Governance Battle: PDP, APC, LP Engage in Struggle for Survival in Bayelsa
Written by Dapo Akinrefon
In the realm of political events, the upcoming governorship election in Bayelsa State transcends mere ambition. It signifies a quest for political survival and dominance in this riverine state.
Bayelsa is a unique state, characterized by its 100% riverine geography, situated at the heart of the delta. It stands out as one of the few relatively homogeneous states in the country.
Political dynamics in Bayelsa revolve more around individuals rather than the political parties they belong to.
Remarkably, the November 11 governorship election is viewed as a display of political might and a struggle for political survival between the incumbent Senator Douye Diri and former Governor Chief Timipre Sylva.
Pundits anticipate that the contest will be not only fierce but also intriguing.
The state holds significant economic importance for the nation, hosting numerous strategic economic infrastructures. Consequently, the Bayelsa election is considered crucial for the country’s well-being.
These off-season elections, along with those in Kogi and Imo states, will be the first held under President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Therefore, how these elections are conducted will set the tone for future polls.
In Bayelsa State, the governorship contest involves three major contenders: the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), and the Labour Party (LP).
Incumbent Governor Douye Diri represents the PDP, while Timipre Sylva is contesting on the APC platform.
The LP, known for its surprise performance during the presidential election, has chosen Udengs Eradiri as its candidate.
Traditionally, politics in Bayelsa State has centered around individuals rather than party affiliations. Given that most people belong to the PDP, elections in the state have predominantly been internal contests within the party. The emergence of the APC as winners in the highly disputed 2019 election disrupted this trend.
The two major contenders, Diri and Sylva, are considered formidable forces who possess the resources to navigate challenging environments.
Interestingly, both Diri and Sylva were formerly members of the PDP, and they have strong support bases to back their campaigns.
There is a general consensus that the governorship race will primarily be between the PDP and the APC, given past precedence and prevailing factors.
Governor Douye Diri, nicknamed the “Miracle Governor,” has been praised for his achievements in turning around the fortunes of the state through various developmental projects. Despite assuming power through a court pronouncement, he has earned the admiration and trust of the people.
Godfrey Nazuan, a PDP leader in the state, commends Governor Diri for his deliberate and determined approach in tackling the security challenges he inherited, making Bayelsa virtually free from banditry, cultism, drug-related crimes, kidnappings, and militancy. As a result, Bayelsa has become one of the safest states in the country, which has boosted its investment prospects.
Diri’s unexpected emergence as governor, following a Supreme Court ruling that overturned the election of the APC candidate, Mr. David Lyon, has further solidified his position. Since assuming office, Diri has focused on proving his capability and winning the trust of the people.
One crucial area that demanded urgent attention in the state was infrastructural development. Governor Diri has emphasized his administration’s goal of extending roads to the Atlantic Ocean, recognizing the significance of this region as a source of national wealth. He aims to connect Brass Island in the Bayelsa East Senatorial District, where the Brass LNG and Brass Fertilizer projects are located, by the end of his first term. Additionally, the Sagbama-Ekeremor-Agge road in the Western District, which covers over 110 kilometers and is associated with an ongoing deep seaport project, is almost completed. Progress has also been made on the Yenagoa-Oporoma-Koluama road in the Central District, which encompasses the state’s agricultural belt. Diri is expected to highlight these projects as part of his achievements.
Governor Diri believes in the continuity of governance, stressing the completion of projects initiated by his predecessor as a priority.
On the other hand, Timipre Sylva, the APC candidate and former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, enjoys several advantages. He singlehandedly brought the APC to Bayelsa State and has maintained leadership despite factionalization within the party. Sylva is reputed to have deep pockets and is counting on federal support to bolster his election campaign.
As the contest gains momentum, some residents view Sylva as a Bayelsan living abroad due to his residence in Abuja, which they believe distances him from the reality of the situation in the state. They argue that he should not have presented himself as the APC candidate, as his tenure as governor left no significant legacy and is not well-remembered by the people. Despite surviving various political trials, his defeat in the 2015 governorship election to Governor Seriake Dickson should have signaled that he is no longer a desired candidate in the eyes of the people. This is his second attempt at the governorship since leaving office in 2011, and only time will tell if he will be successful this time around.
Udengs Eradiri, the LP candidate, possesses significant youth credibility. As a first-time contender for the governorship, he was formerly the president of the Ijaw Youth Council and served in the state cabinet under Governor Dickson before their falling out. He enjoys popularity among the youth, who perceive him as one of their own.