By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Samuel Oyadongha & Henry Umoru
LAGOS – Governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State was last night pondering his options after the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, ruled him out from the contest to fly the party’s ticket in the forthcoming re-scheduled gubernatorial elections.
The Governor’s disqualification from the contest followed the orders of the National Working Committee, NWC of the party which warned of the dire consequences should the governor or any of the other two aspirants also disqualified, sabotage the party in the coming election.
In his first reaction to the development yesterday, Governor Sylva expressed reservations that his rights as a member of the PDP were being abridged by the NWC even as he pledged to abide within the folds of the PDP.
Erstwhile Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Mr. Timi Alaibe who was also disqualified by the NWC yesterday said he would not comment on the matter.
Mr. Ben Murray Bruce, the Managing Director of the Silverbird Group in his response said he was not a quitter but noted that he had been forced out of the race. He, however, affirmed that his interest in the contest has turned out not to be in vain as his involvement had sufficiently raised “political, economic and social issues which any governor cannot ignore.”
He said: “Because of this race we are now engaged in a debate about our future. So in a sense, my candidacy has not been in vain,”
Sylva’s disqualification from the contest was conveyed in a statement issued by the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Prof. Rufai Alkali. The development came on the eve of the commencement of the process for electing the party’s gubernatorial candidate which is starting with the ward congresses today.
Sources in the governor’s camp confided yesterday that supporters of the governor were still pondering their options which included seeking legal redress to reclaim a ticket they claimed had originally been won by the governor last January and, in a worst case scenario, backing any of the other aspirants.
Remarkably, some of the candidates were on their part last night equally making plans on how to approach the governor for support in the coming contest.
The statement issued by the NWC read:
“The National Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has concluded the review of the reports of the Screening Committee and Screening Appeal panel for the gubernatorial primaries in Bayelsa State scheduled to hold on the 18th of November 2011.”
“After a thorough review of the two reports, and after a painstaking examination of all the issues raised about each and every aspirant, the NWC has cleared seven out of the 11 aspirants that purchased forms to contest for the primaries. Those who were cleared and shall contest the gubernatorial primaries are the following: Orufa Justine Boloubo, Dickson Seriake Henry, Enai Christopher Fullpower, Kalango Michael Youppele, Francis Amaebi, Ekiyegha Francis Korobido and Austin Febo.
“However, in this last and final batch, four of the aspirants did not scale through the Party screening process and have therefore not been cleared to contest the primaries. Those not cleared are: Alaibe Ndutimi, Ben Murray Bruce, Timipre Marun Sylva and Igali Godknows Boladet.
“All Members of the Party, especially stakeholders in Bayelsa State should note that this is the final decision on the status of all aspirants for the forthcoming Primaries. All efforts should now be geared towards mobilizing party members for the forthcoming primaries and elections in the state.
“In view of the foregoing, all those aspirants whose names appear in para two above will be dully issued with final Clearance Certificates to enable them stand for the forthcoming primary elections. For the avoidance of doubt, and in line with the provisions of our guidelines for primary elections, no aspirant can or should use a provisional certificate as a basis for unilaterally declaring himself or herself as a candidate of Peoples’ Democratic Party for the Gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa State. Even where he or she does so, it is of no value, effect or utility for the primary elections and is therefore redundant.
“The NWC wishes to reiterate its commitment towards enforcing discipline within the ranks of the Party at all levels. We shall therefore not hesitate to invoke disciplinary measures on any member who disregards lawful party directives or who engages in acts capable of undermining the party’s cohesion or initiates and takes any step that could lead to the breaching of public peace.”
Following the development, Governor Sylva in a sharp riposte pledged to remain in the party even as he expressed concern on what he claimed were reports of plans to arrest him for alleged trumped-up treasonable charges centered on allegations that he, Sylva planned to kill President Goodluck Jonathan.
The statement issued by the Governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Doifie Ola read:
“The attention of H.E. Chief Timipre Sylva, Governor of Bayelsa State, has been drawn to a statement by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), disallowing him from participating in the Bayelsa State PDP gubernatorial primaries scheduled for Saturday, November 19, 2011. Governor Sylva considers it disturbing that his full membership of the PDP is being abridged. In particular, his fundamental right to vote and be voted for has been trampled upon by his own party, a party he has contributed so much in building. Consequently, Governor Sylva and his supporters are reviewing the NWC decision.
“Governor Sylva notes that the NWC decision does not annul his membership of the PDP. As Governor of Bayelsa State under the platform of the PDP, Sylva remains the leader of the party in the state. As a loyal party person, he will participate in all party activities. Similarly, Governor Sylva wishes to bring to the attention of the public, reports alleging that there are attempts to arrest him on trumped-up treasonable felony charges. The story is that there is a tape in which he threatened to kill President Goodluck Jonathan. This is completely false. At no time did Sylva threaten to kill President Jonathan. He has no reason whatsoever to wish the president or any other person dead. Governor Sylva enjoins the people of Bayelsa State, especially his numerous supporters to remain calm, law-abiding and hopeful.
