Segun James reports that incumbent Governor of Bayelsa state, Douye Diri will be seeking re-election on Saturday as he slugs it out with former governor of the state, Timipre Sylva of the All Progressives Congress and Undengs Eradiri of the Labour Party.
Bayelsa state is an unusual state in the Nigerian Federation. It sits squarely on the most aquatic of all the states in the Niger Delta region; and until recently, it is probably the most volatile in the region.
Until it was created out of the old Rivers state, it had no road leading to any community as most communities are located among the rivers, creeks, rivulets and waterways that make up the Niger Delta.
As at the time it was created in 1996, it was a completely virgin state, except that it was from its bowels that oil was first struck in the country and one of the four big oil producing states in the country and was not connected to the national electric grid until 2006! Almost homogeneously an Ijaw state, it is the centre of gravity of the Ijaw nation and the centrifugal force of the Niger Delta.
However, the state has been the hotbed of militancy in the country since 1998. Although this activities has reduced considerably in recent years, it is in the midst of this that Bayelsa governorship election is taking place this weekend.
The battle for the soul of Bayelsa will be primarily between the incumbent governor, Senator Douye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former governor, Timipre Sylva of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Although the Labour Party (LP) also has a candidate in Mr. Udengs Eradiri, who is considered an outsider in the race.
Barely 72 hours to the election, all the indices of a possible volatile election has surfaced, a situation which forced the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Egbetokun to pay an unscheduled visit to the state to plead with the combatants in the election.
He, however, read the Riot Act to militants to stay away from the election or face the consequences.
For some palpable reasons, the impending battle for the governorship election in Bayelsa state is not just about ambition, but that of political survival and dominance and a battle for the soul of Bayelsa.
The Bayelsa election is very crucial to the country. The state is important to the economy well-being of the nation and houses many strategic economic infrastructures.
It will be the first election, along with that of Kogi and Imo states to be held under President Bola Tinubu. Thus, how these elections are handled will certainly set the tone for what to expect in subsequent polls.
Ordinarily, politics in Bayelsa state is centered around individuals and not the party they belong to. Since most political leaders in the state belong to the PDP, elections in the state, until recently, was always within the PDP and whoever emerges the PDP candidate wins.
That was the situation until the political upset of 2019 when the APC won a highly disputed election. But the court returned the mandate to Governor Douye Diri, who, not surprisingly is today called the miracle governor.
On Saturday, former Governor Timipre Sylva is expecting to re-enact the miracle of 2019.
Politics in the state is intriguing and action packed. The two major gladiators are formidable and have the capacity to deploy the resources to contest in a very hostile environment.
Since he assumed office as the Miracle Governor, Bayelsans have prided Diri as the “talk-na-do” governor and an achiever who, more than any other governor before him, has practically turn the state fortunes around in terms of developmental projects.
This has held him in high stead among the people despite the fact that he came to power through court’s pronouncements.
Diri’s emergence as the governor is nothing short of a miracle, hence, the appellation the Miracle Governor. In a surprise upset, the APC candidate in the election who had been declared winner, Mr. David Lyon, was stopped from assuming office, barely 24 hours before he was to be sworn into office.
The surprise ruling of the Supreme Court which upturned the election of Lyon ensured that Diri was sworn in as the Governor.
Since becoming governor, Diri has spent his time trying to prove to the people that he is capable and has tried to earn their trust.
Former Governor Timipre Sylva and the immediate past Minister of State for Petroleum Resources is the candidate of the APC in the November 11 election.
But will he be able to take advantage of a last minute upset? The is a question that will only be answered by how he plays his politics.
To most people in Bayelsa state, Sylva is one formidable political leader who has defied the odds in all elections he had participated in the state.
However, to most political leaders in the state, he should not have presented himself as the APC condidate. This however has not deter the youth who make up 90 percent of his followership, even though the political class have moved away from him.
Although Sylva may have survived various political prosecutions, his loss as the governorship candidate of the APC in the 2015 election to Governor Seriake Dickson has not deterred him from seeking elective position again.
This is his second attempt at contesting the governorship since leaving office as governor in 2011. Will he be second time lucky? Only time will tell.
This is the first time Eradiri will be contesting the governorship. He was a former president of the Ijaw Youth Council and a former member of the state cabinet under Dickson. He later fell out with Dickson.
He is very popular among the youth who see him as one of them. Although his political antecedent is nothing to write home about given the formidable credentials of his opponents and the war chest at their disposal, the belief is that he could be a surprise element in the election.