No Silver Lining for Sylva

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Timipre Sylva

Timipre Sylva

All hopes that Governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State will be given last-minute clearance to participate in the governorship primary of the Peoples Democratic Party holding next Saturday appear to have been finally dashed, THISDAY has learnt.

But as his chances get slimmer by the day, the embattled governor defiantly set the stage yesterday for a head-on collision with the PDP by declaring his intention to contest for a second term on the platform of the party despite his non-clearance by the party’s National Working Committee.

 

Although Sylva has enlisted the support of his governor colleagues to lobby for his clearance, a party source said last night that the security implications of allowing him to run are “adverse.”

The widely publicised “original sin” of Sylva is believed to be the allegation that he threatened to kill President Goodluck Jonathan, his wife and children if he was not given the PDP ticket, THISDAY further learnt that he was also taped threatening to disrupt oil production in the Niger Delta by importing Boko Haram militants from the north-east.

Several people had reportedly told the president that Sylva was making threats but he was said to have ignored them because there was no proof. However, a former commissioner who served under Sylva was said to have secretly taped the conversation he had with the governor and sent it to the president.

At this stage, the president invited Sylva to the Presidential Villa and confronted him with the allegation in the presence of the service chiefs and the heads of security agencies. Although Sylva was said to have initially denied the allegation, one of the security chiefs was said to have played back the tape.

Other threats allegedly made by Sylva were also played back, and he was in one instance heard threatening to cripple the country’s oil production by importing Boko Haram if he was denied the ticket.

Confronted with the evidence, THISDAY was told that Sylva went on his knees and apologised, begging the president to forgive him for his utterances and threats.

However, one of the security chiefs told him that the statements were “treasonable” and he should be prosecuted but the issue of immunity from prosecution for a sitting governor was immediately raised.

After the encounter, an aggrieved PDP member from Bayelsa State petitioned the national secretariat of the party, informing it of all the allegations against Sylva.

The party leadership, THISDAY learnt, subsequently advised Sylva not to seek re-election on the party’s platform because the security agencies were not likely to clear him.

But the Bayelsa governor was said to have insisted on running and has enlisted the support of other governors to lobby the president to prevail on the party to allow him to participate in the primary election.

Confirming the sequence of events, a presidency source told THISDAY yesterday: “Although the president has not been officially informed by the party on the decision not to allow Sylva to run, it is highly unlikely that the president will overturn the decision of the party.

“The threat to disrupt oil production at a time when we are still recovering from the effects of militancy is very unpatriotic. The president is a man of peace and has always believed in allowing things to run through the democratic process.

“But there is no way he will take kindly to a threat that could grind the economy to a halt. Although the president has not held any discussions with the party over the matter, there is no chance that he will support fielding Sylva under these circumstances.”

Last Friday, Bayelsa elders warned PDP governors to stay clear of the politics of the state.

Chairman of Bayelsa Elders and Opinion Leaders, Col. Sam Inokoba (Rtd), speaking in Abuja, warned: “The Governors Forum as a body especially the South-South Governors Forum should desist from applying undue pressure on the PDP and the president to subvert the internal democratic process of the party which is crucial to the enthronement of democracy.”

A former governor of the state, Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha, is also reportedly opposed to Sylva, citing the rising spate of political killings and cults in the state.

The opposition to his aspiration, notwithstanding, Sylva yesterday in Yenogoa, the Bayelsa state capital, declared his intention to contest in the governorship race, come February 2012.

Although the governor was not emphatic that he would be running on the party’s platform, the atmosphere at his declaration pointed in that direction.

Sylva’s declaration rally coincided with the party’s appointment of a five-man committee headed by a former House of Representatives leader, Hon. Mohammed Wakil, to chair the panel that would superintend over the election of 315 delegates expected to take place in Bayelsa State.

The Samson Siasia Sport Complex, Yenagoa, the state capital, venue of the rally, was festooned with banners and posters with PDP logos, announcing the governor’s second term bid.

His supporters and other government officials, including the deputy governor, Chief Werinipre Seibarugu, wore vests with PDP logo imprints.

“I am probably one of the few governors in Nigeria who was cleared to contest the same position twice,” he told a huge crowd of party supporters who witnessed his defiant declaration at the Samson Siasia Sport Complex, Yenagoa, the state capital.

Sylva said he was confident of victory, adding that he had the support of the people and seven out of the eight members of the National Assembly from the state, except one lawmaker, Seriake Dickson, who had “only the support of himself.”

Sylva told the gathering that he was cleared twice for the governorship race and distributed the provisional clearance certificate given him by the PDP screening committee in Port Harcourt to the crowd.

The governor said only the people of the state can and will decide who will rule the state, not some people in Abuja, an oblique reference to reports that opposition to his candidacy was from some stakeholders from the state who are based in Abuja.

“My dear Bayelsans, some years ago, you gave me your mandate to govern this state and I promised to do everything to take the state to the next level. I have done everything to keep faith with that promise. That tenure is about coming to an end.

“Today, we come before you to ask for a re-validation of that mandate and I want to state unequivocally that I seek your mandate so we can together, consolidate on the modest gains we have made in the last four-and-a-half years.

“My first four years in the state have laid a solid foundation in health care, education, infrastructure, and in the power sector. We have already become the leader in power generation in Nigeria.

“We have brought peace and a new lease of life to Bayelsa people. That is why I have the courage to stand before you to make my declaration today,” he said.

Seibarugu thanked the people for their support which has been the strength of the administration.

He said the Sylva administration signifies peace, security and development, adding that the people should continue to be steadfast.

The declaration which was held amidst tight security, witnessed solidarity speeches from members of the National Assembly led by Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, the Forum of Senior Special Assistants, led by Miss Peace-Owei Oyambo, representatives of market women, political leaders of the three senatorial districts of the state and non-indigenes resident in the state.

Armed personnel of the Nigerian Police Force and the Joint Military Task Force mounted vigilance around the venue and other strategic parts of the city to prevent a breach of the peace.

Meanwhile, ex-militant leaders and youth groups in the state yesterday warned the PDP NWC to tread carefully over the issue of Sylva’s clearance to contest the November 19 primary election of party.

 

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