Finally, the stage is set for a battle royal in Bayelsa State between the forces of President Goodluck Jonathan, under the umbrella of Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN), on the one hand, and Governor Henry Seriake Dickson, on the other. It also signals the opening of a subtle alliance between Dickson and his predecessor in office, Chief Timipre Sylva, who is the leader of All Progressives Congress in the state. The battle for political supremacy has, indeed, begun in Bayelsa State.
Sylva Opens Up
It all started when the leadership of APC in Bayelsa State, mindful of the frosty relationship between Dickson and Sylva, realising that there was no need to ask the state government for a government facility as venue for the party’s presidential rally, quietly decided to do the rally at a small public school field.
For two days, prior to the rally, the party had gone on radio to announce the school field of a primary school in midtown Yenagoa, far enough from government offices in downtown Yenagoa, for the rally held penultimate Thursday.
On the day before the rally, Sylva arrived Yenagoa, his first since he was unceremoniously removed from office three years ago under the alleged supervision of Jonathan. While in town, Sylva headed straight for the studios of the Royal FM radio station. For the first time, he told his side of the story of the events that led to his ouster. Sylva bemoaned the attempts by the Jonathan administration to incriminate and charge him with offences he never committed.
Sylva explained why he openly disowned Jonathan as a brother from the same state and declared support for the presidential aspiration of General Muhammadu Buhari, the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate in the 2015 election. He said the Jonathan administration had betrayed the people of the Niger Delta by failing to keep its promise to the people. The former governor said he was ready to work for his new political friends in APC, explaining that he would not work for Jonathan who had tried to plot his political downfall.
According to Sylva, “Please, go and ask my so-called brother if he is really my brother. I don’t think he is my brother. Who is your brother? Your brother is he who looks after you. He is he who looks after your back. This is a so-called brother who pushed you to the fox. As far as I’m concerned, my brother is the one I met on the street and he took me into his home. And I’m sure you will agree with me that a brother who pushed me into the street for the fox to eat is certainly not my brother.
“As far as I’m concerned, I don’t see him as a brother anymore. Please, I don’t think Bayelsa should make the mistake. His problem is that he only thinks about himself.”
Sylva continued, “And we should be careful. Let us look, what has Bayelsa gained from the Presidency. Where is the federal project in the state that is significant? I don’t see any. Not even electricity is available in Otuoke. And you have the Presidency. If I have somebody else that is not my brother but a friend with my interest at heart, it is better.
“Sometimes a good friend is better than a bad brother. If a good friend can come and give us electricity and good jobs, I will go for that good friend rather than go for that bad brother. Look at Bayelsa. Look at Niger Delta.
“Look at the East-West road under a brother. Why hasn’t he been able to fix the East-West road? Why is the Brass LNG not working under a brother? We knew where the project was under Obasanjo. Why is it that all they promised us under Amnesty has not been fulfilled? You remember they promised us a new city. Where are those small cities under our brother? Is there any serious institution established here to empower our youths, to give them skills? Where is the institution built in Bayelsa? Nothing has been done.
“What has been done is that some private jets have been bought by their cronies. Is that what Bayelsa is about? Is that what Niger Delta Presidency is about? We all fought for this power but certain people have hijacked it.”
The former governor also had scathing words for his successor, Dickson, whom he said had demonised him and his works only to take the glory later or, as in most cases, revived projects which he had condemned as useless.
Apparently, buoyed by the favourable and enthusiastic response of Bayelsans to the radio phone in interview, Sylva decided to go to the capital city’s main market, the Swali market, in downtown Yenagoa. Unescorted by any retinue of security operatives, on getting to the market, as the former governor strolled to the entrance, he was quickly recognised, and soon the entire market came to a standstill as the market women and men literally mobbed him. It was a spectacle!
The market people literally held him hostage, as everyone wanted to see and touch him. It took almost two hour before he could extricate himself from the excited crowd.
At this point, it was clear to everyone that the APC rally was going to be a success.
That evening the former governor got an unusual offer from an unexpected source – Dickson. The offer was that the state government was not only prepared to open the Samson Siasia Sport Complex for the APC presidential rally, but the government would also take care of security at the venue.
Sylva might never have accepted the unusual gift. But when the reality of the political situation in the state was explained to him; and realising that Dickson was about to get the same treatment as him three years ago, Sylva decided to accept the offer to use the sports complex, less the six hours to the take-off time for the rally.
Not only was the complex more prestigious, it was also the most befitting venue for the rally. He accepted the offer.
By 7am on that January 8, word had gone round that the sports complex, which had been closed down for renovation, was the new venue for the rally that was scheduled to begin at 10am. By 8am, the complex was filled to capacity. The situation was beyond what the state APC and the former governor had expected.
Sylva got a standing ovation from the people as he entered the venue. And when he stood to speak, his words were drowned by the cheering crowd.
The question on the lips of many people is, what could have been the motive for Dickson’s sudden favourable disposition to the Sylva-led APC? What does he want to achieve, especially, knowing that his actions would eventually get to the presidency?
The political alliance between Dickson and Jonathan seem to have snapped. Some in the state believe the alliance, which followed Jonathan’s almost single-handed facilitation of Dickson’s governorship three years ago, snapped under the weight of the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan’s excessive interference.
Using estranged former political office holders in the state under Sylva, operating under the aegis of TAN, Mrs. Jonathan had seemed to have successfully wrested the political space from the governor. All efforts by the embattled Dickson to make the president to call his wife to order were up against a brick wall. Convinced that the president himself might be part of the move to oust him from office, Dickson decided to do battle with his political enemies, no matter how high.
From all indications, it seems the governor does not care anymore, and may, indeed, be ready to do battle with anybody, even the president. That was the situation on the ground when the APC presidential team came to Bayelsa State.
Early on the morning of the APC rally in Yenagoa, Dickson left for Lagos to attend the kick-off of the Peoples Democratic Party presidential rally.