Posted by By STEVE NWOSU on
As Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha battles to fend off the wolves of impeachment, a thick cloud of fear has suddenly descended on government houses across the states.
As Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha battles to fend off the wolves of impeachment, a thick cloud of fear has suddenly descended on government houses across the states. Mum is the word as everyone (governors and aides alike) watch with pin-drop silence as the game of death in Yenagoa plays itself out.
Nothing probably captures the palpable fear in the land than what transpired Wednesday between a senior editor of the Sun Newspaper and a top politician who was asked to confirm the story of the arrest of the pilot who flew Governor Diepreye
Alamieyeseigha to Nigeria on the last lap of his escape from London.The official who obviously has a contrary position to that of the federal government on the Alamieyeseigha saga had to first switch off his telephone when he learnt of the reason for the call. He then called back a few minutes later on another line.
And even after confirming that the caller was a genuine journalist, barely spoke in whispers. Even as he was calling from another more secure place, he had this morbid fear that agents of the federal government had their ears to his wall. “I don’t want Baba’s trouble”, he said as he quickly ended the discussion. He would call back two times to renew his plea that his name must never be mentioned in the story.
This politician is not alone. In the last few months, THE SUN has had opportunities to ask top-ranking government officials – both at the federal and state levels – to comment on the raging Obasanjo third term debate. The findings have been rather instructive.
Not one of the respondents, including state governors, serving ministers and all manner of political office seekers and government appointees, wanted to speak on the matter. Those who eventually did, did so off-record, ensuring by themselves that the reporters tape recorder was switched off.
“My position about perpetuation in office is that if people did not leave, people like us would not have got here and you would not be here today telling me of the positive transformation that you have now seen in the state”, one governor said on the condition of anonymity. He continued: “But the truth is, there is no proof that I am the best that this state can have… and we will not know that until I leave office for another person to try his hands at the job”
If he was so opposed to the project why has he not called the president to order? “Me, I don’t want any persecution”, was the governor’s answer. If Obasanjo wants to run for third term, I will give him my support but for me, I will never run”, the governor said.
But if this particular governor would not want to be quoted on the issue, Governor Bukar Abba Ibrahim of Yobe State does not give a damn whether he is quoted or not.
But that was until recently. Ibrahim is of the opposition All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). Several months ago, the Yobe governor had declared his intention to run for the Presidency. Asked if he would support President Olusegun Obasanjo if he decided to run for a third term, Ibrahim said he could not possible do that, since he himself would also be standing for the same election.
However, a few weeks ago, the Yobe Governor recanted. He is now ready to support Obasanjo. Saturday Sun gathered that this change of position may not be unrelated to the rampaging EFCC which has recently begun to throw its search light on the North Eastern States.
Already, those who call the shots in the not too far away Taraba State have been brought to their knees.
In Bauchi, it was only the dispatch with which the administration of Governor Ahmadu Mu’azu countered the rumours over an N800million almanac job, by presenting the actual facts that saved the face similar embarrassment. A petition had been sent to the EFCC claiming that the governor had approved contract for the 2005 calendar (mischievously referred to as ‘almanac’) for N800 million and to a company in which the governor had interest.
As it turned out, the contract had included a 13-page calendar, desk diaries and pocket diaries. Worse of all, it was awarded for less than N30 million. The company that won the contract was one which had been patronised by previous administrations in the sate. Truth prevailed and the governor got a breather.
The fear of EFCC.
Bauchi for now appears to be the only ‘free’ state in the zone. Mu’azu had himself dragged some of his thieving public officials before the EFCC. But one is never too sure with EFCC and the booming petition writing industry.
Alamieyeseigha had it coming
Prior to his arrest in London in October, Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha was a marked man. And he knew it. But he could not be too careful because the bobby traps were everywhere. It was only a matter of time before he got caught in one of them. With his alleged record in corruption, it was unthinkable that he would go scot-free – if not now, then after he must have stepped down in 2007.
In fact, it is alleged that it was the desperation to guarantee his freedom post 2007 that made Alamieyeseigha pitch tent with the camp of Vice President Atiku Abubakar and oppose a third term for Obasanjo. He did not figure that he would walk free for one day if he eventually left office and Obasanjo was still president.
