Bayelsa Governorship Race: CAP Holds the Ace!
Once bitten twice shy, so says the adage. During the second Republic, Chief Ozurumba Mbadiwe was credited to have said “first fool no be fool, second fool, proper foolish”. It is also trite argument that you can fool all the people sometimes, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. In the case of Bayelsa State, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party has fooled the electorate for the second time, and now the PDP appears to be ready to fool the poor people of the oil-rich State for a third time. My interaction with a cross section of Ijaw people in Lagos shows that PDP's journey to Creek Haven is becoming too controversial hence most people would rather that a neutral political party is voted into power. This view may seem absurd but it is the inescapable reality.
On May 29, 2009, Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha was sworn in as the first democratically elected Governor of Bayelsa State. His administration took-off on a smooth note because of it was regarded as a period of innocence and a learning process. The administration started and completed some foundational projects such as the Niger Delta University, Bayelsa State College of Arts and Science, the dualization of the Mbiama-Yenagoa Road and the Isaac Boro High way. The Alamieyeseigha administration also constructed the Tombia–Amassoma Road to facilitate movement of men and materials to the University. One of the pluses of the administration was the introduction of the overseas scholarship scheme – which enabled the State to boost its manpower base, especially, high caliber manpower. DSP also created 24 LGAs which later became development centres. This was done to bring about development to the grassroots. Attempts were made to push the LGAs for approval by the National Assembly, but this was not successful. The administration can also be remembered for establishing a full-fledged Directorate of Project Monitoring, which duty it was to oversee the execution of projects from inception to completion.
On balance, the PDP administration started well with some technocrats as Cabinet members but about three years down the line, Alamieyeseigha lost control of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly and the bureaucracy. There was rancorous relationship the Executive and the Legislature and threats of impeachment filled the air. One gray area of the Alamieyeseigha is financial recklessness and lack of accountability in expenditure. The administration took some dead-weight loans from financial institutions, which were misapplied. Attempts to take a N15 billion bond from the stock market could not materialize because there were no audited accounts - an indication that government transactions were not transparent and accountable.
The administration was characterized by corruption, inflation of contract values, stealing of resources, obtaining of dead weight loans with huge interest rates; poor execution of contracts, and operation of overseas account. The administration did not have any good working relationship with the Federal Government hence the administration could not attract much-needed federal presence to Bayelsa State. The result was the gross mismanagement of the State's resources owing largely due to lack of prioritization. The PDP Governor was jailed and his ill-gotten wealth and properties were confiscated by the EFCC, sold cheaply and part of the money returned to the State. So during the first eight years of the PDP administration, Bayelsa people never enjoyed anything like democracy dividends. Ultimately, Bayelsa people lost out both in terms of image and resource pilferage. The DSP administration ended in a disaster owing to corruption, operation of offshore accounts and ownership of choice property abroad. Above all, DSP was not tactful in dealing with the centre and his aggressive posturing became his undoing.
On May 29, 2007, another PDP government was inaugurated with very high hopes and aspirations. The aspirations were even higher because people perceived that Governor Timipre Sylva was young, dynamic and experienced in politics, having worked with a former Petroleum Minister. Besides, Bayelsans had thought that with a Bayelsan as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, so much would be gained if there was a cordial relationship between the State and the Federal Government. Sadly, what is on ground is even worse that the Alamieyeseigha era. The PDP administration of Chief Timipre Marelin Sylva rather than work with President Goodluck Jonathan started fighting and disgracing him for the past two years. With the unfolding drama, it is difficult to discountenance the rumours that Sylva contributed money to stop the Presidential bid of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. The administration is now characterized by stealing because top government officials have no respect for public funds. Government funds are looted to finance personal businesses and this is done with impunity. The Commissioners in the Sylva administration helped themselves with the commonwealth of the State, as the Governor himself was not in control. Thus what the State has lost in development has been gained by top government functionaries of the administration.
