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Published On: Tue, Nov 26th, 2013

The ‘Jangalization’ of Ijaw Youth Council

Bayelsa State Governor, Seriaki Dickson

LAGOS NOVEMBER 26TH (URHOBOTODAY)-On the 24th of May 2013, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) conducted an election and the Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon Rotimi Amaechi defeated his opponent, Mr. Jonah Jang of Plateau State. Instead of recognizing the winner of the election even as a majority of the members of the association voted, some members allegedly with the support of the Presidency declared support for the loser, Mr. Jang and formed a minority faction. Many lovers of democracy condemned that action because it was seen as a possible beginning of an undesirable trend. As the debates raged on nationally, a few people called for the scrapping of the NGF and criticized the real winner of that election as an arrogant and disrespectful man for expressing his democratic right and holding unto a mandate freely given to him by his colleagues. For many, what happened at NGF set a very negative precedence of how not to seek to control an organization through the back door. It diminished the size of the Governors who voted but later denied, before the Nigerian public. Strictly speaking they lost respect of many of us. They showed themselves as bad losers lacking in the equanimity and sportsmanship that is an essential democratic norm.
From the NGF, that spirit otherwise known as ‘jangalization’ started spreading like a cancer in the Nigerian polity. It had infected the National Youth Council, the umbrella body of youth associations in Nigeria. Till date, that organization is still struggling with more than three factional Presidents. The same is the case with the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). The number of factional Presidents of NANS are uncountable. Sometimes two or three Presidents will attend the same event representing the same organization. The Jang spirit keeps spreading. The latest victim of ‘jangalization’ is the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), the umbrella body of youths of Ijaw extraction. The lingering IYC crisis has already claimed some causalities. The first is the late President of the Ijaw National Council (INC), the parent body of IYC, Chief T.J. Sekibo who allegedly collapsed after an intense shouting match with someone at Bayelsa Government House in Yenagoa. The second person is the former Chairman of Yenagoa Local Government Area Mr. Anthony Samuel who was said to be on oxygen support but was trapped in the blockage mounted by angry IYC members at Mbiama. The oxygen support in the ambulance got exhausted during the delay and the man was said to have died before getting to Port Harcourt. The third is another Ijaw Leader and signatory to the famous Kiama Declaration, Comrade T.K. Ogoriba who was recently sacked from his position as Special Adviser on Youth Affairs to the Bayelsa State Governor, for allegedly refusing to play ball and insisting on due process and transparency. As at the last count, about eight people have declared themselves as Presidents. They include: Mr. Joshua Amangala, Mr. Ken Olorongu, Mr. Alfred Akamu, Mr, Elvin Donkemezuo, Mr. Jonathan Lokpobiri, Mr. Nengi Ikiba, Mr. Alfred Egba and Mr. Udengs Eradiri.
There have been allegations of intimidation, undue interference and intentional manipulation by agents purportedly sponsored by the Bayelsa State Governor Henry Seriake Dickson. Though the elections of the 28th October were deemed inconclusive and marred with irregularities, the Electoral Commission led by one Sunny Diritolufari declared one Udengs Eradiri, as winner. Many of the candidates and their supporters were prevented from entering the Sampson Siasia Sports Complex where the elections allegedly held under heavy police presence. When one of the candidates, Mr. Alfred Akamu tried to force his way in, he was thoroughly beaten by dare devil security agents guarding the venue. It is believed that the Bayelsa state government might have compromised the ELECO through one Dr. Felix Tuadolor, the pioneer President of Ijaw Youth Council now a serving Commissioner of Ijaw Culture and National Affairs. Students were allegedly imported into the venue of the elections to vote for the state favored candidate, though the number of ballot papers reportedly exceeded the number of accredited voters at the end of the arranged voting session. That some candidates were disallowed from participating in the elections angered their supporters and led to spontaneous protests by angry youths who blocked the Mbiama axis of the East West road and disrupted vehicular movement for about five hours. It took the intervention of some prominent Ijaw leaders before youths were temporarily appeased. Later the aggrieved candidates assembled at the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Press Centre at Ekeki where they declared themselves Presidents each. It must be stated that the purported IYC elections in Yenagoa held against the stipulated constitutional provision that elections should be held in the convention hosted in the locality of the outgoing President. With Abiye Kuromiema as outgoing President, the elections ought to have held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
An interesting dimension to the drama is that the Ijaw National Council (INC) promptly intervened and cancelled the election and promised to conduct a fresh election for the accredited delegates. However the agents of the Bayelsa State Governor reportedly insisted on having their way and imposing their favored candidate Udengs on the IYC. Apart from many other underground maneuverings, agents of Creek Haven reportedly encouraged Mr. Eradiri to approach a Yenagoa High Court to seek an injunction to restrain the INC and its agents from cancelling the disputed IYC elections. A series of reconciliatory meetings were fixed by the INC to convince the Bayelsa State Government to allow a free and fair IYC elections supervised by INC to hold on a date agreeable to all the aggrieved parties in order to resolve outstanding issues. Rather than wait for the outcome of the reconciliatory meetings, Mr. Udengs Eradiri, went ahead and inaugurated his factional executive. This was followed by Mr. Jonathan Lokpobiri who also inaugurated a factional executive. Angered by the disobedience to the directives of INC, the President Chief Tari Sekibo rushed to Yenagoa for another series of meeting with the Bayelsa State Government. It was during one of the meetings that the late INC President and emissary of peace reportedly collapsed. Mr. Jonathan Lokpobiri one of those claiming Presidency of IYC was detained by the Bayelsa Police Command on charges of impersonation but later granted bail, while Mr. Udengs is still walking free.
Many questions are agitating the minds of many people but some have refused to speak for fear of being harassed by the police. Why is Governor Dickson bent on hijacking the umbrella youth body to pursue his political agenda? How come people like Hon. Kingsley Kuku and T.K. Ogoriba were elbowed out from playing supervisory roles in the IYC elections even though they are both eminently qualified and currently hold officially relevant positions? If a major Ijaw group like IYC cannot be allowed to hold a free and fair election, what does it say about the public perception of the Ijaw nation? What has this display of political rascality got to do with 2015 elections? The Bayelsa State Governor has never hidden his desperation and intolerance for dissenting voices. Do his political benefactors in Abuja understand the collateral damage that such style can cause them? Just recently another Ijaw man, Mr. Tonye Ikio was whisked away in a gestapo style from Abuja to Yenagoa ostensibly on the instructions of Creek Haven. He was accused of expressing dissenting views on the social media and has been detained for close to a month under flimsy charges of sedition. The actions allegedly credited to Henry Seriake Dickson are unbecoming of a Governor in a democracy. First they ‘jangalized’ NGF and we all kept quiet. They came to the National Youth Council and some people still kept quiet. Now they are on the case of the Ijaw Youth Council, some of us are still keeping quiet. Shall we then speak when they ‘jangalize’ the Presidency in 2015? The target of these merchants of mischief are very clear. It is to ridicule our democracy. In this renewed onslaught and unrelenting battle for the soul of IYC, is there anyone out there who does not know those to hold responsible? Well-meaning Ijaw men and women must unite with all patriots in Nigeria to stop these characters who insist on polluting our democracy.
Uche Igwe wrote from Department of Politics, University of Sussex. You can reach him on ucheigwe@gmail.com

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