Interview: Why Bayelsans Must Hold Sylva Responsible for Famutangbe –DicksonFeatured, Interview, Latest News, News Tuesday, November 24th, 2015
Famutangbe has become a by-word for the state terrorism unleashed on Bayelsans when Timipre Sylva was governor. But ‘never again’ says Governor Henry Seriake Dickson who in the run up to the December 5 gubernatorial election in the state says he is presenting the state to the world in much better shape than he met it and is motivated to do even more. Excerpts from a media interview following another leg his electioneering tour of the state:
How have you impacted Bayelsa’s development and politics in your tenure so far?
We have changed the face of politics in this state where we have emohasized the importance of the people as the centre of all development. Take the issue of accountability.For example every month we announce what comes in in terms of revenue and how we spend them; it is empowerment of the people. We are empowering them mentally and democratically to take charge of their future. I believe that this will be a standard moving forward as far as governorship and other elections in this state are concerned. I heard that my good friend has intensified his campaign. That is how it should be, not threatening our people with federal might,hoping that INEC will write results for him, that SSS are his errand boys and JTF will handcuff people for him. He is flying around with helicopters but I am going around as a simple Governor on boats and trekking with the people because for me the people of this state must be liberated from these greedy persons that do not care about the development of the state. For them everything begins and ends with their selfish, pecuniary interest. I am taking our case of peace, security and development to the communities and telling the people your future is in your hands not in any Abuja or Lagos governor. You will be the ones to decide. I am very happy about the warm reception and the endorsements I have received. I am just coming from Agudama Ekpetiema and the women came out to tie wrapper on me, the men give me presents. So many of these people( our opponents) are disconnected from their voters. I am busy with the persons who will vote and as we move towards the election, Bayelsans will know that this federal might and security they are using to intimidate people will not work. Look at the election in Kogi, it was free and fair, one man one vote so Bayelsa should learn, there will be no federal might in Bayelsa. We are sensitizing the people that no one wearing uniform or any other colour will intimidate them. They will vote with their PVCs and protect their votes. There is no magic that can be performed for APC to win.
In the course of your campaign you have preached peace and security yet there was a clash between APC and PDP supporters in Ekeremor that led to the death of one Andrew John.
Let me use this opportunity to condemn any act of confrontation particularly violent confrontation especially when it leads to loss of life or injuries irrespective of the party of the person affected. As the Governor it is my responsibility to protect everyone and their property. A situation where a minister goes to his community and openly threatens everybody that if they do not keep an eye on their child on election day the child will be killed, that is criminal. We should condemn those type of utterances. As for the incident at Ekeremor I have already issued a statement. Based on the preliminary report at my disposal, the gentleman who died was the one who attacked the PDP supporters who sought to erect a sign banner. From the report I have, he was rushed to the hospital for treatment and remained there for two days and then sought to leave the hospital against medical advice and went home believing he was well. Then he developed complications and died. The police are currently investigating so we await the full facts. In Gbarian Ekeptiama, PDP supporters were attacked and as we speak two are hospitalised. In other parts of the state such attacks are taking place but I condemn all of these. Let me use this opportunity to call on everyone particularly my supporters and party members, I do not want to hear any quarrel about posters and billboards and banners, because they do not win elections. I take the pains to go round to communities because I want to educate people not through banners and billboards. Do not worry if these people come and provoke you, do not argue, the elections will come and go in the next few weeks and all those banners and billboards will become useless. Focus on winning the elections, galvanizing supporters and telling the people to reject the government of killing and Famutangbe.
Bayelsans must not hobnob with these discredited people. This man could not do the intervention I did that enables him to drive to Nembe, he could not dualize the Azikoro road which I did. Under him for five years the road to Amassoma was impassable, he could not dream of electrifying communities and all he knew was promote insecurity and cultism. Unfortunately,because of greed, even people that were on exile during his government are supporting him. Many of them will end up in the belly of a tiger because this is a man who does not forget and does not forgive and has no compassion. I can call names but I do not want to do so, they know themselves. Why did they not join APC from the beginning? I do not know how many of them will be in NDDC, I do not know how many Directors and Board members we will have as he has promised them . They do not mind handing over the future of their own children. I condemn violence and I want to call on my good friend Chief Timipre Slyva and his party to also condemn it. They should make the kind of statement I am making,and condemn violence of every sort.
How confident are you that you will win this election and have you done enough in your current term to deserve the mandate of the people?
