JONATHAN, SYLVA: THE LAST FIGHT
President Goodluck Jonathan and ex-governor, Timipre Sylva have been locked in a political duel over who controls their home state of Baylsa. Femi Folaranmi x-rays the frosty relatinship and its influence on the state.
For five years (2007-2012) their relationship was a subject of controversy, dangerous insinuations and a source of worry to Bayelsans and the Ijaw nation. They engaged in shadow boxing to cover the deep animosity they have for one another. But now they have donned their gloves to commence a dirty fight that could have far-reaching reverberations.
It took the official presentation of flag to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) recognized governorship candidate, House of Representatives member, Henry Seriake Dickson at the Samson Siasia Sports Complex for the bubble of resentment to burst between President Goodluck Jonathan and ousted governor, Chief Timipre Sylva.
Jonathan's statement at the ceremony which, political observers said has confirmed insinuations that he has been deeply displeased with the style of governance of the state has opened another frontier of war for Sylva who is fighting tooth and nail to salvage his crashing political career.
Litany of Sins
Few hours after the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP summoned Sylva to appear before an Appeal gubernatorial screening committee it set up after the gubernatorial screening panel headed by Brig Gen Idi Adamu(retd) issued a provisional screening certificate to him in October 2011, the former governor's loyalists and supporters concluded though in whispers that Jonathan had finally decided to move against their principal.
What followed was a cacophony of voices from the Wadata headquarters of the party which Sylva supporters insisted was a desperate attempt by party officials to justify the illegal exclusion of the former governor from the PDP governorship primaries.
According to the party officials, there were allegations that border on security arising from a petition written by a law firm against Sylva and which the party would need to investigate. The acting chairman of the party, Alhaji Kawu Baraje as recent as December 2011 in an interview with journalists in Ilorin, Kwara state capital reinforced this when he pointedly said Sylva was dropped from the governorship race because of security reasons.
However Jonathan's comments and that of the former chairman Board of Trustees of the party, Chief Anthony Anehin at the PDP rally in Yenagoa provided another perspective on why for the first time in the history of the PDP , a sitting governor was disqualified from seeking re-election.
Hear Jonathan: 'Everybody knows that in our society, we need development. I was second in command to Alameiyeseigha. One thing I remember is the Tower Hotel. It was not my dream but it was conceptualized under the Alameiyeseigha administration. He discussed it with the contractors, it was supposed to be a Five star hotel that would attract people from all over the world. But now, it is a monument of disgrace. One thing I know is that God is with Bayelsa people' Turning to Dickson he recalled the stoning incident to reinforce his position that Sylva failed as governor and did not deserve a second term.
'Dickson you brought the people from Abuja to present flag, the only thing I want to do is to tell you that sometimes ago I was in Bayelsa and the people stoned the Governor. I was here and you must work hard for Bayelsa not to stone you. The day they stone you, I will follow them to stone you' he said. Anehin in his own comments going proverbial stated that the move against Sylva was unconnected to alleged indiscipline attitude of Sylva.
His words: 'You can never grow older than your parents. When you grow older than your parents, you will never grow old. When a child insisted on eating the vulture and the Father tried to convince him not to and he insisted. It will be better you tell the child that those that have eaten the vulture in the past are no more. I am happy that the President is from the South-South. He needs the backing of the people. It is sad to hear that someone we don't know can challenge him. It will not happen again. All is well'
A close political associate of the President who served as a former commissioner under Sylva confirmed that stopping Sylva was seen as a responsibility of the friends of the President who feared for his political future after his tenure expires as President. According to him 'Sylva during the administration of the late President Umar Yar Adua did everything politically to undermine Jonathan as Vice- President and with Sylva as sitting governor if Jonathan finishes his tenure in 2015 it means, his( Jonathan) political future could be threatened because the former governor would attempt to mess the President up politically
He made reference to the personality clash between former governor Gbenga Daniel and former President Olusegun Obasanjo and vowed that they would not allow that to happen to Jonathan.
Trusted associates of Sylva said the former governor had concluded that Jonathan was behind his travails but decided not to confront him publicly and decided to explore diplomacy using his colleagues in the Governors Forum not necessarily to make Jonathan rescind his decision but to expose Jonathan's democratic credentials.
According to them Sylva was aware that various manipulations have been hatched to embarrass and humiliate him after the Supreme Court would have terminated his tenure went underground before the apex court judgment and quietly sneaked out of the country after some days to forestall plans to hound him and prevent him from forging ahead with his legal battle.
