Road to Creek Haven: the Bumps, Intrigues and Power Play By: Idumange John
May we draw the attention of the public to a text message circulated by a faceless group called NEW NIGERIA. The message reads 'Nigerians, Corruption is d problem in our Country & the key to fight it is to kick PDP out of the nation because they have failed Nigerians for the past 12 years. Beloved citizens, do not vote for PDP, let us break d chains of slavery & poverty that has kept us in PENURY. Take Bayelsa as a case study & you will be sorry for Bayelsans because of BAD leadership of TIMIPRE SILVA. WE shall give you details of the POOR governance in Bayelsa State (Sic).
Every unbiased analyst will draw two salient points from the message. First, the group, if it exists may be stating the obvious that the PDP administration for the past 12 years has mal-performed and corruption is rife, and this point has been stated to the point of overkill by Transparency International. The second salient issue to be deduced from the message is the specific mention of Timipre Sylva, which is an indication that the group is sponsored by a political opponent. Who is the opponent one may ask? The terms stamp out poverty, break the chains of slavery and poverty have been profusely used by Timi Alaibe – the Labour Party Gubernatorial candidate in Bayelsa State. This veranda approach once more emphasizes the fact that some persons somewhere are prepared to fight dirty. In the preceding paragraphs, let us beam a search light on the intrigues and powerplay that would characterize the Road to Creek Haven.
The race to Creek Haven has reached feverish height; it does appear that political activities have reached their crescendo. According to media reports, there are five frontline candidates contesting the coveted position with the incumbent Governor of Bayelsa State Chief Timipre Sylva. But one of the five candidates is running the race on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; the candidates include Chief Francis Doukpola; Hon. Fred Ekiyegha; Chief Fred Agbedi and Chief Beinmo Spiff. In what everybody described as free and fair elections, the incumbent Governor Chief Timipre Sylva garnered about 98% of the votes and won a land slide victory at the PDP Primaries. The Opu Abadi 1 of Kolokuma/Opokuma won.
Reports are rife that Chief Timi Alaibe's decision to dump the PDP to fly the kite of the Labour Party was informed by the decision of the National Working Committee of the Party to give automatic ticket to all incumbent Governors to contest the 2011 polls. This decision was borne out of the fact that, in several measures, the PDP governors have performed and that continuity of policies is likely to bring about the good governance
In Nigerian politics, the incumbency factor is a potent one. Although there are dissenting voices as to the achievements of Governor Timipre Sylva in the last three and a half years. However, if the opinion of the youth leaders and most traditional rulers are anything to go by, it may well be that Governor Timipre Sylva has done creditably, given the challenges that confronted his administration right from inception.
Three of such challenges are believed to have militated against the effectiveness of government businesses. First is the challenge of militancy which guzzled the Sate's meager resources through security votes. At the Zenith of militancy, Bayelsa State alone had well over eighty militant camps – each laying claims to doing some sort of surveillance work and therefore demanding huge allowances from the State. Apart from the State's contribution to the funding of the Joint Military Task Force, JTF, and the State also paid the Bayelsa Volunteers – an indigenous security outfit inherited by the Sylva administration. All these commitment put enormous pressure on the finances of the state amidst dwindling accruals from the federation Account.
The second challenge was the internal crisis within the Peoples Democratic Party PDP. The circumstances of Sylva's ascendancy to power showed that he never had core loyalists in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly and other organs of government. Most of the members of his cabinet were imposed on him. As Chief Executive of the State, it was only expedient for him to entrench himself within the Party structure and build a formidable array of much-needed followership for delivering democracy dividends in the State. Efforts at achieving this met with stiff resistance and this culminated in the fractionalization of the already fractured relationship between the Governor and those who held the view that PDP was their brain child.
The third challenge was the activity of militants which slowed down development and reduced the source State's quota of revenue generation. The dwindling resources also affected budget implementation, and that explains why the State resorted to bond financing of some of the heavy infrastructure in the State.
Whereas Governor Timipre Sylva has been widely commended for building peace in the State and making tremendous improvements in other social services such as power supply, education and water supply, some Bayelsans believe that his achievements on ground cannot justify the huge sums of money accruing to the State. Investigations revealed that Governor Timipre Sylva has recorded impressive strides in healthcare, human capital development, civil service welfare, financial sector reforms and the building of institutions but the media machine and information managers of the State were not proactive in highlighting the strengths and strides of the administration. This has however changed in recent times.
