Sylva And The Loss Of Political Relevance
This is, perhaps, not the best of times for the embattled former Governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State, as his tall ambition and struggle to regain reckoning in the high-wired political game in the oil rich state came to naught last week Friday, when the Supreme Court, in Abuja, ruled that it had no jurisdiction over party’s pre-election matters.
Sylva, who had been embroiled in a long drawn legal battle over the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) decision to exclude him from the November 19, 2011 governorship primary election, won by the incumbent governor finally lost out, when the apex court nailed his ambition to stage a comeback to saddle of power in the state.
The embattled governor had prayed the Supreme Court to uphold the governorship primary held in January 2011, which he won and also invoke Section 22 of its power to adjudicate on the contentious suit before it.
Sylva had, through his legal team headed by Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, approached the court to build on his chances, following the decision of the Court of Appeal, which earlier held that the Federal High Court had jurisdiction to entertain his matter and returned the case to the lower court.
But, all his hopes were dashed as the justices of the apex court, in unanimous judgment on April 20, dismissed the petition of Sylva, a development which signaled his cloudy journey into political oblivion.
Prior to the ruling of the court, tension, uncertainty and anxiety had enveloped the state, as political analysts, residents and a cross section of the people pondered over what would be the outcome of the long-awaited judgment.
While the Supreme Court’s pronouncement finally laid to rest legal disputes over the authentic candidate of the PDP in the February 11 governorship poll held in Bayelsa, which was won by Governor Seriake Dickson, the implication of the judgment has ultimately compounded the political woes of Sylva.
Before his travails reached the crescendo, the former governor had explored various avenues including lobbying the influential Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), chaired by the Rivers State governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, to beg President Goodluck Jonathan to intervene in his predicament and placate the PDP, with a view to saving his ill-fated second term ambition.
However, all these measures failed to yield desired result, just as January 30 landmark judgment by the same Supreme Court on tenure elongation, which declared that tenure of Sylva and four other PDP governors had expired since May 2011, a development which stripped him of his immunity from prosecution.
Pundits hold the view that this is the beginning of the end as far as the political carrier of the former governor is concerned, premising their argument on the fact that he would now have to face more horrendous moments to defend his almost five year rule in Bayelsa, amid current case of alleged money laundering at an Abuja High Court, involving over N4 billion and the recent alleged mismanagement of over N660 billion, which accrued to the state from the Federation Account while he held sway at the Creek Haven Government House.
A Financial Management Review Committee constituted by the incumbent Governor Dickson, few weeks into his administration and headed by former presidential adviser on Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Timi Alaibe, had indicted Sylva of allegedly squandering over N660 billion allocation received by the state between 2007 and early 2012.
As expected, mixed reactions have continued to trail the last Friday’s apex court ruling, which truncated the hope of the former governor, with the two major political power blocs in the state, expressing divergent views on the content of the judgment.
Reacting to the judgment of the Supreme Court, regarding the rightful candidate of the PDP in the February 11, governorship poll, Dickson, in a press statement signed by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson, described the ruling as victory for democracy and Bayelsans.
According to the statement, “By this judgment today, the judiciary has, once again, demonstrated its relevance as the pillar of democracy. We commend the judiciary for upholding the essence of justice, equity and fairness without which democracy and the political system would be in danger. Indeed, today’s judgment is victory for democracy, the good people of Bayelsa State and the Ijaw nation.
Justice has again been done.”
“We congratulate the PDP and its team of lawyers for their resilience and observance of due legal process which led to this victory. We assure you that the trajectory of peace and rapid development, which the new government has brought about, is guaranteed. We are dedicated to your service and we will not let you down on the delivery of our restoration agenda,” the statement read in part.
“We enjoin the citizens of the state not to fall to the antics of those who have misused state resources and public power as well as those who are desperate for power at all cost, who now resort to misinformation and propaganda to create instability and to distract us from pursuing our restoration agenda,” the statement added.
To Sylva, who claimed to have accepted the judgment, the pronouncement of the justices of the Supreme Court over the suit symbolises a dark day for democracy and justice in Nigeria.
In a statement issued by his media aide, Mr. Doifie Ola, the former governor disagreed with the notion that his political career had crumbled, contending that “Sylva remains confident that he still has a long and bright political career ahead of him.”
“As a democrat, Chief Timipre Sylva accepts the ruling of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. He, however, considers the decision of the apex court as dark for democracy and justice in Nigeria,” Ola asserted.
Continuing, he stated that “Sylva believes today’s ruling is only the judgment of man and, certainly, not justice. He says after this, everyone involved in the Bayelsa State governorship matter shall still face the judgment of history and the judgment of God. Neither history nor God will condone impunity.”
“Sylva thanks his teeming followers in Bayelsa State and lovers of democracy across Nigeria and beyond, especially, in Bayelsa State, who held out despite intimidation, threats, and pressure to abandon the part of democracy and justice,” he added.
While extending his special gratitude to members of the Bayelsa State caucus of the National Assembly, who stood firm on democracy, as well as members of the Nigerian Governors Forum, senior citizens from across the country, and all his supporters, the erstwhile governor commended the media and the human rights community for speaking out on the side of truth and justice.Share