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Bayelsa Governorship Tussle: Leave Mr. President Out of It!

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One interesting thing about the Nigerian media is that it parades three categories of practitioners. The first category comprises people who are professionals and dogged defenders of the pen profession. We find very few persons in this category and the space they occupy is getting narrower by the day. The second category consists of people who know the nitty-gritty of their profession but have decided to go “a little to the right and a little to the left” with a view to sustaining their knack for objectivity on one hand and money making instincts on the other. The third category is made up of people who may not be adept at the profession but are more inclined to reap enormous financial benefits from writing any piece of stories, features or commentaries, notwithstanding the violation of media ethics. Such people write stories without investigation. The overriding goal of journalism is to develop society and supporting bad government is certainly not part of it.

Bayelsa State – the home State of President Goodluck Jonathan is the smallest and most misrepresented State in the Nigerian media. But why not, when the helmsman of the State spends money on image laundering, propaganda and at best damage control rather than invest the money in commissioning projects that have direct bearing on the lives of the people. Essentially, most of the people who write stories about Bayelsa have neither traveled to Yenagoa nor gone beyond the Capital city to behold the ugly face of poverty, deprivation and neglect of the rural populace. For instance, most of the Lagos-based journalists , who watch the so called developmental strides of the Sylva administration beamed elaborately on Channels, NTA or AIT have not taken the trouble to adventure to Nembe, Southern Ijaw, Ekeremor and Sagbama Local Government Areas to have a firsthand knowledge of the squalor and penury inflicted on the people by the Sylva administration not because there are no resources to improve the wellbeing of the people but because the resources are grossly mismanaged as though we are operating a spoils system. For instance, in 2010, 40 children died in Southern Ijaw of cholera and the story was not found on the headlines of newspapers. Again, from August to September, 2011, the State lost more than 40 youths to gangland wars sponsored by people in government. This number does not include the scores of people who lost their lives in the sundry cases of extra-judicial murder perpetrated by the government sponsored Operation Famou-Tangbei. These gory incidents were unworthy of the headlines in Lagos because of domestic media imperialism.

When I read the article titled Bayelsa Saga done by Kola Animashaun in the November 27thedition of the Sunday Vanguard (page 17), I am persuaded to reason that journalism has assumed a strange connotation. All the comments about who is a candidate of the Peoples' Democratic Party, due process of selecting candidates and other issues verging on internal democracy were borne out of lack of understanding of the Bayelsa situation. The insinuations that President Jonathan is backing a candidate in Bayelsa is one propaganda floated by the Sylva administration to undermine the integrity of the President, and I feel profoundly saddened that our veteran Kola Animashaun could fall into that trap of yellow journalism.

One other phony issue raised by Kola is that the PDP Gubernatorial primaries were held under tight security. If one may ask, what is wrong in beefing-up security at the venue of such an important event? I was part of the four persons from the Niger Delta Integrity Group, who observed the free and fair gubernatorial primaries held on November 19th, 2011. In fact, if the security at Samson Siasia Sports Complex was not adequate, we would not have had the bravura to go there because we live in a country where bombs are being thrown around by people who ordinarily would have been security officers of the nation. There was also the palpable fear that Governor Sylva through his Special Adviser on Security Chief Richard Perekeme Kpodoh had threatened that the disbandment of Operation Famou-Tangbei, the killer outfit would aggravate the security situation – which to many meant that the State would witness government sponsored terrorism. Unconfirmed reports have it that even the Chief Security Officer the State had threatened to import terrorists of the Boko Haram variety to violate oil facilities in the creeks. These are the fundamentals that missed the analytical wavelength of our veteran journalist.

Contrary to the pontifications of Animashaun, Hon. Seriake Dickson has a better pedigree and experience to serve as Governor of Bayelsa State than Sylva. He was Attorney General of Bayelsa State before he got elected to represent his constituency at the Green Chambers of the National Assembly. As at now, he is the most vocal, articulate and pro-active law maker in Bayelsa State at the NASS, unlike other who relish the unenviable status of bench warming. He is not a green horn in politics at all and he has massive grassroots support. This was demonstrated at the primaries where he polled 365 votes.

The successful PDP Gubernatorial candidate who won a landslide victory at the Primaries recalled his experience in service of his people. Hear him “I come reporting for duty with a background of service to the country and to my people. Between 1996 – 2005, I again served variously as pioneer Publicity Secretary, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Yenagoa from 1996-1998, State Chairman, Alliance for Democracy (AD) 1998-2000, National Legal Adviser, Alliance for Democracy (AD) 2000-2002, National Legal Adviser of the foremost Pan-Ijaw Socio-Cultural Body, the Ijaw National Congress (INC) 2001 -2003. I was also the founding Secretary of the Great Committee of Friends (The Green Movement). In 2006, I served as the Honourable Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of this State”.

Bayelsans are weary of this art of deception of the present administration. Only yesterday, a group of 30 NASS members visited Bayelsa State and in order to attract the sympathy of the law makers, Governor Timipre Sylva conducted them round the same old projects he had billed for commissioning 3 years ago. More than 90% of the projects were started by the DSP Alamieyeseigha administration. The permanent hallmarks of the present administration in Bayelsa State is broken promises, profligacy, executive recklessness and looting. Unlike Animashaun, I am a Bayelsan who keeps track of the huge revenue inflows into the State. I also know that Governor Timipre Sylva has made Bayelsa State a laughing stock. The self-fulfilling prophecy hypothesis being bandied about by some ill-informed critics that President Jonathan wants to replace Sylva with, Hon Sekiake Dickson, as the next Governor of Bayelsa State is another blackmail concocted by Sylva and his co-travelers. It is performance that guarantees second term and the PDP made this very clear at the highest level of her leadership.

The critical issues subsume under intra-party affairs of the PDP. There is no law in the world that permits a couple who are not compatible to enter into an unholy matrimony, as any forced matrimony could end up in a disaster. A political party has the right to field any candidate of her choice, and PDP is not willing to lose Bayelsa State. The acting National Chairman of PDP, Mr. Kawu Baraje said at the weekend that Governor Sylva's 'sins' are known to him. Governor Syylva is an aggrieved person who knows the undertakings and affidavits he has signed with the Party on account of charges he owned-up, which the PDP may not want to disclose because of the Party's integrity. In Anambra State, in 2003 the party replaced Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju with Dr Chris Ngige. The case of Bayelsa State is even worse than that of Anambra. If it were not so why would Sylva take PDP to court and turn around to deceive the Governors Forum, lure some of them to go and beg Mr. President? Sylva was the first to go to court and he should leave the matter with the Law Courts to decide.

Without doubt, it is obvious that our veteran journalist wrote that piece with the binoculars of a partial observer. Not only is the analysis bereft of objectivity, the issues at stake were treated peripherally. The Animashaun I used to know could do better than that. The lack of objectivity in his analysis may be attributed to lack of sufficient facts hence the writer did not appreciate the holistic picture of carnage and rape perpetrated by the Sylva administration. No journalist can in good conscience, lend an ounce of support to the disaster that is the Sylva administration. It is shameful that Governor Timipre Sylva cannot administer eight Local Government Areas making up Bayelsa State. Like the biblical sons of Eli, he has committed sundry atrocities and the people of Bayelsa State have rejected him, and it would do us a lot better if Mr. President is left alone in this matter.

Idumange John
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Articles by Idumange John