There has been put in place a strategic media management team which highlights the achievements of the Timipre Sylva administration. Prominent among these programmes is the one run by Non-Governmental Organization on A.I.T titled Bayelsa Transparency Watch. The reality is that Governor Sylva is a silent achiever who has never liked the idea of giving unnecessary publicity to his administration. On the contrary, he wanted his works to speak for themselves. The administrations belief in doing more work without publicity is what has created the impression that the State was not working.
On the April 2011 elections, the main contender to Governor Timipre Sylva may not come from the People Democratic Party after all. The former Niger Delta development Commission Boss Mr. Timi Alaibe may prove to be a more formidable opponent. A forth night ago, Timi Alaibe defected to the Labour party. He was the immediate past presidential Adviser on the Niger Delta and co-coordinator of the federal Government funded but tottering Amnesty Programme. From the grapevine, his running mate will come from Brass, but the reality is that Governor Sylva may not have done enough in terms of physical projects but he has built peace in Liama, Egueama, Brass, Okpoama and Iwoama and the people there are resolved to give four more years to superintendent their affairs.
Opinion leaders believe that the political space in the ruling PDP is crowded hence for a man looking for every means necessary to govern Bayelsa State, the Labour Party may well be a safe haven, even though the Party does not have any physical presence in the State. There are however insinuation that Timi Alaibe made wide consultations with some kinsmen who had not only parted ways with the PDP but have been alleviated from the Sylva administration.
Our correspondence disclosed that Alaibe has seen his race to creek as his last opportunity to take a shot at the coveted office. Could this be the reason why the stoning of Governor Timipre Sylva was orchestrated by the opposition? Facts are still hazy as to who masterminded such dastardly acts. But from the grapevine, it would be difficult for the former NDDC boss to exonerate himself.
Precisely on Wednesday January – 2011, there were reported attack on Timi Alaibe's Country home in which about nine people died and many others wounded. In a statement made available to a section of the media, Mr. Timi Alaibe alleged that the attackers came from outside the State. It was also alleged that the attack was aimed at stalling his gubernatorial ambition. However, our correspondents in Yenagoa had it on good authority that the fracas may not have been caused by outsiders after all.
The story line is that some Port Harcourt-based cult groups were hired to come to receive Mr. Timi Alaibe at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa. Even before his arrival, the said rival cult groups had a mirror clash in which a man identified as the Personal Assistant to a serving Commissioner in Bayelsa State was molested and physically. It was in that tensed atmosphere, that Mr. Timi Alaibe was received and accompanied by the mammoth crowd to Opokuma – his country home.
Eye witness account has it that security in the area was tight and there was remote possibility of any external invaders attacking anybody in the crowd, shooting, maiming and killing. Of course, an indigene of the Community who disclosed through a telephone call, but claimed anonymity averred that those who fomented the trouble at Opokuma, who were wearing the T-Shirt of Alaibe were cultists who came with them in about 4 Coaster Buses; they were not outsiders. He said “I don't know what really happened but the shooting and killing among the cult groups happened in the presence of Alaibe and the police men who came with him from Port Harcourt. That is why it is funny that the man is pointing accusing fingers at imaginary enemies outside; Alaibe is the architect of that dastardly act, he opined!.
Another man from Odi – who claimed he was near the scene of the incident said, the guns used for the operation might have been kept in a nearby bush. It was people who were in the large crowd that dashed to the bush, pulled out the guns and started shooting. The Odi man claimed that Alaibe is not God fearing. Why do you want to get political power by all means? He queried!
It may be deduced that the event at Opokuma is regrettable because the number of lives lost and the scores of people wounded cannot be quantified in material terms. They are Ijaw sons, who would have been useful to their parents and communities. But why would a politician spill the blood of the innocent just because he wants to garner the sympathy of the electorate?
Pleasantly, the Bayelsa State Police Command has arrested some people who are believed to be associated with the incident. What can be said now is that the police should do a thorough investigation to unravel the real culprits and bring them to book. Bayelsa State cannot afford the luxury of another bout of blood bath. Violence is inimical to free fair and credible elections and Governor Timipre Sylva has severally condemned violence as a political weapon. He never used violence to be governor; his ascendancy was the handiwork of God. Tongues are wagging as to who is the desperado that wants power by all means?
