Former Governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State yesterday voiced dismay at the status of hero of democracy widely accorded to former President Goodluck Jonathan on account of his decision to concede defeat to President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 presidential polls. Mr. Sylva, who succeeded the former president as governor before the two fell out, stated that Mr. Jonathan’s attempts to scuttle the election disqualified him from being declared a hero.
Following a political quarrel, then President Jonathan had pressured the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to stop Mr. Sylva from contesting for a second term in office in 2011.
Speaking to reporters yesterday in Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa State, Mr. Sylva described former President Jonathan’s concession as inevitable. He stated that it would have been suicidal for the former president. According to him, the bestowal of a heroic stature on the former president merely demonstrated that it was cheap to earn such status in Nigeria.
“For me, conceding defeat is not an achievement. Let us take a look at the event they tried everything to subvert and thwart,” Mr. Sylva said, commenting on the declaration of Mr. Jonathan as a hero. He continued: “They tried to go to court to stop the announcement of the result. Former Minister, [Godsday] Orubebe, tried to stage a coup during the announcement [of election results] to allow some paid ex-militants to invade the venue. They asked the former Inspector-General of Police to withdraw security from the venue to allow ex-militants [to] invade the venue. When all else failed, what did you expect him to do? If the Super Eagles play a football match and were defeated and accepted defeat, is that an achievement?”
Mr. Sylva stated, “Seriously, if this is the level where Nigeria has descended to, it is a sorry state. We cannot be praising somebody for loosing in such manner. [Jonathan] didn't have any other choice whatsoever. What would he have done? To kill himself? Any other thing for Jonathan to do in Aso Rock would have been suicide. Or self-destruction. At that point, Jonathan also knew it. What he should be saying is that, at that point, he did not self-destruct. If one can be a hero so cheaply in Nigeria, then it is sad. For the APC, what we considered was that there was no need to rub the defeat in. The man was down and we decided to humor him out of office.”
On his possible run for the 2016 governorship election, Mr. Sylva remarked, “Bayelsa should not be worried about whether I run or not. What they should be worried about is whether APC is fielding a candidate or not. It is not about me. It is about the APC. But you people (the media) should know that I am still eligible and qualified to contest under the law. But whether I am running or not will be determined by the party. The APC will take the final decision. And whoever the party picks will win Bayelsa State.”
Former Governor Sylva asserted that the ruling PDP in Bayelsa had lost its popularity and would be defeated in the forthcoming election. “Let me tell you, the fear element being used by the PDP is no longer there. Because Jonathan was an incumbent, there was fear. But now, it is no longer there. And that is why there has been an upsurge in the support for the APC.
“It is the same thing Dickson is experiencing. He ruled the state with fear and intimidation. And when you rule by intimidating your people, then the loyalty is liable to break under any form of stress. That is what happened during slavery. And that is what happened with colonialism. Once you rule a people by fear and not love, it will break. The time for that loyalty to break is now.”
Mr. Sylva added: “Today, I was in Otuokpoti community in Ogbia and I told them that the PDP is dead. You can continue to shift the date of the party's burial forward. PDP has tried to postpone the date of funeral all the time. I said that the PDP had postponed the funeral from 14th of February to March 28th, but of what use was it? The Party is dead.”
Last week, Nigeria’s Director of Public Prosecution made an appearance in court to drop corruption charges against Mr. Sylva, a prominent member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). The controversial move rankled commentators on social media who saw it as an early retreat from President Buhari’s pledge to wage a no-nonsense war on corruption.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had brought the corruption charges against Mr. Sylva shortly after his removal as governor.