From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
For political observers conversant with the politics of Bayelsa State, its capacity for political drama has no elastic limit. Between 1999 to date, the state has witnessed seven impeachments including that of a governor, deputy governor and three speakers of the House of Assembly. Therefore when reports went viral recently that the House of Assembly was allegedly plotting against Governor Douye Diri, the political temperature of the state became charged.
Though alleged reasons for the rumoured rift between the lawmakers and the governor were being discussed in hushed tones, conspiracy theorists went to town concluding that Diri’s predecessor, Senator Henry Seriake Dickson who is believed to control the political machinery of the state could be behind the plot. According to them, the Restoration team led by Dickson is no longer comfortable with its offshoot- the prosperity team led by Diri and plans have been concluded to impeach Diri to pave way for his deputy and loyalist of Dickson, Senator Lawrence Ehwrudajakpo to assume the position of governor.
According to the conspiracy theorists, what caused the rift between the lawmakers and Diri on one hand and with the governor and his predecessor on the other was the N38billion infrastructure refund from the Federal Government.
The fund which was to be released during the Dickson administration did not come until recently when the state government was informed that the payment would be made after Diri had assumed office.
When the funds eventually came, the rumour mill in Bayelsa was agog that there was rumbling in the political space over alleged demand for N11billion from the money by Dickson and the lawmakers. The theorists had it that there were threats that if Diri refuse to part with the money, the lawmakers, who are still loyal to Dickson, have been directed to commence impeachment proceedings against the governor.
One of the conspiracy theorists says the national secretary, Movement for the Survival of the Izon Ethnic Nationality in the Niger Delta(MOSIEND), Ambassador Winston Cotterel Amain in a statement he issued to call for an investigation of the impeachment plot did not mince words about the allegations against the lawmakers.
He said: “Hence I pose this question to the members of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, are they impeaching the governor to pave way for the Deputy Governor to take charge?
“Do they think that because they are members of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly makes them more Bayelsan than us? Bayelsa State belongs to all of us; as such any attempt to impeach Governor Douye Diri for the Deputy Governor to take charge will be resisted by Bayelsans.
“Mr. Speaker, with due respect sir, anybody or group of persons telling you to impeach the governor must be a vile perfidious breed of Satan. If I may ask, what is the offense of the governor? The state that was handed over to him was bankrupt and the gentleman is doing his best to bring us out of insolvency which all of them are aware, yet you are contemplating impeachment.
“Mr. Speaker, Please inform your colleagues that we shall mobilize the good people of Bayelsa State to resist any attempt to impeach our governor. Though we know Bayelsans didn’t vote for him but by Divine Providence, he’s now our governor and we expect the members of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly to mobilize Bayelsans to support the governor to enable him succeed rather than anticipating impeachment. A word they say is enough for the wise. Be warned!”
No impeachment plot
The house that was alleged to be plotting against Diri has insisted that there is no such plot. The House Committee Chairman on Information and member representing Ekeremor Constituency one, Tare Porri has dismissed claims of impeachment.
He said the legislative arm enjoys a robust relationship with the executive as both are working together for the development of Bayelsa State.
Porri in a press conference described the purported impeachment plot as a way to distract the lawmakers from their constitutional roles.
He said: “This Press conference has become necessary because of the rumour of impeachment allegedly being orchestrated by the 6th House of Assembly under Rt Hon Abraham Ngobere against our hardworking miracle Governor Senator Douye Diri. Let me for the umpteenth time on behalf of the leadership of the House of Assembly say that the 6th House of Assembly has never at any point contemplated of carrying out an impeachment against our highly esteemed governor. As a matter of fact, the rumour is unfounded, vexatious and targeted at distracting the hardworking 6th House of Assembly. There is no feud between the House of Assembly and the Executive arm of government, The 6th Assembly is working very hard to consult with the executive in order to deliver dividends of democracy to our people. Rumours like this no doubt are targeted at distracting us but the Assembly would not be distracted and we are ever ready and determined to deliver on our mandate.”
He continued: “We have resumed for the year and very confident that the Assembly under Hon Ngobere would deliver again on our mandate. And as such, we want to warn those detractors, those peddling unfounded rumour, those who think you can just wake up one day to accuse a House of Assembly made up of respected honourable members representing 24 constituencies. It is quite unfortunate that we have to grapple with this kind of situation in the state. Bayelsa has gone through a lot and this is the time for all of us to rally around the governor to deliver on his campaign promises.
“We condemned in its entirety the unfounded rumour peddled around Bayelsa and beyond that the 6th Assembly has concluded plans to impeach Governor Douye Diri . We have never at any point contemplated same and therefore the Assembly is working with the executive and in clear partnership and synergy with the governor. And we are supporting the governor in order to deliver his campaign promises. The 24 House of Assembly members made of 19 PDP and 5 APC are one. We are working together and there is no faction among us.
“What has the governor done to warrant his impeachment? For us, it is a rumour and we are warning those peddling this rumour because it has come to a point where we need to call spade a spade because some people are determined to distract the House of Assembly. Like I said earlier, we would not allow some individuals destroy the smooth running of the government.”
Dickson/ Diri relationship intact
Sources close to Diri and Dickson said the two politicians still enjoy robust relationship built on mutual trust and respect. According to their aides, there is no rift between the two leaders. Dickson who is now a Senator has handed over the reins of leadership of the party to Diri and what he does now is to advise when his views are sought.
A facebook post with a caption: ‘Stop All The Falsehood Against Former Governor, Senator Seriake Dickson’. by one of the governor’s new media aide, Funkebi Gbenfadei with a recent picture of Diri and Dickson reads: There is no truth in the stories making the round that the former governor, Chief Senator Henry Seriake Dickson was demanding for a share of any N38 billion naira refund. Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, is enjoying a great relationship with the former Governor.”
Investigations revealed that to put to rest speculation on the N38billion refund to the state from the Federal Government, the Technical Adviser to Governor Diri, Mr Timipre Seipulo in a transparency briefing he addressed explained actual funds received by the state government.
He said: “The refund for infrastructure development from the Federal Government was N27. 5billion. This is the amount the state would actually get from the refund for infrastructure. This is because the Federal Government arrangement is that if you have to get the whole funds you have to wait for about three to four years otherwise, you discount it. You discount it at the current rate and considering the inflation factor and time value of money, you discount and collect the money now otherwise you wait for four years and collect the full money. So the 27 billion represents the discounted rate,”