Beware of awoof: E dey sabi run belle!

Chief Timipre Sylva, Former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources

By Chuks Akunna

Chief Timipre Sylva became Bayelsa governor on May 29, 2007. On April 15, 2008, the Court of Appeal nullified his election, ordering fresh elections. Sylva won the re-run polls. When his tenure was about ending in May 2011, he secured a court order that his tenure began in 2008, not 2007. That his one year as governor was awoof!

Governors Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Liyel Imoke (Cross River) Murtala Nyako (Adamawa) & Ibrahim Idris (Kogi), who had at different times had their elections nullified, copied Sylva. The quintet refused to stand for elections in 2011.

However, there arose people who felt otherwise. One of them was Gen. Buba Marwa, who was eyeing the governorship of his state (Adamawa), but was told the guber election wouldn’t hold on account of Sylva’s court order! Marwa challenged the order, losing his appeal. Undaunted, he pressed on with the matter against his governor (Murtala Nyako) until it got to the Supreme Court. On Jan 27, 2012, the Supreme Court sacked Nyako, Sylva and all the other governors who refused to stand for elections in 2011. The Supreme Court held that the 1999 Constitution pegged the tenure of governors at four years.

According to the Justices of the Supreme Court, they relied on section 180 (2) of the Constitution wherein the tenure of office of Governors were prescribed. They held that the said section did not envisage any form of elongation of occupants of the office of the Governor of the state as well as that of the President.

In the case of Sylva and his colleagues, they’d spent nearly five years, a situation the justices said was a breach of the constitution.

Speakers of the five affected states became acting governors for three months, and INEC conducted fresh elections. By that time, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan had become president and settled for Hon. Seriake Dickson as the Bayelsa PDP candidate. Recall that, as governor, Sylva was in the habit of organizing miscreants to embarrass then-Vice President Goodluck Jonathan whenever the latter was in Bayelsa State. Sometimes, they’d hurl eggs and sachet water at the then – VP. Sylva would visit the then-President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in the Villa without stopping by to greet his predecessor (Jonathan) whom he often referred to as “Villa houseboy.”

Sylva never imagined that the same Jonathan could some day become President. Well, with fresh governorship polls next month in Bayelsa, the “awoof” tenure extension Sylva plotted twelve years ago is coming to haunt him.

On Monday, Justice Donatus Okorowo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, ruled that Sylva, who is the APC guber candidate, having been sworn in twice and ruled for five years as governor of Bayelsa State, would breach the 1999 constitution, as amended, if allowed to contest again.

The court reasoned that Sylva was not qualified to run in the November 11 poll because if he wins and is sworn in, would spend more than eight years in office as governor of the state.

Justice Okorowo said nothing new. He merely echoed the January 27, 2012 judgement of the Supreme Court which held that nobody can hold office as governor or president for more than four years, in the first instance, and not more than eight years in total.

The implication is that for the second time back-to-back, Bayelsa APC shot itself in the head. Recall that the same Supreme Court on February 13, 2020, nullified the election of governor-elect David Lyon because his running mate – whom the same Sylva imposed on Lyon, presented forged documents.

Lesson of the day, my pipu: true, true, awoof dey run belle!