PDP TICKET TEARS BAYELSA STATE APART
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 impotent.
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 Face.
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 anybody.
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.