Sabella Abidde’s Vitriolic and Ill-Informed Articles: A Rejoinder

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

Sabella Abidde’s Vitriolic and Ill-Informed Articles

By Mr. Ebimo Amungo

Hello Mr. Abidde,

Thanks once again for responding so fast to my e-mail. I guess you are assured about my identity now. Once again let me start by re-introducing myself. I am the Chief Press Secretary of Governor Timipre Sylva, the Executive Governor of Bayelsa State, Nigeria. What that means is that I have the responsibility of letting the world know about the governor’s daily activities, plans, visions, etc. I also have the job of putting the facts about the governor’s activities before those who need to know or want to know.

Sometime late in September, I read your piece titled “Memo To My Dear Gov. Timipre Sylva” a beautiful satirical piece, only it was full of “untruths, half-truths, misrepresentations, and willful lies”

The article created the impression that the governor has spent more of his time since he was sworn-in out of the state, indeed the country.

These are the facts and they might surprise you: Chief Timipre Sylva has only traveled out of Nigeria four times since he was sworn-in on May 29 2007.

First, Gov. Sylva was a guest of Vice President Goodluck Jonathan whom he accompanied on a trip to South Africa between the 6th and 8th of July 2007.

The governor was out of the country again for about eight days late in July and early August and visited three countries, namely; Netherlands, Norway and later America. First, he joined four other governors of the Niger Delta, who had been directed by the federal government to attend the Gulf of Guinea Security Strategy meeting in The Hague, Netherlands, between 31st July and 1st August 2007.

At that meeting in The Hague, Gov. Sylva was appointed the Nigerian Champion on the Voluntary Principles of Human Rights and Security by an NGO headed by George Soros, the American Billionaire, for his efforts at stopping hostage taking in Bayelsa State and the release of over 24 hostages held by militants in the first two weeks of his assuming office. His efforts at improving security in the Niger Delta also caught the attention of officials of the US State Department, who invited Chief Sylva for further meetings in the United States.

Then on the 2nd of August 2007, Governor Sylva was in Oslo, Norway to meet with officials of Statoil, the Norwegian multinational oil firm. The firm is planning on building some facilities including liquefied natural gas plants somewhere in the Niger Delta region in Nigeria and Gov. Sylva is trying to convince them to make Yenagoa, the headquarter of their operation and Bayelsa State the location of their facility. Subsequently, Gov. Sylva has had follow-up meetings with officials of the company in Abuja. Nigeria.

Gov. Sylva rounded off that trip with a visit to his family who where holidaying in Houston, Texas in the United States of America. That leg of the trip was not planned, but the governor made the decision to be with his wife and three young children for a few days on a holiday he knows would be a luxury now that he is in office.

Between September 15th to 19th 2007, Gov. Sylva honoured the invitation of the US State Department and met with state department officials, including the then US ambassador to Nigeria, in Washington. He later stopped over in New York to meet with some business groups and officials of the George Soros led NGO. On his way to America he stopped over in London on September 16th 2007 to partake in the “Boro Day” celebrations, an event celebrated annually in honour of the late Isaac Adaka Boro by the Ijaw Peoples Association in Great Britain and Ireland

Then between 17th and 19th October 2007, Governor Sylva was co-opted to accompany Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan to Houston, Texas, USA to attend the All Niger Delta People’s Conference. The vice president was accompanied this time also by the governor of Edo State.

Mr. Abidde, your article also created the impression that the governor is profligate and a spend-thrift and he does not care about basic amenities for the people of Bayelsa state. I think it is important you know these facts. Chief Timipre Sylva has in the past six months instituted various cost cutting measures in the state including verification and audit of the civil servants and workers in governments employ. Financial service reforms that have led to a 20 percent reduction in personnel and overhead cost- the savings have been channeled into capital projects in the state.

But beyond that, the governor has put in place a due process and e-government bureau, supported and strengthen by United Nations Development Program, that has effectively cut the cost for goods and services in Bayelsa State. The policy is that all capital projects in the state must get clearance from the due process office and the budget office- Sabella, that is novel for a Nigerian state. And I can assure you that it is being implemented with vigour.

As for amenities, I think it is necessary you know that pipe borne water is being distributed to streets and house holds for the first time in eleven years since the creation of the state. Water reticulation is one of the cardinal programs of the government and it is a reality now. The project is still on. You could call up and ask any body who lives in Yenagoa.

