RESOLVING THE BAYELSA CONUNDRUM
No doubt, there is a logjam in Bayelsa. A political gridlock that needs the wisdom of Solomon to unravel. Despite the decay, nay the putrefaction in almost all our national institutions, we mercifully still have the judiciary (or what is left of it) to adjudicate and give level playground to all citizens, irrespective of status, rank or standing.
The judiciary blows both hot and cold at different but crucial times in the life of our country. At some times, you feel like kissing our justices for their principled, courageous pronouncements.
At other times, you feel like slapping them, and you are only restrained by the prospect of rotting in jail after you've vented your spleen against them. Well, we wait for the judiciary to determine who is the authentic gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 2012 election in Bayelsa State.
You know the story. The incumbent governor, Timipre Sylva, was the candidate after primaries held in January this year, towards the general elections in April. Shortly before the time, however, the Court of Appeal ruled that the tenures of five governors who re-ran elections after the 2007 polls, were not over. So, the governors of Bayelsa, Kogi, Adamawa, Sokoto, and Cross River waited to fight another day.
But in Nigeria, politics is filled with variableness and shadow of turning. The PDP, just like other parties, was to present a candidate for the February 2012 polls latest by December 11, according to the Electoral Act. And the PDP scheduled party primaries for November 19. Suddenly, Sylva, who had coasted home in January, was no longer the blue-eyed boy of the establishment. The powers-that-be no longer wanted him, and he must be stopped at all costs. There was a new bride, a serving federal lawmaker who goes by the name Henry Seriake Dickson, and the whip on the rafters must be retrieved, and applied copiously on the ample backside of the senior wife, who was once a darling.
What should a truly democratic party do? The cult that holds the levers of power does not want a candidate again, so, you let the new anointed slug it out with the orphan at the primaries. That is the fair way to go. But not for PDP. The party knows nothing about fairness, is neither for the people, nor is it democratic in any form. So, Timipre Sylva must be clobbered out. He must be castrated, emasculated and asphyxiated. In fact, run him out of town. How to do it? Screen him out. Render him ineligible to contest the primaries. And that was what the PDP did. But the party did not reckon with the fighting spirit of the incumbent governor. He battled the powers-that-be to a standstill, ending at the courts, which he asked to stop the November 19 primaries.
What were Sylva's grounds? On October 27, he had been screened and issued a certificate of clearance by the party for the primaries. The screening panel was headed by Brig. Gen Idi Adamu (retd). But suddenly, as if working to the answer, the party asked all the candidates to appear before an appeal panel, headed by Mrs Abiodun Olujimi, former deputy governor of Ekiti State. The panel did not disqualify Sylva, but referred his matter to the party's National Working Committee (NWC).
The NWC came out to say the Bayelsa governor was ineligible to run. Reasons were not given. Acting party chairman, Abubakar Baraje, simply told the country that Sylva knew why he was not cleared, and he could make the reason public if he wanted. In other words, Baraje was saying since the PDP had never been for the people, is not for the people, and will never be, the people can then go to hell. It was a family matter, and it is the 'family' that matters, just as in the La Cosa Nostra. Yes, PDP is Nigeria's mafia, even worse.
But where PDP shot itself in the foot is that it underrated Sylva's fighting spirit. Seriake Dickson had emerged candidate at the supposed primaries held last month. PDP said it could not obey the High Court order that halted the process, since what the court issued was just a motion on notice, and not an injunction. And again, that is was protected by Section 87 (10) of the 2010 Electoral Act, which empowers parties to hold primaries despite pending determination of any suit. Fine. But since the party was being legalistic, it should have remembered that its own constitution did not in any place give the NWC power to decide who contests primaries or not. Dickson was an Attorney-General in Bayelsa under Goodluck Jonathan as governor, and he is currently a federal lawmaker, will he claim not to know this? But the aroma of power is often too overpowering, and reason flees. Both Sylva and PDP are now before the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division. The party and its power brokers may well get a bloody nose soon, if care is not taken. It's a possibility that will serve our democracy well. Don't break your own rules because you do not like the face of an individual. Or like Bashorun M.K.O Abiola would say, you do not kill a baby because the midwife who took the delivery is a witch.
Two things may likely happen. The PDP may end up not having a candidate for the Bayelsa polls in February as happened in Imo State in 2007, when the then president, Olusegun Obasanjo said Ifeanyi Araraume would be candidate over his dead body. The second scenario may be a replay of the Rotimi Amaechi saga. Olusegun Obasanjo again (what a disruptive influence on our democracy!) had said in 2007 that Amaechi's candidacy had a k-leg in Rivers State, though the latter had won at the primary election fair and square. Celestine Omehia was imposed as candidate, won the election, and got inaugurated into office. About five months later, the Supreme Court ruled that Amaechi was the lawfully elected candidate, and Omehia was kicked out. Will the same be repeated in Bayelsa? It's likely.
