By Samuel Oyadongha
Twice the president planned to visit his home state, twice he was stopped in the last two months. The reasons behind the aborted trips.
This is certainly not the best of times for President Goodluck Jonathan given the spate of bomb attacks rocking the country. Though the wave of violence has escalated to a frightening level, it would be recalled that sometime in April 2007, when Jonathan was the governor of Bayelsa State, heavily armed youths believed to be militants, in a convoy of boats, staged a daring attack on Yenagoa, the state capital.
The destination of the invaders, it was learnt, was the Creek Haven but they were repelled by the men of the joint military task force.
But his country home close to the Otuoke creek was not that lucky as it was bombed by militants. A more frightening scenario is now playing out at the national level.
And Bayelsans, in recent times, have been missing the home coming of Jonathan and his retinue of aides due to the adverse security situation in the country.
This is because the visit of the first family usually comes with a boom in economic activities given the large entourage made up of security operatives, protocol staff and hangers-on that storm Yenagoa and Otuoke.
The state of affairs in the country has twice impacted negatively on Bayelsa when the president had to shelve his visit to the state at the eleventh hour thereby depriving not only the local traders that usually throng Otuoke on account of the anticipated influx of visitors to the serene but fast growing community but also his troubled Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) going into the February 11 governorship election with a leaking umbrella.
It was the view of some analysts that the crisis of confidence rocking the state chapter of the PDP would have been resolved if Jonathan’s visits to the state had been frequent.
Expectations that the visit of the president to the state where he once held sway as deputy governor, acting governor and substantive governor, for the wedding of his own younger brother, Azibabariolo Jonathan, sometime last November, would be exploited to reconcile the warring factions within the party were dashed by the deadly attacks launched on Borno and Yobe states by the Boko Haram sect.
The First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, and some of the president’s aides had arrived the state, while Otuoke and Yenagoa were already bustling with activities in anticipation of the president home coming when the messengers of death struck in the holy month of Ramadan in the two northern states.
Jonathan had to cancel all engagements when the report of the incident reached him. It would have been wrong and insensitive to be seen to be celebrating when such a tragedy struck.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Rueben Abati, said, “Yes, Mr. President was meant to be in Bayelsa State for his brother’s wedding, but he had to cancel the trip because he cannot be seen to be dancing when we have lost innocent Nigerians in both Maiduguri and Yobe states.”
Abati said Jonathan vehemently described the bombings during the holy period of Eid el-Kabir as “totally condemnable” and warned any group behind such act, which is a violation of the rights of Nigerians, to desist or be brought to face the full wrath of the law.
Abati said the president wondered in whose interest the group suspected to be Boko Haram was fighting considering the timing of the attack targeted at innocent lives, saying the group was pursuing selfish agenda that was detrimental to the well-being of the people.
Oddly, when the stage was set for Bayelsans and members of the PDP to receive the president for the formal flag-off and presentation of the party’s flag to its candidate in the February gubernatorial poll, Seriake Dickson and his running mate, Rear Admiral John Jonah (rtd), ahead of the election, a more vicious attacks were launched on Kano State by the radical Islamic sect and this again aborted Jonathan’s visit to Bayelsa.
This time, Yenagoa was not left out of the orgy of violence as unknown persons rigged the base of the strategic Tombia bridge with dynamites with a view to bringing down this iron cast structure which connects the university community of Amassoma and oil rich Gbarain-Ekpetiama to mainland Yenagoa.
Luckily, not much damage was inflicted on the structure ,a part of which surrounding is being used as market by the locals during the day.
Though it could not be ascertained if the attack on Tombia Bridge was politically motivated, the timing of this isolated incident, which coincided with the Kano blasts, once again denied the state the unique opportunity of Jonathan’s home coming for the second time in two months.
The PDP secretariat and the Seriake Dickson/Rear Admiral John Jonah (rtd) campaign organisation had concluded arrangements for the “mother of all rallies” with fliers, T-shirts and other paraphernalia for the event already distributed when news of the postponement hit the airwaves.
Undeterred by the sad turn of event, the party, at an enlarged stakeholders meeting held in Yenagoa on Monday, which had in attendance former Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Timi Alaibe, former governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and other prominent members, adopted the strategy of the ward-to-ward community based campaign in the eight local government areas of the state to bring the candidates and the party programmes to the people.