Bayelsa 2011; Sylva Begs Jonathan

“Faced with imminent sack and with 2011 around the corner, Sylva has no choice but to eat the humble pie”

Bayelsa State Governor Timipre SylvaThe crisis of political supremacy between Acting President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his ‘nephew’ cum town’s-man, Timipre Sylva, Governor of Bayelsa State, took a surprising turn yesterday as indications emerged that the Governor of Bayelsa State sent emissaries to the Acting President to beg for mercy.

The new tone was set by Chief Timipre Sylva, who on Friday said that Acting President Goodluck Jonathan was not behind the crackdown on some members of the State Executive Council by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Sylva said the arrest and detention of three officials of the state government on allegations of financial impropriety was the result a gross misunderstanding.

The governor said he had been able to secure the release of the state‘s Accountant General and two other top treasury officials who were facing money laundering charges through a recourse to law and due process.

It was the first time the governor would speak in public about the man he succeeded in office more than two years ago. Observers say the volte-face is not unconnected to steady moves to impeach the Bayelsa Governor. He had earlier raised the alarm that Jonathan wants to give him the Alamieyeseigha treatment.

“Faced with imminent sack and with 2011 around the corner, Sylva has no choice but to eat the humble pie”, said one of our sources.

Acting President Dr. Goodluck JonathanYesterday Sylva said that he supported the Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan and had no problem with him whatsoever.

The conciliatory tone adopted by the Bayelsa Governor was in sharp contrast to the air of bravado the Bayelsa State Governor Timipre Sylva put forth four days ago, Tuesday, March 31. He had said that Acting President Goodluck Jonathan is plotting to remove him from office as part of their long-standing political quarrel. recalls that the governor had led some unidentified political leaders of the South-South zone in their futile attempts to frustrate the emergence of Jonathan as the interim leader of the country.

Speaking at the Kuje Prisons in Abuja on Tuesday, where he visited his detained commissioners, Sylva said the political trend unfolding in his state is targeted at impeaching and removing him from office. He said the style being adopted is not different from the one employed by the Obasanjo regime in 2005 to remove Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha from office.

Sylva had visited the prison to see three officials of his government who were arrested and detained at the instance of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC]. He said their ordeal was not unconnected with the bitter politics that has engulfed the state in the last several months.

He wondered why the EFCC stooped into the political arena, saying the essence was to create public disaffection against his government to pave way for a planned impeachment the way it happened to Diepreye  Alamieyeseigha. He noted that although EFCC’s responsibility was to fight corruption, it must do so through due process.

But yesterday, “Sylva was singing a different tune, sending emissaries to Aso Rock to beg Jonathan for mercy”.

There has been no love lost between Governor Sylva and Acting President Goodluck Jonathan. In the recent crisis that engulfed the presidency following President Umaru Yar’adua’s long absence on account of ill-health, Governor Sylva was known to have led the group of governors who asked Jonathan to mount the presidency on acting capacity only and to forget about contesting elections in 2011.

The two politicians also appeared to be fighting proxy battles on the pages of newspapers in the last several months, with the fight becoming more intense after Jonathan assumed office as Acting President.

After the arrest of the Bayelsa State officials, there were numerous advertorials in newspapers reminding the EFCC that there is a pending allegation of money laundering to the tune of 14 million dollars against Dame Patience Jonathan, the acting President’s wife. 

Observers has chronicled several instances where The Bayelsa Governor manifested his hatred and disdain towards Goodluck Jonathan.

One occasion was when members of Nigeria’s “Governors Forum” met with “acting President” Jonathan and asked Jonathan to shelve the plan to invoke section 144 of the constitution.

At the Federal Executive Council meeting, they insisted that Yar’adua should continue as President while Jonathan should remain “Acting President.” Jonathan was especially stunned when the governor of his home state, Timipre Sylva, became very vocal and confrontational at the meeting.

Sources at the meeting said when it was the turn of Timipre Sylva to speak, he was very “rabid in his attacks” against the Acting President.

