The Bayelsa governorship election has been lost and worn. Timi Sylva, former governor and APC’s candidate lost the election. He is a ranking member of the ruling APC. EMMA ALOZIE looks at what could be his next steps after losing an election he thought he could have won
If there was a man who was sure of winning the just concluded Bayelsa governorship election, it was Chief Timipre Sylva, former governor of the state and the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
He was so confident of winning the election that he told every listening ear that the incumbency factor would not stop his victory. He was so confident that he boasted that Governor Seriake Dickson was jittery and panicky going into that election.
But reality is different from exuding pre-election confidence. Though he has vowed to challenge the outcome of the election in court, two factors especially were responsible for the degree of confidence the former governor exuded while going into that election.
One is that in the build up to the election, the gale of defections favoured the APC. The moment the PDP lost the election at the centre, things changed. The tilt was to the APC and this saw hitherto PDP bigwigs jumping ship to the APC. In fact, it was a harvest of defections for the APC and this in the mind of Chief Sylva would translate into electoral victory.
Another major factor that boosted his morale was the change of power at the centre. In Nigeria’s political parlance, there is what is known as federal might. With APC controlling the powers at the centre, the former governor banked so much on the fabled federal might. He played major role in bringing President Buhari to power and hoped to leverage on this to unseat PDP’s incumbent Seriake Dickson.
While these factors were supposed to work in his favour, there are also few factors that ensured that his ambition is thwarted. The most prominent of the factors is the Jonathan factor. A former president, who is widely seen as the hero of Nigeria’s modern democracy for the role he played in bringing the 2015 general elections to an unexpected peaceful end, Goodluck Jonathan was always going to tilt the state’s election victory to whomever he endorsed.
There were snippets of rumours and hearsays that he was not going to support Dickson’s ambition because of an alleged clash between his wife, Dame Patience Jonathan and the governor. However, when the chips were down, he supported Dickson. This perhaps more than anything else strengthened the governor’s support base.
Also, with the APC denying one of their own continuity in office as president, it would have been a novel political miracle for the same Bayelsans who felt aggrieved about the loss of their son to APC to also vote for that party.
Another school of thought strongly believes that the APC fielded the wrong candidate in the election. Timi Frank, APC’s deputy publicity secretary, who is from Bayelsa never minced words when he declared then that with Sylva holding the party’s ticket, the party was as good as having lost the election.
Prior to the nomination of candidates for the election by individual political parties, there were indications that Sylva was not going to run for the election, rather help the APC to choose an acceptable candidate who could win the election for the party. However, soon after paying a courtesy call to Tinubu’s Abuja home, he changed his mind and joined the fray.
This perhaps explained why many APC hopefuls prior to Sylva’s entry into the fray bought their nominations and once Sylva joined the queue, they withdrew from entering into the primaries and this was a huge political undoing of the party in the state.
Tinubu urged him on and directed Bayelsans in APC to back Sylva’s ambition. “I want him to contest the governorship election because of his proven leadership qualities and our belief that he can bring change to the state. It is time for Bayelsans to unite and support a person who can effectively enhance unity, provide opportunities for all and lead the people in a different direction. If you want change, if you’re unhappy with the direction of Bayelsa State, then you must join the governorship race and change the state for the people,” Tinubu said.
Tinubu’s open endorsement of a candidate in Bayelsa was bad market as they usually say in local parlance.
However, with the outcome of the election not in his favour, the question on the lips of both his supporters and opponents alike is, what next for the former governor? The ruling APC has finished sharing all the election victory booties befitting of a former governor. Where then does Sylva fit in, given the fact of the major roles he played in enthroning this government?
The answer may not be an easy one to answer, especially with a rumoured power struggle between him and minister of transport, Rotimi Amaechi on where the political leadership of the volatile Niger Delta region lies. The former Rivers governor has grabbed a plum ministry; transport. He has equally installed his crony as the boss of the juicy Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, which is an indication that the power equation in the region is gradually taking root. And this scenario in the estimation of observers has continued to keep Sylva away from the APC power blocs in Abuja.
With no juicy ministry or parastatal under his control, it is difficult to maintain and service a political structure for a long time. What then are Sylva’s best options? As it stands now, his options are scanty save for the fact that he has the ears of the president. On so many occasions, the President has expressed confidence in him. Therefore, the power to fix him or throw a political lifejacket to him now lies in the hands of the president.
Also those who have ears on the ground say he is close to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, DB Lawal, another loyalist of the president. With all these people in the corridors of power close to him, it is likely that they may not abandon him in the political wilderness for a long time.
Similarly, 2019 is also not too far away from here and with age still on his side, he can still realise his dreams of a second missionary journey at the Bayelsa Government House. But a month in politics is too long, let alone four years.