PDP: WHY I'M IN COURT OVER BAYELSA EAST SENATORIAL TICKET- AMANGE
BY JOHN BULUS
Bayelsa East Senatorial District is the most powerful district in the oil-rich Niger Delta given that the President of the country, Dr. Goodlduck Jonathan and the Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Timipre Silva hail from there. However, a battle is raging over the manner the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senatorial candidate for the zone in the 2011 election emerged.
The battle in court is between Senator Nimi Amange, the incumbent senator representing the district and a current member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Clever Ikisipo. Amange, who has got an injunction stopping the PDP from submitting Ikisipo's name as the PDP senatorial candidate of the area in this interview with Vanguard, said that he is in court to protect the law as a lawyer and lawmker.
Despite your closeness to both President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Timipre Silva by virtue of your current office in the Senate where you represent Bayelsa East which is also the senatorial zone of both men, you still lost the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket. What really happened?
That statement is not correct. If you say that I lost, it means that there was a primary election where I contested and lost. No, it was not so. There was no primary for Bayelsa East Senatorial District. If anybody says there was any, I challenge the person to come with evidence that a primary election for nomination of a PDP candidate for Bayelsa East Senatorial District held anywhere in the three local governments that make up the zone.
What happened was that the governor, Timipre Silva, who is from my senatorial district, decided to conduct the primary that should have been at the headquarters of the zone, in the Government House in Yenagoa, outside Bayelsa East Senatorial District. This act alone, contravened Section 87 of the amended 2011 Electoral Act.
In case you are not familiar with the provision of the section, in line four, sub_section (c) (i) of the section provides: 'In the case of nominations to the position of a senatorial candidate, House of Representatives and State House of Assembly, a political party shall, where they intend to sponsor candidates'… then the following section (i) says; 'hold special congresses, in the Senatorial District, Federal Constituency, and the State Constituency respectively, with delegates voting for each of the aspirants in the designated centres.' This is what the electoral law says.
Now, the question I am asking is, was there any primary election anywhere in Bayelsa East Senatorial District, where the so called candidate emerged?
Outside the provision of the Electoral Act, what Silva did in my senatorial district contravened the guideline of the PDP as provided in Article 28 (a). Delegate for the election were at Brass waiting for materials for the primaries, after we had waited endlessly without a sign of election in the area, the news we had was that the primary was conducted at the Government House in Yenagoa and that Hon. Clever Ikisipo is the winner. We thought it was a joke, until we got confirmation that such illegality was perpetrated.
In the circumstance, what are your plans?
I am in court. The reason I am in court is to protect the law. The law says that the primary should be in Bayelsa East Senatorial District. It can hold anywhere in Bayelsa East Senatorial District, but the most acceptable place for such exercise is at the headquarters of the Bayelsa East Senatorial District, which is in Brass, which is in agreement with the guideline of the PDP Article 28, which stipulates the election should be at the headquarters of the senatorial district. And in the case of Bayelsa East Senatorial District, the headquarters, as I said, is in Brass. But primary election never held there.
I am a lawmaker and a lawyer by profession. It is my duty to protect the law. That is why I am in court, demanding justice and also insist the electoral laws must be protected. And if nothing is done, it means that the government and the party have set an illegal precedence. And as lawmakers, especially those of us in the national and state assemblies who amended the Electoral Act, we must stand out to ensure that it is obeyed. Nigerians too should ensure that we obey the law.
I feel heavy because the man, who benefitted from the fragrant disobedience of the Electoral Act was among members of the House of Representatives that voted for it. So what are we doing?
Since other institutions appear to have accepted the illegality, I am in court, asking the court to determine and explain if the so called primary election conducted to pick Ikisipo as the candidate for Bayelsa East Senatorial District, was done according to the provisions of the law.
Your party, the PDP, set up an electoral committee to conduct and monitor the primaries, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), supposedly, monitored. Both the PDP and INEC are aware of the position of the law here, what are they saying in their reports?
I am surprised that the party did not say anything. The party set up an appeal panel, I went there, submitted my petition to the chairman of the panel and to the chairman of the party in my state, all of them turned blind eyes and allow this illegality.
In the case of INEC, the commission observed the election. It's report is very clear and explicit. In their observation and conclusion, it is stated that the election was conducted in Yenagoa, the state capital, which is not part of Bayelsa East Senatorial District. The INEC report proves that the Electoral Act and the party guideline were disobeyed. I know that INEC will not be part of this illegality.
What is the problem between you and your governor?
I think the governor has made a very long plan to be in the Senate in 2015 after completing eight years as governor. And the only way to actualize that is to ensure that one of the three local government areas of Bayelsa East Senatorial District is denied of its political right.
Now, in case you don't know, Ogbia, Brass and Nembe are the three local government areas that make up Bayelsa East Senatorial District. In these three, Ogbia Local Government produced President Jonathan; Brass produced Governor Silva, while Nembe has the senator.
Now, Silva wants somebody from Ogbia that already has the president to produce a senator in 2011, so that by 2015, he, Silva, will contest for Senate for Brass. If this is allowed, it means that Nembe will be left with nothing. And equity here demands that since there are three positions, it should be shared among the three local government areas in the district.
I hear some people talking about zoning and I say it here that there is no zoning in Bayelsa East Senatorial District. The first senator we had in 1999 was Okilo. I wanted to come to the senate in 1999, but because Senator Okilo, my senior uncle who trained me in the secondary school, was ruining, I withdrew. Okilo left in 2003 because he was old and weak, and he decided to vacate the seat not because of zoning.
Senator Spiff, who was a commissioner in the Alamieghesiye government, came in 2003 that was how the senate seat for Bayelsa East Senatorial District moved from Ogbia to Brass. In 2007, I came on. I contested with people from Ogbia and Brass, the seat has never been zoned. If they said there is zoning, nothing stops the last man to begin it again given the present political arrangement in the Senatorial District where the President is from Ogbia, the governor from Brass, then the senator should remain in Nembe, that is if there is zoning at all.
Apart from his 2015 senatorial ambition, do you have any other issues?
We don't have any personal issue to grind. If we have, it is may be because of my closeness to the President and because from the beginning, Silva has been fighting the President when he was vice president, and I stayed behind the then vice president and challenged Silva.
I remember a day we went to Bayelsa for PDP state caucus, I spoke and addressed the vice president as the leader of the party in the state, some of Silva Commissioners shouted me down in the present of the then vice president, saying that Silva, the governor was the leader of the party in the state.
I asked them at that meeting, if the then president, Umaru Musa Yar' Adua was at the state party meeting in his state, would governor of the state say that he was the leader of the party in the state? They never answered me. From that day, Silva considers me as his number one enemy.