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Lucky Jonathan and the Bayelsa challenges

Posted by Bisi Olaniyi on 2005/12/21 | Views: 651 |

Lucky Jonathan and the Bayelsa challenges

The only permanent thing in life is change, goes a popular saying. This was aptly demonstrated at the Executive Council Chamber of the Government House, Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, on December 12, 2005.

The only permanent thing in life is change, goes a popular saying. This was aptly demonstrated at the Executive Council Chamber of the Government House, Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, on December 12, 2005.

Immediately after the then acting Governor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, was inaugurated as the substantive governor by the state Chief Judge, Justice Emmanuel Igoniwari, he turned round and reached for the golden portrait of his impeached former boss, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, which he removed and replaced with his own, before presenting his inaugural address. The act confirmed the transient nature of power, just as it was a lesson for those who were ready to learn.

With the eminence of Alamieyeseigha, who is fondly called the “Governor-General of Izon nation” and the “Olotu of Olotus” (strongest of the strong), no one had anticipated this turn of events. The Otuoke, Ogbia Local Government Area-born Jonathan can best be described as a man of destiny.

Exactly 20 days after the former Zoology lecturer at the University of Port Harcourt decided to leave for Abuja with members of his family after an alleged attempt on his life in Bayelsa, he returned triumphantly. He was no longer a deputy or acting governor. He had assumed the position of the state’s number one citizen.

His boss, who was arrested by the London Metropolitan Police on September 15, 2005 for alleged money laundering and standing trial, jumped bail and returned to the state on November 21, 2005, hoping that with his immunity as a governor, nothing would happen to him. It turned out to be a wrong calculation.

The former governor was received by a tumultuous crowd, amid singing, drumming and dancing. People protesting for and against his escape took to the streets. To avoid a breakdown of law and order and restore sanity, no fewer than 1,000 soldiers and riot policemen were deployed in the state.

On November 23, the 48-year-old Jonathan relocated to Abuja, while his aides and staff deserted their offices for fear of being eliminated.

A notice of impeachment was then served on Alamieyeseigha by the lawmakers, led by Mr. Peremobowei Ebebi, while he denied all the allegations levelled against him in his 12-page reply.

Igoniwari was on November 29 directed by the lawmakers to set up a seven-member panel, in line with Section 188 of the 1999 Constitution to investigate the allegations levelled against the governor, which he did on December 5, 2005. But he reminded those present in his court at the High Court Complex, Yenagoa, that only the impeachment proceedings of the former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, who was removed in 1981, had ever reached a stage of setting up a panel since Nigeria’s independence in 1960.

The panel, headed by a Port Harcourt-based legal practitioner, Mr. David Serena-Dokubo Spiff, submitted the first part of the report on December 9, 2005. After submitting the report, with an assurance by Spiff that the second part would be submitted in due course, the stage was set for the removal.

The Speaker, in his address, appealed to the Federal Government not to withdraw the soldiers from the state. This was to ensure the protection of lives and property in view of the possibility that diehard supporters of the former governor eliminating perceived enemies. Immediately after the removal, a team led by the Commissioner in the state police command, Mr. Hafiz Ringim, and the state leader of the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta, code-named, “Operation Restore Hope”, Lt-Col. A.S. Maikobi, moved to the Creek Haven Government House with their men and arrested the governor in the presence of his aged parents who just came from Amassoma, their home town, to see their son.

Alamieyeseigha was moved to the Bayelsa Police Command Headquarters. After a brief interrogation, he left in Ringim’s official Peugeot 504 saloon car, marked NPF 04-046, with an armoured tank following the convoy, on a journey to Abuja. Jonathan would have been inaugurated the same day, but the CJ was away to Abuja to attend a judges’ conference, while Jonathan too was not available in Bayelsa. As early as 7am on December 12, friends, relatives and political associates of Jonathan and sycophants had thronged the seat of power for a low-keyed ceremony, with the soldiers, riot policemen and officials of the State Security Service having a hectic time in controlling the crowd at the main gate.

The Secretary-General of the Niger Delta Civil Society Coalition, Mr. Azibaola Robert, had earlier warned Jonathan to beware of sycophants, rule with the fear and wisdom of God and not to see those criticising him constructively as his enemies.

