APC is the party to beat in Bayelsa State – Rumson Baribote


An All Progressives Congress chieftain in Bayelsa State, Rumson Baribote discusses the forthcoming off-cycle gubernatorial election in the state and the chances of the party’s candidate, Timipre Sylva, with BENEDICT NWACHUKWU. Excerpts:

The off-cycle gubernatorial election in Bayelsa State is fast approaching. How prepared is APC

APC has never lost an election in Bayelsa State before. In 2015, we won clearly, the last Local Government Area, Southern Ijaw was cancelled by INEC and claimed election did not hold there maybe because of Jonathan who was President at that time. That was the result we were waiting for to be declared winners.

Then in 2019 they (PDP) won only two local governments out of eight, we won six. Finally the Supreme Court gave it to them. So, APC has never lost a governorship election in Bayelsa State before now and with the pedigree of President Bola Tinubu who is a core politician, I don’t think we will be swept behind.

Considering the quality of the personalities in the party on ground, I don’t think we will have issues by the grace of God. It is for us to put in more effort. It is for us not to sleep after the election just like other cases. I think that is why we must take more cautionary measures to guard the results till we are declared or maybe enter office. Definitely we have to work hard. The opposition has a sitting governor. We cannot overrule that influence.

Are you saying that these reports about factions in APC in Bayelsa State are not true?

Those factions they are talking about; Heineken Lokpobiri was having one, but I believe they have come to see that disagreement is the fabric with which the world as a whole is made of and it is inevitable. In politics there’s no permanent friend, no permanent enemy, it’s about permanent interest. There’s no party that doesn’t have internal wrangling. APC is not an exception but now I believe that all the factions as they call them have decided to come together to work as one party. The collective interest is the APC.

“APC has never lost a governorship election in Bayelsa State before now and with the pedigree of President Bola Tinubu who is a core politician, I don’t think we will be swept behind”

What you are saying in essence is that the camp of David Lyon and that of the candidate, Sylva are now working together as a formidable team?

Well there is no app to discern the mind’s construction on the man’s face because you do not know what is inside. From the outside, if you believe that you really belong to the APC, when you get to this point, somebody has emerged, so no matter the differences, you have to work for the good and victory of the party.

Mind you, this is also going to determine our president’s second term election because the more states you have the better for the election. If you have the good of the party at heart, you will not be talking about ‘it’s me,’ we should be talking about ‘we.’ If that’s the intention of every APC member in Bayelsa State, whatever has transpired, God gave us two eyes on our face to be progressive not to be retrogressive.

If God wanted us to be looking back and front He would have, at least, given us two eyes at the back also. But He wants us to look ahead and be progressive. In respect of that I am saying disagreements are inevitable but when it comes to a point, personal interest will take the back seat.

We are talking about APC as a party. On the strength of that circumstance, I am saying we are one body. What we are talking about now is how we can clinch the Bayelsa State Government House to help us succeed in the next presidential election because the presidential election for the second term starts now.

It is clear that the APC governorship candidate has been there for one term and was a minister. How would you rate his acceptance in the state?

That somebody has been there before does not count because Nigerians believe in somebody that is in power. Having said that, when people have applauded you when you have done something well, it’s easier for you to come back. If you go by the antecedents, the track records of Sylva, let me start by saying that there is no other governor who has taken care of people or taken the issue of civil servants welfare very seriously like Sylva.

Under him, civil servants did not receive salaries later than the 25th of every month. Bonuses were paid at Christmas and they were regularly promoted. Then if you talk about sports, of course, I don’t need to tell you. Sports did very well; even Bayelsa United got to the semifinals of the continental competition. In fact, it was like every player wanted to play for Bayelsa United.

Then you talk about infrastructure, you cannot compare. Social life is dead in Bayelsa since he left and no matter how people work very hard, you must join that aspect of social life for you to have a better living. If you go by the records, if you talk about internal roads and the hospitals, but let it not be as if because I am on the side of Sylva, that’s why I am saying all that I am saying.

If you look at the track records, what are those things the person had done? Who are those people the person has empowered? What were the gains of democracy during his time? I think Sylva has an edge and by the grace of God with what is on ground, as the days go by, he is getting more support. Initially, when he was coming, they asked what he would offer.

It will be a walk over but now it’s no longer a walk over, they are looking for a technical ground to now fight the man, meaning that there’s a fight. Like I said, fighting an incumbent is not always an easy task but by the grace of God, I think Sylva has an edge.

Like you have pointed out, power of incumbency plays a big role in elections particularly in our own clime. What are the things that this incumbent governor is not doing that Sylva hopes to do for the people if he takes over?

When you talk about the education sector, fixing of the roads and providing other amenities and social infrastructure, there’s nothing to write home about the incumbent. If you compare him with the time of Sylva, I mean during Sylva’s time, militancy was at its highest, the economy was even dwindling at that time. If you compare what was obtainable during Sylva’s time and what is now in terms of what Sylva collected from the Federal Government and what this governor has been collecting now, and then measure it with the achievements, you will be shocked that this governor has nothing to show.

There is power of incumbency, but this time, the power of incumbency in the state is limited with the power of incumbency at the federal level. If there is anything the power of incumbency can do here, the federal might can do better. There is a kind of balance of forces in terms of power of incumbency.

If he feels he can use the power of incumbency here, there is a greater power from the centre that can also be used. Look at what he has done while in office and what Sylva did, the difference is clear. The facts speak for itself. When you weigh what Sylva did and what this governor has done, the odds favour Silva.

What is Sylva’s relationship with Bayelsa youths?

When he was governor, he was a street boy. Even the commonest person on the street had his number. He was closer to the youths than any other politician. He is a social person who runs an open door policy. Even from a distance you can know this. Of course, Sylva is a likeable person.

If we go by his relationship with the youths, he has won the election already. We know the youths and women will play prominent roles in determining who becomes the next governor of Bayelsa State. What happened in APC happens in every family and I am confident that we are going to surmount it.