OPINION By Tarebi Koroye
A few days ago, the Bayelsa State Government issued a 48-hour ultimatum to all gubernatorial aspirants of every political party in the state, demanding compliance with the rules and regulations guiding the erection of campaign posters in the state. The directive, signed by the commissioner for Environment, Mr Ebipade Apaingolo, directed the relevant agencies to pull down all such campaign posters adorning the streets of Yenagoa except the owners comply with the laws of the state. The commissioner stated that it was compulsory that all those aspiring to govern the state, without any exception, show good example by obeying the laws of the state.
It was his position that those who must erect campaign posters in conspicuous spots in the city and other parts of the state should approach the relevant agencies such as the Physical Planning and Development Control to fulfil the requisite conditions prescribed by existing laws. He said it was the standard practice in every decent, civilised society.
If the public statement had stopped there, there would be no need for this analysis. But few paragraphs into the statement, the commissioner decided to launch an unprovoked attack against one of the aspirants, Chief ‘Timi Alaibe. It was not difficult to see that the purpose of the statement was not to inform the public on the right thing to do but to attack somebody considered by government as the greatest threat to its decision to install a handpicked replacement to Governor Henry Seriake Dickson.
Without any proof, the commissioner stated that Alaibe had attacked the government over the removal of his campaign posters when he was yet to pay the required fees. He said that by his actions, Alaibe had shown the Nigerian public that he was in the governorship contest “with the sinister motive to cause confusion and destabilise the state.” That statement shook the state to its foundation as the commissioner failed to cite evidence of such sinister motives. He went ahead to allege that recent activities of the former managing director of Niger Delta Development Commission revealed that he was in cahoots with enemies of the government to promote acts of destabilisation against the state. Again, he cited no proof.
Apaingolo then wondered if Alaibe would have been able to put out a campaign poster in Lagos where he resides and pays his taxes without recourse to the rules and regulations in the state. Gradually, what appeared to be an innocent statement by government to enforce and existing law snowballed into a calculated political attack against the person of ‘Timi Alaibe. The commissioner stated that it was rather “regrettable that Alaibe, who left the PDP in the build up to the 2015 elections to fight the party, and who was graciously re-admitted into the party like a prodigal son because of the magnanimity of the governor, would rather opt to vilify the governor and his government.” How Alaibe carried out the vilification act against the governor was not explained by the commissioner.
Then he delivered the mother of all allegations loaded with insults, falsehood and disparaging innuendos to the effect that Alaibe “occupies the unenviable position in Bayelsa as the man whose ambition has made him to fight all governments of the state from inception in 1999 from Alamieyeseigha, to Jonathan, to Sylva, and now Governor Dickson who graciously admitted him into our party. It is unfortunate that he has allowed himself to be driven by his blind ambition and greed for power.”
It is public knowledge that since the flag-off of campaign activities towards the Bayelsa governorship race in past few weeks, a consistent smear campaign against Alaibe, spearheaded by non-existing groups within and outside the Peoples Democratic Party has been on the increase. The statement by the commissioner was simply the climax. That statement added value to the general belief that the state government was responsible for the previous attacks against the aspirant.
Although Alaibe and his supporters have responded to these attacks with deliberate silence, the sweeping, unsubstantiated allegations bordering on acts of criminality and illegality against him have refused to end.
Before Apaingolo came out with the undeserving attack against the aspirant, all over Yenogoa and indeed Bayelsa State, campaign posters of every aspirant were displayed and left untouched. Curiously, it was noticed that campaign posters of Chief Alaibe were being brought down and damaged only to be replaced by those of other aspirants.
This however raises a curious question as to whether there is anything personal between the state government and the aspirant in question. How come that out of 21 aspirants who have so far collected their nomination forms for the race, only Alaibe has been the subject matter of every media statement released by these sponsored non-existing political groups? If it is true that Alaibe and his accomplices have been engaging in deliberate acts of destabilisation against Bayelsa State, why has the state government not instituted a legal action against him?
I beg to ask, can the commissioner come out clean with evidence on the matter of sinister acts which Alaibe is involved in that could lead to the destabilisation of the state? Why is the commissioner trying to incite the public with falsehood against someone whose only offence is to contest election to a public office, all in the name of politics? What sinister motive does Alaibe have against the state where he was born? When did a political ambition become a sinister act of destabilisation? How come a statement meant to draw aspirants’ attention to the need for compliance with regulations on campaign posters suddenly became an attack on Alaibe as an individual?
Koroye, a public analyst wrote from Yenogoa.