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Opinion

Ides Of November From Bayelsa

The election of November 16 in Bayelsa is not what left us
dumbfounded. It is rather the lessons from how we got to Nov 16. The
implications of the feudal system of Nigeria’s politics and it’s culture of
imperial arrogance driven by “I Pass My Neighbour” mentality, is quite deeper
than we have assumed. And the damage is no less colossal. For a homogenous
ethnic population Bayelsa shows that the gross disparity between resource pool
and human development index of the Niger Delta and of Nigeria is not a problem
of ethnicity. It is just a political elite trapped in a culture of mediocrity
and lack of imagination which the feudal system formalized through our 1999
constitution. 

The election result from Nov 16 has changed not only Bayelsa
but also ownership title of the political playground of the Niger Delta.
Suddenly everybody among our political elite now is vulnerable or appears to be
more vulnerable going forward ! The real question is why didn’t our political
elite see the danger ahead before November 16? Could only be because they tend
to overrate themselves. Just look at an emerging “casualty” list:

1)            The only
former President from Niger Delta ( President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan- GEJ) has
been robbed of a political platform. That platform was first diminished even
when he was in office by a crude combo: first was that he misread the social
forces that could have helped him to redefine success at the national political
arena. Imagine if the masses had stood solidly behind him across Nigeria as
true stakeholder groups in the electoral process. That would have been enough
to prevent the crime scene of a most questionable election process in 2015
where high cost machines were paid for by INEC and the fear of underaged voters
knocked the equipment into disuse. In addition GEJ had the arrogance of some
Governors to contend with, including  his
own kith and kin.

For instance then Governor Amaechi felt better to challenge
President Goodluck Jonathan’s apparent lack of sufficient attention to the
economic interest of his own Niger Delta people ( a valid critique, in NY
view). And when GEJ left office, his influence was deflated in his own backyard
by Governor Seriake Dickson who should have treated GEJ as our region’s centre
of energy & the biggest political asset of the Niger Delta.

2).           If the
leadership of a zone is to be determined by victory of a party in one’s home
state, APC has a big room for the Edo Governor & his in-coming Bayelsa
counterpart. They and their patrons should claim the seat at the table anytime
President Buhari’s henchmen call for the midnight power-feast. Those who did
not win in their states WILL NOW BE DESPERATE to find other credentials to
claim relevance. Rightly or wrongly some persons in their respective home
states now have cause to suspect every move that can create tension due to this
development. 

3) The capacity of Ministers to represent their political
zones effectively is on the table too. Now what will this APC victory give to
Buhari’s Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva? How will it
benefit Bayelsa and Niger Delta? In 1979-82 we saw Prof Ambrose Alli who was
UPN Governor of Bendel State sandwiched by NPN of Gov Melford Okilo ( old
Rivers) and Governor Clement Isong ( then South Eastern State). Still Prof Alli
valiantly planted UPN development programmes and discipline among the political
elite in Bendel State then. It hastened progress of Niger Delta economy at the
time, because the NPN States were forced to rise to the challenge.

Will that happen now? I doubt so because the present
political parties do not have the party discipline of our Second Republic
(1979-1982). Otherwise it will show respect to those who appear to be doing a
good job based on performance assessment. One such person is the Minister of
Transport, Rt Hon Amaechi. He has in my own judgement, beaten every other
Minister to the back seat. Just before the 2019 general election, his followers
invested him with a new title as a Lion. It is a title that Emperor Haile
Selassie of Ethiopia did not make so popular for African politicians.

But Rt Hon Amaechi has shown such sheer energy and service
to Nigeria, that you cannot ignore his claim to the title. Twice he led
President Buhari’s campaign from the front. And twice he delivered victory. In
2019 he even got a little help from rhe judiciary whose members he was widely
accused of instigating a midnight crusade against, to purge some of them of
corruption. If it is true, he deserves the title of Lion even more. It is only
a true Lion that will dare go strolling in a Cattle settlement or RUGA that
belongs to the judiciary in this day and age!

According to media reports the Minister of Transport has
been able to extend railway link to Daura on the way to neighbouring Niger and
is clearing ground to plant a Federal University of Transport there. Can you
imagine that he achieved all this when his counterpart in the Ministry of
Works, Power & Housing (in President Buhari’s first tenure), was busy
lamenting about no fund?  As Rt Hon
Amaechi said in the video clip on Whatsapp platform at the valedictory Exco
meeting with President Buhari before the new cabinet came into existence, one
thing he was very sure of was that he has not been “Islamized”. But I don’t
think such a credential makes him a beautiful bride in a system that does not
appear to believe in innocence and fair mindedness.

The proof of the pudding will be what happens from now. For
instance whenever a measurement of hard- copy indicators is conducted between
Katsina State and Cross River state from 1914-2018, it will show that Daura is
hundred of miles behind Calabar in terms of historical contribution to the
national economy. It should make logical sense that Calabar deserves more
transportation infrastructure investment than Daura. We would expect that in a
political system where a self-confessed Marxist who believes in social justice
is the Minister of Transport, Calabar will be awash round the clock with
dredgers, giant cranes, earth movers and Tower scaffolds for even an 8- lane
highway, bustling Seaport and new railway terminus, to open Cross River State
as a new land gateway to Nigeria’s Middle Belt.

