Timipre Sylva and APC chances in Bayelsa governorship election

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FREEPRESS – November 16th, 2019 is a very significant date in the election calendar of Bayelsa State. The date can be likened to the Shakespearian Ides of March where the major political gladiators are set to engage in an epic battle to control the political soul of the state.

This follows the release of the governorship election timetable by the Nigeria’s electoral umpire. The election is a straight fight between the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).

Since the birth of democracy in 1999, Bayelsa has been under the rule of the PDP and its followers pride themselves in declaring it a “PDP State”.

However, at the 2015 governorship election, the APC and its governorship candidate, Chief Timipre Sylva, almost swept off the PDP governor seeking re-election, Mr. Seriake Dickson.

Again, in 2019 general election, the foundation of the PDP was shaken when the Sylva-led leadership of the APC for the first time took the electorate by surprise when it won one senatorial election, two members for House of Representatives and four members at the State House of Assembly. While the result of the presidential election in the state had an impressive outing – much more than that of the 2015 – in securing more than the 25 percent required by the constitution.

APC’s performance in the 2019 general election was so impressive and shocking to PDP members to the extent that it has demystified and punctured the PDP members’ ego trip of being the dominant ruling party in the state.

Though the former governor and minister-designate Sylva is yet to officially indicate his intent to seek re-election, he remains the man to watch in the game as his body language and that of his army of foot soldiers continue to give nightmares to the rank and file of the PDP, with a rife speculation that he will run for the governorship.

Barely over a week ago, PDP elders and critical stakeholders in the state held a closed-door meeting presided over by former President Goodluck Jonathan.

According to media reports, Jonathan used the opportunity of the meeting to warn the party faithful to guard against division within the PDP. He noted that if the party failed to unite, it will lose the forthcoming governorship election.

The warning according to close sources sent a chill down the spines of members of the party, which many people agree that the warning by the former president to his party was understandable to a large extent, as many political pundits interpreted that to mean fear of the Sylva-led APC is the beginning of wisdom.

They point at the APC’s performance at the last general election which is still fresh in the minds of the PDP leadership. If it is allowed to repeat the feat, then PDP dominance will be automatically diminished and be consigned to the rubbles of history in the state.

Those who have closely monitored the politics of Bayelsa agree that the governorship election in the state is a contest between APC’s Sylva and others. Those pushing forth the argument within the APC and that of the PDP that Sylva cannot win election in the state are economical with the truth. They are simply fifth columnists with a sinister agenda of planting landmines and their moles to drive the final nail in the coffin of APC in the state.

His name “Timipre” which is translated in Ijaw language to mean ‘be alive for me’ and literally means where there is life, there is hope. While nurturing and investing his time and resources in the political planting season for APC to have roots in Bayelsa, others chose to tag and label him as a leader of ‘Boko Haram party.’ Interestingly, some of those who tagged him ‘Boko Haram’ have joined the APC in contesting for the governorship without any sense of shame.

Against all odds, today APC has not only taken roots but has also developed branches with plenty of fruits ready for harvest time.

According to a Yengagoa based Journalist, Mr Okon Ekpandem, “Those churning out that worn out argument about Chief Timipre Sylva, that he can’t win election for the APC are simply saying so out of mischief and out of the fear of Sylva factor in the forthcoming election. They are just trying to deceive the leadership of APC to get Sylva out of the race for the PDP to easily coast home to victory because they know he is the only candidate to beat”.

Even the worst political detractors of Sylva cannot hesitate to concede the fact that he has become a strong political factor in the contemporary politics of South-South and Bayelsa in particular and indeed an issue in Nigeria politics.

He is like a honey which attracts all and sundry to lick, with a good sense of generosity to a fault, very appealing to both the young and the old. Unlike some frontline politicians who have a record of pulling down their fellow Ijaw leaders to advance their political career, Sylva fervently believes that power is given by God and he does not need to pull-down characters in pursuit of his political cause.

It is no over statement to say that he is the only detribalised living political legend in the landscape of Bayelsa. Apart from, having a political structure with large followership across the geo-political configuration in the state, he is the only one with a listening ear ready to give a helping hand to whoever that needs his help, not minding ones political affiliation.

Besides his amiable disposition towards anyone that crosses his path, Sylva has a high premium on poverty reduction and youths empowerment. In his first tenure as governor, he did guard against capital flight by concentrating in awarding contracts to indigenous contractors.

It was essentially designed to empower Bayelsans. This approach brought about multiplier effects; it engaged the services of skilled and unskilled labour, took several youths out of the temptations of crime, as well as patronised small scale business men and women. Interest free loans were given to small and medium scale business owners, thereby promoting them to be key players in the local economy.

At the national level, the country’s economy was grounded to a halt, with oil production and sale at its lowest ebb between 2008 and 2009 due to the militancy in the Niger Delta. The then Governor Sylva single-handedly took the bold initiative to save the nation and restored the oil production to its full capacity. He traversed the creeks and high sea to talk to the militant agitators to lay down their arms and embrace peaceful negotiation to address their grievances.

Sylva further initiated the amnesty option, which culminated in the laying down of arms by the militant agitators and consequent restoration of relative peace in the Niger Delta. In other climes, this singular heroic act by former governor would have earned him a national honour.

It is against this background, back to his home in Bayelsa, there is a clarion call for him to seek re-election for the office of governor at the forthcoming November 16, 2019 governorship election.

The propaganda in some circles, that APC will lose Bayelsa if Sylva is given the ticket, is a cheap fairy tale to mislead the national leadership of the party. It is the direct opposite of what they mean, that Sylva is the only threat and factor to defeat the PDP as far as Bayelsa governorship election is concerned.

Many people are not surprised at the propaganda. The same trick played out when President Muhammadu Buhari was seeking re-election. The PDP in connivance with some APC moles mounted the propaganda that Mr President had not done well, that if he was fielded by the party for re-election, APC would lose at the general election.

The outcome of the President’s re-election has put such fifth columnists to shame as Buhari won resoundingly. This is the machinery put in place by APC detractors to get Sylva off the contest for the PDP to have their way.

This is what the national leadership of the party should resist and avoid by not falling prey to their antics, as this may finally bury the APC in the state. There is nothing wrong constitutionally for Sylva to resign 30 days to the election as required by the constitution. The chances of APC wining the November 16 governorship election are very bright with Sylva as its standard bearer.

This is not an overstatement but based on the indices like his political pedigree. The APC leadership should avoid the mistakes of Zamfara, Imo, Oyo, Rivers and Bauchi States where the party lost due to its own miscalculations. In the South-South there is every need to win Bayelsa and add it to Edo State to establish the full presence of APC. The party must be wary of some candidates masquerading as APC in the day, but in the night, they are in the assembly of PDP.

What the time demands is for APC put its act together, by rallying round the structure of Sylva to win the November 16 governorship election in Bayelsa State. That is truly the general verdict of vast majority of the electorate. Bayelsans have suffered a lot in the past eight years and the people are looking up to APC to put its house in order, to rescue the state.

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