Cloak and Dagger: Plotting the Removal of Governor Timipre Sylva


On Monday July 13 2009, the ThisDay newspaper reported that, “Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Timi Sylva, has dragged Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan and former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Chief Timi Alaibe, to the National Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over alleged plots to impeach him… supporters of Goodluck and Alaibe…were the masterminds of the impeachment plot.” The Nigerian Tribune (Monday July 20 2009) is also reporting that, “The lingering crisis in the Bayelsa State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party appears to be unabating.”

So far, all sides have denied the impeachment plot -- or the existence of any other plot to remove the governor. Publicly, both sides are claiming to be working for the good of the state and the party -- putting on smiling faces that indicate all is well in Bayelsa and with the local PDP. But really, all is not well in Yenagoa. The major participants -- Jonathan, Alaibe, and Sylva -- all have daggers in their hand, concealed by overflowing cloak. In all of this, Governor Timipre Sylva is the target. Plans are underway to get remove him from office. If they fail now, several mountains and magma chambers will be waiting for him during the next PDP primary and/or the general election.

Several knotty and competing issues are behind the ongoing machinations. Much of these were outlined in an August 2008 essay: Power Struggle: Goodluck Jonathan versus Timipre Sylva. Events within the intervening months have validated the author's original assertions.

The Vice President is not looking forward to being the state governor again. That's not what he wants. What he wants seem simple, yet complicated: (a) to be respected by the governor; (b) to be consulted on issues pertaining to the state; (c) to have a say on who gets what appointment and also wants some of his supporters appointed to key state positions; (d) he does not want his activities -- while he was the governor probed; and (e) he wants to be the decider of anything Bayelsa. According to a source close to the VP, “What irk Jonathan most is that the governor and his underlining have been very disrespectful…undercutting him at every chance they get.”

What the Vice President want is complicated because of the convoluted nature of Bayelsa and Ijaw politics. According to multiple sources within the governor's camp, “The VP has no standing in Abuja. He has no budgetary control, and neither does he have personnel control. He is a nobody in Abuja, but wants to be somebody in Yenagoa and among his Ijaw people.” There are segments of the Ijaw nation that does not think he deserves such a position. And in fact, there are personalities within the region, and especially within the state “who'd rather jump off a plane (without a parachute) than allow the VP to be the Decider.”

The next PDP primary and the 2011 election is one opportunity Goodluck has to flex his muscles, to show that he is the man to be reckoned with (at least in Ijaw politics). Timi Alaibe, for now, just wants to be the governor of Bayelsa State. Those who know him say “he is as canny as a fox, a true Machiavelli.” But on his way to occupying Creek Haven (Government House), he sees two people. He sees Jonathan as the-opportunity; Sylva as the obstacle. He sides with the former. Good luck Jonathan is extending a helping hand to Alaibe because “down the road, Alaibe too will provide the kind of assistance that he (Jonathan) is about to provide.” Based on this simple arithmetic, both men are plotting to break coconut on the governor's head for the immediate and future benefit of both camps.

Every observer of Bayelsa State politics knows that “Alaibe is interested in one thing and one thing only: Creek Haven. “His ambition has always been to be the governor of the state. In his electoral clash with Governor Alamieyeseigha, it was President Obasanjo who prevailed on him to 'wait…be patient…take your turn.'” In the second instance, Alaibe had to follow protocol knowing that Deputy Governor Jonathan was the logical choice to take over after Alamieyeseigha was thrown in the gallows by the EFCC.

In the third instance, he was stuck at the NDDC and so he couldn't make a move against Timipre Sylva. What's more, he was obedient: he listened to the PDP hierarchy. He waited. But he can wait no more. Timi Alaibe believes he has waited long enough and done all he was asked to do by the party chieftains. He now believes that the time has come for him to occupy Creek Haven.

Late last week, word leaked: The Jonathan camp has been holding midnight-meetings with the Alaibe group. According to well placed sources, “at least one of the meetings took place in the private home of the Vice President who is not exactly great friends with Timi Alaibe. Their ongoing friendship is akin to what the Pharisees and the Herodians did: unite against Jesus Christ.” Indeed, this is a relationship, an alliance of convenience. The Chinese said, “It is good to strike the serpent's head with your enemy's hand.” And the Arabs will tell you that, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” This is what we now have in Bayelsa State.

Both sides are bent on removing Governor Sylva. Whether he is removed now or later, it doesn't matter so long as he is removed. But both sides are determined to do it now. The primary beneficiary of this cloak and dagger game will be Timi Alaibe. First, if the governor is impeached, the Deputy Governor, Peremobowei Ebebi -- himself an avowed critic of his boss -- is likely to take over and serve the remainder of Sylva's term. At the end of his service -- conventional calculations go -- he will go quietly into the sunset and perhaps be rewarded with a Senatorial seat. Or ambassadorship. His foes and critics see him as the nasty one: “more ruthless that Alaibe.” But will he go quietly?

In any case, we know that Alaibe will contest the primary against Sylva. All the power centers in Bayelsa State are betting on Alaibe to prevail in both contests. The only thing that may save Sylva's neck is if the PDP, both at the state and federal level, vehemently supports Sylva. However, I doubt if this scenario will hold. There are several reasons for these. During Alaibe's long tenure at the NDDC, he was good and generous to a lot of people. Many people owe him. Alaibe will be smiling to the “primary bank” with lots of checks to cash.

Second, we also know that his association with the NDDC allowed him to build huge war chess. Mr. Alaibe, some have calculated, “has more than ten million ($10 million) dollars saved up in campaign fund. Because of his past record, he easily can collect another fifteen million as donation from supporters at the state and national level.”

Third, a lot of Bayelsans are still angry at Governor Timpre Sylva. They believe he stole the primary and the general election. Consequently, we have a sizeable number of people waiting in the wings to do him in.

Fourth, Sylva has been so badly tainted and so badly bruised by all kinds of “stories and lies.” Unfortunately, he has not found it necessary to engage the services of Public Relations specialists. It is hard to find people out there countering the notion that he is “lazy, incompetent, and confused.”

And finally, it is not by a stroke of luck that Timi Alaibe is now a special adviser to President Yar'Adua. He now has access to the president, the vice president, several state governors, parliamentarians and all the PDP heavyweights. From Aso Rock, Alaibe now plots his coup against Sylva. From now on, Sylva may never be able to go to bed with both eyes closed. Wherever he goes, at home and abroad, he is likely to hear Alaibe's footsteps. Or see Timi's long shadow.

In spite of all the aforesaid -- and in spite of all the moves that are being planned against Governor Timpre Sylva -- only a fool, a nincompoop, will count him out. The governor may yet surprise everyone. As for Vice President Jonathan Goodluck, he should not be surprised if Alaibe double-crosses him. I won't be. He has more to lose. And may yet be the biggest loser in the history of the state.

What is the fight really about? Well, to reduce it to the common denomination: it is really about who controls the treasury. It is about money. This is not about good governance; this is not about accountability and transparency. It is not about law and order. It is not about public service. It is about a group of Ijaw thieves who have allowed their personal ambition to overtake the welfare of the people. This is about foolishness; and about greed, and about high-end corruption on the part of three men and their proxies, who are bent on raping and exploiting their own people. It is that simple.

Sabella Ogbobode Abidde [email protected]

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