Lately the run of campaigns leading to the December 5 governorship poll in Bayelsa State has led to bizarre claims from the camp of Governor Seriake Dickson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against Chief Timipre Sylva of the All Progressive Congress (APC). The two are the flagbearers of their parties in the ballot just a few weeks from now. They are also the leading candidates.
These are grave factors that should bestow much integrity on their conduct and give some form of restraint on their outbursts. This self-check should in turn rub off on their followers at campaign rallies and outside of such gatherings. If these easily swayed disciples don’t see a mudslinging attitude in their masters, they are not likely to pick it up elsewhere.
Having said all these by way of a preamble, I hasten to state that it is disheartening to notice a breach of this principle by the PDP camp, which has not ceased to claim that Sylva has been championing violent acts as the ballot draws near. The ruling PDP government is ascribing the spate of crimes, especially, sea piracy and kidnapping in Bayelsa to what it calls the “violent streak” in Sylva and APC.
Observers have noted that at most of the rallies, Dickson and his group “seemed to be preaching violence and insulting APC leaders”, neglecting to discuss issues and strategy necessary to set up a platform to grow the citizens and take care of family and society. This is leading many to conclude that Dickson’s government is truly overwhelmed with the challenges of governance and it has become clay-footed about the way forward.
Not knowing what to do, it is resorting to idle blame game and controverting facts with regard to the pedigree of ex-Governor Sylva.
The danger in this is two-fold. First, such unfounded statements are capable of inciting the public, those who do not know their history and are unaware of the facts on the ground. The reaction to these inflammatory and unsubstantiated remarks is not always in kind. It manifests invariably in physical and bloody clashes on the streets. Political violence is an aspect of our past we have decided not to go back to. Those who remind us of it and strive to take us there are enemies of the change culture we are adopting now. Men and women of decorum would resist them with their superior civilisation. It’s wits and common sense that win people’s votes in the new dispensation, not brute brawn. Not a campaign of calumny. Those who attack their opponents applying falsehood and uncouth language in politics are still light years behind in the race to the Promised Land of good governance. Dickson and his people should grow and become politically mature in the interest of Bayelsa and its citizens.
There is also a fatal assault on history, amounting to revisionism when you attribute violence to a man who was known for peace during his tenure as governor. It does not augur well for a society in transition like ours to renounce the record or to refuse to acknowledge that although our politics has suffered much criminal activity, still there have been acts of valour in some exceptional cases.
For the information of those charging Sylva with instigating violence and crime in Bayelsa, it should be stated that his era as governor was the peaceful precursor to the wildly acclaimed Amnesty deal worked out by President Umaru Yar’Adua to usher in security in the whole of the Niger Delta region.
Sylva inherited a state which in 2007 was the den of violence and militancy during the armed struggle for resource control in the area. There were also pockets of low-intensity crimes that joined to form a cocktail that made governing the state akin to cleaning the fabled Augean stables. The streets, both day and night, were no-go areas. Fierce rival gangs fought themselves and ambushed innocent citizens, robbing, raping, maiming and murdering them. The situation scared local and foreign investors alike.
Assuming office, Sylva was under no illusion that the Number One task was to think outside the box to first offer himself as a man of peace and, secondly, put in place a secure environment. His conflict-resolution initiatives that made sanity replace the bedlam he met have been rated as unprecedented. President Yar’Adua took a cue from it to tame the militants in the entire Niger Delta.
Such was the success Sylva enjoyed as a peacemaker that in only a year in office he had won accolades from the highly regarded Abuja-based Security Watch Africa. In a field that featured formidable names like Governors Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Bukola Saraki (Kwara), Ibrahim Shekarau (Kano), etc. Sylva came out top to grab the prize for the Best Governor on Security Matters. He was also voted as the Best Governor on Conflict Resolution. The humble man that he has always been, Timipre Sylva dedicated the awards, not to himself, family or friends, but to the citizens of Bayelsa.
Now, it is necessary to recall these signal milestones of the contemporary history of Bayelsa so that no one is led astray about who the true friends of the state are. Identifying them would naturally also expose those who are the enemies of the people. Those who fought for the peace of Bayelsa are different from those who want to inflame passions and cause trouble.
It is when you have such balanced information and facts that you can be guided to make the right choice on polling day.
Dr. Alata is a Governance and Development expert based in Abuja. She can be reached on: firstname.lastname@example.org