Pluralism and Issues Politics in Bayelsa State
As I predicted in the last article Why PDP wins elections in Nigeria, the battleground for a strategic battle for the soul of Nigeria has kicked off in Bayelsa State with the kick off of campaign trains of both the incumbent Governor Timipre Sylva and his most visible challengers, Mr Timi Alaibe of the Labour Party and the ACN flagbearer Dr. Imoro Kubor. Kicking off his joint re-election campaign tied with the election of President Goodluck Jonathan, Governor Sylva spoke to a large gathering of traditional rulers and leaders of thought in a town hall conference at Yenagoa where he asked the people to vote massively to re-elect him as governor and also vote for President Goodluck Jonathan in the coming polls. He promised to do more for their welfare as well as consolidate on what has become known as the “Bayelsa Revolution” in several fronts such as Health, Finance, Infrastructure, Policy and Education amongst others. The CAN flag bearer who has been running an issue based campaign from the outset is said to have impeccable credentials and has promised to positively transform the State if voted into power.
Also joining the issue based bandwagon in the State is Mr. Timi Alaibe, the governorship candidate of Labour Party (LP) in Bayelsa State, who flagged off his gubernatorial campaign at the weekend, at Kaiama, the “official capital of the Ijaw nation”, with a pledge to be a servant leader to the people of the state”. According to media reports, the campaign kicked off in the premises of the traditional ruler of the kingdom where Mr Alaibe explained he had to offer himself to serve the people so that the state can be rescued from 'gross misrule”.
According the Labour Party candidate, “the circumstances forcing me into the governorship race are very well known to all of you. I am offering myself to serve, not to boss the people of Bayelsa State.” He noted that the economy of Bayelsa State was on its knees as the state depends on the Federal Government for 96.4 per cent for its revenue, pledging to thus raise the economy of the state, by fighting poverty, tackling infrastructural decay and neglect, and also rebuilding the education and social sectors of the society”.
He declared that he has the capacity to turn the fortune of the state around, stressing that “people know I can fix Bayelsa State because of my pedigree and capacity which has been tested and proven over the years” Finally, he enjoined the people of the state to vote for President Goodluck Jonathan in the presidential election and himself for the governorship election' The same weekend Governor Timipre Sylva was cheered by the Hausa community in one of his campaign stops.
It is a healthy development for Bayelsa State to lead the way again by allowing the growth of opposition in the state which in its self fulfils one of the developmental benchmarks for good governance and proves that there indeed is peace in Bayelsa State, contrary to widely held beliefs about insecurity in the state.
I decided to take all the media report of Mr Alaibe's declaration as I did earlier of the Governor Sylva's declaration because of the need for balance and to enable me fairly analyze the issues at stake. This is also another Bayelsa State plus that personality politics can now be done away with replaced by issues on their own merit. By launching his campaign in Kaiama, Mr Alaibe has shown a good sensing of History that is so strong that I can feel it.Kaiama you do remember was the famous home of the foremost Niger Delta Revolutionary Late Adaka Boro. The Kaiama Declaration of 1998 accentuated the emotional liberation of the Niger Delta. It led to the long drawn out battle for resource control. The declaration itself has an explanatory note by another activist:
The Kaiama Declaration of December 11, 1998 marked the genesis of organized and well co-ordinated struggle of the people of the Niger Delta for the control of their God – given resources. History must certainly remember those brave, articulate youths who took that bold initiative to confront the dare devilry of the exploiters. And those who lost their lives fighting the cause of the Ijaw Race will certainly occupy a significant place when the history of the Niger Delta is reconstructed with the blood of the downtrodden hoi polloi. The Kaiama declaration brought to limelight the fundamental issues of resource ownership and control in a federal system. Federalism as adumbrated by the exponents is an arrangement in which there is self-rule among the component units or states and shared rule between the centre and the units”.
So the cause was not in doubt. How did the declaration go about its cause? Here are just two of its 10 tenets: 1. All land and natural resources (including mineral resources) within the Ijaw territory belong to Ijaw communities and are the basis of our survival and 2. we cease to recognize all undemocratic decrees that rob our people/communities of the right to ownership and control of our lives and resources, which were enacted without our participation and consent.
I tried to find parallels of sorts between the two events in this historic town but failed. One led to a good cause of Niger Delta liberation by someone whose pedigree spoke volumes and his vision encapsulated a generation giving strength to the final push of 1998.The other is by another who has pedigree it is true but not entirely as comparable and a vision that may not necessarily inspire coming generation for too long. One wants to be governor while the other was not vying for any elective office. One fought for he good of his people without any returns and became a hero while the other also wants to be counted in the liberation of his people but not entirely selflessly.
In terms of pedigree, the two are as distant as the sky and earth. One died for his people the other is said not to be as stable in one cause. This is considering that the others historic sojourn in NDDC, Amnesty programme, and others may not exactly be said to be as fruitful to say the least. One left legacies of growth, especially in the struggle for liberation of his people, the other may not have left similar legacies in the places he touched. Yes, surely the people know the capabilities two but not exactly for similar reasons. One came to rescue his people voluntarily when the need was greatest; the other came for a rescue mission involuntarily when the not too great need to leave PDP was foisted on him by the stiff opposition within the ruling party.
To truly determine whether The Labour Party Candidate can be “servant leader', we are constrained to examine his as “servant manager” in NDDC and the banking sector where he traversed. News that communities have started litigation against NDDC on failed projects compounds the situation. The story of doubtful success of the famous NDDC empowerment programme for Niger Delta youths also bring doubt on promises of youth employment in Bayelsa State. However let us not judge a man only with his past because changes can occur just as we may be mislead by rumors as the candidate pointed out during his declaration. In that sense we cannot judge him by his pedigree. His volition and courage is definitely admirable. On the other hand we can judge Governor Timipre Sylva by his Pedigree. He is consistent with his promises which are well documented and baring man made difficulties coupled with militancy induced fall in oll output and therefore revenue accruable to the state has performed above average. He has made Bayelsa a leader amongst States by scoring B in the global Fitch rating for resource management.
Today Bayelsa State is not listed as owing a dime aside from the Bond issue which is tied to projects and does not constitute a loan. Bayelsa State may be dependent on oil revenue but why not it is their chief revenue earner. Diversification is gaining strength with the transformation of Yenagoa into a business and tourist city of international standards and the results will become manifest if the focus and tempo is continued in the next four years.
Going by our overall findings it is clear that the present “rescue mission” has nothing to do with the true Bayelsa or Ijaw cause and any parallels drawn may be misleading. Despite high visibility ratio of the challenger, our findings show that the ijaws are solidly behind the re-election of Governor Timipre Sylva as the best option on its own merit and to ensure the election of President Goodluck Jonathan come April 2011.
*Mr. Nworisara a political and media consultant writes from Port Harcourt