The ‘Mangrove Boys of Bayelsa’, an organisation gradually becoming a pressure group in Bayelsa State, has debunked claims that its planned 10,000-man protest against the candidacy of former Governor Timipre Sylva in the upcoming governorship election in the state was being sponsored by the state government.
Rather, the protest, now scheduled to hold in Yenagoa, the state capital, on October 14, it said, was a non-partisan, non-violent, civic action to drive home its conviction that the second coming of Sylva, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, would spell doom for the people of the state.
Sylva’s campaign organization had in a statement at the weekend said the group’s impending protest was being sponsored by the Bayelsa State Government and a manifestation of fear about the emergence of Sylva by the government and the Peoples Democratic Party.
But in a statement by the spokesman, Bernnard Legite, on Sunday, the ‘Mangrove Boys of Bayelsa’ refuted this position, insisting that the 10,000-man march was a responsible step driven by the need to call the attention of the public to “the atrocities and evil perpetrated” by Sylva in his five years reign as governor of the state.
While reaffirming its belief in public protest as a civilized conduct in a democracy, the group said the demonstration would be peaceful and non-violent.
It also reiterated that the ‘Mangrove Boys of Bayelsa’ was focused on public sensitization to prevent recurrence of what it described as “the return to our dark days of the reckless and evil actions of the Famutangbe”.
Famutangbe was a security outfit established under Sylva as governor.
The group accused it of causing untold human rights violations leading to widespread violence, cultism and mass murder.
The group stated: “We can assure the general public that this is a peaceful protest. Some of our mothers whose husbands and children were gruesomely murdered have indicated interest to join us in the protest. We have since written to the Police to grant us permit for the protest. Certainly, we are pursuing a noble cause when we recollect the fact that Bayelsa under Sylva as governor was a land wracked by violence, kidnappings and cultism. Most of us embarking on this protest lost loved ones through Sylva’s state-sponsored terrorism directed at innocent citizens and mostly at political opponents. Many Bayalsans fled into exile in neighbouring states and far-flung places, No doubt, Sylva’s past is now haunting him.”
It further said the protest has become a coalition as other groups with similar interest would be participating, adding that the onerous concern of all members was the quest for the All Progressives Congress to change Sylva as its candidate for the December 5 election or face a backlash of massive voting against the APC in the election.
It said: “We want APC to substitute Sylva because the leopard cannot change its spots and this was amply demonstrated by his behavior and those of his allies during the recent APC governorship primaries characterized by violence, intimidation and blackmail. Adams Oshiomhole was a victim of his brutality and the governor’s frank comments about Sylva’s violent behavior are instructive.”
The Mangrove Boys of Bayelsa also raised posers on Sylva’s moral essence as a candidate, castigating the APC for putting forward a person who is currently facing trial for corruption by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over massive looting of state funds.
“We like to ask again and again; what message is the APC sending out about President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption war,” it said.