At stake in Bayelsa State's gubernatorial elections is control of one of Nigeria's biggest oil-producing regions.
At stake in Bayelsa State’s gubernatorial elections is control of one of Nigeria’s biggest oil-producing regions.

Off-cycle gubernatorial elections for Bayelsa State in Nigeria will be held on 11 November. At stake is control of one of the country’s biggest oil-producing regions. 

Little surprise then that President Bola Tinubu is extremely keen to flip Bayelsa to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Deteriorating security and the recent political turmoil in neighboring Rivers both underscore the competitiveness around government in Nigeria’s key oil states. 

People’s Democratic Party (PDP) incumbent Gov. Douye Diri’s underwhelming first term should limit his chances of a second shot. A late October visit to President Bola Tinubu suggested some jitters on his side amid talk he was attempting an alliance with Abuja. Our sources say Diri has spent heavily on his campaign. 

His opponent, the APC’s Timipre Sylva, is also seeking another term in the governor’s mansion. His first stint was characterized by eye-widening excess. However, Sylva’s subsequent tenure as minister of state for petroleum resources under former President Muhammadu Buhari showed a different side. 

While concerns over sharp practice persisted, Sylva is now a less flamboyant politician.

Neither man will take victory for granted. Diri is only in the post thanks to an eleventh-hour judicial ruling in 2020 that handed him the job the day before his opponent — APC winner David Lyon — was inaugurated. Sylva, meanwhile, is only on the ballot thanks to legal wrangling in October after he was briefly barred from the race. 

Sylva’s running mate, Joshua MacIver, is worth noting: An associate of top NNPC security contractor Government ‘Tompolo’ Ekpemupolo, in recent months he has faced allegations of serious criminality dating back to his militant days.

In 2019, the APC won comfortably, but their man eventually lost out. Taking into account Bayelsa’s history of surprises, the personalities involved, as well as President Tinubu’s capacity for electoral wizardry, we do not discount another shock this time around.

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