By Nna Frank-Jack
Sir Winston Church-hill was right, when he said “the truth is incontrovertible, panic may resent it, ignorance may deride it, and malice may distort it, but there it is”
At a time like this, when Gov. Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State is seeking re-election, it is to be expected that critics and the so called opposition would be poised to play the spoiler. The most important strategies are rather predictable: “What has the governor done to deserve re-election?” He has foreign bank accounts, and owns a conglomerate of companies and business concerns.
It is very easy to be a critic. Also when you crave relevance, simply pitch tent with the opposition as a critic, you can be assured of being treated as a celebrity. “What is the government doing?”, “Does this governor expect us to endure this rubbish?” are some of the catch phrases you must learn how to deploy once you set out to be a critic.
I do not see them changing strategy at this stage. For the critics of Sylva, the measure of achievement is confined to a discourse on physical structures and public infrastructure. How many roads have been built by the Sylva administration? How many new schools built and old ones renovated? Are there massive bridges being constructed? How many transformers have been procured and distributed to communities? What of industries?
It is no wonder that so much money and fun fare accompany the commissioning of projects by our chief executives. And some of them have indeed elevated the weird practice to the level of the obscene, such that they are on live television to celebrate so called “Festival of Projects” every other week.
But the Sylva administration has made the state more united, peaceful and irrevocably hoisted on progress and development. It is the same reason for which Sylva seems to have triumphed above his traducers.
Indeed, one must ask why the governor has consistently returned victorious, even when all odds are staked against him. Why is the opposition unable to displace him even after enlisting conspiracies at the highest level?
It is appropriate at this stage to recall that Sylva took over the reins of administration in 2007 against the backdrop of insecurity and threat to lives and property, particularly in Yenagoa, the state capital and the creeks. Armed robbery, hostage taking, and attack on oil installations were the order of the day.
The Niger Delta was a hotbed of crisis, with Bayelsa State as a major flashpoint. Although the crisis which started in the creeks was originally designed for economic emancipation and environmental justice, it snowballed into intense militancy. It manifested in the form of illegal oil bunkering, violation of oil facilities, kidnapping for ransom and other glaring acts of criminality which adversely affected the Internally Generated Revenue of Bayelsa.
The insecurity in the State was heightened by the proliferation of lethal weaponry and gun running characterized by pervasive criminality among the angry youths.
In Bayelsa State, the deployment of federal troops led to the destruction of many communities. Virtually all communities tasted the bitter pills of military invasion, destruction and siege.
He discovered that the upsurge of militancy is a by-product of marginalization and youth unemployment.
And accordingly went to work by putting in place the institutional framework and strategy for conflict resolution and peace building. Four major steps were taken in this direction.
On December 6, 2007, Sylva signed a Peace Accord with all armed militants to the effect that there should be cessation of hostilities. Hence, December 6th of every year was declared as Peace Day in Bayelsa State. The Sylva administration decided to take this bold initiative in recognition of the fact that without peace, there can hardly be development in any modern society.
He established the Peace and Conflict Resolution Committee, with Chief James Jephthah as Chairman. Chief Jephthah met with nineteen ex-militant leaders and persuaded them to renounce the pressure from politicians to provoke conflict in the State. Accordingly, the Committee promised that ex-militants will be recognised and accorded their respect as partners in the peaceful journey if only they renounced violence. It is against this background that Governor Timipre Sylva is described as the principal architect of the amnesty programme even before the Federal government embraced it.
Little wonder that, when the Federal Government established the Niger Delta Peace and Conflict Resolution Committee headed by former Senator Brigidi, the Jephthah Committee worked hand-in-hand with the national Chairman of the Committee. The Committee embarked on a tour of militants’ camps in the creeks to parley with them on the need to give peace a chance. The Committee also embarked on massive awareness campaign and won over many militants to embrace peace.
Conscious of people’s expectations, the governor promptly inaugurated the famu tangbei- a Security outfit to police criminality. For operational efficiency, government donated a fleet of 20 Toyota Hilux vehicles to the Bayelsa State police Command as well as 20 speedboats to the security outfit to protect lives and property in the waterways. So far, the security outfit has lived up to expectation.
This saw a drastic reduction in militancy and crime to the barest minimum, following this up by advocating that the Federal Government should offer amnesty to the aggrieved youths in the creeks as a way of restoring total peace in the Niger Delta.
