Date Published: 07/05/10
Creek Haven: Who Takes The No.2 Slot? By Bayelsa Patriotic Professionals
It is often said that once a common enemy is out of the way, it is difficult for people to forge a common front in pursuit of common goals. This is what the political gladiators, who got rid of Peremobowei Ebebi seem to be experiencing. On June 24, 2010, the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State Rt. Hon. Peremobowei Ebebi was impeached. About a eight days after, there appears to be a power vacuum, as the State Governor Chief Timipre Sylva has not been able to nominate any successor to the House of Assembly for confirmation to fill the vacant position of Deputy Governor. Although Governor Sylva is not new to political intrigues, the choice of the No. 2 man in Creek Haven will either make or mar his political career. The Governor has been known to be very slow in taking critical decisions of this nature. The administration spent a whale of time before appointing the current Chief Judge of the State Justice Kate Abiri. In fact he acted under pressure. Similarly, so much time was spent in constituting the Boards of most state-owned parastatals such as the State Universal Basic Education Board. He has never treated matters of state interest with the seriousness, commitment and speed they deserve. Certainly the selection process of the No.2 man poses grave dangers if the right choice is not made.
While most Bayelsans are of the view that the D/Governor is not the cause of the slow pace of development in the State, they attribute the large scale fraud in the administration to the activities of Governor Timpreye Sylva and some Commissioners: especially the Finance Commissioner and his Health Counterpart. Our investigations revealed that Governor Timipreye Sylva, Opulla Charles, the Chief of Staff Mr. Samuel Ungboku, and Hon. Apreala of the Internal Revenue Department have used their positions to enrich himself, and the Bayelsa Patriotic Professionals have unearthed some unprintable facts about properties and companies belonging to principal officers in government.
Earlier, the Action Congress (AC) chapter in Bayelsa State had faulted the process leading to the impeachment of the former Deputy Governor and castigated the composition of the panel and integrity of members. The Bayelsa Patriotic Professionals also discovered that the impeachment saga was an expensive project that cost the State about N950 Million being money spent to bribe the 18 Law Makers as well as the members of the 7-man panel that found Ebebi guilty of 9 out of the 10 charges. The leadership of the Action Congress in Bayelsa State has accused the Sylva administration of wasting public funds on pursuing personal agenda at the expense of the state. The AC said “While other states are commissioning state-of-the-art projects, the Sylva-led PDP government is exercising undue strength and committing public funds on purely political and party matters at the expense and development of the state,”
This viewpoint was supported by a PDP Chieftain when he said that the choice of Governor Timipre Sylva’s for the position of Deputy Governor will determine what becomes of his second tenure. That is why the rumours that Werinipre Seibarugu, Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, could emerge the next deputy governor of the state is disturbing. It is true that Hon. Seiburugu supervised the impeachment of Ebebi and held brief as Governor for Chief Sylva when his election was annulled in April 2008.
The unwritten logic is that the impeached Deputy Governor is from Bayelsa West Senatorial District. The rationale is that if the new Deputy Governor comes from the same constituency, Governor Timipre Sylva to have a strangle holds does not have a strong hold on that area. Also, from the point of view of justice, it is also imperative that the next deputy governor is picked from Ekeromor. There are widespread rumours that Hon. Ebebi captured much of the benefits accruable to the Ekeremor people by way of social infrastructure. A concerned elder who hails from that Constituency opined that part of the under-development of Ekeremor was the result of Ebebi’s high handedness in collecting monies for projects earmarked for execution. Much as Hon. Seibarugu is loyal to the Governor, loyalty alone is not sufficient. The question at issue is justice and giving Bayelsa people a sense of belonging at least to buttress the fact that the Governor has a listening ear. Seibarugu is from Bayelsa Central and if the Governor bows to pressure from the House, he would have over-rewarded one Constituency at the expense of others and this might have serious repercussions on his second tenure. Analysts believe that this is too risky a gamble for the governor to play.
The second and perhaps the most dangerous risk the Governor can ill-afford is the fear of the Speaker’s inordinate ambition to be Governor of Bayelsa State. Does Seibarugu have governorship ambition? Only political pundits can provide satisfactory answers to such knotty questions. If Seibarugu emerges as the next deputy governor, the House may consider it a normal ritual; as he would be following the path of his predecessor Ebebi to get the position as his own bounty. But if Seibarugu is appointed the Deputy Governor, would he be able muster up enough resources to contest the post of governorship to dislodge the incumbent Governor? Chief Timipre Silver will have to contend with such mind boggling issues.
Opinions are divergent on the issue. However, some persons are of the view that the Speaker can swing it financially. Bayelsans who came in contact with this group revealed that Bayelsa State parades the richest law makers in Nigeria, and they acquire wealth at the expense of the peoples development. They make millions through the following ways. They demand for huge sums of money for Constituency Development Projects and this they accomplish by the upward review of their benefits such as allowances. Any time there is crisis in the State, they exploit such opportunities to make outrageous demands from the Executive organ of government. There are unconfirmed rumours that each law maker smiled to the Bank with upwards of N45million for signing the impeachment of Ebebi. If the ordinary law makers could go home with so much largess, then the share of the Speaker can better be imagined.
