Interview – Bayelsa Guber: Whoever APC Fields Will Not Be A Threat –DicksonFeatured, Interview, Latest News, News Saturday, September 19th, 2015
Political activities are already in full swing in Bayelsa state. The two big political parties PDP and APC are poised to out-campaign each other with a view to selling their candidates and their manifestoes. No doubt, the country-man governor, Henry Seriake Dickson who is seeking re-election is the candidate to beat. Many of his supporters believe the achievements of his restoration government will hand him the much deserved re-election. In this interview, Governor Dickson spoke on wide range of issues — His achievements, re-election and other political issues in the state. Excepts:
Before you declared your intention to run for a second term in office where we witnessed a mammoth crowd and supporters from different parts of the state, it was one endorsement after the other. Did any of this surprise you and how much has your confidence been boosted?
Firstly, I will like to use this medium to express my gratitude personally and that of the Government that I head to all those wonderful Bayelsans and wonderful leaders of the state and of our party and all those leaders who came from far and near to grace the declaration ceremony on the 8th of September, 2015.I remain very grateful to you all for the encouragement and above all I remain grateful to God that the event went according to plan and exceeded our expectations. I want to again express my gratitude to all Bayelsans, wonderful people who went there early in spite of the rains and stayed there till about 3pm when I came in with my colleagues. Although we came in late, people were patient and that is a very significant sign.
In a way, I was surprised because of the negative propaganda that has been going on in the state for over 3 years and because all we have concentrated on all this time is working for the good people of Bayelsa. That rally was the first major political activity that I was getting involved in after the last general election and so I was really touched.
The lesson is that our people are not carried away by the negative propaganda that politicians are engaged in. What I have seen over the years has been the politics of betrayal, back stabbing, where people you support turn around at the time you need them most to spite you. I am getting immune to that but the people, the ordinary people who are the voters are very different.
Remarkably only a few weeks ago we also saw people gather there;the stadium was scanty even with the media manipulation. Most of the crowd came from outside the state. Remember I made that stadium available as part of the legacy of political tolerance to leave behind. Everybody is free to organise rallies, meetings and for their primaries and I have again made the sports complex available to them.
You have just emerged as the sole candidate of the PDP. Bearing in mind that you have done so much in nearly all sectors of this state, what do we expect to see in you second term if you emerge victorious?
I am not surprised that I am the candidate of my party. I have always been the presumptive candidate because every incumbent is a presumptive candidate of his party for re-election particularly under the rules and regulations of our party. Just two days ago you saw my colleague the Governor of Kogi State emerge victorious against what some people described as a formidable opponent. There had been no serious challenge for the PDP ticket all along. It was all propaganda, blackmail, put up stories but with no substance on the ground.
I have my certificate of screening having passed the screening. I appreciate the participation in the exercise if the other two gentlemen one of whom was my commissioner until only recently and who remain my friends. But the party organs have spoken expect them at this point with their pockets of supporters to abide by and respect the decision of the supreme organs of the party. I expect them to respect the decision and join in the campaign efforts . At this point it is not about me but our party. I look forward to welcoming them, to incorporating them and their supporters in our scheme of things and government so that we can move forward together. I am delighted to be the sole candidate of my party. I have led this party through thick and thin and very trying moments to victory. We have had several elections in this state and I have played very active roles even nationally in the affairs of our party and I expect everybody to be on board. I am a consensus builder and we will build the right consensus and bring all players, leaders and supporters of our party on board so that we can move as a team to what is expected to be a land slide victory for our party.
There is talk tha you intend to visit and talk with some major stakeholders of your party,that is the PDP, ahead of the campaign but some of whom had said they do not want you to run again for Governor. Do you think your meeting them will make any difference?
The political leader must be prepared for consensus building as an integral part of the political process and if there is anything I know how to do, it is to assemble and manage humans and resources. The name of our game as I always say is engagement and more engagement, the more we disagree the more we should engage . Nobody is too big or too small to be spoken to. As a matter of fact my plan is to campaign the other party and its candidate out and defeat them long before the general election. My campaign will target people from all walks of life, i will visit almost all the communities that need to be visited. i will spend more time on campaigns which will enable me test the capacity of the flag bearer of the other party.
Despite your remarkable achievements in the area of peace and security, concerns are being raised in view of recent development across the state and the people are linking the incidents to the forthcoming governorship elections. How do you react to these concerns ?
