These may not be the best of times for the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Bayelsa State due to increased intra-party bickering. Osa Okhomina reports on how an impeachment attempt against the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon Kombowei Benson, has snow balled into a larger, more complex political dilemma.
While the impeachment of the Speaker, Hon Kombowei Benson, was nipped in the bud with the assistance of the President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, and order returned to the House with the twelve aggrieved members carving a niche for themselves, the raging impeachment threat hanging over the Council Chairman of the Home Council of the Governor in Sagbama, Hon Perez Peretu, showed that all is not well within the Party.
At a meeting with the PDP State and Local Government Executives on Tuesday, Hon Seriake Dickson aligned with the fact that there is glaring evidence that a raging crisis in the fold of the party may have been kick-started with the sudden impeachment saga that hit the State House of Assembly.
According to him, “The party cannot afford to have a disconnect. Any gap in the party should be bridged and there is the need for continuous consultations. We should come together to build the synergy and give maximum support to the State Government and the leadership of the party. We have no room for blackmail, rancour and rumour mongering.
This is the time for development and improved security. Bayelsa is the base for the PDP in the country and must be seen as doing the right things”.
Political observers, and close members of the party revealed that the peace existing in the Assembly following the resolution of the crisis is fragile and not real. They argued that those involved in the purported impeachment may have agreed due to the suddenness and to avoid an early crisis in the party, but the tenure of the present Speaker may not last.
Though the involvement of the President Goodluck in the resolution of the crisis was claimed by the State Governor, Seriake Dickson and the leadership of the party led by the Chairman, Col Sam Inakoba (rtd), the sponsors of the impeachment were close associates of the President and the State Governor. It was alleged that the likes of HRH A.J Turner claimed to sponsor the impeachment to correct the imbalance noticed in the political arrangement in the state.
A check showed that the “faulty” arrangement was brought about by the wife of the President, Dame Patience Jonathan, during the struggle for the emergence of the Speaker, Hon Kombowei Benson. A fact affirmed by some aides of the Governor that he was not involved in the emergence of the House of Assembly Speaker.
This claim was also reaffirmed during the Thanksgiving service held in honour of the troubled Speaker at Kingdom of Grace Mission in Yenagoa with the wife of the President present.
According to Kombowei, “Though some politicians including the wife of the President, Dame Patience Jonathan, the Governor, Seriake Dickson and the Chief of Staff to the Bayelsa Governor, Chief Dikivie Ikhiogha played some role in the peaceful transition and his emergence as Speaker in the State, the issue of his emergence and the successes recorded so far could only be explained by God”. But all politicians present at the service observed that the State Governor was absent and his Deputy.
But the party Chairman, Col Sam Inokoba (rtd), assured that the troubled times in the House was over and that “The role of the State Governor must be applauded given the remarkable manner and matured approach adopted. It must also be noted that the party played a crucial role in all efforts to resolve the crisis in the Assembly. We want to state the obvious that we have so much at stake. Our people are yearning for restoration and they are looking up to the PDP to deliver”.
Some of the aggrieved members of the party in the state have shifted the blame over the crisis rocking the party to the general issue of “choking”. Some of them at the House of Assembly claimed the impeachment went through due to the poor style of leadership by the speaker and the biting economic policy of the state governor. The Governor, for the past three months, has concentrated on the saving of state funds to the tune of N24.5billion and warned that the money is not for sharing but “massive infrastructural development”.
It was observed also that half of the members of the State House of Assembly are, at one time or the other, were Speaker Protempo, Acting Speaker or Deputy, and Acting Governor, due to past crisis in the House. And they considered the imposition of the current Speaker as an insult on them.
While the residents of the state and the PDP members are yet to come to term with the resolution of the crisis at the State House of Assembly, another crisis hit the fold of the Party with the decision of the councillors from the home council of the State Governor, Hon Seriake Dickson, of the Sagbama Local Government Council to commence impeachment proceedings against the Chairman, Hon Perez Peretu over alleged cases of gross misconduct.
While a version claimed that the move to impeach the Council Chairman started with the demand by the Legislative arm for the approval of the Chairman to release for them a sum of N21million, a move the Chairman of the Council tactfully turned down, another claimed that the Council Chairman was considered disloyal to the State Governor with his loyalty traced to the stable of the former Acting Governor of the State, Hon Nestor Binabo.
But the Councillors, made up of off shoots of contentious political camps in Sagbama, decided to launch an impeachment salvo with the removal of the Leader of the Legislative arm and replaced with Hon Steve Tounaregha. At a sitting on Monday, fourteen members of the legislative arm of the Council led by Hon Steve Tounaregha resolved that the Council Chairman has committed impeachable acts and agreed to serve him an impeachment notice over an alleged seventeen count charge of gross misconduct.
It was gathered that the controversial sitting in which the resolution to serve the Chairman an impeachment notice was attended by fourteen councillors. The motion was moved by the councillor representing ward 10, Gbaregolo Eseimokumoh and was seconded by Tonkumo Igoniware, representing ward 9.
