BAYELSA AGAIN! CAN THE BEST MAN WIN?
It has become a perennial tradition ever since the 2007 elections brought the dark horse candidate Chief Timipre Sylva to prominence as Governor of Bayelsa State for him to face a plethora of challenges from either within his party or from those who are popularly described as members of the political elite of the state.
More than almost any other state Bayelsa has become the symbol of the acrimony and dissent that disenchantment with the record of a serving governor can generate. In 2007 a tribunal actually sacked him. He was adjudged as having been the beneficiary of a flawed and indeed fraudulent election the first time around.
In the next round of polls he was able to repeat his first seemingly easy victory because his challengers appeared to be in disarray. Then as the 2011 elections approached a flood of aspirants again appeared to challenge the Sylva ambition with the key figure among perennial candidates, Mr. Timi Alaibe this time doing the unthinkable by leaving the PDP to pick the ticket of the Labour Party in preparation for the elections.
Then the courts threw a spanner in the works with the judgment that Governors who like Sylva had been forced out and then managed to return in a second ballot should not face re-election until a later date. In Sylva's case that date will be in February next year, but he must be selected in a party primary before he can stand again. This is the confusing but by now not surprising circumstance that has raised the spectre of more challenges to Sylva's continued rule in Bayelsa State. The real issue at stake though is just why among most of the political stalwarts of that small state this particular individual provokes such inordinate bitterness and division especially among those who are supposed to be loyal members of his own party the PDP.
Once again as the party primaries approach the state is faced with the spectre of a gladiatorial contest as one of the most effective members of the National Assembly the Honourable Seriake Dickson, one-time state Attorney General has thrown his hat into the ring. When this was announced those who know the political situation in the state were caught a bit off-guard, not because Dickson is regarded as an unlikely adversary for Governor Sylva but rather because his record so far has not shown him to nurse gubernatorial ambitions.
Nevertheless Dickson whose second term in the House of Representatives is yet to be completed can be regarded as a grassroots politician whose record of service in the House is certainly more credible than the record on which the incumbent Governor ran in 2007. Sadly the events surrounding the imminent contest in Bayelsa that have unfolded in the last few days have left many observers worried over the issue of whether once again the true wishes and interests of the public in the state will be served or betrayed by the contest.
One of the most interesting elements of the perennial crisis of confidence that has bedeviled the Governor's tenure has been the consistent innuendoes alleging that he has been at loggerheads with his predecessor who just happens to be the President of the Federation Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. However in all the contests in which he has been forced to defend his record, after some moments of apprehension Dr. Jonathan has apparently chosen to side with Governor Sylva against all comers.
Now this time around the emergence of Seriake Dickson has brought a surprising element to this because Dickson's loyalty and service to President Jonathan has not merely been impeccable it has been unquestioned. And therein lay the problem. The assumption being made by many that Dickson's decision may have been influenced by the President may not be more than that-an assumption.
The President has not and will not provide anyone with an endorsement. It is therefore unfortunate that instead of building a single candidate's consensus many of the elite political operatives who have consistently claimed to be opposed to Sylva's continuing in office have re-emerged in this latest version of the contest. Mr. Timi Alaibe has reputedly sought to return to the PDP in order to pursue what has become his most determined battle to be Governor of Bayelsa State by any means possible.
In spite of the fact that he had built up a formidable structure of supporters in the PDP he has always been sidelined by other powerful interests in the past. Now this time around his challenge is tainted by the fact that he must undermine some of those who had stood by him in the past in order for him to find his way back into the party as a last-minute exercise in fulfilling a personal dream rather than implementing a genuine effort to change the mandate of the sitting governor.
If that was the true intention Mr. Alaibe's best action might have been to support a genuine drive to overturn Sylva's grip on the state machinery of the party. Instead his re-entry into the race under the present circumstances seems to be calculated to muddy the waters rather than to achieve the main objective. Sylva has given an articulate interview in which he has characterised his opponents as opportunists and jokers. This is not surprising given the fact that so many times in the past the strategic confusion sown by divided interests has served to keep him on the seat in spite of his abysmal record of failure to deliver genuine governance and development to the people of the state.
As he watches the spectre of political backbiting and divisive ambitions tearing the party apart again he is growing more confident of carrying off another upset. This time he is also clearly aware of the fact that it is not his popularity but the inability of his opponents to mount a unified challenge that has kept him on the seat. In his recent interviews he has been extremely proud of being able to sow such discord, and therein lay the true nature of his political strength.
Governor Sylva has been an extremely clever leader in the Machiavellian sense. He has a penchant for sowing discord amongst his adversaries. While we do not feel ourselves to be at liberty to question the purpose or motivation of some of those who have now been revealed as having shown an interest in contesting for the PDP ticket with the governor this time around we believe it is not wrong to question their tactics as an expression of the democratic will of the people of the state.
With more than a single candidate fighting for the party's ticket against an incumbent governor and without the open endorsement of the President Sylva is most likely to be granted another chance to capture the party's ticket. In such an event it is our sincere belief that the people themselves will again be forced into near political slumber. It is a fact that Sylva is not merely unpopular but widely despised by a broad cross section of the Bayelsa electorate but the way the system works when push comes to shove the delegates who are brought to the convention often regard government as the provider of charity rather than of good governance and they vote for charity.
Unlike Alaibe and most other challengers so far Seriake Dickson has remained a consistent and determined legislator ever since he won his seat in 2007. While many observers attribute his decision to the assumption that he has the President's blessing he is the only one who has built a record of representation of the state at the centre that is based on performance rather than privilege. This might make him appear to be the best man in the race but so far without a gathering of support from other forces it still looks like a race in which the best man must fight against the odds to win.