However with the pronouncements by Jonathan and the party leaders in Yenagoa, Sylva whom sources said has prepared himself to fight dirty if the need be decided to open up on the security report about the stoning incident in Yenagoa an In a statement titled 'The President lied' by his media aide, Ola Doifie, Sylva said it is now clear that President Jonathan was the mastermind of the incident.
'Two things stand out in the President's speech. He talked about a stoning incident in Yenagoa that he watched with pleasure and the Tower Hotel project in Yenagoa that was conceptualized by the Government of Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, which Jonathan took over as Governor of Bayelsa State and passed on to Sylva as Governor.
The stoning in Yenagoa happened during the president's visit and it was widely believed to have been arranged by a few misguided elements, which with the backing of Mr. President had used the presidential security to subvert the security of the state on purpose to embarrass Governor Sylva. Sponsors of the incident had tried to deny their involvement and present the event as indicative of the governor's non-performance.
The world now knows better, of course. Everyone is now perfectly well aware of the mastermind of that insult on the Ijaw nation. But let us state that it was not the governor who was disgraced by the stoning. Instead, it was the president himself' the statement stated. Questioning the rationale behind Jonathan's raising of Sylva's hands in January 2011 asking Bayelsans to vote for him only to turn around now to accuse him of non-performance, the statement pointed out that Jonathan stopped Sylva for other motives that were personal to him.
The statement reads 'It is unfortunate that President Jonathan could have such a disgraceful outing last Friday. At a time when it was being widely suspected that he might be involved in the questionable acts around the Bayelsa State governorship contest, his outing on Friday, 03 February, has conclusively proven that all along, he has been behind all the shenanigans in Bayelsa State deliberately to destabilize the state for his own selfish interest.
Nigerians expected President Jonathan to tackle security, unemployment, power, critical infrastructure, etc. They never expected him to manipulate democracy for his strange motives.
What all these show clearly is that the exclusion of Sylva from the primaries of November last year was based on nothing other than President Jonathan's inordinate whims. The event of last Friday confirms once again that Sylva has not committed any offence known to the PDP constitution or the Nigerian constitution to warrant his exclusion. The Bayelsa State governorship race was a critical democratic test case for President Jonathan; and we dare say that he has failed to prove himself as a believer in democracy and free choice'
Checks indicats that the issue has reached a critical stage now between the duo, Nigerians could be treated to a replica of the Obasanjo and former vice-president Atiku Abubarkar verbal war on the Petroleum Trust Development Fund when classified documents were declassified for public consumption.
Classified documents during the Jonathan years as governor are said to have been declassified and might be released to the public domain to put the President on the spot. Sylva's revelation while reacting to Jonathan's allegation on the five tower hotel project, sources say was just the beginning.
'President Jonathan also in his speech described the Tower Hotel, Yenagoa, as 'a monument of disgrace,' insinuating that the edifice is still at the stage he left it as governor. This is a barefaced lie and a misrepresentation of open facts. Sylva wishes to clarify that the hotel was at the second floor when he took over from Dr. Jonathan as governor. It is now at its 18th floor, as the whole world can see. Sylva agrees that the job has been delayed, but explains that the reason it has been delayed is because the contractor, whom Dr. Jonathan himself chose and awarded the contract to, asked for a variation of N5 billion.
Let Jonathan tell the world how much he paid this contractor and how much Sylva has paid the contractor. And we are aware that this same contractor is not building a house for Sylva in his village' his aide stated.
Already the Special Adviser to the President on media, Dr Reuben Abati has replied Sylva's statement but political observers are of the view that the war of attrition would be a long drawn battle. According to them while it is true that a sizeable number of Bayelsans are disenchanted with the dismal performance of Sylva as governor, they expected Jonathan to back them in January 2011 but he decided to support Sylva who would have been governor for second term now if not for the Court of Appeal judgment that upheld the lower court decision on the tenure elongation suit.
With the Supreme Court adjourning the appeal suit filed by the PDP and which Sylva cross-appeal, to April political pundits believe that in the ensuring days unless an influential voice calls for restraint the Sylva's camp and the President's loyalists would throw caution to the winds and trigger irreversible actions that would not only diminish the unity of the Ijaw nation but would sow the seed of dangerous politics in Bayelsa state.