With a vehicle of the Police Anti-bomb Squad positioned in front of the governor’s office and the officers frisking the premises, it was clear that the policemen did not want to take chances. For visitors to have access to the Executive Council Chamber was a very difficult task. Members of the National Assembly, state legislators led by Ebebi, commissioners, permanent secretaries, royal fathers, council chairmen, clerics, stalwarts of the ruling PDP and other top government officials had to push and shove before gaining entrance into the expansive hall.

Few minutes before 2pm, most of the invited guests remained on their feet, since the hall was filled up. And so they remained for the 49 minutes the programme lasted.

At 1:57 pm, the CJ entered the hall in his ceremonial red and black gown with a wig to match, in company with the state Chief Registrar, Mr. Ineikade Eradiri.

Jonathan, who spotted an ash coloured Etibo (Ijaw chieftaincy wear), with a black bowler hat and a pair of black shoes, got to the hall at 2:02pm. He was accompanied by his wife, Patience; the Deputy Governor of Bauchi State, Alhaji Abdulmalik Baraden; the former Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Chris Ekpenyong and other distinguished Nigerians. The Bishop of Niger Delta Diocese of the Anglican Communion, Rt. Rev. Adolphus Amabebe, took the opening prayer. He asked for peace in the state and for Jonathan to humbly serve the people according to God’s will.

The oaths were then administered by the CJ on the new governor, marking his inauguration as the second executive governor of the state. By 2:38pm, the oath taking ceremony was over and the substantive governor mounted the exalted seat to present his 23-paragraph inaugural address. He first acknowledged the support of his wife.

To confirm his loyalty to his former boss, Jonathan said, “This is an event none of us could have contemplated three months ago. In many ways, this occasion is an unexpected intrusion in the political calendar of Nigeria. Whatever may be the case, we have cause to thank God for giving Bayelsa a new lease of life. We have yet another golden opportunity to move our state forward.

“I believe it is well known that I served Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha as his deputy loyally and honestly, from the beginning of our tenure on May 29, 1999 until the sad circumstances that have caused me to succeed him today. I did not go out of my way to seek this.

“All I know is that a great challenge has been thrown to me. I have no choice in the matter. I must take charge of the affairs of Bayelsa State and remove the stain of shame and distress that has been stamped upon us. I consider this to be a sacred duty.”

To further improve the quality of life of his people, Jonathan gave an assurance that he would attract investors and well-meaning agencies to assist in the development of the state.

While demanding Bayelsans’ support, the governor added, “We can achieve much if we are united in service. Unity is the only instrument that will put the state on an even keel for poverty reduction, human and infrastructural development.”

He then lauded the Federal Government for providing adequate security in the state and for resisting the temptation to proclaim a state of emergency. The event was rounded off at 2:51 pm. In the evening of December 12, the state-owned Glory FM, shut on the orders of the Federal Government, resumed transmission, while the policemen were withdrawn. The withheld allocation may also be released very soon by the Federal Government, for workers’ salaries to be paid, especially with Christmas approaching.

Among the challenges facing Jonathan as he settles down to work is the choice of a deputy. In searching for one, many believe that the new governor must not allow sycophants and hangers-on to mislead him. He must look for a qualified Bayelsan, without laying emphasis on political or ethnic affiliation.

With the state’s huge allocations and billions of naira saved while he briefly acted for Alamieyeseigha, some believe that the new administration may consider opening up the coastal communities by constructing bridges which will be the contracts to competent firms.

Since the Niger Delta Development Commission and the Shell Petroleum Development Company are currently working on Ogbia-Nembe-Brass Road, and the NDDC also constructing the Sagbama-Ekeremor-Agge Road in phases, Jonathan can award a contract for the construction of Yenagoa-Oporoma-Ukubie Road.

The 2007 battle is gathering momentum. It is very clear that Jonathan will be vying. Last week’s arrest of the state Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Mr. Matthew Karimo, by the police has narrowed the contest to one between Jonathan and the Executive Director, Finance and Administration of NDDC, Mr. Timi Alaibe, who fought Alamieyeseigha to a standstill and would have emerged the PDP’s flag-bearer for the 2003 gubernatorial election in Bayelsa State.

But whether the new governor will be able to make a difference in Bayelsa State as he has promised, only time will tell.

The PUNCH, Wednesday, December 21, 2005

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Comments (3)

Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown