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X-raying Sylva's re-election bid and his loads of promises


Chief Timipre Sylva is one of the 36 governors who are seeking re-election in April. With a about eight weeks away from the ballot, many stakeholders in Bayelsa and the Diaspora have a faint picture of what he stands for, what has done within the last four years and what he intends to do, if per happenstance he gets another mandate.



  A friend of the governor says Chief Sylva is nice man. He is charismatic, handsome, an orator in the mould of Obama and means well for Bayelsa. But he also added that Sylva is surprised that Bayelsans believe what he promises when in actual fact, he does not believe that he can deliver on his political promises. In his praise of Timipre Sylva, his friend continued with a touch of finality that the man suffers from what Americans call T-MIS. What is T-MIS, this reporter queried? Well, T-MIS, my friend said, is 'Too Many Ideas Syndrome'.



  Give Sylva a chance to speak to the people for a few minutes and he will attempt to convince them that he hopes to truly turn Bayelsa into an Eldorado. But the truth is that he is inflicted with too-many-ideas-syndrome with no known cure worldwide. Non implementation of multifarious projects in the last four years has become his undoing in government. This is because Sylva, with a policy detached and separate from yearnings and interest of Bayelsans, has an assemblage of parasites and plunderers in government. And with a body of men, holding themselves accountable to nobody, anything can happen in the state, if the electorate makes the grievous mistake of casting votes for a drowning governor, apologies to Chief Timi Alaibe, who is waiting in the wings to take over from the man who has put a pin thorugh his own political balloon.


  After four years in the saddle, Sylva now poses a disturbing threat to the development of Bayelsa. To make the point crystal, let us penetrate the fog of time and obliquity to see the damage Sylva has done in Bayelsa, so that the story would not sound like tales by moonlight.


  After inauguration day in 2007, Sylva wasted no time in swinging into his destructive action. He sent bulldozers to work at Azikoro road, Ekeki Yenagoa in the name of expansion. Houses and stores were destroyed but since it was done for the good of the people, the affected traders and landlords held their breath and waited for compensation from government. But till this day, the people are expecting reparation and waiting on the governor to come back to his senses and re-construct the road. Why destroy, when you can't rebuild! There were more surprises up the sleeves of the governor.


  Not long after that, the governor said he would create a central business district in Yenagoa. It was a bright idea but implementation is still glued to the starting block, after over N5 billion naira has gone down the drain for clearing and land preparation. In the same vein, the governor promised to construct 7,000 housing units at Ekeki Housing Estate, Phase II. His uncle's firm, Gefesco International Limited, was awarded N3billion contract for the clearing of the site. The job was haphazardly done and after one year, there was another round of clearing and money was paid out again. It has become a perennial contract for swelling the bank account of the company.



  Sylva told Bayelsans, time and again, that education remains a cardinal point in his administration's policy. He promised to build model secondary schools in all the senatorial districts in the State. Parents who have primed their children to benefit from Sylva's illusionary dreams have waited in vain. The teachers and staff of the Bayelsa State College of Arts and Science have been on forced vacation for almost three years. Although their monthly emoluments are paid by government, an idle mind is the devils workshop. He told the bewildered staff of the school that we do not need a remedial school in a disadvantage state like ours. Instead, to boost the profile of his community, Sylva created a college of education two years ago which is yet to take off. What a colossal waste and a scroll of unfulfilled promises.



  Not tired of betraying his word, Sylva said he was going to turn Epie Creek into a fish farm and approved N3.5billion to consultants for the project. He said Bayelsa would produce 5million table fish for Nigeria . The commissioner of Agriculture who has razor-dazzle zeal to pursue unsound ideas seized the opportunity to enrich himself and the governor's cronies. A whooping N7billion went down the drain. Not done, the governor went ahead and established a spurious N1.5 billion fish farm in front of the Okaka Housing Estate. That place would best have served as a recreation centre for residents and children in the estate. The fish farm is now sanctuary for frogs and other reptiles.



  Looking at the unfulfilled promised, Sylva led government would submit itself to history as a do-nothing government, if doing something means continuing that programme of deceit and corrupt that has dominated Bayelsa in the last four years. Or how else do we explain the Musa Yar'Adua Cargo Airport project. One of my brothers sarcastically said that the proposed airport is an amphibious one. During the rainy season, the flood water almost gets close to the East West road and commuters say they intend to advise Timipre Sylva to turn the project to a sea port. In the dry sea, it can become a cargo airport, if it pleases the idiosyncrasies of the loud mouthed governor. A government spokesman said only N10billion has been spent on this elephant project. No wonder Mr. Mike Igini, resident electoral commissioner for Cross Rivers State once described Bayelsa as a failed state.



  Some of the un-accomplished projects include suspension bridge, the rail link to Port Harcourt , the super tunnel at Epie Creek, Bayelsa Oil Palm project, Riverine Transport Services, the Yenagoa Marina, the notorious 53 inner roads, the 500 bed hospital, the Rice project, the Fishing Trawler and Company, oh gosh, I have lot count.