The Sylva administration closed all windows of employment and even existing businesses like the Bayelsa Palm Limited and the Rice Farms have been abandoned. Billion of Naira has been spent in investment tours and dozens of Memorandum of Understanding have been generated but none has been implemented. Housing estates promised in 2009 budget are yet to be built yet the money has been diverted. Water schemes in the State only produce Alice-in-wonderland figures but the taps are not flowing. Rather than woo investors, militants are kept in the comfort of Government House. Many concerned citizens have lamented that the Governor's Office under Governor Timipre Sylva enjoy more budgetary provisions that many Ministries in the State put together. Our huge allocations have been stolen and kept away in bank accounts at home and abroad. Bayelsa State is believed to have lost more than N250 billion to looting. There is no doubt that the Sylva administration is a disaster because the administration has spent more money managing self-inflicted crisis than completing on-going projects. Now, most of the projects the administration inherited are still on-going and they may never be completed before the Governor leaves office in May, 2012.
The present PDP administration in Bayelsa State cannot even perform its core function of protecting lives and property. But for the timely intervention of the Federal Government, Operation Famu-Tambge might have continues with the havoc of killing innocent youths. Security Reports have it that the Government was responsible for the several cult wars that led to the death of scores of youths. The State Government cannot harness opportunities created by the Federal Government. The Airport scam by the State Government is just a case in point. In the perception of the public, Sylva's performance is so poor that in one of Mr. President's visit to Bayelsa State, irate youths spontaneously and openly stoned Governor Timipre Sylva at the Samson Siasia Sports Complex in Yenagoa. Now as a result of Sylva's imminent disqualification by the PDP, Governor Sylva is recklessly spending the State's resources to smear the Presidency sometimes to the point of blackmailing the person of Mr. President.
For the past 12 years, therefore, Bayelsa people are yet to fully understand the meaning of democracy dividends largely because of corruption of those managing the finances of the State. While one can conclude that mismanagement and looting are a thing of the character of those appointed to positions of leadership, it may be germane to conclude that theses helmsmen who have dwarfed the development of Bayelsa State contested on the platform of the PDP. So their failure is the failure of PDP in the State and the controversies emanating from the politiy are the result of PDP inability to entrench internal democracy.
Among a large spectrum of Bayelsans, the general feeling is that PDP has failed and it would be proper to scan through candidates from other political parties and endorse a candidate of integrity, character and the fear of God. A peep at the political terrain shows that one part which parades candidates of impeccable integrity is the CHANGE ADVOCACY PARTY, CAP. The Governorship candidate Dr. Imoro Kubor is a tried, tested and trusted technocrat, an aeronautic, engineer and a retired permanent Secretary who has traversed a wide spectrum of the Civil Service. His running mate Rev. O.J.Oworibo rose through the ranks of the Civil Service and got to the top echelon as Head of Service. THE KUBOR/OWORIBO ticket appears to be the most viable for now. It is not surprising that most Bayelsan who are fed up with PDP are massively embracing the CAP Governorship ticket.
If PDP has performed poorly for the past 12 years, why should Bayelsans want the same Party to govern Bayelsa State again? The characters may change but the same leadership style may be adopted to destroy the State for the third time. This seems to be the fear of patriotic Bayelsans. The State has tried two PDP Governors who have performed poorly and disgraced the State. The question is: Is it not proper now for Bayelsa people to elect a credible candidate from another political platform as the people of Edo and Ondo States did, where the ACN and the Labour Party have performed far better than the PDP? For now the PDP is a liability to the electorate and the earlier stakeholders understand the plight of the people, the better for our polity.
In my unbiased view, Bayelsa people should make a choice between a controversial and an under-performed PDP and a new, progressive CHANGE ADVOCACY PARTY, CAP, which has people of character, track-record and fear of God. Recognizing that it is human beings and not political party that can deliver good governance, I think that if Bayelsans are objective and could draw a dividing line between political party and governance, they should give a chance to the Change Advocacy Party, CAP, to form the next government of Bayelsa State come 2012. I think and rightly so that in the Bayelsa State Governorship race, the CAP holds the ace.
Clementina Prefa, wrote from Lagos