A man who preferred to be anonymous revealed that Governor Timipre Sylva may not have genuine loyalists in the House after all. He only curry’s the favour of these House members by trying to satisfy the outrageous demands outrageous demands of the opportunists. Allegations are rife that when Seibarugu, briefly held forte as acting governor of the state when Sylva’s election was nullified in 2008 by the Court of Appeal for one months, he mismanaged a whopping N27billion, and it was one of the allegations responsible for his arrest by the anti-graft agencies sometime in 2009. It these allegations have a semblance of truth, then the Speaker can be a naira heavy weight, and this will make the other theory of palace coup against Timipre Sylva very attractive. Whether the helmsman will understand the intrigues and the undercurrents of the power play is difficult to say.
Reports from impeccable sources also reveal that that Sylva might have settled for Mr. Sylbrick Obiriki, which many people consider as a strategy to enter into the good books of Mr. President. Mr Obriki is believed to be President Jonathan’s close associate, who might play the role of a compromise candidate for the plum job. However, there are very serious permutations that the brain behind Sylbrick Obiriki candidacy is not President Jonathan after all but the first Lady Dame Patience Jonathan, who may be instrumental in foisting a governorship candidate on Bayelsans at the expiration of Chief Timipre’s tenure in 2012. Could this be the reason the Presidency has kept mute in spite of several calls to intervene in the crisis that swept Ebebi off his feet or could this be responsible for President Jonathan’s neutral role in the impeachment saga?
While not disputing the Obriki angle, chances are that the BSHA might hold sway owing to the fact that they have a strong grip on Governor Sylva. But the general view is that Bayelsa State has the most corrupt Assembly in Nigeria, as civil society groups are ready to prefer criminal actions against members at the termination of their tenure in 2011. Sources close to the Bayelsa Patriotic Professionals.
The impeachment of Sylva, which most Bayelsan clamour for, will open the way for the prosecution of most serving commissioners who have inflicted damage on the State and poked a hole on the coffers of the State. One of such targets is the Serving Commissioner of Finance Mr. Silva Opulla and others who the masses believe are the greatest enemies of the people of Bayelsa State. Bayelsa Patriotic Professionals also believes that the poor performance of Governor Timipre Sylva is partly a result of fitting square pegs into round holes. It is against this backdrop that mismanagement of public funds and dashing the hopes of the people.
For the Bayelsa Patriotic Professionals it would not be proper for the House to insinuate that the Deputy Governor must be one of them because they believe were used to do a dirty job. The Assembly should not do any thing that will bring the Hon. Members to disrepute. The legislature’s duty is either to ratify or reject nominations for political appointments from the Governor or President. It is the prerogative of the Governor or President to nominate someone who can work with him to run the State. The BSHA should learn from the example of the National Assembly. The Senate recommended one of theirs, Senator Makarfi, former Governor of Kaduna State to be Vice President, but it pleased President Goodluck Jonathan to nominate Alhaji Namadi Sambo, the immediate past Governor of Kaduna State and current Vice President. The Senate endorsed the nomination, not minding the interest they had earlier indicated. So it behooves on the members of the BSHA to act as patriots and statesmen and ratify the Governor’s nominations whenever he does so.
Most House members are moving against Obiriki’s impending nomination because it is not in accordance with the gentleman’s agreement between the governor and the legislators that one of the lawmakers would be nominated to succeed Ebebi. Hon. Seibarugu supervised the impeachment of Ebebi and turning around to appoint him a deputy governor would create would make the impeachment exercise look like political vendetta and create in its wake a group of suspicious party men and a constituency of neglected people.
Those whose names are being dropped as potential Deputy Governors are Speaker Werinipre Seibarugu; his Deputy, Mr. Nestor Binabo; the Commissioner for Youths and Conflict Resolution, Mr. Bekes Etifa; One-time Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Agatha Goma; and the one time Legislator and a serving Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. Werepamowei Dudafa. The appointment of any of these aforementioned persons as Deputy Governor would not serve the greater interest of Bayelsa people but the whims and caprices of a an evolving cabal. It is for this reason that the mere mention of the Speaker as a potential candidate is evokes anger and suspicion. It is the considered opinion of the Bayelsa Patriotic Professionals that none of the aforementioned persons has serious grassroots support. ‘We believe that Governor Timipre Sylva will not eat contaminated food because he is hungry or drink dirty water just because he wants to quench his thirst. The Governor should appoint a man of integrity, with a track-record of loyalty to superiors and other constituted authorities, which in this case implies the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’ a spokesman of the group said.
The wisdom of selecting a deputy may become the governor’s Achilles heels after all. If Governor Timipre Sylva bows to pressure from any of the power blocs, he would certainly alienate and short-change other political interests and lavish the much needed support to run for a Second Tenure. If the Presidency effects the proposed electoral reforms, then the incumbent Governor needs the votes of all constituencies in the State. The administration does not need to listen to only 24 persons who claim to be representing the people, who are indeed representing their pockets. For once, at least, Governor Timipre Sylva is expected to listen to popular opinion and the voice of the people. In doing so, he would have done the will of God to compensate for the scores of mistakes he has made in piloting the affairs of Bayelsa State for the past three years.
Dadiowei G. Amaowei
Bayelsa Patriotic Professionals