Bayelsa: Between Sylva And Gold!

by SOC Okenwa

During the Ibori saga in London I had decided (upon the British Royal Court in London finding him guilty and sentencing him to years behind bars) to refrain deliberately from commenting on the fortunate outcome of the Ibori kleptocracy because while happy with the development as it concerned his indictment I was angry with the obnoxious system back home that produced Ibori. How could a democratic system threw up an ex-convict as a Governor of an oil-rich state with huge budget? How did he manage to scale through the security checks by the secret security agents? Why did the Nigerian justice system collude with him and gave him favourable judgements that assaulted reason and justice?

You see, this corruptible system remains the same that ‘enthroned’ the likes of the former disgraced House of Representative Speaker Alhaji Sanusi Buhari (of the fake Toronto University certificate fame) few years ago; the same system that failed to discover that the former Governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim was a retired international fraudster; this same system that never detected that many a Senator and Honourable in Nigeria are “rogues and armed robbers” before the Ota ‘god’ broke the news to a bewildered nation! This same unproductive system that produced ‘Senator’ Andy Uba as the Governor of Anambra State years ago during the Obasanjo imperial presidency — the same Andy Uba that still carries with him loads of forged academic certificates and the same ‘viper’ that helped OBJ squander billions of petro-dollars during their Aso Rock sojourn!

The same chronically corrupt political establishment that manipulated guber polls and announced winners as losers and losers as winners in Osun and Ekiti states: Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Olusegun Oni. If not for rigorous Justice Ayo Salami that courageously did the right thing by restoring the stolen mandates of the people these PDP impostors would have still been in Ekiti and Osogbo calling the shots. Today this respected jurist, Justice Salami, is being persecuted by President Goodluck Jonathan and the hawks in the PDP! How could Jonathan justify suspending Salami on the strength of an NJC recommendation but now plead “subjudice” when it comes to recalling the judge based on the same NJC recommendation? Absurd indeed!

Something must, then, be wrong with this kind of a primitive system of governance that ‘rewards’ criminals with high positions — empowering them to even dig in and harm the system further fiscally. Such an unserious nation in search of elusive positive development cannot make any headway but can only be headed towards perdition! Nigeria is worse today than in the year 2000 in every imaginable way one can objectively look at it. Economically we are worse off and socially the people in their teeming hungry millions still grope in the dark. And politically? Well, the tale from Abuja is not only an ugly one but one that boggles the mind.

Something, one insists, is fundamentally wrong with a system federally administered in which power is easily ‘bought’ over by criminals masquerading as ‘saviours’ of the masses! Something is definitely wrong with a nation in which a very privileged few lord it over the silent majority and consume wastefully what ordinarily should go round! Something is amiss in a torpedoed federalism system of governance in a country where real criminals ‘punish’ the innocent literarily while enjoying the status of ‘stakeholders’ in a confused ruling political party without soul or mind! Nigeria is in trouble, deep trouble, because the system has been criminalised from the top to the bottom!

In Guinea Bissau, a poor banana Republic in West Africa, whose political instability could be linked to the incessant ‘war’ by drug lords sponsoring political parties and even candidates for elective posts ECOWAS is providing a lasting solution after the military staged yet another daring coup d’etat on the eve of a second round of a presidential poll. But in Nigeria, even when narcotics’ importation and exportation still constitute a major problem, drug barons and their local accomplices have not found any political foothold therein, the PDP godfathers are behaving and acting worse than these lawless rich elements living and working underground: they kill, rig elections and corruptibly enrich themselves beyond imagination.

Ex-Governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa state is no longer Governor; he was kicked out of office by the Supreme Court interpreting the legal duration of elected governors upon taking oath of office. Before his ‘giant’ fall from glory the tall big man looked more to me (after every hard look thrown his way when he was still ‘controlling’ the destiny of Bayelsans) as either a drug addict, an alcoholic or simply a glorified victim of the African power syndrome — that is, an insane situation in which a power wielder becomes abnormal because of the psychology of power only to become normal as soon as he loses same.

To say Sylva was controversial in power is saying the obvious! He had thought magniloquently perhaps that a day would never come when he would be asked to quit given the stupendously amassed wealth in his possession! He had abused office quite like many of his peers with flagrant impunity believing that Nigeria under the present corrupt establishment can never muster enough courage to nail him under whatever circumstance.

His battle to keep the prime job he had abused for years pitched him in a protracted personal clash with President Goodluck Jonathan who happens to be from the state. Accused rightly or wrongly of threatening to kill the President should he not be returned to power for a second term (something that bothered on treason) Sylva was reported during his sojourn as Governor to have ordered the closure of a Supermarket that belonged to the wife of his political opponent when his ‘boys’ went there to buy some cartons of wine only to discover that some were ‘fake’ or whatever. He reportedly ‘boxed’ an aide or a journalist resulting in a national daily referring to him derisively as “Governor Tyson Sylva”!

