As the race for the governorship seat in Bayelsa State hots up, the baggage that the deputy governorship candidate carries may end as albatross on Chief Timipre Sylva
The race for the Creek Haven Government House in Yenagoa is hotting up. With incumbent Governor, Senator Douye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former Minister of State for Petroleum Affairs, Chief Timipre Sylva of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are considered as the two formidable candidates for the most coveted seat. But recent happenings in the state has put Diri way ahead of his opponent who is having issues of opposition not only with his party, but also within his kitchen cabinet. The issues broke out into the open with his known loyalists coming out to oppose him in most devastating moves.
If it was designed to embarrassed Sylva, it was spectacularly effective and devasting. His son and political protégée, Mr. Israel Sunny-Goli, a former member of the House of Representatives had called the press to announce his verdict on the 11 November governorship election.
Sunny-Goli had told a crowded press conference that if the Bayelsa state governorship election was to hold today, Sylva will loose, and that Governor Douye Diri has proved his capability and capacity with unprecedented level of development that has taken place in the lost fours. He stressed that in the even of an election holding today Diri is mostly to take over 80 percent of the votes. It was a damning reality assessment of the political situation of the state.
The reason why the assessment was particularly damning was not only because Sunny-Goli was one of Sylva political sons, but someone who was known to face the reality of the politics in the state. He was a two-term member of the state House of Assembly and a two-term member of the Federal House of Representatives.
They say that in life, experience is the best teacher, and that we never stop learning; and that every experience we go through teaches us something new. But that not to say that every lesson learnt is of the life changing variety. But in the case of Sylva, it is.
Only in 2019, the election of Mr. David Lyon was overturned by a pronouncement of the Supreme Court because the deputy governorship candidate had issues with his names and certificate. Many people believed that the running mate to Lyon, Senator Degi, was nominated by Sylva and Sylva could not feign ignorance of the legal encumbrances against Degi. He was accused of not conducting due diligence on Degi before he was made the running mate to Lyon even when few persons saw the danger ahead and drew Sylva’s attention to the issue.
Yet, it was simply dismissed with a wave of the hand and everything was taken for granted. The Supreme Court simply nullified the election 24 hours before the swearing-in. Many of his party faithful still accused him of setting Lyon up to fail.
Today, Lyon is the biggest loser and he is still nursing the wound of having wasted his hard-earned resources in that election. Lyon has not been considered for any national appointment to comfort him.
Lightening, they say, never strikes at the same place twice, but for Sylva, the saying may not apply. The same situation seems to be repeating itself as Sylva who is the governorship candidate of the APC has in a most controversial move picked Mr. Joshua Maciver, who was accused of jailbreak as his running mate. This move, they insisted, is like setting himself to fail. A repeat of what happened to Lyon.
To most Bayelsans, Maciver was particularly remembered for his brutality against the people at the height of the militancy that rocked the Niger Delta between 1999 and 2007. This was why he was later arrested and sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment for murder.
To the people of the state, Maciver is ineligible to run for the November 11th, election going by records of his conviction and alleged jailbreak. A civil society group, Coalition for Social Justice and Equity Initiative (CSJEI) said that it has begun a process to approach the courts over the alleged ineligibility of the APC deputy governorship candidate. Lamenting that having a person of such criminal record in the highest level of government has security implication for the state and the nation.
The CSJEI contended that the risk and moral burden of such action will be too heavy for the state to bear at this most critical period of its history.
According to the Coalition, Maciver was allegedly convicted by a court of law and was sentenced to serve a 10 years jail term for murder and terrorism in a Kaduna state prison. Maciver, the group insisted, however, did not complete his sentence as he escaped from prison by allegedly pretending to be sick and needing treatment.
The group, through its Public Relations Officer, Ezra Areo, also claimed that despite being declared wanted by the Ministry of Interior and the decision of the administration of Late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to offer Presidential pardon to militants during the militancy days in the Niger Delta, Joshua Maciver refused to embrace the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) fearing that the Amnesty programme was a clandestine ploy by the federal government to round him and others up.
Areo stated that “Maciver has over the years publicly claimed to have accepted the Amnesty programme, however, he never presented himself for proper documentation like the 30,000 Amnesty beneficiaries to the Presidential Amnesty team. Maciver was not alone in this reasoning as over 10,000 ex-agitators felt the same way.”
The group also accused Joshua Maciver of alleged forgery of Federal Government documents. He was alleged to have forged a Presidential Amnesty identification card purportedly issued in August 2009 and numbered BY/B4/007/09.
“It is common knowledge that sometimes on the 25th of June 2009 the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Late Musa Yar’adua issued AMNESTY PROCLAMATION wherein he granted amnesty to Niger-Delta Militants. It is also important to state that Amnesty is usually and generally, addressed to classes or even communities wherein it allows the government of a Nation or State to “forget” criminal acts, usually before prosecution has occurred. Amnesty has traditionally been used as a political tool of compromise and reunion following a war, which offences are usually politically inclined.”
“In the case Joshua Maciver, he was allegedly convicted by a competent court of jurisdiction sometime in 2006, for murder and terrorism and an alleged fugitive which conviction has no relation with militancy activity, therefore the amnesty proclamation of 2009 which cannot operate to serve as a pardon for the conviction of the offences committed by Joshua Maciver, which is not in any way associated with militant activities in the Niger-Delta.”
“At this juncture it is also imperative to understand the difference between amnesty and pardon. While AMNESTY is targeted towards group of people for forgetfulness of offences of political nature, PARDON seeks to set aside the punishment of an individual, for a criminal who has been TRIED AND CONVICTED. By the AMNESTY PROCLAMATION made on the 29th of June, 2009 same does not in any way seek to pardon or forget the conviction and sentencing of any individual howsoever called.”
The group insisted that this was the situation when the former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and APC governorship candidate, Timipre Sylva, presented him to the people as his Deputy Governorship candidate.
Meanwhile, the Presidential Amnesty office under Maj Gen Barry Tariye Ndiomu (rtd.) has disowned Joshua Maciver as not being a “beneficiary of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua pardon in 2009.”
Following the series of crises trailing the APC governorship candidate and his deputy and barely three months to the election, the likelihood of the APC candidate contesting the election with Maciver is dicey.
To most Bayelsans, Governor Douye Diri has no opposition and that if the election was held today, Governor Diri will win.