Bayelsa 2012: High Stakes, Desperate Politics
Saturday, 04 February 2012 00:00 From Willie Etim, Yenagoa

With the Supreme Court ruling of Friday, January 27, the final nail on the ambition of the former governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Timipre Sylva, to secure a second tenure appears to have been sealed. But rather than sorrow, Sylva and his followers celebrated their defeat at the apex court.

AS the people of Bayelsa State go to the poll next Saturday to election a governor, as earlier scheduled by the Independent national Electoral Commission (INEC), coupled with the Supreme Court judgment that sacked former governor, Chief Timipre Sylva, from office, the embattled former governor, through his press secretary, Ola Doifie, defiantly released a statement, insisting that the judgment was only a temporary setback, optimistic that his cross appeal at the apex court would be favorable to him.

Sylva and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are before the apex court over who is the authentic candidate of the party in the coming election.

They are both dissatisfied with the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Abuja.

Sylva, in his cross appeal, is asking the court to consider the urgency and circumstances of the case and invoke Section 22 of its enabling statute and hear the case fully and determine it to its finality, as if it is the High Court.

On Monday, January 30, the court granted him leave to challenge the judgment of the Appeal Court, which had held that though he was right to go to court to validate his nomination as the party’s governorship candidate.

The five man panel of the apex court, presided over by Justice Miriam Mukhtar, cleared the way for Sylva to file a cross appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal, which held that the trial Judge at the High Court, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, went beyond himself in warning PDP to not to temper with the subject matter of the action before it, thereby pre-judging the issues before him.

But the Supreme Court, while granting the former governor leave, also granted an order of accelerated hearing of the appeal of PDP and his cross appeal and fixed February 7 for definite hearing.

When the People Democratic Party (PDP) chose to inflict injury on itself at the onset of the event leading to the quagmire it has now found itself in Bayelsa, every step it took had pointed to the very messy situation playing out now.

This is not the first time such act of bravado and outright arrogance has been displayed by the party. All was thought to be well, even as the party had hoped that the appeal it filed to challenge an earlier suit filed by the Sylva contesting his exclusion from its governorship primary and a further prayer that he be named the party’s candidate in the governorship election in the state.

The ruling of the Appeal Court in Abuja was received with indifference from the party stalwarts, as it did not affirm Henry Seriake Dickson as the party’s flag bear.

While Sylva’s were still basking in the euphoria of what was considered by most of them as a fair ruling, INEC dealt another demoralising blow on the psyche of the national leadership of the party when it eventually made public the names of the governorship candidate of other political parties, with the name of the PDP candidate conspicuously missing.

That opened a new subject of controversy and unending legal arguments, as all the party concerned headed to the Supreme Court.

The PDP national leadership faulted INEC’s decision to omit the names of its candidate, claiming that the body’s position was not in conformity with the Electoral Act 2010, as amended.

The party had written to INEC, urging it to, without delay, list Dickson’s name as its candidate, even when two of its aspirant in the November 19 controversial primary, Christopher Enai and Austin Ogionwo, were still in court challenging the emergence of Dickson as flag bearer.

Sylva, in his reaction, lamented that the diatribes against INEC, which he said was aimed at compromising the commission from its adherence to the rule of law on the Bayelsa governorship, noting that it was a clear threat to Nigeria’s democracy.

The former governor’s argument at the Supreme Court is that he is the authentic PDP candidate for next Saturday’s election, arguing that under the amended Electoral Act, a political party has no right to withdraw the name of a candidate it had submitted to INEC and that it is only the candidate, due to resignation or death, that can so do.

While the Sylva’s camp were still gearing up to select a legal team to exhaust the new opening by the court angle to see if they could bounce back, a new twist was introduced in the legal battle, as about 20 governorship candidate from other political parties, as published by INEC, threatened a boycott and court action if the commission published any name for PDP.