Now, let us look at the fairness of it all. Sylva is the incumbent. But the establishment does not want him again. What is the reasonable and equitable thing to do in a democracy? Allow all candidates to slug it out, and prop up your own man in all decent ways possible. But no, fairness is a stranger to PDP. So, Sylva must be dealt a bad card, he must be given blows below the belt. For me, it is not whether the governor did well in his first term or not, it is Bayelsa people that can determine that. It is about his political and constitutional rights. As a member of PDP, he has a right to run for any office he wishes, unless he had been indicted for a criminal act. Was it not the same right Jonathan laid claim to when he ran for the presidency, contrary to the extant power sharing formula in his party? Therefore, excluding Sylva from the primaries is the height of injustice. And as they say, injustice to one is injustice to all. We dare not keep quiet in the face of such wantonness and brazenness.
However, the judiciary can save us from the eventuality ahead. As things stand, Bayelsa is chaos waiting to occur. Seriake Dickson is widely believed to be the candidate of President Goodluck Jonathan. Sylva equally uses every opportunity to stress that the president is not opposed to his candidature, and that he is, indeed, backing him. The National Assembly caucus of the party is with the governor, the State House of Assembly is with him. Bayelsa elders are divided right down the middle. There may be deaths and destruction ahead if the logjam persists. But should we wait for that avoidable tragic pass? Must we unleash sorrow, tears and blood on ourselves when it can be avoided? It's the judiciary we must talk to. No pussy-footing on the Bayelsa issue. No prevarication, no equivocation. Let's have the verdict, and have it promptly. Who is the true PDP candidate? Let's know, even before the February 11 date for the election, and the tension will go down considerably, and innocent lives will be saved, spared the bloodletting that is to come.
For the life of me, I can't seem to understand why the judiciary takes its time on some issues that are very fundamental and germane to our lives and our democracy. The determination of tenure of the five governors, for instance. The case had been before the Supreme Court even prelude to the elections last April. Now, the court recently reserved judgment. And Governor Ibrahim Idris of Kogi has virtually concluded the disputed extra time, elections have been held in the state. What if the court now rules that the added time was illegal? It becomes just an academic exercise.
But the same judiciary can be quite proactive when it wishes. It took the Supreme Court just about 18 days to kick out Andy Uba as the impostor governor of Anambra State in 2007, and return Peter Obi to his seat. We want to see such decisiveness and promptitude in the Bayelsa gubernatorial affair.
Okotie, Okala, and labour of our heroes past
It was with a lot of pleasure that I saw former national goalkeeper, Emmanuel Okala, receive the Karis Award of the Household of God Church last Sunday. The award came with a N1 million monetary gift. The Karis Award is part of the annual G.R.A.C.E (God's Riches at Christ's Expense) programme of the church led by former pop star, Chris Okotie. Every year, he honours and rewards those who have made remarkable impact, both in the church, and in the society. Former Green Eagles goalkeeper, Okala, won the Karis Award for this year.
As youngsters, we knew no other goalkeeper than the towering Emmanuel Okala. In fact, the name Okala was synonymous with goalkeeping. I was fortunate to have met and known him in 1977, when the Green Eagles were camped at a hotel owned by my mum in our Ipetumodu, Osun State homestead. A gentleman, indeed. Okala was quiet to the point of being taciturn. I can remember that day, during Festac 77, that he came into our living room, to watch the festival on television. My father had called our youngest brother, Biyi, then a toddler, to stand beside him. Of course, it was like David and Goliath.
I remember that it was with some regrets that I watched Okala retire from the national team. I quite recall the debacle of bringing him and Christian Chukwu back after retirement to confront Algeria in the bid to qualify for the World Cup at Spain in 1982. We eventually lost in both legs, at Lagos and in Constantine. Tragic.
Emmanuel Okala lost his younger brother, Patrick, who was also a national team goalkeeper in the early to mid 80s. How painful it must have been for the family. For decades, he remained faithful to the team that shot him to limelight, Enugu Rangers, as a member of the technical crew.
I'm glad I'm not writing all these after Okala had passed away. It is so gratifying that though ageing, he has been recognized and honoured by Okotie and the Household of God Church. That is how the labour of our heroes past will not be in vain, according to the wordings of our National Anthem. I doff my cap for Okotie, and commend the action to the country, our churches, and other interest groups. I'm sure Okala can use the N1 million. As Chief Zebrudaya has said, why give a man MON (Member of the Order of the Niger) without the EY (which completes the word to make MONEY). Okotie has not only given Okala MON, he has added EY to it. Kudos.
Re: The Farida affair
No will to fight corruption
The Nigerian government has no will to fight corruption. Let them hire an angel to head the EFCC, he will not succeed because the thieves in government will frustrate him. Farida Waziri should take her removal in good faith and thank God they did not kill her.
Inyang Abasiofiok, Akwa Ibom State
Not worth it
Public office is not worth holding in Nigeria. I pity Waziri. Chrysostom
If she has clean hands…
If Madam Waziri has clean hands, she would have reasonably contested her removal, which was not done procedurally and negated the principles of fair hearing.
