By Samuel Oyadongha
Bayelsa State which prided itself as the “Oasis of Peace” in the Niger Delta in the aftermath of the restoration of the peace to the state following the Federal Government amnesty programme is gradually drifting towards its dark past as the 2011 general elections draws closer.
Prior to the amnesty programme, the oil and gas-rich but backward state was known for having the highest number of militant camps in the Niger Delta region and was regarded as the flashpoint of the troubled region.
Though richly endowed, not much is known of the state’s enormous potentials aside its oil and gas resources which should have made it one of the biggest tourists’ destinations not just in the country but in the continent as well as investors delight.
Sadly, the state is known for the very wrong reason as the hot-bed of youth restiveness even though it could still be described as the most peaceful in the federation in spite of series of bombings and attack on the homes of political office holders and violent disruption of the rallies of aspirants.
Interestingly, when some suspected thugs invaded a rally organised by the Gen. Muhammadu Buhari-led Congress for Progressive Change late last year hurling bottles and other dangerous missiles at the party supporters which led to some persons sustaining injuries many had dismissed the incident as the action of some misguided youths.
Though one of the invaders was apprehended and beaten to pulp before he was handed over to the police, expectations were high that the arrest of the alleged leader of the rampaging gang would serve as deterrent to other youths from embarking on such uncivilized mission.
However, as Bayelsans were looking forward to put behind them that shameful incident which once again painted the state in bad at a time efforts were in top gear to re-brand the state and make it attractive for investors, a more frightening dimension was added to the campaign of terror being unleashed on the hapless citizens, prompting many to conclude that they would not attend campaign rallies again in the state.
It was providence that averted what could have been the death of many when twin blasts rocked the crowded Opolo Community Secondary School ground venue of Beinmo Rufus_Spiff campaign rally, who until recently was a governorship aspirant under the platform of the PDP for the just concluded primaries.
Unknown to many, some messengers of death had rigged the arena with explosive devices suspected to be dynamites which they detonated when the rally was about to commence, thereby disrupting the rally as Beinmo Rufus-Spiff supporters scampered for safety. Two persons were seriously injured in the blasts.
Although no deaths were recorded in the last two incidents but it was a different ball game at Opokuma when some armed youths launched a vicious attack on the country home of the former Special Adviser to the President, Mr. Timi Alaibe, the Labour Party governorship aspirant and his supporters that thronged his residence to give him a rousing welcome.
The attack, which caught Alaibe and his Labour Party supporters off guard, led to the killing of two youths and the smashing of over seven cars of different brand along the road leading to the country home of the former Presidential adviser.
Vanguard Metro gathered that the armed youths had made an attempt on the convoy of Timi Alaibe on his way back from the Port Harcourt Airport but did not succeed due to the heavy presence of armed policemen.
Informed sources told Vanguard Metro that the suspected hoodlums took advantage of the relaxed security situation at his residence to cause mayhem.
It was learnt that the JTF on receiving the distress call from the venue of the reception spread a dragnet and nabbed 31 youths for their alleged involvement in the attack.
The action of the invaders could at best earn them a Pyrrhic victory as Alaibe in defiant declared that the death of his defenceless supporters was painful and a huge loss to the Labour Party, the violence visited on his home and his supporters is a clear indication of the abyss in which the state have been thrown into by politicians.
Alaibe said the people involved in the sponsorship of the violent act were misinformed about the belief of the Party and his supporters. “Maybe they don’t understand what we are and what we stand for. We are not about violence but change. What we are about is the peaceful and systematic change of the state in 2011.
“The violence visited on me and my supporters is not part of the Ijaw race but what they have proven to us is that they are lawless and a shameful people. When a state associates itself with such people, they have shared from the failure and virus of shame,” he said.
In their solidarity speeches, ex-leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party and the leadership of the Labour Party in Bayelsa State led by the former Campaign Director for the re-election of Goodluck Jonathan as governor of the state in 2007, Chief Fyneman Wilson asked the people of the state to take a review of the PDP administration in the state and ensure that such failures recorded in the last four years does not repeat itself in 2011.
Director of Publicity of the Alaibe Campaign Organisation, Douye Diri said though there have been attempts to stop the zeal of the Labour Party and Timi Alaibe to effect the needed change in the governance of the state:
However, the attacked has degenerated into war of words between the government and the Alaibe camp with both sides trading accusations and counter-accusations.
The Timi Alaibe Campaign Organisation also raised alarm of an alleged plan by the Bayelsa State government to frame up their principal, the Labour Party governorship aspirant over the violent attack on his supporters at his Opokuma country home.
Director of Publicity of the Alaibe Campaign Organisation, Mr. Douye Diri, in a statement alleged that information at its disposal indicates that once these groups and persons paid for the project, intensify their calls, the state government would proceed to set up a so-called Judicial Commission of Inquiry which it would task to indict Chief Alaibe at all costs and consequently move for his arrest and prosecution over the attacks on his own home and supporters.
The group said it was not surprised at this antic of the government as it was aimed at “diverting the attention of security agencies from the very obvious fact of the state government’s involvement in the dastardly murder of innocent supporters of Chief Alaibe in Opokuma”.
The group noted that: “The very determined attackers were at the verge of entering the building with assorted weapons and arsenals when they were confronted by both youth groups and security agencies”.
Meanwhile, the government through the state Commissioner for Information, Nathan Egba, in a statement exonerated the government from the alleged plot saying persons who had no involvement in the violence need not be afraid and should support all efforts to get to the root of the matter.
“The growing trend of violent activities in the state, which started last year, with the orchestrated bombing in Yenagoa and later destruction of prominent people’s homes in different locations and now has become a source of worry to all right thinking Bayelsans.
“There was relative peace in the state until Mr. Alaibe’s Governorship ambition became public knowledge and now all these violence, just as was the case in 2003 when he sought to intimidate Chief D.S.P Alamieyeseigha from the governorship position before he was defeated at the primaries. Government is once again appealing to politicians in the state to imbibe democratic culture by allowing the people to be the ultimate deciders of who gets what”.