The people of Bayelsa State shall prevail
Meanwhile, sources in the Sylva camp have told Vanguard that the Governor would abide by his pledge not to decamp to another political party and rather pursue his case in the courts.
It was learnt that the Sylva’s camp would go ahead with preparations for today’s ward congresses and mobilize supporters of the Governor to keep the peace.
“This is a clear case of injustice and for us, it is better to remain here in PDP and fight against this injustice. I know the courts would be determining this matter and we shall prevail,” a top aide of the Governor told Vanguard yesterday.
The Governor’s camp it was learnt was aiming to argue its case in the courts using the template successfully canvassed by the Rivers State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi that having been earlier nominated as the PDP candidate that it would be wrong to remove him from the ballot.
Noting that the disqualification of the Governor was a minor distraction ahead of today’s ward congresses, the aide said:
“For us, this is a minor distraction because we have been in limbo for long, but I can assure you that we are focused on the ward congresses.”
It was learnt yesterday that the Governor’s determination to focus on the ward congress was to give him the advantage of sufficiently being a force to reckon with in the election of the party flag bearer.
In the worst case scenario being pondered on yesterday, the Governor it was learnt would be contemplating between any of the cleared candidates he would support.
The Governor was last night believed to be under pressure from his core supporters to move to another political party to achieve his second term aspiration. Some of them had during Sylva’s rally last Saturday threatened to activate a Plan B should the Governor be barred from the contest.
The National Vice-Chairman of the Ijaw National Congress, Preye Agama and the Bayelsa State Chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, ALGON, Tiwei Orunimghe had made veiled references of the Plan B at the rally last Saturday.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bruce in a statement made available to Vanguard yesterday expressed satisfaction that his involvement in the contest had sufficiently raised issues bothering on the felt needs of the ordinary citizen in the state.
He said: “I would like to say thank you to all my supporters, well wishers and Bayelsans who believed in my dream to change the lives of our people who live in abject poverty in the land of the rich.
“My desire to run for office was based on one single premise: To touch lives, bring change and industrialization to the economy of Bayelsa.”
I believed in my heart as a democrat when I entered the race for the Governorship of Bayelsa that the race would be fair, democratic and competitive but it has now become clear that the odds are stacked against me.
I want my followers and the people of Bayelsa to know that to quit is revolting to every instinct in my body. I am not a quitter but I was not allowed to run. I was eliminated before the race begun.
To my followers, though I may not get the chance to be our Governor I will continue the fight for free and affordable education, quality healthcare, affordable housing, free maternal healthcare, development of the agricultural sector and the dignity of all Bayelsans.
To the young generation, I urge you not to give up on your political dreams, do not leave the process but continue to struggle for your rights. Continue to struggle for economic empowerment. Continue to struggle for justice and change and in the end we will prevail.
When I begun this race I said, “if I run I may lose but if I don’t run we will always lose”. The race has raised political, economic and social issues which any Governor cannot ignore. Because of this race we are now engaged in a debate about our future. So in a sense my candidacy has not been in vain.
Continue the struggle for Change and Keep Hope Alive.
Meanwhile, one of the leading contenders left in the race, Seriake Dickson, a member of the House of Representatives yesterday flayed Governor Sylva’s flag-off of his campaign at the weekend describing it as an affront on the party.
In a statement issued on behalf of the campaign by the Director of publicity, Ebiegberi Fungeowei made available to the newsmen in Yenagoa yesterday, the Dickson campaign expressed wonder how an aspirant yet to be cleared by the constituted machinery of the PDP could go ahead to declare his intention to run for the primaries billed for November 19, 2011.
The statement enjoined Bayelsans particularly party faithful to stand firm and insist on due process in the selection of the party’s gubernatorial candidate.
According to the statement “the party’s primary election is strictly for properly cleared aspirants of the party and advised Governor Sylva to learn to abide by simple party rules and not drag the party’s reputation into the mud through his illegal acts.”
The Dickson campaign said the rally was in line with the illegal acts perpetrated by Sylva and his co-travelers in the past four and half years that has brought Bayelsa to the near comatose position.
Meanwhile, Dickson has sent a letter of appreciation to the people of the state and Nigerians in general particularly three former chairmen of the PDP in Bayelsa namely: Engr. Charles Dorgu, Hon. Fred Agbedi and Chief Rufus Abadi for their massive support during his declaration of his aspiration to clinch the PDP Gubernatorial ticket.
The statement also commended members of the Federal House of Representatives led by Hon. Bethel Amadi, the traditional ruler of Epie Kingdom, HRM Malla Sasime as well as the press for their adequate coverage of the rally.