Bayelsa: When a Leader Becomes His Own Enemy By: Idumange John
By any standard, the Okpoama born Governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. Timipre Sylva would have been counted a very lucky man. He became Governor of Bayelsa State by the fortuitous hands of destiny having won only 34 votes at the Primaries in which the
then incumbent Governor and now President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria scored over 2,500 votes. His ascendancy was the result of the trinity of destiny; fortuitous circumstances and the role of political gladiators in Abuja. I supported him and campaigned profusely for him. I also gathered a team of 50 persons: lawyers, academics, and professionals etc to mount a massive campaign machine for him.
Expectations were high because Bayesians felt that as a young man he will bring his energy, vision and dynamism to bear on governance, he demonstrated the quantum of it during his first year in office, that period saw their awards of internal road contracts and vigorous attempt at completing projects initiated by previous administrations, however Governor Sylva was in a hurry to establish a political strangled hold on both the PDP as well as the house of Assembly. He forgot too soon that so many politicians contributed to his success. Consequently he began to arrogate to himself enormous powers beyond his capacity. In doing so he rode roughshod and stepped on toes, he also alienated most of the founding fathers of the Party. Attempts at reconciliation rebuffed. This ultimately initiated a cold war between Sylva and his political faithful and founding members of PDP.
Again in spite of the brewing crisis, Governor Sylva also began what we may call the witch hunt by setting up probe panels to investigate perceived political opponents. These activities became a source of distraction to the administration for examples for instance the biometry excises were not just conducted to identify ghost workers but also to persecute perceived political opponents, also Governor Sylva hijack the PDP structure in the state thereby offending the sensibilities of those who had contributed to build the party. He adducted a divide and rule approach in the house of Assembly and cause internal conflicts among the twenty four wise men that was the beginning of mutual suspicious. Another action of the government was the brazen over inflation of contracts values in clear negation of the public procurement act. These according to sources did not go down well with both the contractors as well as patriotic Bayelsans. It was also a source of internal problems between the governor and his deputy. It was in similar circumstances and the high handedness of Governor Sylva that lead to the frosty relationship between governor Sylva and his deputy. Deputy Governor Peremobowei Ebebi was eventually impeached.
Governor Sylva also refused to bring in technocrat into his cabinets but rather spends so much money placating the militants there had been reported cases of militants who had permanently domiciled in government house. In the opinion of Sylva the militants were his most important assets in winning elections. They were also paid undisclosed millions of the taxpayer money while ongoing projects in the state were either not finance or completely abandon. Thus while so much money was spend on the militants and other security outfit development projects in the state took a back seat.
A great obstacles Sylva created for himself was the purported funding of operation Famou-tanbgei. It is on record that Bayelsa State spend 150 million naira on the security outfit, what made the security outfit so unpopular was the sundry cases of extra judicial murder perpetrated by OFT on the instruction of creek heaven some of these cases involves in gross violation of fundamental human right. Even when OFT was disbanded Governor Sylva mobilized few Bayelsans to create the impression that without OFT there would be a security relapse. This action drew the ire of forces head quarters. There were well orchestrated for Governor Sylva to convert the disbanded OFT into another secret police to intimidate, victimize and impressed political opponents, it was also perceived that the commissioner of police and Director General of SSS in the state also tolerate the brutality.
Governor Sylva is also reputed to be the most corrupt governor in the South South. Investigations show that Governor Timipre Sylva operate several offshore account in addition to owing choice property in UK, South Africa, UAE, Ghana Venezuela Austria and other countries in Europe. The national working committee of PDP might have considered these allegations as potential ground for disqualifying him from contesting the primaries.
Politicians and industrialists have never been impressed with the pace of development in Bayelsa State and this is attributable to the low quality of people working with Governor Timipre Sylva in his Executive Council and other heads of Parastatals. Governor Sylva did not seek to get the inputs or advise of elders and opinion leaders both at the Party level and at the level of administration. This is responsible for the quality of people appointed to positions of trust. Most of the people working with the Governor lack the required expertise, and of course, they cannot give what they do not have. The implication is that most of the well-thought out policies and programmes of the administration are either poorly implemented or never implemented at all. A phenomenon whereby monies are budgeted without proper accountability in terms of projects on ground leaves room for suspicion. Some called attention to the Senatorial Roads, which have been stalled because of the poor budgetary allocation. The same trend is noticeable in the Senatorial Model Secondary Schools among other projects.