Regrettably, envy from the high echelon disbanded it. The mastermind also ensured the shake up in the state police command, leading to a sad question “why must we play politics with human lives and security.
The initiative of the government in providing street lights has further cut down crime. Whereas kidnapping, robbery, car snatching and political assassinations are rampant in neighbouring states, the reverse is the case in Bayelsa. Yenagoa in particular has witnessed unusual influx of migrants as direct consequence.
Perhaps of greater significance is that students in tertiary institutions also enjoy enhanced bursary, while first class graduates are giving a scholarship to pursue their masters and doctorate programmes in any part of the world, thus engendering excellence among the youths.
Today, as politics heats up, the most noise is coming from those expecting the governor to out rightly “share the money”, which he has bluntly turned down. Bayelsans themselves may be at the forefront of Sylva’s re-election.
The sordid eyesore unfolding in the Bayelsa gubernatorial politics tells the story of desperados in a last dance to loot the treasury. And pitifully, the parties and personalities featured in the political carnage hide their faces in the sand of greed and selfishness. They reside majorly in Abuja.
The operators and leaders of the PDP have made no secret of it as one of the South West leaders of the party stated that the PDP is ‘fixing’ to teach the governor of Bayelsa State a lesson he will never forget. He was quoted in the National Tribune Newspaper. That means the PDP has become a quandary against the tenets upon which democracy rests upon ethics and morals of fairness, openness and true transparency of a democratic system.
Thus far there has been no convincing reason for the so-called National PDP to deny the Governor of Bayelsa, Timipre Sylva the chance to contest in the PDP primaries against the upcoming gubernatorial elections slated for 2012 in Bayelsa. Instead, what the PDP has found themselves engaging is playing the dirty good old game the way it played during the dark horrid days of the Obasanjo regime when the PDP w as a despotic body that crushed and elevated people’s careers and lives as Obasanjo deemed fit. An ugly past that INEC boss, Prof Attahiru Jega has come to clean.
In Adamawa State where a similar gubernatorial election is scheduled to hold in 2012. Gov. Nyako was not only cleared to participate in the PDP primaries, his opponents were actively encouraged to drop their gubernatorial aspirations for the governor. The same appears the case in Kogi State. The chosen candidate of the Governor of Kogi State was given a near automatic ticket for the gubernatorial contest of 2012.
The questions become why the disparity in Bayelsa State? Why the interference? Could it be that the Presidency might have a hand in the ongoing maladies showcased by the fledgling PDP? Is President Jonathan really involved? Why would President want to deny Gov Timipre Sylva the PDP ticket? What does Jonathan have against Sylva?
The peculiarities surrounding the coming of President Jonathan into the public terrain owes plenty to the mercy and grace of justice and equity and the embracing arms and hopes of the down pressed boosted by the spirit of a silent revolution of an oppressed majority. It is not farfetched expecting for him to understand the tenets of equity and justice for all regardless of personal feelings or experience.
A cogent advice for President Jonathan would be for him to unclog the wheels of democracy and allow the process of fairness and equity to proceed without further interference. To do less is to prove a hypocrite.
To deny Sylva the chance to contest is undemocratic. The PDP and Jonathan must understand this.
It may have been perceived that Chief Sylva has the backing of Bayelsans and therefore the candidate to beat, hence the fear that may have driven the adversaries to plot the unfashionable.
All the allegations of fraud is sacrilegious hypocrisy. The triumph-up thoughts are not only frivolous but also a figment of the authors, who themselves are fraudulent. But, like the biblical admonition, a voice within me just asked, “who among Sylva’s accusers stands among the prophets, let him cast the first stone”.
For the avoidance of doubt, here is a list of few of the great achievements of governor Sylva.
In 1000 days, Sylva engaged in massive road constructions and bridges, and today all roads in Yenagoa are inter linked.
He constructed and commissioned the Diete-Koki Memorial Hospital, Melford Okilo Specialist Hospital among other giant strides in the health sector.
On education, Sylva has made out breaking achievements. All the courses in Niger Delta university have received accreditation. The Law School at Agudama, College of Education, Okpoma, robust bursaries to students and award of scholarships to indigent students for study overseas and the revival of primary and secondary education are some of his achievements.
In sports development, power supply, transport, housing, culture and industries among others, the administration has done very well.
What is clear in this circumstance is that ignorance and deep seated malice are resenting, deriding and distorting the obvious facts.