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Relieved Of Corruption Incubus, Sylva Contends With Violence Stigma




IN the build up to the December 5, 2015 Bayelsa State governorship election, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Timipre Sylva, had two prominent allegations to contend with. The pending corruption case in the Federal High Court, Abuja brought on by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), was a burden which the rival Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), readily pointed to, to deride the Sylva candidacy. Some watchers of the Bayelsa politics hinted that the mass defection of supporters of the former managing director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Ndutimi Alaibe, from PDP to APC was prompted by the belief that their principal instead of Sylva would clinch the party’s governorship ticket. As was obvious, Alaibe’s supporters and some APC chieftain believed that the corruption incubus on Sylva’s shoulders could weigh him to eventual defeat by the PDP incumbent. They therefore trooped to APC with optimism buoyed by the expectation that only Sylva could stand between Alaibe and APC governorship coupon. In the Bayelsa people’s perception index, next to the corruption allegation, Sylva bears the notional label of being a violent political leader.

But last Thursday, Justice Adeniyi Ademola lightened Sylva’s burden when the Court struck out the EFCC charge against him. Though the 50-count charge, which EFCC framed itemizing the stealing of N19.2b against the former Bayelsa governor sounded ludicrous, many people evaluated Sylva with suspicion of guilt. However, when the matter came up at the FHC, Abuja; the presiding judge dismissed the case in the belief that apart from being an abuse of court process, the case simulated political persecution by his detractors. Justice Ademola further observed that the charges had been dismissed by two federal high courts, and held that the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the criminal charges. To the relief of the APC governorship candidate in Saturday’s election, the Abuja High Court described the case as a regurgitation of a settled matter pointing out that the charges, though 50 in number added up to one single item. The journey to making Sylva grieve over the EFCC charges started shortly after Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court dismissed the 42-count charge brought by the EFCC against Sylva. The anti-graft agency used the recess to amend the charge by elongating it to a round figure of 50 aspects of stealing.

And having removed his neck from the EFCC harness, the APC candidate is now left with the accusation of promoting and using violence to achieve political ends in the state. During the pre-election debate in Yenagoa, the candidates spoke on what they plan to do if elected. Sylva alongside other candidates was made to sign undertaking against violence. As he declaimed on violence, he said he never believed in violence nor ever trained political thugs, alleging however, that he received information that thousands of thugs had invaded his community merely because a “certain political party” planned to hold a rally there. Perhaps on account of how he repudiated violence more than the words he chose to deliver his assurances, the fear of possible outbreak of violence still hangs in the air. Six days from now it would be seen how much Bayelsa politicians and their supporters have learnt from the Kogi preliminary election where voting in 91 polling units were nullified.

With the incumbent running on his performance, Bayelsa presents similar scenario as Kogi where voters characterized the choice before them as that between Ebola and HIV/AIDS. Bayelsans may ultimately choose a lesser evil. Would they overlook the taunt of violence against Sylva or line behind Dickson grudgingly for the love of kin?

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