Timipre Sylva has been accused officially of systematically embezzling the state funds to the tune of billions of naira. That is on the strength of what has so far been discovered; if you add that up to what is still hidden away from the eagle eyes of the anti-fraud police then Ibori may be cannonized as a ‘saint’! Sorry, former Gov. Alams may look every inch a ‘Pope’ since his own economic crimes could pale into insignificance compared to the ‘gold’ and ‘silver’ Sylva stashed away!

Ex-Governor Sylva’s whereabouts since the positive change was ushered in in Yenegoa have remained unknown. At a time he sent an open letter to the President ostensibly stating his ‘conditions’ for returning back home failure to meet same he would remain aloof and abroad. It was the height of impudence and given Sylva’s pedigree one must hazard a guess that his conscience is now ‘judging’ him brutally even before he faces judgement of man here on earth. It is the guilty that is always afraid!

The current Governor Seriake Dickson speaks like a gentleman with love for his people; on more than one occasion I have heard him speak he gave the impression of a leader in the making, one with an eye on statesmanship! I salute the Bayelsans for electing such an analytical mind to administer their resources. Whether President Jonathan favoured him for the job or not is not an issue here; the President, hailing from the oil-rich state and therefore a stakeholder in the affairs of the state, is enough for him to be actively involved on who presides over the affairs of the state.

Like James Onanefe Ibori of Delta State, ex-Gov. Sylva came to government house with one major objective in mind: to steal as much money as possible so that even when he is dead and gone his descendants and generations unborn would no longer need to struggle or ‘hustle’ for anything in life in a Nigeria where money is everything! But sadly they are not alone; today we still have many state g

overnors with the same mind-set, same objective! Only time will seek them out!

After the Ibori saga ended fortunately in London with justice done and seen to have been done (unlike in Nigeria where he would have continued using the same ill-gotten slush funds to ‘buy’ justice) I was asking myself why and how a country struggling with developmental challenges of the elementary type could be bestowed with hardened criminals as state officials? How could Nigeria be so cursed with these ‘Boko Haram’ disciples at state houses scattered across the landscape killing opponents, embezzling billions with impunity and thinking little about the condition of the average poor man on the street without shelter, food, good roads to ride his ‘Okada’ and good hospitals to treat his miserable children upon being struck by malaria or cholera?

Ex-Governor Sylva irredeemably manifested some sense of vanity and triviality when some years ago in a show of power bravado he was seen on TV showing off the state house in Yenagoa to visiting Christian Purefoy of CNN’s Backstory. When I first saw the video clip I had concluded that another glorified victim of megalomania Nigeriana has been unleashed on the Bayelsa populace! And unless and until he falls we may never know the degree of damage he must have done to the fiscal system. And now that he has fallen we are beginning to hear and see the enormous damage done to the system Bayelsan!

One of his areas of disagreements with the president happened to be the “monument of disgrace” of a 5-star hotel still being built in the state capital. Sylva never thought it expedient completing the major project started by Jonathan as Governor many years ago. Whilst the President rightly felt disappointed that Sylva never deemed it appropriate completing the hotel Sylva was demonstrating some envious disposition since he knew that credit upon completing the major tourism project would go to Jonathan. So he deftly decided to abandon it using the huge monthly federal allocation to do whatever pleased his fancy including patronising his cronies, concubines and mistresses.

Between Timipre Sylva and gold (money) an undoubtable crime and evil connection has been established, one in which the former governor must be held accountable. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) must therefore get cracking as to bringing Sylva and his stolen gold to justice. And in doing so care must be exercised to avoid the Ibori conundrum from playing itself out again in bizzare fashion. Without the valuable judicial help from London Ibori would have been roaming all around the world today living like a Prince and mocking our collective intelligence. But today, thanks to the British justice system that is not compromised like Nigeria’s, he is cooling his heels in jail!

Deposed Governor Sylva’s former Chief Press Secretary Doifie Ola, who ever since Syla lost power has remained loyal and defensive has suddenly ‘disappeared’ from the ‘radar’ maintaining a distant silence as the Sylva graft woes grow by the day. Ola now knows better perhaps: in seeking to defend a principal, a fugitive for that matter, a spokesman needs not exceed certain limit lest he be exposed as an accessory to the crimes for which the law is seeking out his boss. Ola acted like a receiver of a stolen item and in this case he is culpable of certain misdeeds.

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