In a statement issued and signed by the various party candidates, under the aegis of Committee of Bayelsa State Governorship Candidates, and made available to The Guardian through its Chairman, Chief Kenneth Gbalikumo, and Secretary, Chief Johnson Opuzi, they also threatened to take the matter to court to stop INEC from going ahead with the election if the court’s decision is not adhered to by PDP.

They further urged INEC to strongly guard against being cajoled, forced or pressured by any party, group of individuals or interest groups to foist a candidate on it by PDP that had not been

cleared by the court’s ruling in the PDP subsisting litigation.

But despite the INEC listing of Dickson, the group is yet to carry out its threat nor are they any indication that it would be carried out.

Meanwhile, in fulfillment of the Electoral Act, the Mega Progressive People Party (MPPP) has alerted INEC of the death of its candidate, Chief Oduduogwu Ebakumotuebi on January 23.

In the meantime, the PDP will today kickoff its campaign, which was slated for last month, but was postponed after a bomb blast in Yenagoa.

Expected at the rally are President Goodluck Jonathan, who is already in town; Vice President Namadi Sambo; PDP Acting National Chairman, Alhaji Kawu Baraje; Senate President David Mark; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal; Board of Trustees (BoT) Chairman and former President Olusegun Obasanjo and other PDP stakeholders.

Aware of the challenges, sources in Dickson’s camp said he has refused to be complacent. Indeed, PDP state chairman, Deacon James Dugo, have been taking Dickson round the wards to meet with the people and embark on an aggressive campaign.

Last Wednesday, Keme 2 Keme (meaning neighbour-to-neighbour in Ijaw language), a replica of the President’s campaign strategy during last year’s general elections, was launched and coordinated by women rights crusader, Dr. Stella Dogu.

On his campaign, Dickson said: “I am a man of ideas, but I don’t claim to know everything. I promise to lead by example and assemble a tested team that will help implement the lofty agenda we have for the people.”

He said he is in politics to serve the people, noting that his antecedents, as a lawmaker, and former attorney general and commissioner for Justice attest to his claim.

He vowed to take the step higher from the position his predecessors have attained, adding: “I will not steal public funds and I don’t expect government functionaries to embezzle either.

“We shall put in place a mechanism aimed at instituting transparency and accountability in the day-to-day administration of the state.

“We shall fight to stop wastage in government. We shall run a simple government; cut the cost of governance in a way that capital projects will be given a pride of place. We shall shore up the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state through aggressive revenue though with human face.”

While promising to complete abandoned projects in the state, if there are any, he vowed to ensure gender equality by giving women equal opportunity with men.

He also promised to fight cultism in the state and restore peace, saying there would be zero tolerance for crime and criminality.

Dickson called on other political parties and those who contested the primary with him to join him in moving Bayelsa forward.

Apart from PDP and its “candidate,” another candidate making wave in the state is the governorship candidate of the Change Advocacy Party (CAP), Dr. Imoro Kubor, a retired federal permanent secretary, who yesterday rated low the 12 years administrations of PDP in the state,

saying the party has under-developed and impoverished the people.

Kubor said though the battle before the CAP to wrestle the state from PDP could look like a battle between the ant and the elephant, the people must rise and effect the needed change.

He stated this at the party’s secretariat in

Yenagoa while receiving hundreds of ACN members led by their Chairman, Theodore Disuoh, into the CAP.

“We have lots of problem in Bayelsa State and PDP is the problem. If you follow a party for long and it failed you, change it. The state has

become a place where if the PDP brings a dull person, they still accept him. PDP is a name and they are all equal in the quest for change.

“The election in Bayelsa, over the years, has shown that the people are sleeping. Twelve years is enough to know that the PDP is a mere name. The PDP have taken Bayelsa for granted. Bayelsa has been under-developed by the PDP.”

With the President in town and PDP’s chances supposedly buoyed by the Supreme Court judgment, next Saturday promises to be a judgment day for Bayelsans, PDP and Sylva.

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