How Sylva’s choice threatens APC’s chances of wresting power in Bayelsa
• Members Rank Divided After Controversial Primary Election
• ‘Lyon Remains Only Figure That Could Unseat PDP’
The immediate past Minister of State, Petroleum Resources and former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Timipre Sylva recently emerged as the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate for the November 11, 2023 elections at the just concluded controversial primaries. But his emergence might be the last straw to break or mar the party if feelers are anything to go by.
While many party members were expecting that the primary election for the November 11 Bayelsa State governorship poll conducted on April 14 and 15 would be used to calm frayed nerves, the exercise and its outcome are generating ripples and anger in the party.
Sequel to the primaries, the party in the state was in crisis and divided into two factions with two head offices in Yenagoa, the state capital. While one faction is headed by a former Senator and former Minister, Heineken Lokpobiri, the other faction, which seems to be recognised by the party headquarters in Abuja, is solely controlled by the new governorship candidate, Sylva.
The former Governor has not only installed all the executives of the party and decided who runs for political positions in the state, his actions have left many of the party members disenchanted, including other big wigs in the party.
The recent primaries, which produced him as candidate for the Bayelsa State governorship election, is not different from the one that took place four years that produced Chief David Lyon, and it is tearing the party apart. Again, the effect may cost the party the chance to produce the next governor of the state.
Already, the party candidates had all lost the National Assembly seats including that of the Senate and House of Representatives to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the just concluded general election in the state, while they could only muster five seats in the 24-member state House of Assembly with the PDP getting 17 seats.
Chief David Lyon, who had won the majority votes in the last gubernatorial poll in the state by defeating the incumbent governor of the state, Douye Diri, by a wide margin before he was stopped at the Supreme court over certificate issues of his Deputy, is one of those aggrieved by the outcome of the primary.Both Lyon and another aspirant, Festus Daumiebi, rejected the outcome of the election in which the former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, emerged as the governorship candidate of the party. They claimed that the exercise was pre-determined to favour Sylva.
But other aspirants who also contested the party’s ticket, a former militant leader, Joshua Maciver and Prof Ongoebi Etebu, however, applauded the outcome.
Lyon, while rejecting the exercise, described it as disgusting and resentful. He argued that the primary election was not conducted in the 105 wards of the state, insisting that the declaration of the result was fraudulent.
He said, “I want to maintain that people waited from morning till night on the day of the election and there was no distribution of election materials, neither was there any presence of election officials.
“In particular, I waited in my Olugbobiri ward of Olodiama II Ward 4 from 8am till 8pm, to no avail. I am saddened to learn of a fraudulent declaration of a result emanating from that exercise. It is both irresponsible and criminal and must be condemned in its entirety.
“I call on the National Working Committee and indeed the National Executive Committee of our party to reject the results as declared by the primary election committee and sanction the promoters of such devilish and irresponsible act.”
Daumiebi, a lawyer, in a statement he issued in Yenagoa, demanded that the exercise should be cancelled. He claimed that the election did not hold in the various wards and that party officials who should have conducted the exercise did not turn up, and electoral materials were not also available for the voters who waited in vain throughout the day.
He said, “Notice is hereby given to the general public, particularly the APC in Bayelsa State and the National Executive Council that, I, Festus Daumiebi, a governorship aspirant of the APC, do reject in its entirety what was announced as the result of the party primary election.
“Let it be known that on Friday, April 14, 2023, some card-carrying members of the All Progressives Congress turned out at various wards to cast their vote in what was promised to be a free, fair and credible primary election. They waited all day but, sadly, there was no election in the wards across the state as officials of the party, who were sent to conduct the election, failed to turn up, and neither were there electoral materials seen in the said wards.
“In selected places, they tried to pass off a simulation of an election, the process was undermined, marred by irregularities and heavily compromised. Party officials failed to abide by the party guidelines and agreed processes. Upon reaching the party secretariat on Saturday, April 15, I was shocked to observe that ‘heavy numbers’ have been concocted for their preferred aspirant and then a return was made in the open as programmed.”
While urging his supporters to remain calm, the governorship aspirant said he would challenge the outcome of the primary legally.
The declaration of Sylva by the APC primary election committee for Bayelsa, which was headed by Maj. Gen. Ahmed Jibrin (retd.), and DCP Adejoh Seer (retd.) as secretary, is not going down well with many in the party and across the state.
Prior to the election, many were rooting for Chief David Lyon, a philanthropist and a popular choice of the people across all divide and who many believe could give the incumbent governor a run for his money come November 11.
They argued that Sylva, having been a former Governor and Minister, should have allowed Lyon to try to reclaim his mandate after he was denied the last time out by the Supreme Court in controversial circumstances. They also contended that Sylva was fast losing his popularity in the state and that it is only through a David Lyon ticket that the APC could wrestle power from the grip of the PDP, which has been in power since 1999, when democracy was restored to Nigeria.
Unless something extraordinary happens, the emergence of Sylva and the ripples being created by his declaration may lead to an implosion and hand Governor Diri a boost to coast to victory for a second term in office.
A cross section of residents of Bayelsa State drawn from the three senatorial districts who bared their minds after the APC primaries, said they would vote Governor Diri for a second term in office.
Speaking on the qualities needed by those aspiring to be Governor in the November 11 governorship election in the state, they said they have decided to vote for sustenance, peace and development.
Mrs. Tari Sesei, from Nembe local council area, said the peaceful nature of the incumbent governor has endeared him to a lot of the people.
“That’s the only way we can achieve progress. We must allow this peaceful situation to continue. Today, Douye Diri is the best for us. We will not make that mistake of bringing people known with violence to power. We will defend our votes. We hear Sylva is bringing money to buy us. Where was he in the past three years? We want development and not brigandage. Sylva’s past is hunting him. We know all the candidates; Douye Diri is best for us today. See all the new infrastructure, empowerment, skills acquisition and sports sector that is engaging our young ones,” Mrs. Sesei said.
Another resident of Yenagoa, Mr. Obinna Izuchukwu, said most non-indigenes who live and do business in the State are speaking well of the present administration in many aspects.
He said: “We are in the streets; we hear what our people are saying. This is Douye Diri’s time; we will support him to complete the good work for continuity and consolidation. He has tried for the people with those roads he is doing to open up many riverine villages.”
While many listed issues of continuity, security and infrastructure development as basic needs of the people, others expressed the confidence that they will vote for credibility and progress in the state during the election.
Most residents who spoke to our correspondents in Yenagoa, said despite the noticeable challenges witnessed during the last elections, the introduction of BVAS and electronic transmission of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have redefined the electoral system.
According to Elder Ebiye Accra, who hails from Ekeremor Local Council, most Bayelsans including the business owners and civil servants have resolved to vote for sustenance of peace and development being championed by incumbent Governor, Douye Diri, in the State.
“We have not witnessed a situation like this in Bayelsa State where in a major election, not a single life was lost; no security threats, kudos to the incumbent government.
“The Governor, Douye Diri, has won the heart of civil servants. That’s for a fact. I get to hear different testimonies from neighbours and other citizens,” Accra stated.
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