For Bayelsans -Governor Timipre Sylva Would Soon Be History - By: Eddy Fadamiro
For most progressives in Bayelsa State, one can only say that better times are here again and change is coming. As the 2012 gubernatorial election inches closer, the signpost of change beckons on the electorate. There are indications that the incumbent Governor Mr.Timipre Sylva might be outwitted not because of the political skulduggery of the opponents but mainly because of the grandiose mismanagement of the affair of the State for the four (4) past years.
A cross section of Bayelsans especially the ordinary citizens believe that Governor Timipre Sylva clinched the Governorship ticket in 2007 on a platter of gold yet he is not appreciative of God's favour upon him. This group holds the view that the Governor has ruled the State with iron fist suffused with unbridled of corruption and intimidation of political opponents.
Whereas Supporters of the incumbent Governor attribute his poor performance to the raging militancy in the religion, some Civil Society Organisations believe that since the Amnesty Programme was introduced, the inflow of revenue to the State has improved tremendously but development has generally lagged. While the Civic Liberties Organisation through its Secretary General Mr. Morris Allagoa berated Governor Timipre Sylva's human rights record, the Amnesty International through its spokesman in Port Harcourt is irked that the Sylva's administration through the instrumentality of the disbanded Operation Famou -Tangbei perpetrated several acts of extra-judicial murder adding that any administration that cannot protect lives and property cannot in good conscience, seek the mandate of the people. The Amnesty International Specifically pointed at two cases: the tortured and killing of Freddie Philip Ockiya (22) and ThankGod Michael (26) as glaring cases of violation of the right of Bayelsa people perpetration of extra-judicial murder against the laws of the land.
The Niger Delta Integrity Group through its spokesman Barrister Eghosa Osagie has consistently castigated the Sylva administration for the monumental fraud and brazen sleaze of most public functionaries. The Group identify over inflation of contracts to value, the use of consultancy firms and contracts defraud the state. For examples it has been alleged that Sylva paid the sum of N1.8 billion to a fictitious company to carryout feasibility studies for the establishment of Micro finance Banks. Another whopping sum of $40 million is believed to have been paid to the Bayelsa oil company- a firm that has been moribund. It is estimated that about N290 billion might have been stolen from the coffers of the state since Governor Sylva came to power. Whereas Governor Sylva enjoys immunity and therefore cannot face prosecution now, the sundry cases of financial malfeasance are likely to stand between Sylva and his re-election bid. This is more so when several projects that are on-going cannot be completed even though he promised Mr. President and stakeholders so to do.
Other multi-billion firms reputed to be owned by the Governor include the Royal FM 95.5 a broadcasting station where he is believed to be fronting a politician who now chairs the Capital City Development Authority. Groups including the CLO, Bayelsa Professionals and the Niger Delta Integrity Group have threatened to move for the prosecution of Chief Richard Kpodoh, who is Governor Sylva's Special Adviser on Security. If the National Working Committee of the PDP disqualified the incumbent from contesting from contesting he may have series of cases with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
It does appear that opposition politicians who are desirous of taking creek haven by storm may use these grey areas to neutralize Sylva's incumbency factor. For now, it is known that about three persons are aspiring to be Governors of the state. The most powerful contender appears to be a former Attorney General of Bayelsa State, and now a member of the National Assembly Hon. Seriake Dickson. Dickson is reputed to be the most vocal and vociferous NASS member from Bayelsa State who has chaired several Committees and sponsored some fundamental bill. Political analysts believe that Hon Dickson may use the Green Movement as a launching pad to garner enormous support for the race to Creek Haven.
Chances are that the aspirant would capitalize on the glaring short coming of the Sylva administration if he picks his running mate from Bayelsa East; he is likely to win tremendous support from the entire spectrum of the political class and the electorate. As far as public service is concerned, Dickson is believed to be a good sell both in the People Democratic Party, PDP and among huge segment of the electorate.
Another advantage Dickson may have is the fact that unofficial reports favour Bayelsa West to produce the next Governor. Hon. Seriake Dickson is from Bayelsa West. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, another aspirant Idumange John a university lecturer and journalist who has been angling for the Governorship slot might have been asked by the Green movement to work with Hon Dickson, since Idumange himself, in several occasions had asserted that the only reason he would step down for another candidate, if the candidate is from Bayelsa West he was quoted to have said that he would have campaign for Governor Sylva second term, if not for his monumental failure and mindless peculation. Comrade Idumange has already reiterated this view in a press conference in Port Harcourt. He further asserted that if equity and fairness as anything to go by, he would ally with Bayelsa West since the bloc has not produced a Governor 15 years since Bayelsa state was created.
