Written by Sule Lazarus:

Bayelsa State Governor Timipre Sylva said yesterday that Acting President Goodluck Jonathan is plotting to remove him from office as part of their long-standing political quarrel. Speaking at the Kuje Prisons in Abuja, where he visited his detained commissioners, Sylva said the political trend unfolding in his state is targeted at impeaching and removing him from office. He said the style being adopted is not different from the one employed by the Obasanjo regime in 2005 to remove Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha from office.

Sylva had visited the prison to see three officials of his government who were arrested and detained at the instance of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC]. He said their ordeal was not unconnected with the bitter politics that has engulfed the state in the last several months.

He wondered why the EFCC stooped into the political arena, saying the essence was to create public disaffection against his government to pave way for a planned impeachment the way it happened to Diepreye  Alamieyeseigha

He said already, there were plans to organize protests in the state capital against his administration the same way they started with Alamieyeseigha before his removal on alleged financial misconduct.

Sylva, who was accosted by reporters moments after seeing his officials in the Kuje prison, said he was there to see how they were fairing, adding that they have been detained for over two weeks and the EFCC has made it difficult for him to secure their release.

There has been no love lost between Governor Sylva and Acting President Goodluck Jonathan. In the recent crisis that engulfed the presidency following President Umaru Yar’adua’s long absence on account of ill-health, Governor Sylva was known to have led the group of governors who asked Jonathan to mount the presidency on acting capacity only and to forget about contesting elections in 2011.

Also, when Sylva’s election was nullified in 2008, there were reports indicating that then Vice President Jonathan wanted new primary elections to be held, but the move was stopped by President Yar’adua who insisted that Sylva should be retained in the manner that Governors Ibrahim Idris and Murtala Nyako were retained as PDP candidates in rerun elections in Kogi and Adamawa States.

The two politicians also appear to be fighting proxy battles on the pages of newspapers in the last several months, with the fight becoming more intense after Jonathan assumed office as Acting President.

After the arrest of the Bayelsa State officials, there were numerous advertorials in newspapers reminding the EFCC that there is a pending allegation of money laundering to the tune of 14 million dollars against Dame Patience Jonathan, the acting President’s wife.

The brief conversation between Governor Sylva and reporters outside the Kuje Prison went on like this:

How many of your officials are here?

We have three officials here and frankly what I don’t understand is whether the position of the law has changed in Nigeria, whether a person is not guilty until proven guilty in court. What I can see here is that the EFCC has continued to treat these officials as if they are already convicts. They have made allegations which we are ready to contest in court but EFCC has continued to try this matter on the pages of newspapers. It is unfortunate that they have held these officials here for so long and these are senior officials with family. In fact don’t what this country is turning to?

What do you think has made the EFCC to act this way?

Don’t know, but you know the politics surrounding the whole thing. But EFCC is not a political party, it is a commission that is supposed to fight corruption, but when the unbiased umpire has descended into the arena it is something we need to worry about.

Don’t you think your aides are paying for the infighting between you and the acting president?

Well, I didn’t say that. I just said generally that there is politics surrounding the whole thing which I cannot go into. The political aspect of it is already dealt with, but the continuous detention of these officials is what Nigerians must cry about. It is Bayelsa today, it can be any other state or person tomorrow.

What is your relationship with the acting president like at the moment?

The acting president and I share excellent relationship, and there is no problem between me and the acting president at all. Of course there are lots of speculations on the pages of newspapers, but seriously speaking I am getting worried because if the position of the law is that you are not guilty until you are proven guilty by a law court, then why should my officials be an exception?

There are insinuations that something like this happened before, Alamieyeseigha was impeached and the same procedure is playing out….

Exactly! In fact, today in Bayelsa they even plan a protest just in the same Alamieyeseigha line. They were to stage a protest to make the public feel I have stolen N101 billion. They call big figures and the essence of this is to create this disaffection among the public to make them do something against me. They actually planned one today but it was foiled and we don’t know where it is going to end. But it is unfortunate. I have told them if they are after me they should come after me, and should leave innocent people who have families to be suffering and languishing in prison custody for nothing.

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