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THE BAYELSA IMBROGLIO AND UNNECESSARY DISTRACTIONS

By NBF News
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In numerous columns and feature articles commenting on the affairs of my marital and adopted home state of Bayelsa I have not hidden my considered opinion that the performance of the incumbent governor has been abysmal, not to say dismal. I have always tried to avoid joining issues over allegations of personal misconduct against the Governor and his colleagues even though such allegations are rife on the web and in popular media in Nigeria.

We have read articles in some papers openly accusing the exalted official of wife-beating, drug-taking, and now most surprisingly of treasonable threats against the life of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. These are truly remarkable but also somewhat petty distractions in the overall process of assessing and evaluating the performance of a leader who has indicated the desire to be elected or re-elected to serve the people of the state. Nevertheless it would be distressing if anyone should feel it necessary to create and disseminate rumours and falsehoods simply to find ways to remove the Governor from office.

The proper assessment of his performance and relevance in the state should first and foremost be conducted by his party the PDP. The decision to remove him from or retain him in office is first of all a party affair but even more importantly and probably even more relevant under the present circumstances it is the duty of the electorate to pronounce its own verdict on his wish to remain in office through the ballot box next year February. It may very well be this circumstance that has generated the plethora of new allegations of misconduct against the governor. In this light those who wish to raise genuine arguments in favour of his replacement should maintain the credibility of their cause by avoiding any connection with spurious allegations or rumours. In recent weeks this stricture has come to the fore as the Governor battling for his political life against a perception of disenchantment with his performance by his party has come out to deny some of the personal allegations of misconduct openly for the very first time.

One of the most unfortunate side effects of this battle to replace the incumbent Governor of Bayelsa State, which has been joined by several influential and respected political leaders in the state, is the widely held assumption that President Goodluck Jonathan has a hand in it. It is not surprising that this allegation should have surfaced since Jonathan is a Bayelsan. In addition to this Dr. Jonathan who is a naturally reticent individual could hardly be expected to make public comments either in support of or against the Governor of his state. Those who have spread the story of the Governor's alleged threats against his life have therefore put the President on the spot and it is their responsibility to enhance the credibility of their allegation so that it either attains the status of an official and impeccably provable criminal charge or they should never have brought it up at all.

The Governor has now directly denied that any such threat was ever uttered by him. In the absence of recorded evidence the allegation will now be regarded as being based on unverifiable hearsay. We have read in some web reports that in fact the source of this allegation was a well known former Commissioner in the government of the present Governor. This supposed informant was a close collaborator in the administration that is now under siege. He is no longer a member of that Government but if or when the Administration comes to be investigated for the mismanagement of the affairs of the state his role in this cannot be overlooked. It is therefore imperative that those who genuinely wish to transform the fortunes of Bayelsa State must be extremely careful about whose help and assistance they solicit or accept in carrying out this vital task.

One thing that has become clear as a result of the latest round of political contestation in Bayelsa State is that the state has no shortage of relatively young and experienced potential leaders as well as elder statesmen who feel aggrieved about the conditions that have existed under the present Government. Their disenchantment has provided them with more than enough justification to mobilise forces to effect genuine change in the leadership of the state, but the countervailing resistance being mounted by the Governor's supporters should not be taken lightly. It is important to note that the formal political establishment made up of members of the National and State Assemblies and of course the sitting cabinet have stood firmly with the Governor. While it appears that this solidarity is based on self-preservation rather than on a genuine belief in the relevance and impact of the Administration on the lives of the average Bayelsan it cannot be ignored. It is a fact that the President's silence and the vocal resistance to the State Governor's retention in office of many of his known associates and supporters helps to give the impression that he as the Supreme Leader is complicit in any plan to remove the Governor.

However in strict democratic terms it is those who have openly declared their stand who are to be regarded as the real protagonists in the battle, and as antagonists of the incumbent. In that case even though several of those who declared their wish to run against the Governor have not been cleared by the party if they are genuinely aggrieved on the peoples' behalf then their role in the forthcoming confrontation remains relevant. It will be unfortunate if some of these opponents of the Governor should decide out of personal disgruntlement to join forces with him to undermine the PDP's first real attempt to conduct a house-cleaning within its ranks in Bayelsa State.

In the light of the above analysis it is interesting to note the increased focus on the unnecessary distractions of rumour-mongering against both the Governor and the President that even some highly respected media commentators have embarked upon. We read in the popular back page column of a national newspaper recently that the columnist believed President Jonathan should make a declaration that he does not have anything to do with the party's rejection of the incumbent Governor's desire to return to office. According to that columnist Dr. Jonathan had revealed his 'pettiness' by not having made such a declaration. Quite frankly I beg to disagree. The President's studied silence in the face of this unprecedented imbroglio in his own home state is a brave stand even though it is neither ostentatious nor pro-active. In the past we have seen Presidents (or especially one President) who has mounted open battles against the Governors of their home state.

It is unfair to suggest, as that columnist did, that Goodluck was following this precedent because whereas he has maintained a dignified silence over issues arising between the party and the Governor at least one of his predecessors waded into such battles without any reservation. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan's penchant for quiet withdrawal and allowing the forces of political disenchantment and/or collaboration to settle the fate of the incumbent is an unprecedented display of democratic tolerance. While it is reasonable to assume that he might actually share the doubts and disenchantment being so widely expressed by the Governor's detractors since he has not stepped forward to defend him publicly this time around this is as much his right as that of any Bayelsan (and there are many) who are tired of what they perceive as the Governor's inability to manage the state's affairs. For the President to openly declare which side he is on would simply have added to the many unnecessary distractions that have already confused observers of the ongoing imbroglio in the state.