The impeachment notice, dated Tuesday, June 12, a copy of which was made available to LEADERSHIP showed that it was signed by Tounaregha, clerk of the legislative arm, Elliot Ogbotubo, and the 14 councillors. The impeachment notice gave the embattled Council Chairman, Hon Perez Peretu, seven days to react to the allegations.
At the home council of the Former Presidential Adviser on Niger Delta Affairs, Mr Timi Alaibe in Kolokuma/Opokuma, there is a rising plot to commence impeachment proceedings against the Vice Chairman of the Council, Chief Ebierein Itubo. Itubo was the former Acting Chairman following an impeachment move against the Chairman for his loyalty to Timi Alaibe during the battle for control in the area.
The Chairman, Ebikitin Diongoli, after his return to office based on the Court declaration on the illegality of his removal from office, initiated a probe and declared, after a review of the finances of the council, that over N95million was expended on court cases and insecurity in the area by the sacked Chairman of the council under the administration of Governor Timipre Sylva.
Speaking at a stakeholders’ Forum at the Council Headquarters in Kaima, the Council Chairman, Hon Ebikitin Diongoli, said though the salary of the 500 council workers is over N23million, the expended N95million on court cases and insecurity by the past administration was a huge set back to the Local Government Area in term of infrastructural development.
According to him, the lost amount was a colossal waste to the local government resources as over N20million monthly was recorded as spent on court cases for twelve months and a total of N50 million was expended in four months on issues, “the previous administration made the area ungovernable before and after the court ruling that returned me to the council. It is a total wastage, ordinarily it’s suppose to be used for the development of the local government area, but it has been used to service the lawyers bills so that the council can stand and fight the case.
“The government of Timipre Sylva was a government that fights itself, the government that deceives itself. When I contested the elections, we were just three candidates threw in their towels with the exception of the incumbent who didn’t come to contest rather he went to Abuja, and the same government announced that he was the winner of the elections, so I challenged it in court. I won at the court and the same government sponsored that they appeal, N95million was the total amount for that case, we have been able to pay N91million”.
Ebikitin Diongoli alleged that a huge debt was incurred by the local government council by the Vice Chairman while in office as Chairman during his absence due to the crisis orchestrated by “these people including the former Governor, Timipre Sylva while they masterminded the plans that sacked me and along with six other councillors from the seat of power perpetuated fraud in the council”.
On the continued absence of the Vice Chairman from office after the resolution of the crisis by the court, the Council Chairman, said though the Vice Chairman has some cases to answer on the spending of the council during his absence, “the Vice-chairman has refused to resume work as the Vice Chairman nor contribute to the engagements of the council. We have tried to address the crisis rocking the area but Itubo has bluntly refused to work but has been receiving his salaries continuously”. With the raging plot, the council membership of the ruling PDP is divided and could snowball into crisis if not checked.
Another bundle of crisis that is rocking the PDP in Bayelsa is the issue of the reinstatement of three members of the Party by the Appeal Court sitting in Port Harcourt over the claim that they were the authentic candidates of the Party in the 2010 Local Government Council Election in the State.
The crisis, which has engulfed the Sagbama, Ekeremor and Kolokuma/Opokuma local government areas of the state took a new turn with the decision of the State Working Committee (SWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to expel three of its chieftains over alleged violation of Party constitution.
The expelled members, Koku Gariga, Ineye Igbaifegha and Selekebina Saboh were expelled from the Party over their claims that they were the authentic Chairmen of the Sagbama, Kolokuma/Opokuma and Ekeremor local councils respectively following the judgement of the Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt in Rivers State.
It was gathered that the trio of the expelled PDP members had since 2010 engaged the party in a legal battle to reclaim the Part flag after they were allegedly denied the party’s tickets at the local government election.
The Court of Appeal had also on February 16th declared them rightful candidates of the party for the concluded election in their various councils. Leadership gathered that the expelled party men, in their desperation, had taken it upon themselves to prevail of the Customary Court to swear them in and also attempted to assume office in their respective council sectariat. They have also taken their matter to the Supreme Court for interpretation.
Speaking on the expulsion of the three party men laying claims to the Chairmanship position of the Council, the State Chairman of the PDP, Col Sam Inokoba said though the party waded into the crisis and set up a committee headed by Hon Douye Diri, they were indicted over alleged anti-party activities during the 2012 governorship poll.
The party said over the years it has been curbing rampant challenges of anti-party and other related defaults capable of bringing the party into disrepute and ridicules, “This great party is in a bid to curbing rampant challenges of anti-party and other related defaults capable of bringing the party into disrepute and ridicules”.
Also speaking, Publicity Secretary, PDP, Bayelsa State, Osom Mac-bere said the party extended a fair hearing to the sanctioned chieftains, but they failed to appear before the disciplinary committee for hearing. “PDP disciplinary committee invited them severally, but failed to appear, insisted that the trio played anti-party activities” Mac-bere said.
With pockets of issues rocking the party in the home state of President Goodluck Jonathan, there seems to be no solution in sight with the resolution of the State Governor, Hon Seriake Dickson to concentrate on delivering the needed infrastructural development in the state.