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How Ebebi saved Bayelsa State

THIS piece is provoked not so much by any form of political or social affiliations with the Alei of Aleibiri, but a desire to deflate a balloon of fallacy which now surrounds Ebebi’s contested impeachment.

Many Bayelsans have bought the idea that Ebebi deserved the persecution he had received at the hand of Chief Timipre Sylva, for the simple reason that it was he (that is Ebebi) who superintended over the 2005 impeachment of Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha. Nothing more. I have not seen a more shallow reasoning! Rationally, I find it abstruse to justify the contested ouster of Ebebi on his alleged roles in the removal of the first executive governor Bayelsa State.

In 2005, Ebebi did what any rational, sane and educated human being could have done in the peculiar circumstances he found himself. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was bent on declaring a state of emergency in Bayelsa State because of his political acrimony with Alamieyeseigha at the time. If Obasanjo had succeeded in doing that, it would have meant suspending all democratic institutions or structures in the state, including the House of Assembly, appointed commissioners, elected councils, etc, all in a bid to get rid of one man!

Obviously, the implications would have been far-reaching and far-flung. Ebebi’s hands were politically-speaking tied – to either allow the Ota chief have his way or risk a nail-biting state of emergency in the young state, then nine years old. Whichever way, he could not have ducked out of what many analysts described as a profile in audacity.

Ebebi allowed utilitarianism to influence his choice, in carefully moderating a course of action that would benefit the majority of the people with the least injury or harm. And that was to impeach Alamieyeseigha to ward off  the ‘Federal Might”, like the Sword of Damocles hanging over the Glory of Lands.

The political scenario which culminated in the ouster of Alamieyeseigha was likened by this writer to the episode of Jonah in the Scriptures. Should Ebebi have allowed Bayelsa State to sink politically because of one man, the way the ship would have sunk had Jonah not been thrown overboard?

Ebebi was like those helpless sailors of the non-Nineveh-bound vessel who had no choice than to fling Jonah into the sea so that the sea could be calm again.

Alamieyeseigha was like the disloyal Jonah who lost favour with Jehovah for running away from a divine assignment he had been instructed to do for the gentile nation of Nineveh. This is why Dr. Goodluck Jonathan said at his inauguration as governor on December 12, 2005 that he did not go out of his way to have Alamieyeseigha removed, but the sad circumstances which had stamped shame on the state. (See the Banner News of December 20-31, 2005 for the full details).

Moreover, a closer examination of the situation would reveal that Alamieyeseigha’s removal was what actually brought Jonathan into national limelight, and catapulted him to the Presidency. Having excelled as governor in service delivery through a catalogue of ground-breaking capital projects in just 17 months, Goodluck Jonathan earned the respect of his peers and the admiration of  Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the then President. The rest is history, as people often say. But the fact remains that Ebebi was pivotal in the mercurial rise of the Otueke son who stood as the greatest beneficiary of the events of December 9, 2005.

The fact also remains that it was through Ebebi’s efforts that Chief Timipre Sylva emerged as the PDP’s governorship flag bearer and subsequently won the polls in both 2007 and 2008.  I am not going to explore this point any further for now. Even as some continue to vilify Ebebi, with all the benefit of hindsight, would it have profited Bayelsa State more if President Obasanjo had declared the state of emergency then?

Opinions are seriously divided; everyone wants to be on his side of the street in political matters like this. But arguing that Ebebi got a well-deserved punishment for his past political actions seem like applauding a wrong and unduly justifying political persecution.

Like I said, endorsing the fast-tracked impeachment of Ebebi, which is of course being contested, on such grounds leaves much to be desired of an enlightened citizenry. The circumstances in 2005 when Alamieyeseigha was removed from office and those in 2010 under which Ebebi was allegedly impeached are not the same-they are miles and kilometres apart.

Seeing that Ebebi was not removed because he stole billions of public funds entrusted in his care, nor for indebting Bayelsa to billions of naira, nor for devising scorched earth policies that have left the generality of the people more and more impoverished, nor for making a pig ear of the state’s economy, giving kudos to the architects of the selfish plot does not speak well of those Bayelsans who have climbed on this bandwagon.

Bayelsans might have felt oppressed from the display of political might in 2005, but today, they have gained ten-fold of what they lost as a consequence of the forcible ouster of the first and only Governor-General of the Izon Nation, as their son now presides over Nigeria as President.

*Mr. Alemu, a commentator on national issues, writes from Lagos.


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