Seven Sins of Sylva and the Last Orchestra
GOVERNOR TIMIPRE MARLIN SYLVA had all the opportunities to write his name in the psyche of the Izon race like King Alfred Diete-Spiff and Late Senator Melford Okilo their predecessors. As a son of the soil, the Governor is acutely aware of the marginalized State of Bayelsans: near absence of federal presence, absence of infrastructure and industries. Prior to his ascendancy, most Bayelsans believed that with his experience as Personal Assistant to the Minister of Petroleum and President of OPEC, he would perform fairly better in governance. We were wrong. An old parrot can hardly learn a new language.
Both participants and spectators of governmental administration agree that during his first year in office, Governor Timipre Sylva demonstrated some measure of seriousness in pursuing the goals of good governance. Some internal roads were constructed and there was some zeal in trying to complete the projects he inherited by the previous administration. However, allegations were rife that most of the contracts were over-inflated. Some progress was also noticed in the education sector. Not only was the administration faithful in meeting her obligations in respect of payments in overseas scholarships and students bursaries, the College of Education, Okpoama was also established even though the standard has always been called to question. In 2009, revenue inflows into the State dwindled because of militancy, which affected the State's quota of oil production. This rationalized the N50 billion bond obtained by the government.
As from 2009, there were noticeable cracks and inertia in the administration. The first signs of deviation started to manifest when there were series of complaints that the Governor had alienated most of those who contributed to his electoral victory. Like Shakespare would say 'he bestrode the world like a colossus and regarded every Bayelsan as petty and inconsequential. Some of those who resisted the trend were subjected to a witch-hunt reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition. The implications is that most of the people who would have been bold enough to advice the Governor either kept aloof or decided to adopt a sidon look approach. Nature abhors a vacuum, so their place was taken by self-aggrandizing people masquerading as support groups.
Secondly, Governor Sylva constituted a cabinet which somebody aptly described as “Third Eleven”. It was a cabinet that had more politicians than technocrats. No administration can be better than the quality of its cabinet. A visionary leader hires high caliber people that have expertise and that can give credibility to the administration. But unfortunately, perhaps because of bad advisers, the Governor surrounded himself with self-confessed loyalists and crafty sycophants and voodoo men who have succeeded in discrediting the administration. Such people very easily betray the Governor in times of trouble.
Thirdly, Sylva and some crafty members of his cabinet fell into the same trap for which Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha was strongly criticized. The Governor was given the unenviable record of the most traveled governor in Nigeria. Under the guise of scouting for investors the tax payers money was used for junketing around Europe, Asia, Latin America, Norway, Israel and Vietnam among other countries. The ulterior motive was to invest Bayelsa resources in private businesses. It is not surprising that the several MOUs of the government have not been implemented. Bayelsa State entered into an MOU with Vietnamese on rice cultivation, Israelis on vegetable cultivation, Norwegians on shrimp culturing and with First Bank Plc on Housing. None of these MOUs has been implemented. For more than four years Bayelsa State cannot boast of one foreign investor so all the balderdash about looking for investors were diversionary.
Fourthly, Governor Timipre Sylva engaged in extra-budgetary expenses and this was accomplished by excessive borrowing from banks and other financial institutions. The administration procured loans: N6 billion from Bank PHB, N60 billion from Oceanic Bank PLC and N4billion from Equatorial Trust Bank and all was done with impunity and without the approval of the state executive council and the Bayelsa State House of Assembly. Bayelsans were made to believe that the N50 Billion bond was for infrastructural development but since the bond was secured, the Senatorial District roads, the Model Secondary Schools and other projects that justified the bond have not been touched. This is the height of official deception, executive recklessness and impunity.
Fifthly, the corruption profile of the administration appears to be the worse we have seen since Bayelsa State was created. Allegations are rife that Governor Sylva failed to declare his assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau before and after assuming the office of the Personal Assistant to the minister of energy and later petroleum – which means that on assumption of office as Governor, most of his assets were not known. There was the case of fraudulent diversion of 27 billion naira excess crude of April 2008 to the May 2008 for the re-run gubernatorial election and bribing the members of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly with 2.6 billion naira to secure a post-procurement approval for the bank loans. Another allegation is the fraudulent transfer of 40 million dollars to a docile account of the Bayelsa State Oil- Company with the intention of transferring the funds into private accounts as well as the criminal diversion of N500 million released by the federal government for the construction of the State airport. Apart from glaring cases of over-invoicing, in the award of Road contracts, government is believed to have spent an outrageous N 37 billion on an already completed 500-Bed Hospital including the awards of an over-inflated 7 billion naira contract for the renovation of Opolo Health Centre. These allegations do not include diversion of state funds to finance private businesses, buying up choice property and mindless operating foreign accounts by top government functionaries. It is estimated that Bayelsa State might have lost over N380 billion to corruption under the Sylva administration. It was these allegations and public outcry that led to the ugly incident of publicly stoning the Governor- which was symbolic of rejection by his people.
