Masquerades and Jokers as Governors in Bayelsa State
Mr. Sabella Ogbobode Abidde
“In Bayelsa State the poor have no voice; the rich and the powerful have no conscience; and the government is aiding and abetting in the rape and molestation of its own people.”
After several years of clamoring and supplications, Bayelsa State was created in 1996. The state was a dream-come-true for the Ijaw who had hoped to use it as launching pad for the advancement of the Ijaw Nation. It was to be the Mecca for all Ijaws at home and abroad. So much was expected. Indeed, a lot was expected amidst great hope and great expectations. Sadly, it was not to be. Since its creation -- more so in the last nine years -- several bubbles has busted, several dreams turned into nightmares; and the dream of a Mecca became a mirage. Bayelsa is today a cathedral of broken dreams, a valley of pain.
It is a state where political incest, debauchery, and cardinal sins have become a way of life. In Bayelsa State the poor have no voice; the rich and the powerful have no conscience; and the government is aiding and abetting in the rape and molestation of its own people.
Since the advent of the current republic, the state has had three civilian governors: Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha; Goodluck Ebele Jonathan; and Timipre Sam Sylva. The three men were born and raised in the creeks and canals of the Ijaw Nation. The three men also have three commonalities: they all come from meager homes; grew up and witnessed the economic and political backwardness of the state; and all three have had the opportunity to correct some of the economic and political anomalies, imbalances and poverty of the body and soul that is commonplace in the state. Sadly all three men -- when each had the chance to make changes and bring about justice and some measure of equity -- have failed the people. They turned out to be ignorant, timid, and indifferent to the plight of the state.
The first (Alamieyeseigha) became the governor because there was a confluence of three favorable events: (1) his political opponents underrated his cunning ability; (2) no one thought that a man of such low intellect could ever become the governor and so was given a lot of space with which to operate; and (3) his party, the PDP, had more resources and state-presence allowing it to rig the election and thus ascend to power. Against all odds, Alamieyeseigha became the state’s first elected executive governor. After all these years, it is still not uncommon for a section of the state’s elite to wonder aloud: “how did he get to be governor?” They continue to pay for their indifference and absentmindedness.
The grave mistakes of Alamieyeseigha -- supporting Abubakar Atiku against Obasanjo, brazenly spearheading the resources control fight, his over-sized libido, his greed and licentiousness, and his penchant for abusing and daring President Obasanjo -- caused his cards to collapse, bringing forth months and years of misery and judicial calamity. His impeachment allowed Goodluck Jonathan to take over as the chief of state. Jonathan was an obedient Deputy Governor. Here was a deputy who, as oral accounts indicate, never gave his boss much grief. He did what he was told and was happy just being there. But providence smiled on him when one of President Obasanjo’s schemes came alive.
Goodluck Jonathan as the state governor was not much different from Alamieyeiseigha: he was lazy and incompetent, he was not accountable and transparent in his financial and political dealings, had clannish tendencies, he looked to the North and the West for solution to his problems and never trusted his fellow Ijaw brothers and sisters, maintained a choir of praise-singers, was intolerant of critics and criticisms, allowed his wife to run a parallel government, and acted as though the state was his fiefdom. Government affairs come to a screeching halt whenever Alamieyeseigha took one of his frequent trips. Jonathan learnt from his former boss, and so delegating authority was a foreign concept.
Unlike Alamieyseigha, however, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan did not travel the globe and did not maintain a pool of mistresses. Some have attributed these dissimilarities to one factor: Jonathan didn’t have the luxury of time. He didn’t have the time because of the circumstances surrounding his ascension and also because he had to keep a close watch on Alamieyeseigha’s agents and loyalists and in solidifying his governorship. Jonathan, it should be noted, was not as beloved whether in the creeks or in Yenagoa. One false move, or if he slept with both eyes closed, he’d find himself neck deep in the River Nun.
Governor Alamieyeseigha was a character. Not too bright academically. Not well-liked by the educated and the Diasporan Ijaws. He was egotistical, full of himself; a man who fell in love with himself and went about calling himself Governor General. He appended PhD and JP to his name and demanded he be so addressed. He thought of himself as the alpha and the omega. Like a child in a store, he was into collecting expensive toys and mementos and real estates and whatever else caught his fancy. At times he behaved like father-Christmas -- dolling out the state’s money as though it belonged to him. He was, in the opinion of many, the greediest of all his contemporaries. Privately, he was a sad man. And in the end, he was abandoned by most of his friends and praise-singers.
Goodluck Jonathan, in the opinion of many, was an enigma. A closeted political genius; easy-going and a man who operated mostly under the radar. He is also academically brilliant and well respected by his contemporaries, but is unable to translate such unto the streets and creeks of Bayelsa State. “In Bayelsa State,” as I was told, “the voice of the people and noise emanating from the creeks matter…Without the creeks, one might as well be operating in the belly of the grill.” Conscious of the fact that he lacks credibility in the creeks, he generally does not “fight or go to war or stand his stand.” This has led to the widespread perception that he is “weak…a man lacking in conviction and self esteem.” Whether the perception of him is warranted or not, one thing is clear: as the governor of Bayelsa State, he was like his predecessor: incompetent and wasteful with no computable achievements to his credit. And not unlike Alamieyeseigha’s wife, Jonathan wife also had a parallel government and also dipped her hand into the state treasury.
