Osa Okhomina, Yenagoa Correspondent uncovers Governor Sylva’s many battles for his re-election bid in 2012.
When hundreds of disabled persons converged at the Isaac Boro Peace Park to offer prayers for the re-election of the Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Timipre Sylva in 2012 and peace during the coming Governorship polls, many political observers concluded that the battle for the Governorship seat in the state is open and will be tough for the incumbent to return to his exalted office.
In the last few months after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the new time-table for the 2012 polls, the tempo of lobbying, horse-trading and political realignment have increased considerably with the various political parties and camps strategising on how best to draw advantages from the new time table.
But there are two major issues that worry the staunch supporters of the Governor and the PDP in the state. First, is the reported decision of the National Secretariat to conduct fresh primaries in line with the directive of INEC and the purported meetings convened by former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to convince President Goodluck Jonathan to pave way for Chief Timi Alaibe to return to PDP and hand him the governorship ticket. The Ota Chicken farmer was reported to have hinged his advice on the perceived unpopularity of Gov Sylva, a scenario he claimed nearly cost the PDP Bayelsa State in 2011.
Chief Alaibe was at various times, Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the presidential aide to President Jonathan on Niger Delta Affairs. The former NDDC boss is currently the Labour Party Governorship Candidate in Bayelsa State for next year’s polls. Many Bayelsans believe he is Governor Sylva’s main challenger.
According to reports, monitored by a leading local tabloid in the state, the Niger Delta Herald, two meetings to that effect had held, one in Ota and the other in Abuja. According to top sources at the meeting, President Jonathan was reported to have told the former President that he will not support any opposition to be Governor in his State. But sources at the meeting claimed that Alaibe handed the President three conditions for his return to the PDP. First, he said the President and the Elders of the PDP in the State should organise a Press Conference stating that his return to the PDP was due to the pressure mounted on him by the President.
Leadership gathered that the reason for such condition was to ‘‘save his face’’ before his numerous supporters in the state who had complained in the past that he suddenly turned around to accept federal appointment after building a solid structure in the state for his governorship ambition. Chief Alaibe also asked for the dissolution of the existing executive of the PDP in the state and the adoption of the Direct Voting System from ward to State level.
Whether President Goodluck Jonathan accepted his position at the Ota Farm was however unknown but another meeting held at unknown location in Abuja among those opposed to the Governor.
Though it ended abruptly after a sudden appearance of the Governor at the meeting but it was well attended. But President Jonathan didn’t fail to advise the governor to pay up the billion of naira which the state is owing under the present administration.
Former PDP Chairman in Bayelsa State and Governorship aspirant who is believed to be Chief Alaibe’s pointman, Chief Fred Agbedi was among those in attendance. The sudden appearance of the Bayelsa Governor at the Abuja meeting led to the sack of the Special Adviser to the President on Domestic Affairs, Mr, Sylkbrix Obriki. He was accused of being the spy that alerted the Governor.
The Labour Party, however seems not bothered by the purported pressure on its Governorship candidate, Chief Alaibe to return to the PDP. After the party’s loss to the rigging machinery of the PDP in the 2011 State and National Assembly polls in the state, LP resolved to stop the rigging of PDP and clinch the governorship come 2012. To achieve that it commenced immediate re-organisation of the Party structures.
But the Governor seemed not perturbed. Speaking when he was crowned with a chieftaincy title of “Opu Abadi” (Big Ocean) by King Agara Onya Mozi of Kolokuma/Opokuma community, the incumbent Governor said the supporters of the PDP and the people of the state should vote his opponents into the Atlantic Ocean so that “I, as the Opu Abadi can swallow them up”. While the opposition politicians are holding their meetings, the Governor Sylva camp has also intensified reconciliation with some aggrieved persons and interests groups before the 2012 elections through the 12-Man Reconciliation Committee inaugurated by the Governor. The panel has long swung into action.
The Committee is headed by a respected former Senator, John Koko Brambiafa. Members of the committee include: HRH, Frank Okurakpo, Chief Alex Ekoitene, Mr. Blesson Akpuluma, Prof. Ayebaemi Spiff, Mrs Immaculata Amaseimogha, Chief Douyi Douglas Niangba, Dr Bolere Ketebu. Others include Mr. Ayebaesin Dienagha, Chief Victor Awala, Mr. David Obuma while Mrs Gloria Izonfuro is the secretary.
Many Bayelsans viewed with cynicism the inauguration of the committee but Gov. Sylva has remained resolute in his declaration that the committee was borne out of his genuine desire to ensure the people of the state are united.