The business argument for this is solid, that it will create
one huge international market for agro-industrial productivity and a massive
organic food Export Free Zone. Never mind that Cross River State is Niger
Delta. But it hasn’t happened. Not much can be seen in Akwa Ibom or any other
part of Niger Delta as an original economic investment decision in favour of
our home zone since 2015. And Amaechi has served about the same length of time
as GEJ! Haba Mallam!!

4) The election result has not improved Governor Seriake
Dickson’s market value to Bayelsa State or the PDP. It is clear that he never
thought of himself as the Governor history will remember for opening the back
door to Ijaw heartland for any other party, than the one Ijaw Elders felt proud
to identify with from 1999 .

5) What becomes of the common man in the unfolding scenario
in Bayelsa? How do we ensure that the new regime does not follow “I Pass My
Neighbour” mentality and further worsen the quality of life and human index
standards of the Ijaw man, woman or child? The signs are ominous!

Someone said former President GEJ taught Governor Seriake
Dickson a lesson with this November election. Really? It may be so but don’t
buy this account as a solution to the challenges ahead. Yes, there was a
melting point when Governor Seriake Dickson’s conduct made his former “god fathers”
helpless & provoked public anger . But they had been so from the day he was
sworn in to do a second term, without GEJ as President of Nigeria. The PDP,
APC, APGA or any party does not control any Governor or legislator in Nigeria.

Like a true Emperor, a Governor claims the entire arena of
decision- making to himself. Every seating Bayelsa Governor appears to jump
into that bandwagon: Isnt that what all Governors do since 1999? They are
Emperors and act it with gusto! They become gods in their own little
territories.

Teaching someone a lesson suggests that you are in control.
The situation unfolding in Bayelsa now in my view, appears to be a sad
continuation of the classical “Crackers biscuit metaphor” . Check Odili &
Amaechi, Tinubu & Ambode, Jonathan & Timipre Sylva, etc. The list is
endless. The drama by GEJ  and Seriake
Dickson, now is only a “narrative continuum”: When you break Crackers biscuit,
it hardly comes out as neat pieces! In Nigeria it often tends to leave those
around the dining table who broke the biscuit, with far less pieces than they
imagined. They make do with a survival scramble for the pieces on the floor.
The winner takes it all!

This happens where the winner becomes the owner of the party
& government. That is what we learn from the recent US experience with
Donald Trump as President. He has literally swallowed the Republican Party as
Michael Bloomberg argued in Businessweek of October 14, 2019 edition titled
“Trump Won’t Stop His Abuses of Power”. In my view President Buhari should file
claims for the US to pay intellectual property rights on Donald Trump’s
playbook. It is a stolen copy of field notes that belong to Nigerian
politicians from 1999.

Like a Nigerian politician, Donald Trump simply created a
Republican Party after his own image. He never plays by the rules of the party,
unlike Ronald Reagan or the George Bush lineage that followed party discipline!
Donald Trump is buying over the party by demolishing everything he met. He
deploys freely the theory of brinkmanship in politics. He puts all Republican
elected officials on a rolling barrel. And they become beholden to him.

Same story in Nigeria since 1999. Our politicians appear to
be OWNERS of the party once they “win”. So the only rules they go by, are the
rules of the OWNER ( the man of the moment).

 Bayelsa after Seriake
Dickson, cannot be any different. The emptiness of Nigeria’s politics is driven
by the hidden force of “I Pass My Neighbour” mentality since 1999. The “Winner”
tends to take all, and reduces the rest of us to praise singers or an angry
audience watching by the sideline. With time, the tension and struggles to play
Emperor, will damage the big masquerade and he will leave the arena with a
tragic limp.

And the loser? It includes the one time winner. In this
Bayelsa case, the owners of PDP in the state lost the “people power” which
resides in our abused electorate. Bayelsa workers were denied of a future to be
proud of. Pensioners are not even on the Governor’s discussion list. The State
was reduced to Yenagoa and no more! Did you see the video footage of polling
activities on TV? In Amassoma & other places, people were lining up in
knee-high flood water to vote. Government abandoned them all through! They
sleep in canoes. 

So on election day, the people simply looked the other way.
They allowed those who showed more muscle, to throw their Emperor’s government
down by any means possible.

When the public tends to dislike the opposition more, they
shout and throw themselves in the line of fire to chase the hungry hawks away.
That was what happened in 2015 in Rivers State. Despite the power of incumbency
under Governor Amaechi’s brand new APC front, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike snatched the
office of Governor of Rivers State for the PDP. And in 2019 the same people put
their lives on the line in different communities to fight off the hurricane of
Federal might against Governor Wike.

Can the new man be the People’s Emperor to reverse the
anguish they suffered under Governor Dickson? That can only happen where the
people are organized as strong stakeholder groups to set the agenda of
governance. Professional groups, Labour associations, Women organizations,
Social platforms and Business fronts need to stand up to push a coherent public
agenda that will create a high productive and decentralized economy for the
state

Those who think “it is their own turn” now to benefit from
the intoxication of political power, won’t let it happen. Are we prepared to
fight to break the feudal system which PDP started and has passed over to APC?
Or we should prepare to raise Almajiri groups in Brass, Nembe, and everywhere
else that has a corridor to the Atlantic.

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