The Coming Anarchy in Bayelsa State

There is silence and an ominous quiet in Bayelsa State. This silence, and the quiet, is about to combust – a combustion that is likely to swallow up the state like no other event since the state’s creation in 1996. The actions and pronouncements of certain people in and out of the state will be the cause of such tragedy. From all reliable sources, there is a swirling cavern of resentment and frustration that is about to bust. And bust it will if these injustices continues. No one – no one who is anybody from the state and who is involved in these untold political machinations – is likely to escape unscathed. This security alert therefore is simple: there is smoke coming from the belly of the state’s waterways. This is the time to attend to it. Otherwise, those who make justice impossible will be consumed by extralegal acts. Anarchy is about to unravel in Bayelsa State.

This security alert is a corollary of four interlocking factors: (1) there is pervasive anger over the fact that the wrong man emerged as the governor. In other word, the government’s illegitimacy is still a source of resentment in the state. The current government sits on a porous ladder; (2) there is the shadow and overbearing influence of Chief Alamieyeseigha in unofficial matters. To that we add the shadow and overbearing influence of Chief Desmond Daukoru in official matters. The tentacles of both men extend to the kitchen and living quarters of the current governor, who, according to some observers, seem powerless, dazed and confused; (3) far more than the toxic influences of Alamieyeseigha and Daukoru are those of the Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.

Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, many have asserted, is the unofficial governor of the state; consequently, Governor Timipre Sylva is subject to the push and pull of the Vice President. In other words: whatever Jonathan wants Jonathan gets. Jonathan is powerless in Abuja, but he is powerful in Yenagoa.

The Timipre Sylva’ camp is not happy at the fact that the governor is now, essentially, a robot, and a puppet of the Vice President. But more than that, the governor is now at the mercy of the three most powerful men in the state: Alamieyeseigha, Jonathan, and Daukoru. With such subjugation and control, how is the governor to function? How is he to make reasonable and independent judgment? How do you have a governor who is neither “his own man” nor “the man of the people”? A man who made nighttime deals has now become a prisoner of his own impure ambition, a hostage to his machinations. Perhaps the most combustible, is the refusal of Governor Timipre Sylva to nominate the proper and rightful person to the position of Bayelsa State Chief Justice. Trusted sources (in Yenagoa, Port Harcourt, and Abuja) all have countervailing information on the issue.

According to Mr. Bisi Olaniyi (“Bayelsa: Row over CJ’s seat,” Punch Online 12/31/07): “When the then Governor of Bayelsa State, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, now the Vice-President, on November 10, 2006, inaugurated Justice Margaret Akpomiemie as the state’s acting Chief Judge, little did he know that the decision would lead to serious crisis in the volatile oil-rich state.” Today the crisis is about to get out of hand. It is about to get out of hand because — as inferred by Bisi Olaniyi and other sources — the wishes of the people is about to be truncated by Timipre Sylva who is acting on behest of Goodluck Jonathan. None of my sources is able to confirm why Jonathan is going to war for Justice Margaret Akpomiemie, an Urhobo from Delta State by birth and marriage, as the state’s Chief Justice when there are at least four other equally and or better qualified Bayelsans, including Justice Kate Abiri (who was nominated, approved, and preferred by the Bayelsa State branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, the National Judicial Council (NJC), and the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria, Bayelsa chapter).

According to Mr. Davidson Iriekpen (ThisDay Newspaper posted to the web January 8, 2008), “Chairman, Bayelsa State branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Ebiyerin Omukoro, has appealed to the National Judicial Council (NJC) to protect the independence of the judiciary by ensuring the sanctity of its choice for the position of Chief Judge of the state.” The Governor’s obstinacy has led to a breakdown of judicial services in the state.

Beside acquiescing to Goodluck Jonathan’s wishes, several reports and insinuations points to the fact that “Sylva was equally not keen about forwarding Abiri’s name to the legislators for confirmation, having come from the coastal Aleibiri, in Ekeremor council of the state, the hometown of his deputy, Mr. Peremobowei Ebebi. The governor is afraid that if Abiri becomes the substantive CJ, it will be very easy for his deputy to prevail on the lawmakers to impeach him, presuming that Abiri will be willing to constitute the seven-member panel to investigate the allegations to be leveled against him.” This supposed fear and apprehension has led to “speculations that the state government was making moves to get the NJC to recommend somebody else.” Is this supposed alternate going to be a junior and less qualified candidate, from another part of the state?

Three trusted sources deep within the corridor of state and federal power has suggested that both Governor Sylva and Vice President Goodluck have their reasons for not wanting Justice Kate Abiri as the substantive Chief Judge: (1) “both men are bent on self preservation vis-à-vis missing funds and anticipated future transgressions;” (2) “the need to limit the access of core-Ijaw to state and national prominence… By the time both men leave office, Nembe and Ogbia, will have been well entrenched in the state’s political and economic power structure. Their goal, ultimately, is power, domination, prominence and control of the state apparatus…in spite of their master-servant relationship, there is a convergence of interest…;” and (3) “a sort of payback to the majority-Ijaw who made life difficult for Jonathan when he was the Deputy Governor under Alamieyeseigha.”

If the aforesaid calculations on the part of both men are true, then, Mount Vesuvius will erupt again. Anarchy will descend upon the state. Untold political fiasco will engulf the state. There may be a carnival of fury which may extend beyond the state’s borders. History show that when men are blinded by power and naked ambition, they tend to act foolishly. This is another foolish moment; another foolish moment on the part of both men.

Regarding the issue of substantive Chief Justice for the state, what does Jonathan Goodluck want? What does Timipre Sylva want? What are they afraid of? Four qualified Justices were nominated for the substantive Chief Justice’s position, that is, Justice Kate Abiri, Justice M.I. Akpomiemie, Justice Lucky Boufini and Justice G. S. Botei. What’s the problem? First, the State Judicial Commission recommended Justice Abiri to the National Judicial Council and it was accepted without reservation, second, the Bayelsa State branch of the Nigerian Bar Association also approved, commended and supported her nomination. All the great legal minds in the state also supported her nomination. Great legal minds beyond the state borders have also supported her nomination. All that is left is for Governor Timipre Sylva to send the appropriate papers to the Bayelsa State Assembly for ratification. But he has steadfastly refused to do so. What’s the problem, what’s he afraid of? He need not be afraid of whatever he is afraid of: only the guilty are afraid.

Ever since Mr. Timipre Sylva became the governor, and Mr. Goodluck became the Vice President, both men have managed to find ways to cause themselves, and the people of Bayelsa, pain and grief. Both have managed to find ways to make themselves the boogiemen. They have managed to find ways to cause confusion and to bring about an unhealthy state of things. And indeed, both men have a way of soiling and fouling the wind. What rational persons would deliberately court trouble and mayhem? The law is the law; also, rules and regulations are meant to be followed. In this case, the law, rules and regulations demand that once a Judge has been nominated and approved by all properly constituted authorities, the applicant has the right to have his or name forwarded to the State Assembly for confirmation. But because of their dark secrets and secret deals, the state’s judicial service is grinding to a halt.

Written by
Sabella Ogbobode Abidde
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