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NEW TWIST AS BAYELSA SENATORS, REPS OPPOSE SCREENING PROCESS

By NBF News
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Govs raise panel to meet Jonathan, party
Sylva declares bid tomorrow
CURIOUSER and curiouser. That is what the Bayelsa State governorship race is becoming!

The pendulum seems to be swinging in favour of embattled Bayelsa State Governor Timipre Sylva as governors and some National Assembly members elected under the Peoples Democratic party (PDP) rallied round him.

Citing sections of the PDP constitution, Senators and House of Representatives members from Bayelsa State, declared that the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) lacked the power to screen and clear governorship aspirants for the party primaries.

They argued that the only body empowered by the PDP constitution to undertake the task is the State Gubernatorial Screening Committee, which has already cleared Sylva for the race.

Support for Sylva also came yesterday from PDP governors, who set up a five-man committee to meet with President Goodluck Jonathan and the party's national leadership to pressure them to clear Sylva for the November 19, 2011 contest. .

Governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, told journalists yesterday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja that the governors' pressure on both the President and the PDP leadership is important for them because if 'Sylva is affected today, any of them could also be affected in the future.'

The PDP has released the list of cleared aspirants but left out Sylva, former Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Timi Alaibe, and former Director-General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Ben Murray Bruce.

With the odd apparently favouring Sylva even as the PDP remains evasive on his status, Sylva is forging ahead with his re-election bid.

Yesterday, the governor's campaign team said it had concluded plans to hold a grand rally for Sylva to declare his intention for a second tenure in office tomorrow.

The event, which holds at the Samson Siasia Sports Complex in Yenagoa, according to sources within the governor's campaign team, said the rally would show to Nigerians that Sylva still controls PDP family in the state.

At the event, Sylva is expected to reassure Bayelsa electorate of his readiness to serve them again.

The seven lawmakers from the state in the National Assembly and a member of the Inter-Party Advisory Council of the Independent National Electoral Commission (IPAC-INEC), Sunday Frank-Oputu, championing Sylva's cause yesterday wrote separate letters to the PDP leadership and the Presidency to protest the alleged exclusion of the governor from the race.

The lawmakers under the platform of the Bayelsa State Caucus of the National Assembly, who faulted the position of the PDP National Working Committee (NWC), argued that the screening and clearance of aspirants for the governorship primaries is the exclusive function of the Gubernatorial Screening Committee.

Frank-Oputu, who queried the parameters used by the PDP to exclude Sylva from the primaries, said the party would meet its waterloo in the 2012 forthcoming elections.

In the letter by the National Assembly members, dated November 9, 2011 and addressed to the NWC, they said the action of the panel was at variance with the PDP constitution and warned that if such illegality was unchecked, it could affect the fortunes of the party at future polls.

The letter was signed by Senators Heineken Lokpobiri (Bayelsa West), Clever Ikisikpo (Bayelsa East), Ealman Igoriba (Yenagoa, Kolokuma/Opokuma federal constituency), Foinghan Jephatha (Brass/Nembe federal constituency), Nadu Karibo (Ogbia federal constituency), Henry Ofongo (Southern Ijaw federal constituency.

They stated that 'that the powers and functions of the NWC as enshrined in Article 12.63 of the PDP constitution as amended do not include screening and clearance of candidates for any election.

'That the screening and clearance of candidates for governorship primary election is the exclusive function of the Gubernatorial Screening Committee set up pursuant to Article 17.1 of the PDP and paragraph 16 of the Electoral Guidelines for Primary 2010. That in this case, the Screening Committee duly empanelled is the one led by Brig. Gen. Idi Adamu (rtd), which screened the aspirants in accordance with its mandate last October 27 at the PDP Zonal Office.'

Frank-Oputu, who is the state chairman of the Conference of the Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), said though the intra-party wrangling is exclusive to PDP members, the NWC non-inclusion of Sylva was a clear indication that the time for another political party to lead the state had come.

The aspirants cleared by the PDP are Oruta Justine Boloubo, Henry Seriake Dickson, Enai Christopher Fullpower and Kalango Michael Youppele, Doukpola Francis Amaebi, Ekiyegha Fred Korobido, and Austin Febo.

Suswam explained that the governors want a quick resolution of the matter and were awaiting the outcome of the meetings of the five-man committee with Jonathan and the PDP leadership.

According to him, 'this issue is being addressed at the highest level between the party, the PDP governors and the President and there is a committee of which I am not a member that was set up by the PDP governors to meet with the party.

'They haven't come back to brief us and so, I will say that as I stand here, I am not very competent to conclusively comment on it until the committee, which we set up among the PDP governors, has met with the party. The committee is also expected to meet with the President. Once they hold meeting and brief us, any of us can comment on the outcome of what is happening in Bayelsa.'

The governors, Suswam stated, are not comfortable with Sylva's ordeal as they were conscious of what might happen to any other governor if his case was not amicably resolved.

He said: 'Naturally, he is our colleague and we expect that we all go together and so, it's a game of self-preservation anyway. We take ourselves as governors and we expect that what affects one governor indirectly affects the others as well.'

Asked what the governors would do if Sylva was not cleared to contest the PDP primaries, Suswam replied: 'We will cross the bridge when we get there. We haven't gotten to that level. As a disciplined party, that is why we at the PDP Governors' Forum, we nominated a committee of five to meet with the party. And so, we believe that we are dialoguing on the matter and when we get to where you have mentioned, we will cross the bridge.'

Meanwhile, four persons have been feared dead in Yenagoa in another clash among rival cult groups in the state.

Last Friday, five persons were confirmed dead when rival cult members clashed in the state capital.

In a reaction to the killings, the National Youth Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Miriki Ebikibina and the governorship candidate of the Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN), Prince Kelvin Chinedu Opuene Alagoa, accused the PDP of heating up the state polity and turning it into a theatre of absurdity.

Three persons suspected to be members of a cult group, according to the State Police Command, have been arrested in connection with the killings.

While the four killed in the incident were reportedly members of a cult gang, those who received various degrees of injuries were believed to be passers-by, who were caught in the violence.

Two were confirmed dead on the spot while the others died at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC).

It was reported that the shootout, which started at 7.30 pm on Wednesday, caused panic among residents until the men of the Joint Military Task Force and the Mobile Unit of the Nigeria Police moved to the scene.

The spokesman of the state Police Command, Eguavoen Emokpae, confirmed the killing of four members of the cult group.