Timipre Sylva: Time to Unite Bayelsa State
It was just two days earlier that a local newspapers set up an unusual contest between the two prayer warrior camps of Governor Timipre Sylva and Mr Timi Alaibe the two most notable opponents for the Bayelsa State Governorship election billed for April 2011 in Nigeria .The headline screamed the legend: “Whose God is more powerful?” Forty eight hours later the answer came in the way pundits could not have envisioned. The Lord has chosen his own in Bayelsa State. To Him be ascribed all the Glory! A High Court verdict handed the incumbent governor Timipre Sylva along with four other state governors their seat for another year when their current tenure is actually due to end. It means they were spared the trouble of going through an election this April. Someone pointed out to me that the verdict is in line with the names of the candidates: Timipre-stay for me and 'Idutimi'-endure; one stays the other will endure for another year.
As I heard the news I knelt down to say a short prayer: 'Almighty, everlasting are thy wisdom and goodness and perfect thy justice for all eternity, Amen.' I was not alone in my jubilation because within minutes the entire state capital Yenagoa was overflowing with spontaneous jubilation. Parties went into the night for destiny seems to have once again played a part in resolving the issue of who occupies the top political position in the oil rich state. It is amazing that only 24 hours earlier the fate of the State seemed to hang in a political balance that could well tilt into avoidable violence. The incumbent, Governor Timipre Sylva of the ruling PDP and his most visible challenger, Mr.Timi Alaibe of the Labour party were angling for an electoral show down in the forth coming April polls .The signs of a violent outcome began with sponsored violence months to the poll. Aside from billboard vandalism indicating intolerance, the most audacious evidence came when the podium where Governor in the company of the President were stoned against the run of play by hired youths who spread themselves amongst the cheering crowd who were happy to receive their worthy son home. It was a big embarrassment for the State and Nigeria in general, but worse still the so called opposition packaged it for international image damaging campaign designed to prepare a soil for violent protests in the event of being humiliated at the polls.
So you can imagine the quagmire of law abiding citizens in the State who have worked tirelessly for peace and prosperity in the Presidents home state. They watch helpless as the World continue to ascribe violence to a very peaceful hardworking and united people of the state, while a handful of powerful sons and daughters work at cross purpose to constituted authority all in the name of ambition and opposition rejoice. Mass rallies are now being held across the state in solidarity to the man of peace, Governor Timipre Sylva. My advice to Governor Sylva is to use this opportunity to rally the opposition around his government by exhibiting magnanimity in victory. In doing so he is expected to look into the grievances of these sections of the people in order to achieve more plural and inclusive society.
The short campaign period can become a blessing for Bayelsa State if the lessons are utilized to unite the people. This is in line with one of the cardinal objectives of the Timipre revolution. All these divisive tendencies that could have conspired to scatter the Presidents votes in the State should been avoided. All Bayelsa whether Ijaw of which ever stock, whether Nembe ,Brass or Ondo even other Nigerian settlers must receive equal treatment in line with the Nigerian constitution. If New York was left to be built by New Yorkers, I am not sure it will not be bigger than the Bronx Slums today. In the same vein dichotomy and discrimination can only slow down the realization of the Bayelsa dream.
My experience during a recent short stay is that the human resources here can compare favorably with any group in the world. I was often reminded of the fact that the Ijaws hosted the colonial masters long before what we know as 'civilization' came into the hinterland.During the late 19thcentury, these people were already middlemen facilitating trade with the hinterland Nigeria. Today as I wrote this article and watched the live telecast of President Jonathan's Presidential campaign to Aba, Abia State, I took particular notice of the “Igbo Attire”, so called that is used today and reflected on its history. This woolen attire that is noted for giving the body so much heat cannot be originally designed for upland hot tropical environment. Those who follow history know that it was first given as gift to the Ijaws and was widely used by their War house Chiefs. The Nembe's were perhaps one of the foremost to translate the Bible into the local dialect and therefore also led in education together with Bonny. So these early middlemen got this attire as gift or in exchange from the visitors before the Igbos started direct trade with the colonialists. But when the Igbos took over direct trade they have must have also demanded this cold weather attires and wore them until they became accepted by some as the status symbol of the Igbo nation. The true Igbo attire leaves the body bare covering only the loins. A researcher once suggested that even the famed Igbo intelligence may have suffered by the heat from this attire over time. For some school of thought this may amount to going on to the extreme but it may well contain a grain of truth in it. So when Jonathan affirms that he was home to Abia his claim may have more than merely marital conjugal affiliation. The Riverine tribes are in many ways one with the Igbos; this dress is just one visible sign of not only the picture of the cooperation but also the inherent competition.
This event provides a big exit strategy both for the opposition figures in Bayelsa State; those who willingly took up the gauntlet as well as others who were drafted into the battle for the sake of remote manipulators. My advice to Mr. Timi Alaibe is to pull together his forces in support of Governor Timipre Sylva to ensure the total victory for Mr. President in the state. I want to see Mr. Alaibe jointly address the press or rally with governor Sylva to diffuse all tension and prepare a united front for the development of the State through garnering massive votes for President Goodluck Jonathan since the two objectives already coincide. I want to see the NDDC rehabilitate abandoned water and other projects in the state working closely with the State Government so that the development projects are sustainable.
As for all other political parties and supporters, it is time to imbibe the true spirit of opposition in its classical sense not today's adulterated caricature. You can only be an opposition in a defined political system, not outside it. If you oppose an elected regime, it only means that you become the other side of the coin on issues concerning the development of the State. By so doing you widen knowledge and lead to debates that drive sustainable policy making and implementation. If you are the other side of the same coin you cannot be trying to damage the coin because you harm yourself thereby. Knowledge and understanding is crucial to good leadership. It is unfortunate that today we have leaders so called who do not understand the dynamics of politics yet they scramble to rule people. I am constrained to suggest we limit leadership to those who attained at least a Bachelor of Science degree in political Science. It is such a level of education that can equip you to understand simple terms such as 'political opposition' and 'responsibility'. Without understanding that politics is really a winner takes all game or a do or die affair, you may end up harming yourself and your supporters in good faith.
The major question a player should ask himself is what do I want to achieve? How do I achieve it? What is the best way to achieve my goal? Having analyzed it then you must choose from an array of strategies to fulfill the goal both for your people and for you. After this you must subordinate ambition to pragmatism. Today we know or can guess what the Riverine communities want. They want a share of the wealth emanating from their soil. Since restructuring of the polity has become a mirage, they want to control their own destiny, to be respected and develop their land and human resources. However, taking into consideration the political set up which limits ones choices drastically in Nigeria, arguably one can also achieve most of these goals by aspiring, contesting and occupying the top position in the land. It will boost the peoples self esteem, and probably help to release their latent potentials to develop the kind of just society they deserve. So now what is more important than this step? Is this exactly the time to wash dirty linens in public? Is this the time to raise ones ambition above the common good? Maybe in one years time perhaps but for now this High court judgment should provide many in the opposition in Bayelsa State with an exit strategy made in heaven to do things right again and for those at the higher levels to do the right thing.
*Mr. Nworisara, A political and Media consultant writes from Port Harcourt.