The Governor was said to have been deeply worried about the level of rancor in the state and the negative effects on the efforts of his administration to bequeath a befitting legacy to the people of the state. Checks indicated that while some are dissatisfied with some policies and programmes of the Sylva government, others are alleging ethnic bias in appointments. Close aides of Sylva said he set up the committee and appointed a man of integrity that can command the respect of the opposition.
Justifying the constitution of the committee, Governor Sylva said no meaningful development could be achieved when the people were divided. He maintained that the committee was not a political committee, stressing that its members were carefully chosen based on their track record of service. Sylva expressed optimism that with the integrity of the members, they would be able to resolve all aggrieved parties in the state.
“This is not a political party committee. It is a committee to bring all Bayelsans together. After a lot of political hassles; I believe that we need this kind of committee to bring people together because a lot of nerves have been frayed. And as a state, the only way that we can continue to forge ahead is to continue to be united.”
Since its inauguration the committee has been moving from one place to the other to talk to people and listen to their grievances. It has met with all former political appointees and political office holders from 1999 till date. Braimbafa, according to the committee members, is determined to succeed and prove cynics wrong that the reconciliation committee is a ruse. In a recent encounter, he defended the setting up of the committee and its mandate.
“Our statement is very clear. Our role is not to satisfy any particular person. Our role is to look at conflicts and we would agree that some of what we are witnessing now are cases of accumulated grievances that were left unresolved. We are not to settle political scores. Because of past experiences, many Bayelsans do not trust the committee. But what they do not know is that this committee is different.
During its meeting with the people of Bayelsa East Senatorial District, Brambiafa again re-echoed the determination of his committee when he said there was no going back on the mission to unite the people of the state and enthrone peace. “This committee has been able to discuss with prominent Bayelsans and former public office holders from Bayelsa in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Yenagoa and the results were rewarding. Each time we met with the parties, they have been very cooperative by opening up their minds on what has made them aggrieved.”
While the truce is ongoing, Governor Sylva’s handlers have sworn to stop Alaibe from returning to the ruling party. A source in government house, Yenagoa said the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, the three senators from Bayelsa State, Chief Edwin Clark, the National Chairman of PDP, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje and presidential aide, Comrade Oronto Douglas have been recruited by Silva to persuade President Jonathan to pay deaf ear to Chief Obasanjo’s advice.
Aside from this, Leadership gathered, that the Gov. Sylva group has outlined strategies to render Alaibe politically impotent. Leadership learnt that the Governor was manipulating the anticipated report of the committee set up by the Presidency to probe the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to indict the former NDDC boss. The committee is headed by the former Head of Service, Dr. Steve Orosanye.
Dr. Oronsaye, according to Leadership sources, was at the Bayelsa State Government House last month. He was reported to have come with President Goodluck Jonathan on a private visit to the Federal University in Otuoke in Ogbia town but pressured to stay back for “private discussions”. Dr. Oronsanye was later sighted during the visit with Governor Sylva on an inspection tour of projects in the state.
According to the statement signed by the Labour Party chairman, Comrade Bobo Adou-Atari, the committee has been compromised to implicate Chief Alaibe in order to taint him before the polls. This will be followed with his arrest by EFCC. LP argued that what the PDP and Bayelsa Government are planning is a replay of the Akwa Ibom State scenario where the Action Congress of Nigeria Governorship candidate, Chief Akpan Udehe was humiliated through arrest and detention.
However, Comrade Adou-Atari enjoined party faithful to be focused for the battles ahead.
“The Party wants to put it on record and assure the peace loving people of the state that though the 2011 elections in the state was fraudulently declared to have been won by the PDP by the financially induced INEC, the performance of the People and the Party have led to a renewed zeal by the party leaders to separate the snitches and PDP apologists in our party before the Governorship poll in the state. The Party is ready for the 2012 Governorship poll in the State and is rededicated to the needed change in the polity of the state. We call on the people of the state and the dedicated supporters of the party to stay focused and vote for the needed change in the state.”
The Labour Party berated the Justice Christopher Auta led Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Bayelsa for relying on technicality to strike out five out of the seven petitions filed against the 2011 National and State Assembly election victories of the candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). While saluting the courage of its candidates in the polls, the party promised to appeal the decisions of the tribunal.
As the battle for soul of the oil rich state rages ahead of 2012, many Bayelsans are praying fervently for peace to prevail in the state.