The Beacon of January 14 – 20 authoritatively says that Alaibe has challenged Sylva to a debate on good governance. It may be recalled that in Rivers State, Dr. Abiye Sekibo – now the flag bearer of the Action Party of Nigeria challenged Governor Rotimi Amaechi to a debate but realizing that he was too busy with state matters, he declined. Feelers from Yenagoa indicate that the executive Governor is working round the clock to commission some projects in April before the general elections. Insinuations are rife that having failed to garner the much needed political capital from the Opokuma mayhem, Chief Timi Alaibe is looking for every opportunity to foment trouble, as some of his followers are already contemplating a State of emergency in a State that can best be described as the most peaceful in the South-South geo-political zone.
Alaibe seems ready for a showdown, as he fine-tunes his strategy for an onslaught on the incumbent Governor. He appears to be determined to wrest power from Governor Sylva, but political pundits believe such s feat would be a miracle given the fact that the Labour Party on which platform Alaibe is contesting is yet unknown in Bayelsa State. It could be for that reason Alaibe may be putting together a formidable team. But Bayelsa State has been a PDP controlled State since May 1999.
Senator Inatimi Spiff has been appointed Chief Alaibe 2011 campaign Director. Inatimi believes that there is high level of incompetence and mismanagement in Governor Sylva's administration. However, he has served in several capacities. Inatimi Spiff was Secretary to the old Rivers State Government and the consensus has been that he underperformed, as his people never felt his impact. People from the Brass constituency also hold the view that he was one of the worst Senators Bayelsa State has ever produced in terms of representation and Constituency Development projects. Of course, most politicians who are out of circulation must look for a platform to maintain some relevance. Hon, Talford Ongolo, one Speaker of the old Rivers State House of Assembly, has been appointed Deputy Campaign Director. When he fielded questions with media men, he asserted that things are so terribly bad that only Timi Alaibe could come to the rescue of the State. A man of such a tainted pedigree cannot rescue himself, let alone rescue his State.
But an Opokuma indigene who works with the public service countered this view when he said, for the 8 years Alaibe called the shots in NDDC; he empowered only his immediate family members. The man posits that although Governor Timipre Sylva may not have done excellently, it was the series of crises within the PDP and the so called Abuja politicians that made things very difficult for him. I believe Governor Sylva would correct all these anomalies during his second term in office' the man said!
Most of those who formed the core of Alaibe supporters appear to be non-performers. If Inatimi says the Civil Service is crying for change, one may want to ask what fundamental changes he introduced when he was SSG in the old Rivers State under Governor Rufus Ada George. Analysts say the only change he introduced in the civil service was morning devotion – a situation whereby all civil servants were compelled to carry out Morning Prayer sessions and this has no bearing on the good governance he is preaching.
Another person – Chief Fyneman Wilson has been elected Chairman of Alaibe's Campaign Caucus Team. Hon. Wilson was an active member of PDP but their leadership was dislodged hence he became a strange bedfellow in PDP. Bayelsan believe that because of his penchant for power, he could even betray President Goodluck Jonathan, because joining forces with a party other than the President's party would amount to betrayal.
The Director of Media and Publicity Mr. Douye Diri failed as a Sports Commissioner in the Goodluck administration, and he confessed to his grandiose failure while in office. One wonders how such a man would successfully coordinate Alaibe's media and publicity, and it is difficult to fathom his knowledge of media propaganda in such a chaotic period. Most of those constituting the so called think-tank of the Labour Party are either over-recycled politicians or green horns in politics who may be angling for settlement by the Sylva administration.
What can be said is that while Governor Timipre Sylva is on ground, as the opu abadi 1 of Opokuma, Mr. Timi Alaibe is frantically searching for relevance hence his offensive on the Bayelsa State Government. Opu Abadi means big ocean – which will be difficult to cross. Analysts believe that Alaibe's approach to politics is rather too aggressive and may lead chaos if he is not called to order. There are predictions that his unbecoming attitude has also become a source of worry to the Presidency. In Nigeria politics, it would amount to an affront if a President loses his State. This has never happened and Bayelsa State may not be an exception.
With the type and character of political followership flocking to the Labour Party in Bayelsa State, the former NDDC boss may be headed for another bout of monumental defeat. This may well mark the end of his political career at least in the foreseeable future. Other political pundits believe that Alaibe may be given a soft landing by way of using his investment in the Labour Party as a bargaining chip for a federal appointment. The general feeling is that as events unfold, the race to CREEK HAVEN may be full of mines, bumps and intrigues. Our passionate plea is that the creeks and Rivers are full of the blood of the innocent and those who want to overthrow the PDP and break the chains of poverty should not spill blood because of political power. We all have an eternal bond in God and common humanity.