By LUCKY OJI
Following the tension arising from the forthcoming gubernatorial primary of the Peoples Democratic Party in Bayelsa State, Asu Beks, president, Ijaw Media Forum, in this interview, says Timipre Sylva, incumbent governor of the state, who is seeking re-election, deserves a fair deal. Excerpts:
The major issue in the nation’s politics today is the Bayelsa gubernatorial tussle. How would you describe the wheeling and dealing surrounding Governor Timipre Sylva’s re-election bid?
It is embarrassing. I am not happy that clearing Governor Sylva for the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) primary has dragged on for this long. I thought what the PDP should have concerned itself with for now was how to consolidate on the successes achieved in the state by Governor Timipre Sylva’s administration and looking for how to sustain that in the next four years, and not the issue of not clearing the governor for the primary.
The problem he is facing today is that of perception. But Governor Sylva is a principled person and don’t forget he is one of the longstanding politicians in Bayelsa State today. Governor Sylva has been in the state’s politics, he was a member of the old Rivers State House of Assembly and former political adviser to Diepreye Alamieyeseigha when he was governor. Some people try to underrate a man that has worked tirelessly to turn around Bayelsa State and make PDP relevant by his administrative resourcefulness.
Before the April general elections, the PDP at the centre said all its governors would return. Now, there seems to be a shift from that stand. What is your take on that?
It is a very disturbing shift. Now my worry here is, what would PDP as a party lose if Sylva is allowed to take part in the primary? Taking part in a primary election is not an automatic ticket to winning the election proper. What is the party trying to gain by the negative publicity trailing its primary in Bayelsa State?
But the party tells people they are going to provide a level playing field for all the aspirants. The question is, should there even be a fresh primary when the man had won the primary earlier in the year? There should be no other primary; of course, some concerned indigenes of the state have taken the party to court on that plank.
What actually is the message the party is passing across to Nigerians? In the past weeks, notable politicians in Bayelsa State had moved to Abuja to plead with the powers that be over Sylva’s case.
There is the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party that decides who runs for the primary; some people have insinuated that the president holds the ace in this matter, but I don’t believe Mr. President has a hand in the travail of the incumbent governor of his state.
People should leave him out of this. Mr. President is the father of the PDP, he is a Bayelsan and of course he knows the implication of bad politics in the state and so I do not believe he has any hand in what is going on.
Reports say a meeting between the president and South-South governors was unfruitful over this issue. How would you react to this?
Well, was there a press statement by the governors over the outcome of the meeting? But, let’s leave it as a speculation because don’t forget that the party chairman told Nigerians that they were handling the clearance in batches and that they have released the first, second batches and others would follow.
And I have no reason to doubt him, especially, as I see no reason why Sylva will not be cleared. Here is a man who I have followed closely for many years. Alamieyeseigha laid the foundation for the state, President Jonathan built on that foundation when he was governor of the state and then, Sylva has taken the state to another level in the interest of all Bayelsans.
If you go to Bayelsa today, over 90 percent of the projects he inherited (not abandoned) have been completed and commissioned. The only one still left is the 500-bed hospital which is being redesigned because of some structural defects that, if completed in its original design, would have posed a huge inconvenience to the patients.
The other is the five-star hotel and conference centre which has to do with the contractor not meeting up with the schedules as they keep coming up with variations. Sylva has done very well. In Bayelsa, there are two major roads, and, before he came into office, there were no internal roads to ease traffic congestion, and loss of man-hours resulted; so when he came on board he built several internal roads.
Whereas other states fully rely on PHCN for electricity, in Bayelsa, it is gas turbine built by the state government in addition to PHCN. We have a federal university, federal polytechnic, law school that have taken off, college of education, central bank and also a local content office in the state, all in Sylva’s administration.
And there are several projects that are in view which include refinery, petrochemical industry, seaport and international cargo port. All these are coming out during one man’s tenure, yet some people are saying he is not doing anything; what do you want him to do?
The governor is instrumental to former President Umaru Yar’Adua’s amnesty programme which is benefitting the nation in terms of increased production of crude oil and the associated income.
It is alleged that Sylva walked into the tight corner because of his not-too-clear posture toward President Jonathan becoming president in the wake of the late Yar’Adua’s protracted illness. Any merit in that insinuation?
This is rumour! Was Sylva the Senate President? Was he the Speaker of the House of Representatives? In what capacity would he block the Goodluck Jonathan presidency? What would he stand to gain by so doing? Nothing.
Sylva has remained happy and will always remain grateful to President Jonathan. Without President Jonathan, Sylva would not have been governor of Bayelsa State; so, he remains grateful to Mr. President and to the wife of Mr. President who he calls his mother.
The rumours are from the camp of those out to discredit Sylva, to pave the way to make him irrelevant in the politics of PDP and of Bayelsa.
What is your advice to PDP on the Bayelsa gubernatorial primary?
I think it will do the PDP good as a party to observe total neutrality in this matter and base its judgement actually on facts. We believe that PDP is a very serious party and made up of very responsible citizens of this great country that will be able to sift the truth from tissues of lies.
It is unthinkable that PDP will dump Sylva who worked very hard to ensure President Jonathan’s emerged winner at the April elections? This is the time for the PDP to rally behind the incumbent. He remains the man to beat.