  Let us bestow some thoughts on the inner roads' project in Yenagoa. When President Goodluck Jonathan visited Plateau State , last year, he commissioned three roads projects completed by Governor Jonah Jang, in spite of the lean resources of the state. The first road project inaugurated was 26 kilometres, the second 56 and the last 35 kilometres. Roads construction anywhere is calculated in kilometres to be able to ascertain the amount it has gulped. The government should tell Bayelsans how many kilometres of inner roads has the Sylva led-administration built? All put together, the so-called 53 roads is not up to 36 kilometres. How much has been spent, nobody knows but there is a lot of noise about these roads. How many new roads do we have elsewhere apart from Yenagoa? Where are the senatorial roads he promised? What a shame!



  Bayelsans are acutely aware that Timipre Sylva has dozens of unaccounted bank loans linked to spurious projects. As we move towards the election, the governor is haunted by two ghosts, first corruption and second, failed electoral promises. As an incumbent, he was expected to have advantage over other candidates. However, because of his dismal performance, he has electoral inferiority complex and become a prisoner of his own political illusions in an era of one man, one vote.


  With the sharpness of the frustration of the electorate, the people of Bayelsa are ready to dump the PDP and vote for a more credible candidate; an alternative to drift of Sylva-led administration which is heading to it own distorted wonderland.                                                                                                      

Fungeowei Bekes is a political analyst in Yenagoa    

Your Comment

Idumange John | 2/13/2011 11:00:00 AM
The author of this article sounds like a paid agent gobbeling for a candidate in Bayelsa State. All parties except the PDP has structures to win elections. The LP candidate has snuffed out many vibrant organizations; Banks, parastatals including the NDDC and the mismanagement of the Amnesty programme. He used public office to accumulate wealth for himself and nothing else.
Idumange John | 2/13/2011 11:03:00 AM
Idumange John is a University Lecturer, an Activist and a commentator on national issues. Our correspondent met him in the Faculty of Education, Niger Delta University, Bayelsa State and in his usual blunt and vociferous manner, the University Don bared his mind on politics in Bayelsa State and other contemporary national issues. Our correspondent in Port Harcourt Ms. Clarice Azu caught up with him on her trip to cover the fund raising ceremony at the Federal University, Otuoke
Question 1: Sir, the April Polls are by the corner and the voters' registration exercise has come and gone. Similarly the various political parties have submitted names of their candidates. How would you rate the voters' registration exercise?
Answer: Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the voters' registration. Frankly, In can describe the exercise as a tragic-comedy in the sense that the exercise started with stories about missing or stolen Direct Data Capture Machines (DDCM), insufficient time for the exercise, which culminated in the extension of the period, inadequacy of Staff and lack of expertise on the part of electoral officials. However, I can say with all certainty that the exercise ended well. Those who could not register were accommodated by the one-week extension. In all modesty, I score the exercise 70% baring all the hiccups and challenges that faced the exercise.

