Sunday, November 6, 2011

U.S. Wades Into Bayelsa Governorship Battle

The Moment (London)
5 November 2011

Precious Odoeme

THE political crisis in President Goodluck Jonathan's home state, Bayelsa, has attracted international attention, with the United States (US) reportedly intervening in the matter.

A leading oil-producing state located in the heart of the restive Niger Delta region, Bayelsa has lately been in the news for the wrong reasons following heightening intrigues ahead of the November 19 state governorship primaries of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The intrigues had climaxed in the outgone week with the refusal of party chiefs to okay the governorship ambition of three political heavyweights.

The names of the sitting governor, Chief Timipre Sylva, former Niger Delta Development Commission chief, Chief Timi Alaibe, and showbiz mogul, Mr. Ben Bruce, were left out of the tentative list of approved candidates released a week ago.

Tension has climbed steeply in Bayelsa as all three and their supporters insist that they are still very much in the race.

Now, the U.S. Government has taken an interest in the matter, according to, a frontline Nigerian portal known for occasionally breaking big stories.

The online paper newspaper reported late Friday that the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Terence P. McCulley, 'in a private phone call to the President raised a concern over the internal wrangling in the state while highlighting the sensitivity/volatility of the area, as per the stability of the business interests of the United States in the Bayelsa environs.'

The paper said that information available to it 'indicates the US Ambassador impressed on President Jonathan on the need to sustain the relative stability in the area, and on the need to allow the democratic development to continue its growth undeterred.'
According to the story, 'A source within the U.S. Embassy in Abuja in confirming the information further reveals that the office has followed the development in the tussle for the PDP gubernatorial ticket with keen interest, and has come to suspect that the interference win the democratic process may ignite new instability in the area.' said its source 'maintained that the United States of America (USA) had welcomed the Presidency of Goodluck Jonathan largely owing to his roots in the violence prone Niger Delta area, and the likelihood of the Niger Delta militants/freedom fighters embracing his presidency - and laying down their arms.'

However, speaking on phone with The Moment On Sunday yesterday, presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, denied knowledge of Washington's intervention in the matter. 'It is highly improbable,' he said. 'It is not standard diplomatic practice for a diplomat to interfere in the internal affairs of a country.'

Reminded that Ambassadors of the U.S. and several other strong nations had in the past openly expressed opinions during times of political crisis in Nigeria, Abati insisted that 'the U.S. cannot be expressing an opinion on who becomes the candidate of a political party in an election in Nigeria.'

While Alaibe has been refused a waiver upon his recent return from the Labour party, Bruce is accused of having dual nationality.

Sylva, however, has yet to be charged with any specific offence.

Asked why the governor, who had earlier been cleared by the PDP screening committee, was being blocked by the party, PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, told journalists in Abuja on Thursday, that complaints against him lodged by some members were still being investigated.

He said the party would take a final decision on the issue after the investigations.

Of the 11 persons who picked up the forms for the Bayelsa 2012 governorship elections coming up in January, only four have been cleared for the primaries.

They are Oruta Justine Boloubo, Henry Seriake Dickson, Enai Christopher Fullpower, and Kalango Michael Youppele.

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