It wont be appropriate for me to comment on some of these breaches of security that we have witnessed but essentially Bayelsa state remains one of the safest states and is relatively more stable and safer now. Is there a correlation between the kidnap of my SA(Political) and the general election? Some people say so based on the antecedent of the gentlemen who are on the other side. You all know how i play politics in this state. I don’t resort to violence. In the end violence does not pay but a number of them in this state feel that violence is synonymous with politics particularly with elections. Elections are not meant to be warfare, they are not meant to be fought with guns knives,dynamites and bombs. Electoral battles are fought with vision and ideas and i am ready, roaring to go running on the strength of the achievements of my government, running on the strength of my vision and ideas, i don’t need any thug,any criminal or militant around. We want to win elections on the ground ;we want to sell our ideas to the people and I will go out and meet all voters. I will interact with them. I will be in every community to campaign,to show what we have done and what more can be done. i don’t see any candidate in other party that can match us in terms of ideas or vision. We all know them. They are more interested in militancy and playing politics with the unfortunate militant situation in this state and in the Niger Delta in Abuja,parading themselves as those who are in control of militants and criminals.Bayelsans should ask them the cults and societies they belong to and their various responsibilities. We belong to none. They have failed our people, they have failed our country and we know the issues and baggages they carry and frankly speaking it is an exciting campaign Imam looking forward to.
I will only at this point call on the security bodies to be alive to their responsibilities so that we can have a hitch free and peaceful atmosphere for elections.
During the presidential election, the candidates were made to sign a peace pact. Will you be willing to subject yourself to the signing of a peace pact in Bayelsa state given the political tension that may likely come up in the build up to the December 5 governorship election? Do you feel threatened by any candidate that wiuld emerge from the APC’s primary election?
The APC leadership knows that almost all their candidates are violent people, they are people with known violent antecedents. My record of political tolerance is very well known. Where they will be holding their primaries is a state -owned facility;they have applied and i have directed that it should be made available to them. Now none of them as governor will do the same even in the era of political tolerance because of their violent past. The only thing they brag about is how they will use their security forces to kill their people, use the federal government to manipulate the system. I am happy that their party has made them to sign an undertaking for peaceful conduct with respect to their primaries but their party should do much more. It shouldn’t be limited to their primaries; it should also make them maintain the peace and to generally behave well during the general election. We as a government and I as a candidate will be willing to be part of any process that will commit them further whoever their candidate will be, to maintain and keep the peace. We want an election run on ideas, on vision. If someone is saying he wants to create jobs I will want to ask him what jobs he created on his last assignment where you had far more money than Bayelsa which is struggling to meet our obligations. Some aspirants in the APC don’t know that this state does not have the resources to fund their lavish lifestyles and they are deceiving people with all manner of promises. I can’t wait for their candidate to emerge. I want to take them on. In the area of security what role did they play in keeping Bayelsa unsafe? In the area of development someone without fear of God referred to that wonderful flyover constructed by Julius Berger as a footpath. You call it a footpath; agreed, but how many of such footpaths did you construct ?
I don’t think they are ready for this campaign. There is no aspirant in APC that is ready to take me on, on the core issues that matter to Bayelsans. Most of them are political jobbers,traders and scammers who are just taking advantage of the presidency at the federal level. None of them with the present constraints that the state governors are managing can do one tenth of what we have been able to put on ground. I can’t wait to know who their candidate will be. They have no candidate that will be a concern to me. In fact if you put all of them together the better for me because the baggage that they all have from failed hopes in NDDC to failed hopes in Bayelsa state alone will overcome them. They should be ready to debate their record of service whether you were executive director, finance director where they used money meant for NDDC to play politics. In this election every vote will be fought for not by bullets and guns or by militants that they are banking on, every vote will be contested for and won on ideas and record of service. The APC in Bayelsa has no candidate to match my record of service.
But isn’t the fact that the APC controls power at the centre a factor?
I am banking on the people to secure my votes. I am banking on you the proud ijaw people who have never been defeated and I am banking on my record of service and my performance. When I go to every community I will show them the schools that were not built by the NDDC but by the state government. i will point at the roads that I have built across Yenagoa and across the state that could have been built by the NDDC and the government under Governor Sylva that were not built but which I have. When I go rround the state I will show the hospitals that could have been built by the NDDC under Timi Alaibe and which could have been built by the former governor but which I now had to do. I will talk about the peace that could have been brought to this state that was not but which I brought. I am running on my concrete record of service. Those guys are not as prepared as i am for this campaign. They go around spreading propaganda on pages of newspapers and positioning themselves for federal appointments. I urge the good people of Bayelsa not to follow them again as they will abandon you again as they always do and they will leave you here with your countryman governor. Are we where we want Bayelsa to be? I’d be the first to say NO because Rome was not built in a day. We have tried and you have seen our honest efforts and that is the reason we are running, to consolidate, to make the change irreversible. This election is not just about governorship it is about your future. These people want to gamble with your future, your life, your state and your resources, to transfer money to their friends and so on and become good boys to people in Lagos and Abuja. Is that the nature of governors you want in Bayelsa?
What is the problem with the Ogbia power project?