Question 2: President Goodluck Jonathan is the sitting president and the flag-bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He is also an indigene of Bayelsa State. In your opinion, what does his candidacy mean to the people of Bayelsa State?
Answer: Yes, I expected this question. Since 2005, I had advocated the moral and political imperatives of a South-South President. First, from 1960 till date, the South-South has always supported the other parts of the country. Secondly, the Niger Delta Region, NDR, produces more than 90% of Nigeria's foreign exchange. This implies that without the NDR, there would have been no reasonable development in Nigeria. Thirdly, the NDR has been grossly marginalized, over-exploited and under-developed. In the curious arithmetic of geo-political balance of power, the South has suffered horrendous disadvantage. The Region is marginalized into revenue allocation among the three tiers of government. There is also the of issue revenue allocation, which is based on criteria that promote a skewed fiscal federalism. The creation of States and local government areas has also followed the same trend, and in spite of the federal character principle key government appointments and distribution of federal projects has also followed that crude logic. What the South-South is saying as a political bloc is that it should be given a shot at the Presidency. Now that nature has thrown up President Goodluck Jonathan, let the other sections of Nigeria rally round him. His Presidency is will determine the stability of this country. The presidency is not all about Jonathan; it's all about paying back a people who have suffered 50 years of marginalization and near ecological annihilation.
Question 3: Since May 1999, Bayelsa State has been ruled by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Presently, newspaper reports have it that there are three political parties that are challenging the PDP. By your estimation, do these parties stand a chance?
Answer: My brother, you are aware that in transitional democracies, we have not imbibed the concept of opposition. The presence of a virile opposition is a sign that democracy is healthy. With specific reference to Bayelsa State, the politicians cannot even come together to form any opposition party. The PDP is the ruling Party and only the PDP has well established party structure and machinery to win elections – that is if the elections are free and fair. What we call opposition party is made up of PDP members who for one reason or another have decamped to other Parties to seek political office. Take for example, the so called Labour Party (LP), members were until recently active members of the PDP. Some of them left PDP because they never got the ticket, others left because they want to take power by force. I an earlier article, I had described the LP members in Bayelsa State as people belonging to the colony of the disillusioned, victims of political delusion and people who seek power without scant ideological underpinning. I believe that the sole aim of the LP in Bayelsa State is to scatter the votes meant for Mr. President in the PDP. The target is not the Governor because the LP does not even have a campaign office in Yenagoa, and in a free and fair contest, the LP flag-bearer lacks the transparency, sense of public morality and strength of character that befits such a high calling. I worked in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC for two years and It was the gale of fraud in that place under the man that led to the near collapse of the Commission. A man who could prepare a Master Plan of 257 pages at the cost of N45 billion cannot manage a State like Bayelsa State. The State is budgeting only N161 billion in the 2011 fiscal year; real prudence is required to see the State through. Of course, his grubby record in public offices in the past is there for everybody to see. Even Mr. President is aware of this high wire gamble. On the contrary it is the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, that has maintained some presence in the State but the ACN itself has no candidate viable and visionary enough to challenge the incumbent Governor.
Question 4: As a follow-up, it is noticeable that among the political parties, the Labour Party flag-bearer appears to be the most formidable opponent to the incumbent Governor. How far do you think the Labour party can go?
Answer: In 2003, I was administrative Secretary to his Campaign Organization. He was popular then and Bayelsans needed a change, but as we inched towards the decisive moment, he chickened out, betrayed all his followers and settled for the post of MD of NDDC. Now, the same Timi Alaibe has come again. He left all of us high and dry and pursued a solo interest. No right thinking Bayelsan will believe him this time around. We were all duped by Alaibe, some of his followers even died in the process. This is why I maintain that he does not have the mien, strength of character and transparency to lead; he could be a manager though. Yes, quote me any day any time. Timi Alaibe the LP flag-bearer has never won any elective position in his life; and the Party lacks the requisite infrastructure to win a free and fair election even in his ward. When a political party cannot win elections, it resorts to agberocratic tactic, name calling and smear campaign. A group of self-seeking opportunists and conflict entrepreneurs cannot be called political opposition. What we Bayelsan are saying is that he should tell us what his manifesto is and how he will go about implementing it. Providing leadership for a State is more complex than managing a development agency. And I think that a man who cannot manage a development agency cannot manage anything else. I even rate the ACN better than the LP in terms of organization and issue-based campaign. For me, Alaibe is only demonstrating his disloyalty to President Goodluck Jonathan – the same way he did when Jonathan was Governor of Bayelsa State
Question 5: The incumbent Governor Chief Timipre Sylva is contesting for a second term. In your candid opinion, do you think he deserves a second term in office?
Answer: I am not a politician, I am a University teacher. With all modesty, Governor Timipre Sylva should be given a second term. He has demonstrated unparalleled zeal and commitment in the development of Bayelsa State. He weathered the storm that was militancy. He has completed almost all projects he inherited. Under his administration, he has masterfully sustained the foreign scholarship scheme introduced by your predecessors and aggressively pursued human capital development. Through his visionary leadership, Bayelsa can now boast of Federal presence such as the Bayelsa Campus of the Nigerian Law School; the Federal Government Polytechnic, Ekeowei; the Federal University in Otuoke and the Headquarters of the Nigerian Local Content Board, the Bayelsa State College of Education in Okpoama. In terms of physical infrastructure, the construction of 51 internal roads; the multibillion naira Peace Park, the building of the New Commissioners Quarters as well as the New House of Assembly Quarters including the completion the New Government House Lodge – which is second to none in Nigeria. In the rural areas, some quiet revolution is also taking place.

Question 6: Finally, Sir, sometime ago, you were critical of some of the policies of government. What policy shifts would you want Governor Timipre Sylva to address during his second term in office?

Answer: I should like the Governor to focus on the Senatorial District roads because of the enormous windows of investment opportunities it would confer on the State. The Due Process Bureau should be re-organized. Premium should be given to agriculture and industrialization. There is so much going on in the State which people are not aware of. Therefore, he should also re-organize his information dissemination machinery. For Bayelsa State to make a quantum leap, the Sylva administration should bring on board more technocrats than politicians in his Cabinet. Prior to his administration, there was a kind of “business as usual scenario” a situation where governmental structures and institutions were almost absent. I personally give him kudos for introducing a regime of accountability and transparency as demonstrated in the passage into law of the - the Public Procurement Law and Fiscal Responsibility Law and the Fiscal Responsibility Law.
Whereas the “Ghost Worker Syndrome” has been cast out, the bottom-top budgetary paradigm has been entrenched. MDAs' now keep their spending within projected limits this is good for the State. Colossal strides are being taken to implement financial sector reforms. There may be hiccups here and there but the administration has focus and the helmsman is determined to succeed. It is on account of this push for transparency that has made it possible for the State to partner United States of America working through USAID, the World Bank and other international consortia to open windows of investment for global players in the State. These partnerships shall yield maximum benefits in his second term. In our University, he has increased the level of funding and this can be seen in the accreditation of new courses. As a teacher, I identify with his second tenure bid and pray that he emerges victorious to consolidate on what he has started. I wish him all the best.

Thank you, Sir, for this opportunity to speak with you.
It is my pleasure and I look forward to this kind of stimulating interaction anytime it pleases you so to do.