BAYELSA 2012: WHO WINS THE RACE?
Between Monday October 17, 2011 when House of Representatives member, Henry Seriake Dickson announced his intention to contest the governorship primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Bayelsa state and Tuesday November 1, 2011 when the first batch of cleared aspirants according to the party hierarchy was released, a lot of political events had occurred.
The events suggest that the stake is very high for the PDP governorship ticket in the 'Glory of All Lands'. With the political ping-pong playing out in the seat of power with members of the National Working Committee of the PDP, the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and President Goodluck Jonathan caught in the mix, political events in the next few days on the fate of those yet to be cleared would definitely redefine politics in Bayelsa with far reaching reverberations in the polity.
The move against Sylva
The camp of Sylva who had initially dismissed with a wave of the hand the opposition against the second term bid of the governor with Dickson as the arrow head are having a serious rethink going by the formidable political forces in very high places against it. Unknown to them, while Dickson whom they knew as a political long distance runner was deliberately underrated as a non-issue, forces against the second coming of Sylva had laid bobby traps not only to embarrass and humiliate him ( Sylva) but also to weaken his support base.
Basking in the euphoria of his clearance by the Brig Gen Idi Adamu (retd) Screening Panel at the zonal headquarters with thousands of his supporters at the venue of the screening in Port Harcourt chanting their usual refrain: WWW (We Would Win) with his successful clearance and issuance of clearance certificate 0000012, Sylva though aware of what his camp called a sinister plot, failed to use his famed political savvy to nip the plan in the bud before it turned into a political albatross.
It was therefore not surprising that when he and his supporters had started to rejoice, the opposition against him from the state in bed with external forces constituted a screening appeal panel which ordinarily should look into the case of those not cleared to summon him to answer questions about a litany of allegations against him. Before the Mrs Abiodun Olujimi led committee was a petition against him by the Oracle Law Firms and which it had to refer to the National Working Committee and the elders of the party to investigate.
Specifically, it was the petition which was said to have alleged that Sylva made some remarks about Jonathan that has held down his clearance and pushing his loyalists and supporters to the edge of anxiety.
The PDP dilemma
That the Abubakar Baraje led NWC in the last few days is not in a dilemma is an understatement. Political pundits believe that the NWC members are fully aware that an orchestrated script is being implemented to stop Sylva from participating in the PDP primaries because his participation with his war chest might render it a no contest. The NWC is being careful of the implication of edging out a sitting governor who from all indication has massive followers in elected political office holders from the National Assembly to the Local Government levels. But they are also helpless seeing the regicides with connections in high places that have vowed to abbreviate the political career of Sylva.
Incidentally, the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) Chairman in Bayelsa State, Chief Tiwei Orunimighe in a reception they organized for Sylva when reports became rife that he was going to be stopped by the PDP from contesting had warned the party of dire consequences if they approve of the plan.
Hear him: 'We as Bayelsans are not ignorant of the devices of our detractors. We are the custodians of democracy at the grassroots and we have decided that come 2012, we are going with Sylva. We are telling our great party that Sylva is our choice.
The party is not human; it is the human being that is the party. We human beings are the only constant variable in politics, every other variable will change. So, today, that is the message. That is what we have decided. And that is why we are in agreement with you people today. This is why we called you people to tell Bayelsans, to tell Nigerians, that if the man we want is not given because the party is not human, the human beings will vote for who they want. That is the level we have come'.
Sylva was to rub it in in a press conference he addressed when he insisted that he was still in the race and has not been disqualified.
His words: 'In the past few days, I have read all manner of reports in the media concerning our Bayelsa State, our Peoples Democratic party (PDP), and myself. Specifically, there have been reports that I have been disqualified or going to be disqualified by my party. These reports are unfounded, laughable, but disturbing. I have not been disqualified. And there is no basis for my disqualification.
'What is clear to me, my supporters, and indeed all lovers of democracy in our dear country Nigeria, is that there is a desperate attempt by certain forces to illegally exclude me from seeking re-election as governor of Bayelsa State on the platform of the PDP'.
He went further to place a moral burden on the hierarchy of the PDP when he stated that, 'as a sitting governor, I expect protection from my party and all its organs as all sorts of machinations can be plotted against me'.
From all indications, it is clear that the PDP leadership recognizes the political importance of Sylva and cannot just do away with him. Baraje was quoted recently as noting that Sylva has won election for the PDP before and can still win election for it.
The battle line is drawn
There is no gainsaying that the trend of politics in the state between the contending parties has reached a state of no retreat, no surrender. Though some prominent Bayelsans, leaders of the PDP and the NGF have intervened on behalf of Sylva to plead with Jonathan who is perceived to be behind his travails and prevail on the NWC committee to clear him, close observers believe that things would never remain the same again in the state PDP.
The governorship primary election is now likely to be keenly contested since all the political actors have abandoned the shadow boxing to confront one another. Dickson has shown no sign of scaling down his campaign but rather has invigorated it with Chief Fred Agbedi, the former party chairman of the state PDP and a highly principled man leading the campaign as its Director- General. The flag-off of his campaign has been scheduled for Monday, November 7, 2011. The Dickson camp who had never underrated Sylva had been embolden from his latest travails, knowing that Sylva can be beaten in his game with proper coordination and dedication.
Dickson, mindful of the powerful role of the NGF has warned them to steer clear of the politics of Bayelsa state by mounting pressure on Jonathan because of Sylva.
His words: 'They are busy putting pressure on Mr President. Let us leave him out of Bayelsa politics; it is either the governors are talking or the National Assembly talking. We should be careful not to shut down the national government. Distracting him with local politics, when he is saddled with national responsibilities doesn't augur well enough'.
Loyalists of Sylva are already in very high mood over feelers coming from Abuja that Sylva has not been disqualified. The loyalists who have been encouraged by the governor himself have continued to hold on to their supporters by reassuring them that Sylva is still in the race before they switch camps. Sources close to the Sylva camp said they have learnt their lesson and it would be what would guide them if they contest the primary election.
Options of War
With the way those angling to dislodge Sylva have conducted their politics and the reaction of the Sylva's camp, there is a very slim chance that they can hardly come together to work for a common good. This, according to watchers of Bayelsa politics has polarized the party into two extreme positions and the consequences after the PDP primary election could be disastrous.
Though Sylva has vehemently maintained that as a founding member of the PDP, he wishes to remain a PDP member to contest election as governor on its platform, the possibility of moving to another party to contest if he is illegally excluded or deliberately schemed out in the primary cannot be ruled out. It is believed that as the incumbent governor with his political structure, he would be able to pull weight in the governorship race and thrash the PDP.
On the other hand, the opposition led by Dickson, if they lose at the primary election, are not likely to join hands with the winner but rather team up with opponents of the PDP to disgrace it to prove a point by shoving Sylva out of the contest.