Showing posts with label NigeriaTony Blair. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NigeriaTony Blair. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

When Citizens Revolt: Governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State pelted with stones

Timipre Sylva, Governor of Bayelsa State, Nigeria


When Citizens Revolt


T IS NO longer news that Governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State, Nigeria, was pelted with stones, shoes and packets of pure water on Friday October 22, 2010. The incident occurred while the governor was delivering his formal welcome address to President Goodluck Jonathan and his entourage at the Samson Siasia Stadium, Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital.

Sylva’s ordeal is not without historical antecedents. On Monday December 15, 2008, barely one month to the end of his second tenure as President of the United States of America, George Walker Bush was pelted with a pair of shoes by Muntandar al-Zaidi, a reporter with a Cairo-based television network at a press conference in Baghdad. The incident marked the height of the scandals that had rocked the Bush presidency over the American invasion of Iraq.

In like manner, on Saturday September 4, 2010, an equally scandalous scenario took place in Dublin, Ireland, when former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was pelted with shoes and eggs as he arrived at a bookstore to promote his controversial memoir entitled, A Journey. That was another clear expression of disgust at the unpopular role played by Blair in the Iraqi conflict.

On its part, the Yenagoa missile drama remains a most unique occurrence because it does not have any precedent in Nigerian history. Coming as it did in the month when the state was celebrating its fourteenth birthday anniversary, and in a cardinal year of transition when Nigeria was marking her Golden Jubilee with great pomp and colour, the incident becomes even more significant for all its novelty. Needless to say, it has since gone down in world history as yet another example of what happens when a patient and long-suffering people have had enough.

What makes it all the more shocking is that this unflattering event took place right before the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria. The entire scenario becomes even more painful to contemplate in the light of the fact that the President was on his maiden visit to his home state since becoming helmsman in Nigeria, the first to emerge from the Niger Delta in the 50-year history of the nation.

Since the event, several theories have been bandied about in the popular media, and the debate continues even today on social networking sites such as Facebook. One respondent offered that the citizens of Bayelsa revolted because Sylva’s government has become one of billboards showing nothing but the face of the governor all over the state. On its part, the government of Sylva has given swift reasons as to why it was ridiculed openly, attributing the disgraceful and provocative onslaught to political opponents in the state. The Commissioner for Information has equally given assurance that security agencies are investigating the matter with a view to bringing the culprits to book.

But the plot of the story thickened when Governor Sylva held a press conference on Monday October 25, and laid the blame squarely at the feet of his cabinet members. He announced that some of his commissioners had performed abysmally, a situation that has become manifest in the general perception that his government had practically failed. According to him, the poor performance of his government is attributable to the “attitude problems” of his commissioners, some of whom he condemned as having become “mentally lazy.”

The regrettable incident, he said, was a reaction to the fact that his government lost direction after the re-run elections of April 2008. He also admitted that if his government did not abandon construction of projects following the nullification of the election results that brought him to office, the people of the state would not have had any reason to stone him during the President’s visit. The governor went further to ascribe his non-performance to a sharp drop in allocations accruing to the state from the Federation Account. It is on record, for instance, that in the first six months of 2010 alone, the government of Bayelsa received N49 Billion from the federal allocation, as against N90 Billion and N99 Billion for the neighbouring Delta and Rivers States respectively.

As may be expected, the governor’s statements have only drawn attention to the staggering fortune at the disposal of the governments in the oil producing region, in the light of which their touted achievements amount to very little. Yet, according to Sylva, profligacy is the only thing missing in his administration. Even so, he would be hard put to prove what he did substantially with the cumulative sums that have entered the coffers of the state since he came into office, before the drop in income.

At any rate, we find it gratifying that Governor Timipre Sylva was gracious enough to admit that his administration lost steam in the governance of the state, and willfully abandoned projects that were earning it some measure of credibility. It takes courage to own up to the truth, and Sylva has done so. “I lost momentum after coming back in 2008. It’s not easy,” he said.

If anything, the press conference provided one rare opportunity for the governor to acknowledge in public that his government has failed woefully to deliver the proverbial dividends of democracy that it had so lavishly promised when it came into office on May 29, 2007, advertising itself as a new generation government that had to be taken seriously. It is truly sad that it took so long for the governor to come to this realization.

While we sympathize with Governor Timipre Sylva over the stoning incident and his avowed loss of focus, the reasons he has adduced for his poor performance are debatable. That is why we are obliged to call upon the Sylva government to forgo the pursuit of its perceived enemies, and to concentrate instead on a soul-searching appraisal of its conduct since coming into office. Besides, having publicly identified the problem with his government, the governor should act timely to earn the trust of the electorate if indeed he hopes to return to office in the next dispensation.

Ultimately, the great October showdown demonstrates that the Bayelsa electorate are fully aware of the power of their votes, and are eager to express their discontent with any government that fails to perform, even if it means hauling stones to underscore their frustration. To be sure, President Goodluck Jonathan was suitably embarrassed at the turn of events, but the crowd did well to assure him of their loyalty with a cheerful rendition of solidarity songs when he stood up to speak, a clear indication that his support base is intact at the home front.

In the best tradition of a peace-loving diplomat, President Jonathan called on Bayelsans to have mercy upon Governor Sylva in much the same way that a tolerant father would call his erring children to order in a riotous household. Yet, it is worrisome that Sylva has been presiding over a complacent cabinet for so long, an executive body composed of mentally lazy bureaucrats who have virtually imposed a mentally lazy way of life on the active conscience of the good people of Bayelsa State.

It is truly disturbing that, knowing the kind of cabinet he is burdened with, Sylva has continued to tolerate mediocrity and indolence in his government, and has been compelled by brick-throwing Bayelsans to advertise his shortcomings to the world. It says a great deal about the governor’s sense of propriety and good judgment -- or lack of both -- that he should condone high-level incompetence at the expense of the state and its law-abiding citizens thus far.

When citizens revolt, it can only mean that they are tired of the policies and programmes of a government in which they had placed so much trust. The earlier Governor Timipre Sylva-Sam separates the dons from the dunces in his cabinet, the better for the land and people of Bayelsa State.

QUOTE: When citizens revolt, it can only mean that they are tired of the government in which they had placed so much trust.

~ By Nengi Josef Ilagha

About the Author:
His Royal Majesty Nengi Josef Ilagha Mingi XII, is the Amanyanabo of Nembe Bayelsa State, Nigeria.

Also recommended: Epistle to President Goodluck Jonathan on Niger Delta Matters

Click here for more published works of the author.

© 2010 - Nengi Josef Ilagha Mingi XII. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be copied or reproduced in any format or medium without the prior permission of the author and copyright owner(s).