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It was a sigh of relief for the vast majority of Bayelsans that the man they had been waiting for has finally arrived and is poised to contest and win the forthcoming gubernatorial poll. Attempts had been made in the past to draft Mr. Timi Alaibe into the gubernatorial race in Bayelsa to no avail. But this time around he has finally yielded to the yearnings of the people of Bayelsa. He just couldn’t resist the cries of his people to come and give them the much needed good governance that would make positive and very visible impact in the lives after years of deprivations. To achieve this Alaibe has left his job as the special adviser to the President on Niger Delta to answer the people’s call to serve and he has chosen the Labour Party (LP) as the platform to actualise the desires of the people.

But the entry of the gentleman, who has a deep passion for the welfare of the masses, has caused panic inside the Creek Haven where the governor, Timipriye Sylva dwells as the chief executive of Bayelsa. The panic and fear that gripped the governor and his aides is understandable; A big masquerade has arrived to seal the show and so the lesser masquerades must give way. Yes, Alaibe is seen as the next governor of Bayelsa and that is no good news for Sylva, who is angling for a second term in office. It is therefore not surprising that the governor and his handlers have launched propaganda war against the LP gubernatorial candidate. The virulent propaganda attack became so vicious at a point that every attempt was made to portray Alaibe as an enemy of President Goodluck Jonathan.

To the disappointment of the propagandists Alaibe has refused to join them in the mudslinging past time and rather focused attention on issues that are of interest to the Bayelsa electorate. He has made it known that he shares in the vision of President Jonathan and amply demonstrated it when he faithfully implemented the Niger Delta peace plan as special adviser to the President on Niger Delta for almost a year. In a recent press interview Alaibe espoused president Jonathan’s qualities, Jonathan describing him as a man “intensely focused on success, abhors embarrassing situations, failures and he loves peace and peaceful environment” Such testimony can only come from somebody who has been closely associated with Mr. President like Alaibe has been. And so, can a man who holds Mr. President in such high esteem work at cross purposes with him. This is where Alaibe’s detractors got themselves into confusion and have continued to chase shadows all in the hope of stopping him from his steady march to Creek Haven. To further compound the woes of his detractors Alaibe has not wavered in his support for the Jonathan’s presidential bid. At every gathering of his supporters the LP gubernatorial candidate has always impressed it on his supporters and the Labour Party faithful in Bayelsa that while they back him for the governorship race their votes must be cast for Jonathan in the presidential contest. Will Mr. President not be happier for it if Bayelsa is properly governed for the benefit of the greatest number of the citizens irrespective of party platform? Alaibe can do it and Bayelsans know he can do it for them.

Democratic election is supposed to be a free contest. A popular dictum has it that when ideas clash the truth will emerge. Unfortunately in this our clime those who lack ideas readily put themselves forward for elective positions. But one can’t give what he/she doesn’t possess hence the less endowed easily resort to name calling, brute force and propaganda to have their way. They loathe ideas and those that possess it and shy away from constructive debates that would expose their ignorance. That is the problem with those attacking Alaibe. They have discovered that they can never match his ideas and so for them the best thing was to resort to pedestrian antics of blackmail. Nevertheless it should be noted that nothing can stop an idea whose time has come. It must surely manifest. That is why Alaibe’s intimidating profile and well articulated vision for Bayelsa is sending shivers down the spines of his opponents.

It would serve all the protagonists in the Bayelsa gubernatorial race better if Mr. President is not dragged into the matter. The gladiators should concentrate on issues and tell Bayelsans what they can do to uplift the state and banish poverty from the face of the oil rich state. As a sitting governor Sylva should render his stewardship for the past four years and tell the people what more he can offer instead dissipating energy chasing shadows. When Alaibe told his supporters that he would revamp the collapsed education sector he knew what he was saying and the facts on ground bears him witness. The evidence is there for all discerning minds to see that the education sector is in dire need of urgent resuscitation for the future of Bayelsa children to be secured.

As a major stakeholder in the Bayelsa project he is no stranger to the developmental challenges of his people. That is all the more reason his precision solution to the identified problems is causing sleepless nights to those groping for solution to the identified problems. Let those who fee they have better solution to the problems lay bare their packages for the people to see and decide which is better. It is high time those who desire to preside over the destiny of the people stopped hiding behind the veil of vague promises. It is a ploy to evade accountability for a political office holder can easily find an escape route if at the time of seeking for votes no precise programme of action was shown to the people to enable him ask questions if they notice deviation from the laid down promises.

It would have been expected that the amiable Alaibe would purse his governorship ambition on the platform of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) having been a strong member of the party over the years. Not only that, he has served in PDP government both as managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and a presidential adviser. But beyond party membership and loyalty the people’s interest matters most. As a gentleman and peace loving politician Alaibe knew that contesting for the PDP gubernatorial ticket with governor Sylva would heat up the volatile Bayelsa polity well above boiling point. So the wisest thing was to allow peace to reign.

With the kind of popularity he commands Alaibe is bound to win election irrespective of the party platform on which he stands. Election is a popularity contest and the earlier politicians including incumbent elective office holders accept this fact the better for Nigeria’s democracy. It could end the senseless imposition of candidates even when it is glaring that the person so imposed on the electorate has nothing to offer. Given a level playing field a man of the people like Alaibe would always triumph against any incumbent whose only trump card is incumbency factor. The people of Bayelsa should not allow themselves to be deceived. By now they should have known that the quality of life accruing to them after every general election does not depend on the political party but the person put forward by the party to win election and implement its manifesto. It would be interesting to see the Bayelsa voters prove that the time has come for personal quality of candidates to be the decider of who wins election and not the colour of political party fielding the candidate.

Oluchi Oseh, is of the Centre for Reform Education Initiative (CREI), Abuja.

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