As the concluding part of the Bayelsa governorship election draws closer, the State has been in the news with palpable tensions rising higher and concerned political actors trading issues while delving neck-deep into the frantic stages of the campaigns as final preparations reach fever pitch. The two major contestants in the election are the incumbent and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Governor Henry Seriake Dickson and the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former governor of the state, Timipre Sylva.
With Governor Dickson leading in the election with about 33,000 votes, Timipre Sylva and his party, the APC, have been doing everything possible including the reported romance with ex-militants for the purpose of using them to unleash violence on the people of the state with a view to intimidating Dickson’s supporters and imposing a notoriously unpopular candidate in the person of Sylva on the good people of the state.
Events from the last election also showed that some security personnel might have been heavily compromised as they were alleged to be involved in electoral malpractices perpetrated to favour Timipre Sylva. But for the vigilance, resilience and resistance of the “standing well well” people of Bayelsa State who refused to be intimidated by the presence of some of these ex-militants and security agents, the wicked plans of Sylva would have gone unchallenged and he would have arrogated to himself an undeserved victory.
This is not a surprise to political actors and watchers as Sylva is reportedly notorious for his roles during his “Black Era” as governor of Bayelsa State where his illegal security outfit operating under the code, Operation Famou-Tangbe, allegedly embarked on state-sponsored terrorism, kidnappings, abductions and extra-judicial killings against citizens especially perceived political opponents. Many Bayelsans are yet to forget the iniquitous activities of this outfit. In those days, finding corpses of innocent Bayelsans on the streets was a pastime. Hardly was there any family in Bayelsa that did not have a dose of the bitter pill of the Famou-Tangbe outfit.
Those who think Timipre Sylva has changed for the better should better have a rethink as events at the recently organised APC primaries where the party chose its governorship candidate is a very sad reminder of the kind of person Sylva is and the kind of politics he plays. Commenting on the outcome of the primaries held in Bayelsa, governor Oshiomhole had elaborated how dangerous weapons including AK47 guns, pump action rifles and live ammunition were freely used at the venue of the primaries. Speaking of the unfortunate events that took place at the sports complex venue of the primaries, Governor Oshiomhole had this to say of Timipre Sylva: “I was appointed with six other members from the APC to conduct the primary election of the governorship election in Bayelsa State. The exercise took place yesterday (Tuesday, September 22, 2015) and somehow, thugs took over the sports complex where the exercise was to take place…The committee was virtually held hostage, including my humble
self. This time, they were supervised unfortunately by one of the aspirants, the former governor of the state, Timipre Sylva, who said to my face and to the committee that we could not leave the venue of the primaries unless we conduct the exercise without accreditation, as prescribed by the national secretariat”.
That was a brazen show of thuggery as aptly described by the comrade governor who, unfortunately, had the misfortune of having a bitter dose of Sylva’s brand of politics. If Sylva could do that to a sitting governor, what would he not do to the helpless citizens of the state? This has not changed and might never change as you cannot teach an old dog new trick. Our elders also say that no matter how heavy the rain beats the leopard, it can never wash off its spots. True to type, and since the first part of the Bayelsa election took place, Sylva has in his usual manner been reported to continue to associate too dangerously with notorious ex-militants with the aim of using them to manipulate the final leg of the election. From Oshiomhole’s exclamation, it is known that Sylva lacks the capacity to contest freely and fairly in a peaceful and credible election.
Bayelsans will not forget in a hurry, how Timipre Sylva earned himself the unenviable title of Nigeria’s most travelled governor during his time at Creek Haven. It is widely believed that those travels were just avenues to invest Bayelsa’s scarce resources in private businesses overseas as none of the purported MOU’s Sylva claimed to have entered into with some countries in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Middle East etc he visited saw the light of the day, hence, part of the reasons the EFCC charged him to court for financial crimes worth billions of naira of Bayelsa money. For example, the MOUs he entered with Vietnam on rice cultivation, with Israel on vegetable cultivation, with Norway on shrimp culturing etc, were never implemented. Under his tenure, despite his globetrotting, Sylva was not able to attract a single foreign investment to Bayelsa State.
As if that crass official financial recklessness was not enough, Sylva’s government was known to have, at a point in time, appropriated more money to government house and governor’s office than five critical ministries of Water Resources, Environment, Women Affairs and Social Development, Commerce and Industry, and Agriculture all put together. If this is not the height of insensitivity to the plight of the people who daily struggle with life as a result of the degradation of their environment and quick continued disappearance of their sources of livelihood, then one wonders what it can be called!
On the contrary, since assuming office, Governor Henry Seriake Dickson has embarked on life changing programmes for the good people of Bayelsa state. Apart from making the people the centre of all developments and government programmes, he has translated this into reality by carrying the people along in the new policies of transparency and accountability by making known to the people on a regular basis, what comes to Bayelsa as revenue and how they were spent.
It is also quite commendable, how peace and stability have returned to Bayelsa given the history of violence and militancy that were the order of the day before Dickson assumed office. Now, Bayelsans can sleep with their two eyes closed and go about their normal businesses without fear as Dickson has
been able to tame the militants and chase away men of the underworld who had held sway before his coming to office.
With the unparalleled commitment of Governor Dickson to the education of Bayelsans, Bayelsa State that used to be the worst state in education before Dickson became governor is now adjudged the best state in the South South zone of Nigeria and among the first ten in the entire nation.
The infrastructural development in Bayelsa State now is such that the state had never experienced since its creation as roads and bridges linking communities and facilitating trade, commerce, industry and investment are now being constructed with some of them completed and others reaching different advanced stages of completion.
Just like the publisher of New Nation, Richard Beke, once said during one of the tours of the Nigerian Guild of Editors on the occasion of the Guild’s conference in Bayelsa State, “He (Dickson) is the face of change in the new Bayelsa. He is the original change agent as he’s been saying and there’s no doubt that there is truth in his assertions seeing first hand for ourselves the various development strides”. This testimony cannot be disputed!
No matter the machinations of Sylva, the good people of Bayelsa can tell from the two candidates who actually has the interest of Bayelsa at heart. No Bayelsan would want the state to be dragged back to the dark days of Sylva government. The propaganda, lies, intimidation, harassment and violence unleashed on citizens would not stop them from coming out en masse to not only vote but also remain behind with angelic vigilance to secure their votes from enemies of democracy.
With Dickson leading comfortably so far, Bayelsans know they only need to finish off the good job they have started by casting their votes right and ensure that Governor Dickson is returned to power for the security of their future and that of their children. Seriake Dickson’s shoes are definitely too big for a Sylva who, from his antecedents, is poised to dim the silver lining in Bayelsa’s horizon! Creek Haven must not become Greed Haven! Tufiakwa!
Jude Ndukwe is a political analyst who lives and works in Abuja, Nigeria. He tweets from@stjudendukwe.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.