Barrister Uchey Ifediora
Something must be wrong
No reason was given for Farida's removal. Something must be wrong somewhere. Like you said, we have the right to know why she was removed. But I know her enemies will be put to shame someday.
Gideon Ebah, Apapa, Lagos
Please correct your quotation
Please correct and re-align your quotation on the Farida affair. Our Lord Jesus said not what goes inside defiles a man, but what comes out. Remain blessed.
Okwara Patrick, Owerri
*Thanks brother, yes, I mixed the quotation up.
Affair of corruption
The Farida affair is an affair of corrupt people in power, outside power, within power, behind power and around power. They labour to make a saint of self, and paint others black.
You are a true Nigerian. Hope they have listening ear. Mijahpwaso L. O
No fight yet
Nobody is fighting corruption yet.
Emmah Mbah, Abuja
I appoint you
A good piece on Farida. I appoint you the defender of the defenceless.
Farida and the brotherhood
Let me borrow the word of Amanze Obi in his column, 'Farida and the Brotherhood.' In fact, our president is under the control of this foreign and local brotherhood which determines how we run our government. The foreign brotherhood has congratulated the president for the sack of Waziri, with only one more request: same-sex marriage. And anything can happen.
Chief J. J. Ibeka, Lagos
If Farida is not guilty, she should not be sent out through the back door, as she did not come in through the back door.
Engr Enn Anolue
No basis for comparison
There is no basis for comparing Nuhu Ribadu and Farida Waziri. The latter is a better person. However, the irony is that most of those who belong to the so-called Ribadu crowd are journalists. Why? Sam Gabriel, Yenagoa
You have done your part. Your concerns on Farida are legitimate. Mr President should clear the air.
Your piece shows that you love looters to be handled softly. All serious suspects elsewhere in the world are handcuffed. Gabriel Barau
Farida is just a victim of the Nigerian factor. Yes, the president owes us explanation. Uzo Angus-Okoro, Enugu
Forces of evil
Once again, you brought the truth to bear and exposed the forces of evil surrounding Jonathan, which has made him barber's chair. Tony Ukaegbu
Farida tried her best. Whatever induced her sack, whether internal or external, she should happily retire home and make the best of her life and family. This is why the country is not worth dying for. Henry Emeka Umunnakwe
I was not surprised at Farida's sack because government is under pressure from some individuals and politicians who are under the searchlight of EFCC. If not, let them tell us the reason for her removal. Alhaji Danladi Yaro, Sabo Ibadan
Not good for us
I believe Farida stepped on toes. Obviously, her sack is not good for the country, or the Jonathan government. After all, it is corruption that kept us where we are today.
Valentine, Asaba, 07030854976
Giving the dog a bad name
I think it is giving the dog a bad name so as to hang it. If those living in glass house feel comfortable throwing stones, then time will vindicate Farida. Isaac Gallam, Plateau State
Let's beg Buhari to head EFCC
Jonathan is not serious about fighting corruption, otherwise let him beg Gen Buhari to head EFCC. Many of the thieves will quickly storm our airports and flee. Others, he will put behind bars, and toss the key into the lagoon, or even the Atlantic Ocean. Dr Ike Duru, Lagos
No fear of EFCC
No doubt about Mrs Waziri's achievements, but what you failed to mention is that she succeeded in removing the fear of EFCC from the minds of Nigerians.
Davou B, Jos
Time will tell
Did Madam Waziri chew more than she could bite? Time will tell.
The problem Farida Waziri had as EFCC boss was that she cracked golden eggs laid by untouchables. They should prosecute her if she committed any crime, but they will not. That is the way it goes in our country. Sylvester Ogona
The Federal Government does not owe a duty of public explanation on the sack of Farida of EFCC. Your lamentation in this regard is uncalled for.
M. K. Mba, Afikpo
As far as I'm concerned, Ribadu remains a media hype contrived by the Ogbasanjo (meaning he that spreads evil, in Igbo language) era. Vena
The affair is fair
The Farida affair is fair because she was merely removed instead of being investigated by the government, which has denied us opportunity of seeing the skeletons in her cupboard.
Dr J. T. Akinmayowa, Uniben
I can now sleep
I can sleep today, having read your piece on Farida. From the day she was appointed, the media rejected her. All her efforts to prove her ability were frustrated. I'm happy today because maybe only you in the media think well of her. God is already rewarding you.
The way and manner Farida Waziri was removed from office goes to prove the fact that we're not ready to fight the war against corruption. Chris Echie Esq
Vendetta did her in
Farida should have been fired long ago, but for the Nigerian factor. She came to EFCC with loads of goodwill, but destroyed all by embarking on vendetta against those who worked under Ribadu. She destroyed the structure of EFCC, and sidetracked due process. I'm surprised that you believe so much in her. Col Idris Danjuma, Abuja
Progress in error
The removal of Farida Waziri is progress in error. President Jonathan should have commended, instead of sacking her.
Sunday Chuna, Akpajo, Rivers State