Sixtly, Governor Sylva is a serial breaker of promises and this includes non-implementation of the budget. From 2008 till date, no budget has been implemented. Analysis shows that government's budget compliance index is below 40%. Research has shown that from 2007 till 2011, Government House and Governor's office appropriate more money than five Ministries: Water Resources; Environment; Women Affairs and Social Development; Commerce and Industry and Agriculture put together. When Government House and the Governor's office are used as conduit-pipes, it is now understandable why top government functionaries can operate several foreign accounts and own choice properties abroad and the anti-graft agencies are not quick in coming.
Seventhly, there was gross misuse of the security outfit nicknamed Operation Famou-Tangbe OFT. Not only was OFT used as an instrument of political repression and intimidation; it was used as a killer machine like the Gestapo under the Third Reich. OFT also played the role of debt collector, arbiter of matrimonial issues, land disputes and other civil and domestic issues that have no bearing on security. Officially, it is estimated that the sum of N150 Million was spent monthly to maintain the outfit, the fact that OFT never took directives from the Police Command show that its operations are sinister and illegal. The Plant Manager at Gilly-Helena Hotel Late Mr. Karina Frank-Oputu - was beaten to death by OFT operatives, Freddie Philip Ockiya, 22 was arrested and shot by the same OFT and another ThankGod Michael, 26, was abbreviated by OFT operatives. All these murders occurred in September, 2011. The international Community, especially the Amnesty International was at the point of blacklisting Nigeria before the disbandment of the outfit. These extra-judicial killings and the allegations of government sponsorship of cult-wars put a dent on Sylva's democratic credentials. It is the bloodiest regime of terror Bayelsan have ever seen.
Objective analysts now know that the Sylva administration lacks sagacity in dealing with critical issues of state matter. For three whole years, the administration did not conduct Council elections and the result was the mindless diversion of Council funds. The Commissioner's quarters built the Alamieyeseigha administration has been sold to commissioners – who are rich enough to buy up several houses. This amounts to the destruction of the legacies of his predecessors. Governor Sylva placed an embargo on employment since he assumed office but pays lip-service to job creation. Amidst several financial scandals of government functionaries in the Sylva administration, not even one Commissioner has been punished. There are indications that Sylva rewards mediocrity and derides excellence. Little wonder that while the on-going projects are metaphorically abandoned, the commonwealth is used to pay Lawyers, bribe traditional rulers, Local Government Chairmen and some self-serving politicians. This does not include the countless millions spent in the media, hiring people to protest and bribing the anti-graft agencies and even fellow governors. Now the State is Bayelsa isn in a state of inertia because of the second tenure ambition of Governor Timipre Sylva.
The confrontational posturing of the Governor against President Jonathan seems to be the most buffeting of his veranda behavior. The body language of Governor Timipre Marlin Sylva bespeaks the dilemma he has found himself. The Governor is now a victim of the evil machinations of selfish advisers, political godfathers with messianic posturing and spiritualists who are willing to turn him into Boko Haram to do damage to the system or engage in self-immolation.
In the word of Forn, “When the healthy pursuit of self-interest and self-realization turns into self-absorption, other people can lose their intrinsic value in our eyes and become mere means to the fulfillment of our needs and desires.” Sylva is imbued with an intoxicating sensation of omnipotence and invincibility. Like a sadistic narcissist, he now perceives himself as Godlike, ruthless and devoid of scruples, capricious and unfathomable, emotion-less and copiously exudes belligerent posturing. The question is: Is Governor Sylva quarrelling himself and dancing this vile orchestra of megalomania because of the “trinity Of Power Property and Protection? Discerning minds need no esoteric bravura to know that this is the last orchestra heralds the ENDGAME.
Idumange John, Deputy President, Niger Delta Integrity Group