Since 2002, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was said to have had a damning file on him. But the Presidency allegedly directed the agency to stay action as the political climate – prior to the 2003 presidential election – did not seem appropriate to begin to hound governors whose co-operation was needed to secure re-election, especially when such governors were among those who only agreed to swing over to the President’s camp after several months of hesitation and high-wire lobbying.
There was equally a tell-tale petition on him before the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). According to a Saturday Sun source, the ICPC was ready to go for the kill on the Alamieyeseigha case but was stopped in its track by a curious twist to the case: the same man who had sent the petition against the governor had found a way to make peace with the Yenagoa strong man. The story soon changed.
The petitioner whom ICPC had hoped would be its star witness had made a full u-turn and was now fighting on the side of Alamieyeseigha. The case was lost even before it started.
That had the then ICPC chairman, Justice Mustapha Akanbi, and his men licking their wounds. In fact, on retirement, Akanbi was said to have lamented that if he had all the powers, the Bayelsa governor was one man he would love to dock.
But Akanbi, a judiciary icon, had to stoop just as far as the law would permit him to go.
The story is now different. ICPC is no longer in the picture. And the Alamieyeseigha brief has been given to a new persecutor-cum-prosecutor who seems not to care too much about what the law says.
Impeachment and the EFCC
In the celebrated case of Lagos State and the Obasanjo administration, the Supreme Court had ruled that the federal government has no right whatsoever to withhold the allocation of any tier of government without recourse to the law court.
Although the federal government had foot-dragged on this ruling before it complied, it is on the strength of that judgement that it began a phased release of the allocations of the Lagos State council which it had withheld as a result of what it termed unconstitutional creation of additional local government areas by the Bola Tinubu administration.
Although the funds could not be released until a group led by Prince Bola Ajibola had found a political solution to the impasse and allowed the Presidency room to save face, the position of the law remained that it was illegal for the federal government to withhold such allocations – either to a state or local government.
But it would seem the EFCC has been reading a different copy of the statutes all along. Last week, it froze all the accounts of the Bayelsa State government, a move perceived by many as calculated at starving the embattled Governor Alamieyeseigha of funds he might need to counter the impeachment moves against him.
Interestingly too, the facts and evidence now being waved at the public are the same facts contained in the file that has been in EFCC’s custody for over three years now.
Why did the commission suddenly wake up? “Because the condition is now right”, says an official of the Ijaw National Congress. “It is not immediately you get information that you use it. You wait for the right time”.
He was confirming an earlier allegation against the Presidency that blackmail has been elevated to the status of statecraft. Government officials just collect dossiers on each other and keep them for possible blackmail sometime in the future – to perpetually keep the person or persons in check.
Money is the name of the game
As Alamieyeseigha battles to remain in office, there is a speculation that he has promised every member of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly N40 million and a Jeep each if they withdraw from the impeachment plot.
But that is not all the allegations going round. Only last week, a handful of members of the Bayelsa State of Assembly had called a press conference to draw attention to how EFCC was allegedly taking over their functions in Yenagoa. Apart from being hounded into detention and forced to sign the impeachment notice under duress, the lawmakers, led by Hon. Nimibofa Ayawei, also alleged that they were promised about N25 million each.
The dissenting lawmakers’ press statement came on the heels of another statement credited to the Speaker of the State House of Assembly that 18 out of the 24 members of the state legislative house had endorsed an impeachment notice to the governor.
Instructively, the Speaker spoke in Lagos and had remained in either Lagos or Abuja ever since. Like many in his group, the impression is that they are not safe in Bayelsa – the same Bayelsa whose cause they are fighting.
Police and soldiers have been deployed to the state and hopefully, the ‘exiled’ lawmakers will return to sit on Tuesday with a retinue of security personnel provided by the federal government. The law says they can only impeach the governor sitting in the state assembly complex, so it is expected that federal troops would provide them security cover in Yenagoa while they sit to impeach Alamieyeseigha.
A source at the national headquarters of the PDP who reassured Saturday Sun that Alamieyeseigha “would be a goner by Tuesday” hinted that the party is moving all its arsenal to Bayelsa to push through the impeachment process while Aso Rock would be watching from Abuja with keen interest.