Concerning electricity, Gov. Sylva made a promise that steady supply of electricity in Yenagoa, and later in the state, would be his Christmas gift to the people. So far the governor has visited the site of the state’s independent power project at Imiringi eight times! He has also said Bayelsa State would be the first state in Nigeria to celebrate one year of uninterrupted power supply by December 2009.

But Mr. Abidde, if you did a lot of damage with that “memo” your attack on Gov. Sylva in your article “Masquerades and Jokers as Governor in Bayelsa State” was most uncharitable and very far from the truth. As Bayelsans, we cannot run away from our recent past. If bad leadership was our lot in the past few years we played out part in our actions and in actions. I do not intend to hold brief for any past governor, but it is my duty to hold brief for Chief Sylva, not only because he is my boss, but also because as someone close to him, I am assured of the fact that indeed this state has a good governor.

Commitment is what marks leaders apart and that is what this governor brings to the table -A commitment to the development of the state. And it is for that reason that only a day after being sworn-in, Gov. Sylva was in the creeks of the Niger Delta to dialogue with militants who had wrecked havoc to the state’s economy by taking expatriate oil workers hostage and vandalizing oil facilities in their so-called struggle against the Nigerian state.

Mr. Abidde, let me not bother you with the processes. Let me just tell you the results. Today, Bayelsa State ranks second in oil production in the country. As at May 2007 the state was number five in oil productions because oil production facilities had been abandoned. Today, there is security in the state. The oil companies are producing from almost all their facilities in the state. Contractors handling projects in the state, including Germans, Italians, Chinese, are back on their project sites and can be seen moving around freely on the streets of Yenagoa. Please verify if in doubt.

I know it has been long you visited Nigeria and I doubt if you have been to Yenagoa recently. But know this for a fact, the city is now a clean growing capital with all the project inherited from the past government almost completed, including the state secretariat complex, judiciary building, secretariat annex; all are government owned buildings that have been under construction for the past six years at least. Now Gov. Sylva is completing the largest hospital in Nigeria, the 500-bed hospital.

But my dear brother, how can you call a governor, who met the state owned university, the Niger Delta University, without accreditation in its law and medical programs but worked hard to put facilities and personnel in place that has got both faculties accreditation, “visionless”?

A governor who has negotiated the Nigerian Law School to open a campus in Bayelsa state and is championing a campaign for oil companies to have their operational bases in Yenagoa, “visionless”?

Is it a trait of lack of vision when a governor, in implementing a city development strategy adopted by the state House of Assembly, acquires 300 hectares of land, from the aborigines of Yenagoa, and is set to commence the construction of the most modern central business district in any state capital in Nigeria?

Let me inform you about the civil servants salary in Bayelsa State. First, the Bayelsa State government does not owe any civil servant. Salaries are paid as and when due. (Please you can call any civil servant you know and ask him or her) That is even after the state government magnanimously increased the consolidated salaries of civil servants in the state by 15 percent: The only state in Nigeria so far to have implemented a 15 percent salary increase for her workers. (You can cross check from the national headquarter of the Nigerian Labour Congress)

There is an ongoing workers audit and verification exercise that led to some delays in the payment of salaries at the initial stages of the exercise, there was also a damaging propaganda campaign by those benefiting from the fact that ghost names existed in the nominal roll in the state but things are normal now.

Indeed, teacher’s salaries were delayed, also because of the on-going verification exercise, but some human factors also played a hand in the delay. Gov. Sylva has instituted a panel of inquiry to find out what caused the delay in teachers salaries four months after he had approved money for them to be paid.

Mr. Abidde, a lot has happened in six months that amazes those that visit Yenagoa and those that come into contact with Gov. Sylva and see the enthusiasm of the man. Visitors to the state, including senators, governors from other states, journalists and others are better placed to tell you what is happening in Yenagoa.

It is December, a time for home coming for Nigerians in Diaspora. I wish you would join them and visit your state so that you would appreciate her better, rather than put her down in those vitriolic and ill-informed articles of yours.

I think you should join the vanguard of those working hard to bring development to the state in their own way.

I wish you well in your sojourn in America.

Yours Sincerely,

Ebimo Amungo.

Chief Press Secretary To Governor Timipre Sylva

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1 comment

segun December 15, 2007 - 5:37 am

Sabella, let us have your reaction to the Mr Ebimo Amungo's position.I know one thing for sure: the last time you visited Nigeria was this year so Ebimo's 'I know it has been long you visited Nigeria and I doubt if you have been to Yenegoa recently' is a fallacy.


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