I have performed better than my good friend if we have built the number of schools we have built within this period in spite of the shortfall in allocation. If we have done the sort of things my Government has done within this period. If I do not feel confident that I have done enough then I do not know the governor that should run for a second term because frankly if a governor were to do the sort of things I have done he will win. That is my view.I have interacted with our people and communities and they all say I deserve more than a second term. And so I am very confident.
Even a blind man will tell you that you cannot compare our performance and that the difference between me and Sylva is like that between day and night. In what area can you compare? In terms of acquiring liabilities and debts for our state? Or are you going to measure the performance by the number of killings in the state? In every area, talking about peace and security and development, we know that there is no comparison.
Talking about PDP losing traditional strongholds, there is nothing like losing traditional strongholds. The way the last general elections went, our party made mistakes in some areas, and in politics when you have been in power for this long you make mistakes; there are consequences attached. Bayelsa is different. We have a performing governor and given free and fair elections between myself and Timipre Slyva, forget the parties, There is no basis for comparison. That is why I am not surprised that communities are endorsing me. I have achieved what if a governor does in 8 years you will clap for him. Our people know it, people outside know it. And I am out to do more in a second term so I will get the second term by the grace of God.
Have you heard allegations that the opposition party is distributing police and army uniforms to their supporters to pose as security agents to enable them rig the election. If so, what are you doing about it? Secondly in your last media chat you described yourself as the countryman Governor and your good friend of the APC as the ‘guy man’. What ideological connotations do these terms have?
To begin with the guy man. It is a guy man who in this environment of poor people who are suffering unleashes violence on the people to intimidate them while purportedly campaigning for their support. He is a guy man who has held political offices and was a governor for almost 5 years and does not have a house in the state capital to sleep in,not even a hut of his own, even in his own local government or community. Who is to develop your community for you? He is more travelled than I am, so he is right when he refers to me as I hear as a bush man. I say he is a guy man, he says I am a bush man but our people say I am a country man because a country man will use boat and canoe to see his country people which is the same transportation system they are used to. And I have slept in all local government areas including his own local government which he has not. I slept in southern Ijaw.Guy man should sleep there not hop in and out. Even as a governor he was hopping in and out of the country. That is a guy man but he is my good friend though we disagree fundamentally in terms of vision. In fact, he has no vision. You do not come to be a governor because of ego, because you want to blow siren or because you have friends in high places that can help you to get it. I was prepared for governorship. That is why when I came you can see how we have established a paradigm shift and if God helps and the people realise the need to protect their future, no guy man in Bayelsa can be governor again because this job is a serious job, one that requires a passion and commitment to do the people’s business,to lift them out of poverty and underdevelopment not harbouring resentment or bitterness as a governor. When he was governor he surrounded himself with people who led him to abysmal failure instead of guiding him and then they abandoned him. When I came in as a governor, a number of them came around me and saw that ‘kaki no be leather.’
I must take responsibility for my administration.Bayelsans will not remember any commissioner but the person who is in charge of them. That is what he does not know and that is why he says they should hold other people responsible for the atrocities of famutangbe. Up till now he does not get it that leadership is about responsibility.
On security, the security agencies are working on that and I want to use this opportunity to warn those who may be attempting that out of desperation that it will not work, it will land them in trouble. Security agencies are not fools and you young people do not believe when people tell you lies. I want to advise our young ones to go and vote whoever they want instead of being used because that will not work.
What form of assurance can you give to the electorate and the people of Bayelsa state regarding their safety as they file out December 5th to cast their vote?
I have confidence in the security forces. I always say that the security officers in Bayelsa are the best any governor will want to have. I have confidence in their expertise, their dedication to duty and professionalism. All I am asking as governor and candidate is for peace. I know that the citizens of this state have nothing to fear as far as their security is concerned, before during and after elections. And because this is an individual election, not a national one the security forces here will have a lot of support. For the Kogi election,the police alone deployed about sixteen thousand personnel. That is almost a lock down. Any criminal who decides to be used and those who choose to use criminals will not succeed. If the security forces do not stop felons, our people in every unit have been sensitised to stop them. My assurance is Bayelsans should not have any fear, security forces are doing their best, I know the arrangement and we should give them their support especially to those security personnel that will be doing the right thing. But you are under no obligation to cooperate with any security official or personnel who plays partisan politics or who has been suborned to intimidate you, that one is a bad egg. I want to use this opportunity to call on APC and their leaders not to undermine the security of the state. They should not see security officers as an extension of APC merely because APC is in control of the federal government. They should allow them to do their jobs. Leave the security agents out of their politics so they can provide security for all of us.
