have been perpetrated by the governor in collaboration with some of his serving commissioners. There were also allegations that the youthful Bayelsa governor had repainted some old completed projects preparatory for the visit of the President. The letter further alleges that 'it is on record that over the past three years, Timpre Sylva's administration has raked in about 600 million USD from the federation account, internally generated revenue, loans, grants and ecological fund receipts. However the state remains heavily indebted to some creditors and will remain same in the next sixteen years' It is believed the governor has acquired for himself choice properties in many cities abroad just as former Governor Alamieyeseigha in addition to a private yacht.
A complex political calculus
One of the areas where governor Sylva is believed to have invested heavily is in the area of politics. He is famous for political prostitution and was believed to have heavily bank rolled some northern political elements to block the emergence of the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan from becoming Acting President when late President Yardua fell ill. A move, that dug a gully in an already fractured relationship between him and the then Vice President.
Also during the presidential declaration of former military president Ibrahim Babangida in Abuja, a handful of delegates from Bayelsa state were in attendance further confirming the anti Jonathan stance of Governor Sylva. He also publicly criticized the President in public only to come back to chew his words.
After the disruptions in Yenagoa, loyalists of Governor Sylva pointed accusing fingers to the opposition as architects of the embarrassment. Though no direction mention was done but many believe that loyalists of Sylva administration refer to the Presidential adviser on Niger Delta and coordinator of the amnesty program Mr. Ndutimi Alaibe .It is widely believed among Bayelsans both at home and in the Diasporas that Mr. Alaibe is the most qualified Bayelsan who can wrestle power from Sylva and neutralize his power of incumbency with deft tactics. At least for now! Rumor mill has it that he has the blessing his boss to become the next tenant of creek haven. Mr. Alaibe is very popular among the grassroots including the repented militants as coordinator of the amnesty program and the brain behind the modest success so far achieved. Alaibe as Acting Managing Director of NDDC indicated interest to challenge the then Governor Goodluck Jonathan. It took the timely intervention of President Jonathan to broker a truce between the duo and encouraged Alaibe to wait for the future. But the entire petitioners against Governor Sylva vehemently deny any form of linkage, sympathy or sponsorship from Alaibe. And so who can match Timipre Sylva? Who will be on the side of the people? 2011 Elections: Mother of all battles The 2011 elections look very tough in Bayelsa for incumbent Governor Timipre Sylva. He is very unpopular as can be seen from the recent events in the state. Again the President must be seen to have an input in who becomes the Governor and judging from their frosty relationship, his choice of Sylva will be most unlikely. Though Alaibe is rumored to be a favored choice of the President, there is yet no political move in that regard. The New Vision Campaign organization built by Alaibe might have become a bit rusty because Alaibe has been away on national assignments and may not have an immediate need to lubricate his campaign machinery until now. Will Sylva contest nomination under PDP where President Jonathan still remains the most powerful party leader? Will he go to any other party for the gubernatorial contest? Will Ndutimi Alaibe the political marksman and Presidential adviser give governorship a shot this time? Who will be the next tenant in creek haven? The plot thickens. Only time will tell. Ebiowei Freeman is a Nigerian public affairs commentator who lives in Maryland United States of America. He can be reached on