And then there is Timipre Sam Sylva, the newest fellow in Creek Haven. Most of what has been said about him is unprintable; and so they shall remain until a future date and time. That said, astute observers of Bayelsa State politics have noted four trains in the short period of his governorship: that he is absent-minded in terms of governance; seem dazed and confused and unable to believe he is the governor; seem taken and lost in the trappings of the office; and seems to have some negative shades of Alamieyeseigha and Jonathan in him. All these characteristics points to a governor who might outdo his predecessors in terms of wastefulness, corrupt practices, and incompetence. I have been told that he “is not particular bright…below average…but an effective errand boy…”
In the short period since he became the governor, Mr. Timpre Sylva has left the state (for leisure pursuits and supposed government businesses) more than twenty-four times. Existing data shows that he has spent about 40% of his time on the road. At this rate, he will out-travel and outspend Alamieyeseigh and Jonathan combined in about two-and-half-years. As a result of his excessive travels, he failed to notice that some junior and primary school teachers in the state had not been paid their salary since May/June, he failed to notice that other civil servants are being owed three to six months arrears, he failed to notice that about 80% of the state is in total darkness, while the 20% that has light is in darkness about 80% of the time. He failed to notice the fetidity that has become commonplace in the state capital, Yenagoa. This governor has failed to notice and failed to address many important issues.
In addressing the salary arrears issue, Governor Timipre Sylva, in his wisdom, has had to inaugurate a five-person administrative panel of enquiry “to look into the remote causes of the delay in the payment… the panel should also find out the amount and the months for which staff were owed salaries…” In the opinion of many “this is simply another avenue with which to waste time and waste the people’s resources.” Questions: how much is it going to cost the state in providing offices, staff and other necessities to make the panel functional; how much are members of this panel going to be paid; how many of such panels are going to be constituted every time the governor and his administration messes up? Do the ministries of education know the number of people on the state’s pay roll? Was the commissioner for education fired for dereliction of duty?
Just this week, the
governor was reported to have said to a provincial newspaper: “I Have
Forgiven My Opponents,” this after the Election Tribunal or some other
body squashed the petition of his main rival. Nonsense! What is there to
forgive? He, as the man who stole the election, should be the one asking
the people, his conscience, and his God for clemency. He is the sinner,
the thief, the rogue, and the vagabond who made nonsense the people’s
electoral wishes. To make comical of an already sorry and silly situation,
“he and his deputy, Premobowei Ebebi prostrated on the floor of the altar
of King of Glory Chapel as the bishop of the chapel prayed for them and
charged them to care for the needy, the poor and everybody in the state.”
What a joke!
Alamieyeseigha, Jonathan, and now Sylva: Three Ijaw sons that were “mandated” to judiciously manage the people’s resources, develop the state, and pave the way for the future, have all turned out to be monumental failures. Well, we know that Alamieyesigha and Jonathan were highly ineffective, corrupt and wasteful; Sylva has the opportunity to turn things around for the benefit of the people. Sadly, his early steps show he will most likely outdo his predecessors in all things negative and dreadful. He shows no sign of progressive thinking. He shows no sign of accountability and transparency. He is turning out to be bad news for the Ijaw Nation and for Bayelsa State. How did a state this young, this vibrant and this resourceful end up with three masquerades and jokers as Governors? Did the Ijaw offend God, their gods, and their ancestors?
Since 1999 the state has received billions and billions of naira from the federal treasury, yet, there is nothing to show for it. Absolutely nothing! Billions and billions of naira has been stolen or mismanaged; several other billions wasted on meaningless projects. Today, a sizeable segment of the elites are playing deaf and blind so as not to jeopardize their source of underground income and entitlements, others are afraid to raise their voices so as not to draw unwanted attention to themselves. And so what we now have -- beginning from the days of Alamieyeseigha -- is a state of silence, fear and cowardice. Those who should speak up are too scared to do so.
Fact: for more than 90% of the populace there is no potable water, no electricity, no access to quality education and quality health care; there are erosion and flooding problems, and problems around access to nutritious meal; civil servants are not being paid on time, and certainly there is no clean environment and an environment for young and impressionable minds to grow and have a better life. With billions and billions of naira entrusted to the care of masquerades and jokers -- what we got, what we have is a state and a condition where hopelessness and poverty reigns supreme. What’s the problem with the Ijaw of Bayelsa State? What’s the matter? Three men, three governors, three thugs, three thieves, and three masquerades: these are the men that have presided over the affairs of the state. Three jokers!