SYLVA AND THE PETTY MUDSLINGERS
The drowning man, it is said, clutches at the last straw with all his life. His atavistic strengths emerge full-scale, unrestrained by the reality that a solution is very unlikely. It is not all together surprising, then, that opponents of Chief Timipre Sylva, Bayelsa State governor, well aware of the sophistry of the Bayelsa electorate and their inability to derail the train of followership built on performance that Sylva has kept since 2007, should always rely on petty mudslinging and Aso Rock links whenever there is an election to contest in the state.
They harp on their capacity to drive a wedge between their own state governor and the presidency, as though that is the major electoral promise they have for the Bayelsa electorate.
They delude themselves, of course. The people of Bayelsa State are well aware of the greed, corruption, incompetence, and aloofness of the Abuja politicians. This club of politicians are an amalgam of everything objectionable to the land and people of Bayelsa State. It is no surprise that at the approach of every election they become emergency political superstars, popular everywhere else in Nigeria, except in the state where the election is billed to hold and among the people in whom the power of choice resides.
It requires no special powers of analysis on the part of the people of the state to recognise that this class of politicians are simply strangers to their land. If not, why would an aspirant intending to win the votes of the electorate in Bayelsa State launch his aspiration in a place other than Bayelsa? The other day, Mr. Henry Seriake Dickson, a member of the House of Representatives, supposedly representing Bayelsa people in the lower chamber, was in Abuja telling some distant audiences how he plans to rule Bayelsa State. He required the people of the constituency he plans to administer to go and search out his political ambition from secondary sources. The people have done that, of course, and they have come out with the verdict that political aloofness cannot make sound political sense. This voice of the people will become clearer as the days go by.
Also operating from Abuja is Mr. Timi Alaibe, a former managing director of Niger Delta Development Commission for whom running for the governorship has seemed like an obsession since the dawn of the Fourth Republic. He has, as is his wont, restarted his longstanding political campaign that resounds simply in the media and among his hatchet men, with only grainy evidence of serious ambition at home. The common thread that ties these extravagant political ambitions are lies and subterfuge. Both Alaibe and Dickson have claimed that they have been endorsed by the president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. And they have done this with so much panache that no one is left in doubt about their lack of self electoral worth. But, for the avoidance of doubt, as Chief Press Secretary to the Bayelsa State governor, Mr. Doifie Ola, put it: 'Mr. President has not endorsed Dickson or Alaibe. Both are only bandying falsehood about. 'In fact, the only governorship aspirant that has a subsisting endorsement from the president and his wife, Dame Patience Jonathan, is His Excellency, Chief Timipre Sylva. The president has not said anything to the contrary, and we do not see any reason he would, considering the transformational leadership the people of his home state have seen since the last four years of Sylva's government.'
The Abuja campaigns thrive on lies and illusion. The sponsors believe that their emergence from the present abysmal strangeness and rejection by the society would be best achieved by the propagation of lies about the person and government of Sylva. A few of the fallacious arguments would suffice. Dickson in an advertorial declaring his intention to contest the governorship, claimed that there had been increased statutory revenue accruing to the state since 2007. This is a lie, as everyone knows that the global economy has been under a serious strain, which has only started to ease off in some countries. In Nigeria, the crisis was worsened by armed agitation in the Niger Delta, which seriously affected oil production, translating to low revenue accruing to the states. Things have, however, since started to pick up and the effect is there for everyone to see in the Sylva government's huge infrastructural development programme.
So, if a man cannot even be honest with open facts, how can such a person be trusted with the affairs of a state?
Of all the weapons in the armoury of the anti-Sylva elements, the most malicious, obviously, is the linking of the governor to violence in the state. This is not only nasty but also ludicrous and insulting to the psyche of the Bayelsa people. Everyone who should know in Nigeria recognises the pioneering role of Governor Sylva in the peace-building efforts in the Niger Delta that culminated in the Federal Government amnesty programme for ex-militants. This process has been at the core of the relative peace and stability being witnessed in the Niger Delta, a situation that has helped to reinvigorate oil production and output for the benefit of the whole country. A man would not kill his own baby who he has nurtured. It is only absurd to reason that Sylva would now turn round to destroy what he has built.
The destroyers are the detractors, who do not live in Bayelsa State, but who only make fleeting visits to the state to instigate crisis and run back to Abuja and other capitals in the country. The activity of the Bayelsa State internal security outfit, which is suddenly the subtext of anti-Sylva statements, is the oldest deception in the book. The outfit might have engaged in excesses, which nobody supports, but all over the country, security outfits on special assignments often engage in excesses that society condemns. However, such occurrence cannot be used to erase the achievements of such outfits in peace and security.
Another chestnut bandied about by the mudslingers is that Governor Sylva misled President Jonathan into believing that South Korea's Hyundai Heavy was building a multi-billion dollar shipyard in Bayelsa State. For the avoidance of doubt, the whole issue of the shipyard emanated from discussions with the company and its representatives. The reported rebuttal by a junior official of Hyundai Heavy was nothing more than a clarification of earlier statements by the company, which says it plans to invest $7 billion in the country over a period of time. Hyundai Heavy has since started making clearings at Odioma, in Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, in preparation for commencement of operation.
Besides, the shipyard matter has been explained by the presidency in a well publicised statement carried by many national dailies in September. The statement, signed by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, gave details of what transpired on the day the President of Hyundai Heavy was accompanied on a courtesy visit to President Jonathan by Governor Sylva and a consultant to Hyundai Heavy, Otunba Ayo Oduntan, where Jonathan was briefed on the shipyard project.
The statement said: 'The governor and the project consultant spoke of a multi-billion dollar shipyard and presented a prototype of the proposed project to President Jonathan. Since they made these statements in the presence of the Hyundai Heavy officials, who did not rebut them, the President and his aides present had no reason to disbelieve them.
'The President of Hyundai Heavy Industries himself later gave an interview while still within the Presidential villa to a Reuters correspondent and affirmed the statement made by the governor and Chief Ayo Oduntan as follows: 'My company is going to (sic) $7billion dollars in Nigeria in the building of a shipyard.' (see http://af.reuters.com/article/investingNews/idAFJOE78E0LU20110915).'
With the above explanation, one can only wonder how the Hyundai issue could become an ingredient of mudslinging by the handful propagating anti-Sylva sentiments.
There is no doubt that for this club of Abuja politicians, the forthcoming governorship election in Bayelsa State is not about how much they can offer the people, but how much bad blood they can summon against Sylva. It is their wont to use blackmail rather reason as a tool of election. But this tool has serially failed them in the past. It will fail them again, and the whole Bayelsa will make a public show of this on November 19, as the Peoples Democratic Party holds its governorship primary, and on February 11, 2012 as the people of the state go to elect their governor.
Dr. Oyinkuro is the Director of Research, New Bayelsa Forum, Yenagoa