Posted by SAMUEL OYADONGHA, Yenagoa on
HOWEVER painful it may be to admit it, the arrest of Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State by the Metropolitan Police over alleged money laundering on September 15, did not come as a surprise to many observers of events...
The dead cannot cry out for justice; it is a duty of the living to do so for them —Lois McMaster Bujold, Diplomatic Immunity, 2002.
HOWEVER painful it may be to admit it, the arrest of Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State by the Metropolitan Police over alleged money laundering on September 15, did not come as a surprise to many observers of events in a state rich in oil but remarkable for its underdevelopment on account of profligacy and mismanagement of its resources.
The never-ending drama unfolding several thousands of miles away from the shores of Nigeria has turned out to be a soap opera not only for a bewildered Nigerian federation but also for the international community. Perhaps, if the governor-general of the Ijaw nation had not turned the art of governance into globetrotting he would have escaped the tragedy he brought upon himself because of the immunity covering him back home in Nigeria.
The odds are insurmountable for the governor whose last name "Alamieyeseigha" in his native Ijaw language means "the king does no wrong;" but this around the king may have done wrong if allegations emanating on daily basis from the Metropolitan Police are substantiated especially given the alleged recovery of another one hundred thousand pounds from his residence in which the embattled governor was said to have queried his accusers what was wrong in a serving governor being in possession of such a small amount.
For Alamieyeseigha, things cannot be the same again after plunging from grace to life in dungeon, as he ponders his future in the aftermath of the stark reality staring him in the face. Although the tension which engulfed Ijawland after news of his arrest filtered in on account of the combative posture of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) and the Ijaw National Congress (INC) has since ebbed, things cannot be said to be same again for the Bayelsans whose pride have been bruised and whose civil servants for the first time in many years had to wait until the last day of the month to get their salary following the alleged seizure of the state’s statutory allocation by the federal government said to have lost confidence in its managers.
For the Ijaws, the initial anger that swept through the length and breadth of their communities is hardly their worry now. Rather, as each day passes, the predicament of their rich but backward state stares them in the face coupled with the financial crunch in the system which has forced many call girls who have made Yenagoa a hunting ground for quick money to move to neighbouring states while government officials whose hands are soiled have since gone underground for fear of being arrested by the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission investigating the state account since 1999. Also, for the first time in the history of the young state it would not be celebrating its ninth anniversary as all activities lined up for the event have been cancelled according to a Government House announcement aired on the state radio station because of the governor’s predicament.
Even the annual Porbeni football competition is being held without the usual fanfare of march past and cultural display by the various participating local government areas while members of the state executive council have been directed not to make public statement on the issue until further notice. In spite of the feeling of despair among the ordinary people of the state knowing that theirs is one of the poorest state that can be found on earth though not in terms of natural resources but in terms of human development and cultivation of sustainable infrastructure, the people are however concerned about Alamieyeseigha’s state of health and have been praying for him to overcome his travails. It was alleged that contrary to the claim in government circle that the governor went for surgery to correct a nagging back pain in Germany, he actually went for plastic surgery to remove some fat from his sagging belly.
An Ijaw scholar, Tonye David-West, who refused to be carried away by the sentiment that has characterized the event of the last two weeks, noted that the slow paced development of the state in spite of the voluminous allocations granted it by the federal government and internally generated revenues should be a thing of concern instead of allowing emotions to run riot. He argued that when compared with Abia, a state created at the same time with Bayelsa, the former could be equated to Taiwan while Bayelsa could be relegated to the camp of Haiti and Bangladesh. "
Tonye tasked supporters of the governor who have cleverly avoided the questions: "Where did Alamieyeseigha get the pounds to purchase his London house allegedly valued at two million pounds? Where did he get the 1.2 million pounds allegedly found in his London house? Where did he get the alleged $4m used to purchase a home in Bellingham where his son attended college? According to him, "In the six years since Alamieyeseigha has been in Government House, Bayelsans are yet to reap the dividends of democracy and this is the sad aspect of the blind support proffered to this man by his people." Ironically, he lamented that the very Ijaw youths roaming the streets and shouting from the rooftops in support of the governor are the very ones who are yet to find job stressing that if they fall sick they will not be flown to Germany for medical attention like the governor.
"The state is in an utter state of pittance, dogged by lack of employment and basic infrastructure. Alamieyeseigha was said to have gone to Germany for a stomach operation and was on his way to London before the long arm of the law caught up with him. Again, the question Bayelsans need to ask is – why has Alamieyeseigha not built a state-of-the-art hospital in his state where he and his fellow citizens could be treated? It’’s certainly not for lack of funds, but for his avidity and rapacity so evident in his lifestyle. "In the typical Nigerian fashion, politicians are always swift to blame someone else for their misfortunes and adversities. And in the event no human beings can be held culpable, the devil becomes a convenient target for blame. Alamieyeseigha has found a culpable hand in the federal government alleging a setup. It will be a hard sell to convince Nigerians that the federal government planted the 1.2million pounds allegedly found in his house. Did the federal government instigate the Bayelsa State House of Assembly to initiate impeachment proceedings against the governor for alleged corruption in June 2001? "
Alamieyeseigha and his cronies must toe a new line of defense and must answer the pertinent questions that have been brought to the fore. It’s not enough to make speeches about Alamieyeseigha purported innocence when the evidence is in plain view. "The allegation that the federal government is seeking to silence him with this sting operation in London on account of his support for Atiku and his stern position on resource control are as bogus as his doctorate degree in Strategic Management, a degree that took him less than six months to earn in February, 2002, from one of the institutions in the US, The University of Northern Washington, only accredited in the State of Hawaii but operates in Washington State. "In the grand scheme to things, Alamieyeseigha deserved what happened to him in London...Mr. Excellency should remain in London where his immunity does not apply and face his accusers. He should be treated in the same way a regular suspect is treated under British law". To the Founding Director of the Ijaw Council for Human Rights, Mr. Patterson Ogon, a Fellow of Luce Foundation University of California, Berkeley United States of America, the emerging issues on the arrest and incarceration of Alamieyeseigha by the police in London is mind boggling and worrying.
His words, "Those who have been following the politics of development and resource use in Bayelsa State have variously expressed concerns about wrong priorities, a clear lack of commitment and vision by the government to addressing the needs and welfare of the people. This much reflected in Alamieyeseigha’s frequent travels around the world. Now we know better. "We were certain that our resources are being wasted in frivolities but the scale as revealed in the past few weeks is shocking. "Bayelsans still yearn for good life made possible by the provision of employment opportunities, infrastructure and essential services such as potable water, efficient supply of power, good education, health and social services.
Was the governor bothered or even aware that the deprivation of the people of the state has been worsened by his inability to address these needs? Was it enough to put a university in his village and forget that facilities were required to get the institution accredited by the NUC? Didn’t he say ‘nobody is a saint’ in one of the interviews he granted The Insider Magazine? "Our fortunes took a backward swing when he became governor for a second term. We sympathize with him. May be, he should be given a second opportunity so that he could get born again. It’’s very unfortunate to helplessly watch our governor, with all his pageantry, full of life, slide down the swing. Sad to see the governor’’s world ends with a bang! Just like that".
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