The machinery has been installed, the turbines installed and tested. Very soon we will go round on ‘Operation light up Bayelsa’ and then it will be put on formally. W paid about 400million Naira to Shell for the gas supplied which could have been done by the governor before me but he failed to. Rather he owed Shell for gas that was supplied but even as there is no money now we have managed to pay so there is gas supply reconnected. We are also extending light to Nembe and the communities around Yenagoa as will Amassoma. The one between Sagbama and Ofoni will also be commissioned down to Agbere area. Now ask these gentlemen, the ones in NNDC for 10years, the one that was Governor for 5years why they did not give light to our people. These are the questions you Bayelsans should ask them, not running to a party because the party has won election at the federal level. We are running on concrete records.
When you assumed office in 2012, you realised the importance of human capacity building and set up schools such as the institute of tourism, teachers training institute (TTI), and the maritime academy and you recently announced that the schools will be opened soon. When precisely?
This country is in recession, the Teachers Training Institute is already equipped. I will only approve the skeletal staff that needs to be there to run it but we have funding challenges. The good thing is that we have put the physical structure on ground which is the most important thing. I cannot use money meant for salaries of workers to put into any project now.That is the problem we have. I do not want to commit the state to unneccessary debt and mortgage your future. I am not like others who will go and take facilities and loans and they do not care what happens to the people. I care about what happens to this state even after my tenure because unlike them I am not a Lagos boy or Abuja boy, I am a home boy, I will be here with you even after my service supporting whoever God raises to take over after me, so I am attending to issues of the state with a lot of care. We are having challenges, we expect you to bear with us, since we have done the most important thing which is the physical infrastructure. For now I am concerned about the increase in the wage bill. I cannot employ them and not pay them salaries. I need to buy beds and equip the schools for them to start and right now we do not have the funding for that. A number of contractors have finished their work but are yet to hand over the keys because we are indebted to them.
When will you fix the Swali market road and consider the people of Swali for appointment.
There are some roads that have become quite bad because of the funding situation. Some like the Igbogene we started. We changed the monkey bridge, that is one bridge my predecessor should have worked on but did not for 5 years. I am sure that he knows the situation of that Igbogene by pass but kept it the way it is. That was the same condition with the Amassoma-Tombia road until now that we have done it the way it is. For that of Igbogene, I asked the commissioner to call the contractor this morning, so they are coming back so that we can at least try to make sure we complete even one lane, as the bridge is already in place which was the most difficult part. There are a number of roads also within the town, particularly Swali road. My commissioner and his team are on it. It will be done by direct labour. There are also two roads that I have made a commitment to in Ogbia Local Government. The roads are quite bad, from Opolo down to Otuoke and from Imiringi .Other roads like that we will resurface. So they will look at the Swali Market road. As for appointment you will be taken care of just like every community in Bayelsa.
What is the relevance of the Bayelsa Volunteers if we are having kidnap cases like that of your special adviser on political matters?
The Bayelsa Volunteers enable me and the security team to have more communal intelligence and even on this matter they are doing a few things I cannot disclose. They are relevant in area of allowing us to engage some of our boys, we have three thousand of them now on that scheme earning between N20,000 for the graduates and N10,000 for the non-graduates and a number of them let us know what goes on in their various communities. All Bayelsans should go about their normal lives but this times call for greater vigilance. A year of two ago we bought gun boats and gave security forces for patrol. So even if you secure the upland, we still need to secure the creeks and rivers and working with our young boys, they let us know from time to time what is going on. Very soon you will hear of a very massive security review of the water ways.
What do you think should be the role of Bayelsan youths as far as this election is concerned?
As a candidate and as a Governor, I have always solicited the support of the youths. More than any other time, I will like to call for the understanding of the youths and encouragement from the youths and support of the youths. I thank you all youths of the state for your massive show of support. I was really touched when I saw what our youths put up for my declaration and as we go round this state to campaign, I expect you all to turn out en mass and show your vision of a better Bayelsa with us, raise your concerns. Above all, before, during and after the elections conduct yourselves with decorum, do not allow any politician to mislead you into criminality and violence. Our former president used to say ‘my ambition is not worth the blood of anybody’ and that should be the disposition of every politician not arming youths and sending them to assassinate and kidnap people. Politicians who do such are criminals and if that is good or there is a reward for that they should have brought their children and relatives not you.
I call on all youths to reason with us and even if you have Issues, raise them politely so that we can address them together and share ideas on how we can protect and serve you better.
Thank You Very much my country people for your support, prayer and encouragement for turning out en mass at my declaration. I cannot thank you enough, God bless you all! God will bless our great state. I intend to go round very soon to campaign for your support and for you to stand by us so that we can stabilise the state because we have to move away from instability, violence and intolerance. I need your support to do all that.
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