With the clock now ticking on Alamieyeseigha, there is palpable fear in the land, especially among politicians who are perceived to be opponents of President Obasanjo and the much touted third term agenda. The fear is more real with the governors who now see the situation in Bayelsa as an instructive precedence.
If Alamieyeseigha is impeached, it then becomes a matter of time before the same treatment begins to go round.
What makes it more deadly, one South West Governor told Saturday Sun, is that Obasanjo, through the EFCC, is both the accuser and the judge.
“They will be the ones to raise the allegations and they would be the same people to substantiate and adjudicate on it. It is a no win situation”, he said.
Suddenly, the procedure for impeachment has suddenly begun to run thus:
• Raise wild allegations to brand the governor a thief
• Pretend you don’t know what the constitution says on such matters
• Invite the EFCC to substantiate some of the allegations (no matter how vague)
• Pick up a few officials of the state government and throw them into cell
• Pick up members of the state house of assembly and detain and blackmail them
• Force them to sign impeachment notice or go to jail
• Send in policemen and soldiers to create the impression of insecurity (and prepare the ground for Emergency rule – if everything fails)
• Sponsor protests against the governor
• Starve the state government of funds (irrespective of the Supreme Court position) while the federal forces pump in money
• Get the PDP to suspend, or even expel the governor
• Project a handful of friendly indigenes of the state (especially those with political ambition) to speak up against their governor.
• Spirit out supportive members of the state assembly to a place where they cannot easily be reached and made better offers to back out.
• Fly them into the state assembly chambers with an army of mobile policemen to rubber stamp what has been agreed in Abuja.
• After you have achieved this, then suddenly remember that there was a constitution afterall, and then deal with the now-out-of-power ex-governor the way the constitution says you should deal with any common criminal
That way, no governor is safe. Whether they are PDP, AD or ANPP. And they all know it. For there is no governor who does not have one damning petition or another against him inside one of the EFCC files. It then becomes a question of who to take out next.
Already, a notice has been served Plateau State’s Governor Joshua Dariye – who had been left to mind his business in Jos since he pioneered the London bail-jumping bid.
The EFCC has sent a dossier on him to members of the state house of assembly to put them on notice.
Very soon too, it might not be unexpected if similar dossiers are delivered to Asaba, Benin, Adamawa, Umuahia and even Jalingo.
The governors all know this but none is bold enough to utter a word, lest it comes to them faster than would have been the case.
Third term in the mix
Not one of them appears to be in doubt that the speculated third term project might be the reason behind all these.
“If not third term and the need to remove all those who might pose stumbling blocks to it, especially those in position of power, why are we now heating up the polity simply because we want to impeach one man?” asked a chieftain of the ANPP who would still not want to be identified, eventhough he is not a member of PDP.
He reasons that “2007 is just 13 months away” and that Alamieyeseigha’s “infamous immunity” would not go beyond then. “Can’t we pick him up when he finishes his tenure?” he asked.
According to him, it is this desperation on the part of the federal government that makes one suspect that there is more to this than money laundering and corruption.
“It is bad enough that one governor has betrayed the trust of the people of his state by stealing them blind. It is one thing that somebody of the status of a state governor has brought disrepute to the country by jumping bail from a foreign court. But equally disgraceful and treacherous is the decision of the Obasanjo government to ignore the constitution of the land and turn its back on the even bigger corruption that has now been brought to bear on the impeachment project.”
However, nothing better illustrates this third term angle to the present unease in the polity than the fate that has befallen one of the biggest indigenous businessmen that have been thrown up by the Obasanjo administration in Nigeria. The man, with interest in virtually all the three key sectors of the local economy (oil, banking, telecommunications) and, who had been co-opted into the team of private sector supporters of the third term project was said to have landed himself into trouble when he suggested – at one of their meetings – that they work on an alternative candidate just in case the third term project did not scale through.
As soon as this suggestion got out, it was immediately taken to mean that the businessman was pushing the case of another presidential aspirant with whom he is believed to have an even longer relationship with. He was immediately put under fire and had to flee abroad from where he has since been making contacts and pleading for the life of his investments in Nigeria.
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