Other likely contenders in the race are Chief Francis Doukpola who had been favoured to take that slot before he was outsmarted by Governor Timipre Sylva. Like Julius Caesar said, Doukpola's experience might commend him to a segment of Bayelsans especially the conservative elites. But Bayelsa State needs a very dynamic and pro-active leader. He has the advantage of being from the favoured Senatorial District but his chances may be too slim for the tide of politics seems to be moving fast.
Feelers from the media also indicated that a former secretary to the government of Bayelsa state Dr. Boladei Igali is under pressure to contest. Dr. Igali himself had in the past garnered some goodwill since he served as a career diplomat. He might get Abuja's attention but his odds are multifarious. What may perhaps work against him is that he is from Bayelsa central - the same Senatorial District with Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha - the first democratically elected Governor of the State.
Our source also said others aspirants who were warming up to join the race such as Senator Nimi Barigha-Amange, Dr. Tarila Tebepah among others might have been persuaded to shelve their ambitions for in favour of Hon. Seriake Dickson. This would certainly boost the support base of the Sagbama born politician.
An unbiased analysis reveals that if Hon Seriake Dickson clinches the PDP ticket at the primaries come November, 2011 he is as good as being the Governor. There is wide spread lamentation that Sylva has failed to deploy the resources in the State to facilitate development. He has been severally accused of personalizing the treasury of the state using the ministry of finance, health and allocation to his office and government house. Barely six weeks ago a non-government organisation. The African centre for leadership, strategy a development held a budget advocacy workshop and passed a damning verdict on Sylva's expenditure profile. One of such revelations is that government house and governor's office received more allocation than five ministries (Agriculture, commerce, and industry, women affairs and social development environment and water resources put together from 2008-2010). They recommended that Bayelsa State House of Assembly should strengthen its oversight functions and ensure value for money on the implementation of budget. Sadly, the Bayelsa State House of Assembly is reported to have exacerbated the rape of the State and contributed to the bleeding economy of Yenagoa. The greatest challenge Governor Sylva faces now is the call by a Coalition of Civil Societies that the Anti-graft agencies should probe the sundry landed property and offshore accounts. Already there are so many aggrieved persons who have resorted to litigation on account of the excesses of the disbanded Operation Famou-Tangbei. There has been a vehement advocacy that the operators of the outfit be probed. This call has assumed the dimension of a hurricane. But Timipre Sylva is most likely to fight back. He is capable of fighting back given the enormous resources he is alleged to have stashed away in offshore accounts. He is reputed to have a Maritime Company and an oil company which he uses to rape the economy of the State. Bayelsans have never seen real development and that is a source of worry for Governor Timipre Sylva. Weary of imminent failure to win the PDP ticket, Mr. Sylva is believed to have been in secret talks with the Action Congress Party of Nigeria, ACN. This move could be the greatest misadventure of the occupant of Creek Haven because Bayelsa State is a core PDP State and one wonders how the ACN with scant followership would create any impact at all. But in politics, anything can happen.
Another intriguing aspect is that President Jonathan is neutral in the political drama that is unfolding in his home State. From all indications, he does not have a favoured candidate in mind and would bow to the popular choice of the people. Mr. President has the whole nation as his constituency and may not meddle into the murky waters of Bayelsa politics. It does appear therefore that there is no anointed candidate. The general perception is that many stakeholders may route for a candidate who has impeccable integrity, strategic vision pragmatic zeal and is in tune with the dynamics of good governance.
Putting together the various scenarios, it is obvious that three factors would work in favour of Hon. Dickson. He has a good record in terms of public service and Bayelsan need people of integrity. Hon. Dickson is from Bayelsa West and PDP might have zoned the Governorship to that power bloc. Governor Sylva has made so many enemies because of his lack-lustre performance and the unrest that characterizes the State - leading to cult violence coupled with the use of Operation Famou- Tangbei as a killing machine. By this singular action, the administration has alienated so many people who may be left with no alternative but to work for Hon. Seriake Dickson.
The permutations are that if most of the PDP aspirants queue behind Hon. Dickson, he is likely to win the primaries on the goodwill of the people. Whatever the intrigues may be, Bayelsans seem to be fed with the leadership style of the Okpoama born Governor Sylva. And if public opinion is anything to go by, Governor Timipre Marlin Sylva would soon be history. Eddy Fadamiro - a public Affairs Analyst, wrote from Warri