In Bayelsa, garbage evacuation is campaign issue
RESIDENTS of Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital last week witnessed an unusual twist in the campaigns by the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to outwit each other as the race towards next month’s gubernatorial elections moves towards its climax.
Members of the opposition APC, gaily dressed in their party colours had taken over the streets, armed with brooms, their party symbols, and other refuse-clearing equipments to embark on removal of garbage and street sweeping.
Singing solidarity songs, they castigated the PDP government for the “dirty environment” and appeal to residents to vote the APC to enjoy quality life devoid of “threats of epidemic”.
Curiously, as the drama of the APC “broom revolution” was going on, residents also observed that officials of the state sanitation board and government contractors, on whom the blames of the “eyesores” were being heaped, were taking part in the same exercise side by side with members the opposition party.
According to those who witnessed the incident, the APC mobilized women and youths of the party to sweep the streets while party leaders rolled out refuse trucks and caterpillars to evacuate refuse where heaps of garbage were noticed. Also on hand to assist the operators of the refuse equipment were scores of party faithful, comprising young ladies, women and youths.
In what looked like a carnival, members adorning vests with the inscription “APC cleans Bayelsa were divided into groups and deployed to different parts of the metropolis such as Swali, Kpansia and Opolo markets as well as Kpansia Community Secondary School, among other areas.
It was learnt that the state government, afraid that the APC could score some political goals with the strategy, quickly mobilised contractors to evacuate the refuse leading to the two sides working together.
At Okaka area of the metropolis, while the APC members were clearing the one opposite Berger, the government contractors were clearing the one opposite the FCMB.
In what looked like a carnival, members adorning vests with the inscription ‘APC cleans Bayelsa’ were divided into groups and deployed to different parts of the metropolis such as Swali, Kpansia and Opolo markets as well as Kpansia Community Secondary School, among other areas. It was learnt that the state government, afraid that the APC could score some political goals with the strategy, quickly mobilised contractors to evacuate the refuse leading to the two sides working together.
Giving insight into what led to the exercise, the Director, Media and Publicity, Sylva-Igiri Campaign Organisation (SICO), Chief Nathan Egba, lamented that the state government had not been able to manage the environmental sanitation situation in the state.
But the Seriake Dickson campaign team, Restoration Campaign Organisation (RCO), accused the APC of being responsible for the heaps of refuse in Yenagoa stressing that the opposition’s engagement in flash sanitation was part of the party’s “deceitful style of campaign”.
But Egba said, “The reason for doing this is simple: everybody living in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, now knows that the government has failed them.
“As a result, epidemics and other diseases are likely to break out. There are instances where such rubbish is piled up in front of schools and market places. The private residence of the Deputy Governor is suffering similar fate.”
“The idea is simple, we are helping the state government clear up the places and to ensure that our people are able to live in epidemic and disease free environment.”
Egba promised that the exercise would be a continuous one and would be replicated in other parts of the state adding that the APC had received invitations for assistance from other communities in the state.
“But today, we are focused on Yenagoa because the situation in the capital city is actually an emergency. It is very clear that the Seriake Dickson administration has totally abandoned governance; they are now focused on how to win election, which of course they know they cannot win.
“So, as a party coming into power, we do not need to wait until we are officially elected into office. We believe that this kind of thing we can start doing while waiting for the election and our swearing-in day.”
Reacting to the development, the Dickson’s campaign team called on the APC to look for other saner and more dignifying means of campaigning.
The RCO advised Bayelsans and other residents of the state to be wary of the antics of the APC members “who are desperate to grab power through the back door by advancing various dubious means.”
The organisation’s Director of Media and Publicity, Jonathan Obuebite, said the ‘’flash sanitation exercise’’ carried out by the APC “has now confirmed to everyone our earlier assertion, that it is indeed the so-called “change party” that has been responsible for the heaps of refuse around the state, particularly in Yenagoa the state capital.”
Obuebite described as embarrassing “such cruel campaign strategy” of the APC, adding, “they decided to carry out the show of shame on a day that is usually set aside by the state sanitation authority for evacuation.”
He advised the APC and its candidate, Timipre Sylva, to look for other saner and more dignifying means of campaign, as the latest style would not secure for him the votes required to be elected.
Obuebite added that Governor Dickson was fully committed to governance and ensuring a cleaner and healthy environment for the people of the state.
As expected in such a charged atmosphere, before the close of the “joint-exercise”, there were reports of violent clashes between the groups with the two political parties pointing accusing fingers at each other.
The SICO accused the PDP of attacking its members and burning some vehicles it hired for the operation.
In a statement titled ‘’The PDP unleashed Terror on Innocent APC members in Bayelsa’’, Egba accused some thugs hired by the ruling party of unleashing mayhem on the members of the APC in some parts of the state.
The statement, which called on the State Commissioner of Police to apprehend those responsible for the attacks said in parts: ‘’The Sylva/Igiri Campaign Organization of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Bayelsa State has condemned in strong terms the unprovoked attacks unleashed on its members by thugs of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, during the evacuation of refuse in different parts of Yenagoa.
“The Campaign Organization therefore calls on the State Commissioner of Police to bring to book those PDP thugs who attacked and injured about four APC women and a driver of one of the evacuating trucks at Amarata and Tombia areas of Yenagoa, with one of the trucks set ablaze and another’s windscreen smashed.
“The Women and Youth wings of the Campaign Organization were on a rescue mission to help the PDP-led administration perform one if its statutory functions of clearing refuse at various dump sites when they were attacked.”
Egba also expressed regret and sympathy for both the attacks and the victims adding, “It is regrettable that the Bayelsa State Government that should ordinarily protect its people have turned out to unleash terror on the citizens, because of the desperation of Governor Seriake Dickson to secure second term in office, which has clearly become a mirage’.
“The Campaign organization sympathizes with all those that were injured and assured them of the party’s commitment to ensuring that they all get the best medical treatment.”
Egba, a former Commissioner of Information in the state, said his party members did not envisage any form of attack for volunteering to help clear garbage and waste that have overwhelmed Yenagoa metropolis, but assured his party members of better security arrangements for their protection in the future.
He also added that the party viewed the attacks on its members as an attempt to provoke them to violence, but gave assurance that they would continue to resist the temptation to retaliate all such confrontations
In his words, “APC has now been vindicated as events have shown that it is actually the PDP that is a party of violent people, especially as they have clearly lost the confidence of the people of Bayelsa State due to the wicked policies of the Seriake Dickson administration which have impacted negatively on our people.
“The second coming of Chief Timipre Sylva to office as Governor will surely bring relief and succour to our impoverished people.”
However, in his reaction to the allegations, Ebuebite denied all the claims of the opposition party, describing the story as entirely false and misleading.
Obuebite countered the claims of the APC, claiming that it was actually the APC thugs that attacked the Governor’s convoy adding, “We are not trouble makers and we are not into violence like the APC. Their thugs attacked the Governor’s convoy yesterday. All the allegations of attacks on their members are entirely false and misleading.”