There are equally reported cases of bribing of party officials to retain the formal acting PDP chairman in Bayelsa state. Most Bayelsans also complain about the nonchalant attitude of the Governor towards development projects for instance some projects were line up of completion and commissioning since January 2011 but till date these projects have not been completed in spite of improve revenue inflow in to the state, Bayelsa the home state of President Jonathan still were the look of a rural community bereft of basic infrastructure for instance about 8billion naira has been spent on the Yenagoa water reticulation but till date the taps in Yenagoa are dry. Similarly government has spent over N27 billion naira on Melford Okilo Memorial Hospital and government promised to commission it in October but the hospital is far from completion, which indicates that there is no transparency and accountability in the process of awarding contracts. Besides, government has never implemented the budget since 2007.
A Survey conducted by nongovernmental organization indicates that government house and governor office appropriate more money than five ministries put together. Investigations revealed that the governor spends about 30% financing his private companies. The level of corruption is so conspicuous that government parastatals are sometimes not paid their over head. There was also the case of illegal deduction from Local Government when all these conduit piles are allowed to flow there is little money left for development and service delivery.
Therefore, when the news of his disqualification filtered into Bayelsa state more than 90% of the populace jubilated with the conviction that the removal of the incumbent is good ridden to bad rubbish. While President Jonathan has been neutral in the politics of Bayelsa State, Governor Sylva has been known to fan the embers of divisive politics. This is the reason he has no sympathizers and grassroots follower.
The so called opposition Gov Sylva has today is his own making. Those opposed to Sylva's style of administration is beginning to swell within the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP), those who worked for him including the traditional rulers in the State. The real opposition to the Sylva administration is those sycophants working with him. This group of people tells Sylva what he wants to hear even when things had gone awry. Sycophancy is a two edged sword. It boosts the ego of the recipient but creates a false impression about the role incumbent in the eyes of the public.
The so called Abuja group of politicians does not really exist. They are some of the founding members of the PDP in Bayelsa State. They are the same politician Governor Sylva alienated. They were the people who campaigned for Sylva whom Sylva had mistaken for his opponents. What actually swelled the ranks of opposition is the reckless manner in which the affairs of the State are conducted. If Mr. President was not a humble man who has a mature sense of judgment, he would have pulled the rug off the feet of Governor Sylva but he did not do that even when CREEK HAVEN mounted consistent propaganda war against Aso Rock.
Bayelsans are also irked that Sylva is a serial breaker of promises and for the past 14 months he has not neither completed nor commissioned the projects he had promised to Commission. Sylva promised that in April 2011, he would commission 13 Water Schemes; the Plastic Industry; Clearing of Transformers; Glory Drive and the Atlantic Beach Resort. Others are the Oloribiri Regional Water Scheme; the Nembe Regional Water Scheme; E-Governance Infrastructure the Gloryland TV and Ewoama Housing Estate. In October, the same administration had earmarked for Commissioning the Chief Melford Okilo Memorial Hospital some internal roads, the NNGS Senatorial School; the Nembe Unity Bridge; 500 Houses for Civil Servants Youth Civic Centre in Yenagoa and Transparency Plaza. Whereas there is a steady inflow of revenue in to the State, Sylva appears not serious to complete these projects and some attribute it to lack of focus and a blatant refusal to implement the budget of the State.
It was against this background that Pressure Group - Initiative for the Restoration of Accountability the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act forbids public officers from operating off shore accounts, but Governor Timipre Sylva operates several accounts outside Nigeria. Governor Timipre Sylva also has multi-billion landed property across the U.K. South Africa, Ghana, Venezuela and the United Arab Emirate. Governor Timipre Sylva also lied to the code of conduct in his asset declaration. The Opu-Abadi seems to have regressed from the high pedestal of power to the stallion of a person begging for power, begging to stay relevant in the crowded political space and he mobilized 13 Governors to get execute this operation.. Only yesterday, Sylva is believed to have written an apology of good behavior to Mr. President and paid an undisclosed sum of money to the NWC of the PDP. I s that why he has stashed away the State's allocation without executing projects?
If Governor Sylva used the resources to Commission Projects to the admiration of all Citizens, his Second term would have been a fait accompli. Now the National Working Committee and the Appeal Committee has re-considered him for the primaries, the second hurdle is that Bayelsans do not want his administration and he has very slim chances of flying the party's ticket. In fact a survey carried out by the INTEGRITY GROUP shows that a Timipre Sylva Governorship is a disaster for Bayelsa State. One thing is obvious, if Mr. Sylva had listened to wise counsel he would not have been reduced to a beggar for power but rather hold his head high among the comity of Governors. Like the Rehoboam of the Bible whose foolhardiness led to the disintegration of Israel, Sylva may well become an enemy to himself. The general perception is that even if Sylva is allowed to contest the primaries, he would still fail because Bayelsa people are eager to cast away his negative legacy.
Idumange John, Is Deputy President, Niger Delta Integrity Group