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BAYELSA: OVERCOMING A TRAGEDY OF ERRORS!

By NBF News

Of all the states that have been confronted with the confusion caused by the most recent judicial intervention in the political arena Bayelsa State is the one in which this intervention seems to have created the most dysfunctional consequence.

The Supreme Court ruling that has made Timipre Sylva redundant is simply a confirmation of what a large proportion of the state's citizenship had decided a long time ago. The use of the courts to delay the removal of an underperforming Governor who had clearly lost the backing of the party that he belongs to is nothing short of undesirable in any true democracy and should be made unacceptable by the electoral laws of the land.

Instead what we have been witnessing has been a situation in which the most unlikely and unpopular government ever to hold office in the state has been challenged by its own former supporters but has refused to acknowledge its loss of credibility and sought to use the courts to create a justification for its continuation in office. This is an improbable circumstance but then Bayelsa State has suffered a combination of improbabilities ever since it was founded. Now that the Supreme Court and INEC appear to have found a way around the imbroglio it remains to be seen whether the PDP can redeem its image and its relevance as the major party in the state by its conduct in the forthcoming elections. Its candidate Hon. Seriake Dickson is still being challenged by a conglomeration of forces (Bayelsa has thirty seven gubernatorial candidates approved by INEC) but in a manner that appears almost comical. Dickson's pedigree as a political activist is hardly in question but the challengers who have emerged out of the woods so to speak include both the serious and the laughable.

If the demand for the restoration of a credible and just period of governance in the state is to be achieved as a result of the next electoral exercise it is imperative that the comedy of errors represented by the long list of opportunist aspirants should be truncated. The PDP might not be the best party in the land but in Bayelsa State it still seems to offer the only alternative to itself. Given the suffering of the ordinary people of the state the comedy of errors in Bayelsa has already taken a tragic turn and it is time for this to end. Now some supporters of the removed Governor of Bayelsa State Timipre Sylva are telling people in the state that he will stage a comeback as a result of an anticipated court judgment that will restore him as the PDP's candidate as a result of primaries held in January 2011. This would be an incredible and unfortunately frivolous outcome if it happens, and even though it seems that nothing is impossible in the present Nigerian democratic dispensation we hope for the sake of the average Bayelsan that it will not happen.

In the next week or so those who are serious about raising the challenge to Sylva should indicate their willingness to stand down for Dickson instead of waiting around for further consequences of legal frivolity. The INEC statement that has confirmed that as a result of the Supreme Court judgment it will go ahead with elections based on the candidates submitted by the parties after April 2011 should put paid to all further challenges because they are nothing short of frivolous. It is high time that judges should cease to allow themselves to be used by people whose clear objective is to weaken rather than to strengthen the electorate process as an expression of the will of the populace. In this way they will help to overcome the tragedy of errors that the comedy in Bayelsa had become before the Supreme Court stepped in.

Sanusi's Sharp And Revelatory Al-Jazeera Outing
A little over a week ago we witnessed an interesting, not to say surprising, performance by Nigeria's Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi on one of the most sought after international media outlets. He was given the opportunity to discuss his nation's affairs with the TV guru David Frost on his Al-Jazeera slot known as Frost Over The World. Mr. Frost introduced the Nigerian technocrat in fulgent and almost laudatory or flattering terms. He described him as being extremely knowledgeable about the country's economic potential and very outspoken. When the questioning started it was immediately obvious that Frost himself had done some quick reading on the contemporary situation in Nigeria but that Sanusi's concerns went far beyond the purview of his hosts' assessment of his knowledge. The conversation focused on the most recent terrorist outrage, which had taken place in Kano, Sanusi's hometown, as well as on the background to recent labour unrest and its causes and consequences.

The Central Bank Governor was clearly distressed over the terrorist outrage but his views on the matter were dispassionate and analytical. He asserted that while it could be argued that poverty and mis-education formed the basis for the emergence of the syndrome government had also created circumstances that had encouraged miscreants to politicise their misconduct. According to Dr. Sanusi the apparent willingness of the authorities to appease terrorist activity in some parts of the country may have encouraged insurgent activity in other parts of the nation. He also asserted that the penchant for regional appeasement in the race for national leadership that has been encouraged by the present democratic dispensation was undermining national unity from within.

To say the least these were remarkably independent views to be expressed by a senior official of government on an international media outlet. They indicated that Dr. Sanusi is neither afraid to hold stridently independent views and express them regardless of whether they match government rhetoric or not, but that he is also very articulate in expressing such views. In discussing the issue of government's removal of the fuel subsidy and the consequential breakdown of trust between the citizens and their leaders he was even more outspoken. He asserted that it was inaccurate to describe the Nigerian policy as a subsidy.

Strictly speaking, he said, Nigeria's government had pegged the price of fuel for domestic consumption at a price that had to be maintained regardless of what obtained in the international market. In order to sustain that pegged price government guaranteed its importers that it would make up the shortfall in cost whenever it occurred and since the international price of crude oil had fluctuated wildly going from about $50.00 to over $120.00 per barrel the cost of refined products had also fluctuated and this had rendered government's guarantee both unrealistic and unsustainable.

His argument was simply that there had to be a strategic reform of this policy sooner rather than later but he also believed that Government must be able to ease the burdens of cost that the average consumer was likely to bear as this reform is put in place. Again it sounded as if Dr. Sanusi was being critical of the very government of which he was a part, but everything that he said made absolute sense. It was a sharp and revelatory performance coming from a senior government bureaucrat and it is to be hoped that the advice given to the authorities by him reflects these qualities.