Another occasion was on the much-advertised meeting between the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, and the repentant militant commanders in the Niger Delta. The meeting was abruptly postponed that Friday as the Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Timpre Sylva, allegedly prevailed on the ex-fighters in the region to spurn the invitation of the Nigerian leader to the forum.

Jonathan had invited the ex-fighters to a crucial talk in the Presidential Villa, Abuja to seek the way forward for the region and he had anxiously waited to receive them before information got to him that the major ex-militant leaders had been asked to ignore him by Sylva.

The action further deepened the animosity between Jonathan and the governor of his home state, who had been widely speculated to be spearheading opposition against him.

Reliable sources in the Presidency said Sylva prevailed on some former freedom fighters in the region to shun the meeting convened by Jonathan to formally meet with them and seek their understanding in the concerted efforts to return the region to the path of sustainable peace and development.

One of the sources said that Sylva moved to Abuja to perfect the plot to frustrate the meeting.

Several ex-militant commanders acceded to the position of Sylva and avoided the audience with Jonathan including the leader of the Niger Delta Vigilante Group, Chief Ateke Tom and Mr. Victor Ebikatowei, alias Boyloaf.  Others are the Niger Delta ex-militant kingpin, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo.

A source in the Presidency said that Jonathan had eagerly waited at his Akinola Aguda residence to receive the visitors from 5:00 pm when the meeting was slated to start before information was made available to him at 7pm that Sylva had persuaded the ex-fighters to shun the forum, apparently to spite the acting president.

When some key players in the region, especially the Secretary of the Federal Government Committee on Peace and Conflict Resolution in the Niger Delta, Mr. Kingsley Kuku, the spokesperson of the Ijaw Republican Assembly, Ms Ann Kio Briggs, one of the lawyers to the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, Mr. Henry Okah, Wilson Ajuwa, and other stakeholders, arrived for the meeting, they were politely asked to return home.

They were told that the meeting had been postponed by Jonathan, adding that a new date would be communicated to them in the next few weeks.

One of the guests at the meeting said, “The Governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. Timipre Sylva, is doing whatever he can to undermine the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. The truth is that Sylva is identifying with the people planning to fight Jonathan. He (Sylva) wants to frustrate the meeting and embarrass Jonathan. Sylva wants to paint the picture that Jonathan could not coordinate the post-amnesty and restore the region on the path of peace and development. That is why Sylva prevailed on some ex-militant leaders loyal to him, especially Ateke Tom and Boyloaf to avoid the meeting with Jonathan”.

On his part, Jonathan has also been accused of fanning the feud between Sylva and his Deputy who is believed to be Jonathan’s crony being groomed to contest the next election against his boss.

Late last year, the feud between the two blew open when loyalists of both confronted each other on the streets of Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital.

Though Sylva has on several occasions denied working against the rise of Jonathan to substantive president, but recently, operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), arrested the Bayelsa State Accountant-General, and two others over alleged N500million said to be illegally withdrawn and given out as bribe to some people to stop the emergence of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President.

Differences between the two men bound by tribal chords but torn by political ties have surprised observers: “It is a case of the centre against the state and this has been going on a long while. Imagine Sylva plotting against Jonathan?” mused a source.

Contacted, the Chief Press Secretary to Bayelsa Governor, Mr. Doyfie Ola said: “I can assure you that my governor has no personal grouse with the Acting President of the federation. We are not aware of any bickering between the two leaders and that is our stand.”

But Questions are being asked as to why, not long after Jonathan became Acting President, EFCC officials have been on the trail of Sylva and his men, arresting them.

The questions on the mouth of Bayelsans are;

Is Jonathan in just becoming Acting President trying to get his own revenge at the expense of the smooth working of the state? Or is he doing that because Sylva purportedly worked against him in becoming Acting President? Is he acting as a national or a local politician? Are we back to the Obasanjo era, where vindictiveness led to serious destabilisation of some states of the Federation?