What would be your response to the allegations by your rival: that you accused him of masterminding the killings of Bayelsans through his security outfit, that you are not very accurate with the amount of debts his administration left behind,that you took more loans than his administration and more?
On loans, I had opportunity to set up an enquiry as he did to expose everything he did as a governor but I did not do that and I am not planning to do that. I respect the office of the Governor. I accord him the respect that is rightly due him because it takes the grace of God for you to be a Governor out of millions. I take him up on issues. Bayelsans know the amount of money that he took. If you were to know the pressure I was under by some of the people around him as to how I should handle and deal with him, he will be shocked. But I do not think we should go that way. Bayelsans know the Governor that I am and the loan I took. But taking a loan is not a problem. He took a bond. The issue has to do with what was done with the money that was borrowed. For example, the airport that he could have done but did not do. When we were dualizing the Isaac Boro express road, some water pipes had to be removed and few of them were removed. But I have not heard any testimony that water was running continually before the dualisation.
He also said the road we are doing to Ekeremor is a political gimmick. Well, if to construct a road within this short period I am here and to the extent I have done it, something he could not do and his minister could not do, is a political gimmick then I want to have more political gimmicks like that because we believe in constructing roads. He does not have anything to campaign with.
Talking about why I am saying that his government did not do enough in security, that is what I was trying to say that when you are a leader you take responsibility. If you set up an organisation like Famutangbe and you put people in charge, as someone in ultimate authority, as chief executive officer you take responsibility for the decisions you take, for the appointments you make and the organisations you set up you. So he cannot run away from that. i want to use this opportunity to ask that he apologise to Bayelsa for the atrocities he committed during his tenure. He shouldn’t rationalise it.It is annoying when he says he did not know, because some of the victims were killed in Government House. I do not want to call names. People were arrested and taken into government house instead of police stations. I go campaigning in communities and the people tell me the names and number of people that were killed in their communities. This is a course for concern. Let him apologise to Bayelsans. He could have built roads and flyovers but did not do it. He wants us to believe he is a better now that he has experienced the wilderness but the wilderness could make someone better or it could be the other way round. I see a lot of danger, venom, bitterness in him and unfortunately most of the people who are running around him because of federal appointment do not know the risk they are taking. Let him convince us that he is a brand new Timipre slyva but for him to say all those killings do not matter? From the time he joined APC and ever since they conducted their violent primaries election, everybody in Bayelsa knows the crime rate has gone up. You do not need to be a security expert. The relationship between him and his politics are crime, criminality and violence. He knows my background, I have nothing to do with cultism all my life. I do not need any violence in this election.
In going round the communities, what are those things you noticed on ground that will influence your next tenure if you come on? Will there be a need to develop the communities towards the state capital?
My tour has opened my eyes more than ever before to the realities of rural life and particularly to the possibilities of our people. God bless our women, mothers and grandmothers! As we tour communities, we see them happy, showing heartfelt appreciation for one school or health center that was built or renovated. When you compare that to some people in the cities, the so called political elites that get billions of naira worth of contracts and the fact that there is a delay in payment makes them your enemies instantly and they want to bring you down; people you have given platforms to serve talking as if they never knew you and you are their worst enemy, you will be shocked.
I believe that with what I have seen in the course of my tour in the next tenure community development will have a higher priority because I have seen that one little investment in your community touches many many lives and changes their life and the way they perceive government. I will find a way of emphasizing community needs in the budget particularly issues of women empowerment. Look at the fish Agudama Ekpetiama women gave to me and the plantain, I could barely lift it. We had such from every community that we went to. God bless the wonderful women of Bayelsa for buying wrapper and bringing it to adorn me, telling me they do not want to bury their children, they do not want people to die prematurely in Bayelsa and that for the sake of peace they will vote for me. I go into communities and these women put their wrapper down on the road one after the other, over 6 to 7 hundred meters up to the podium. I found it difficult to step on those wrappers. The men, chiefs and people in our communities matter more, not this 1% in Yenagoa crying out for free money which the more you give the more they abuse you. The more appointment you give the more treacherous people become. Touring the communities,I am so much in love with our people, more than ever before. I have understood the challenges more than ever before. I have made a promise that when we win the next election in my usual way I will go round again to thank them. I am the first Governor to go on a thank you tour after winning election. And as a country man I will go back to my country people. That is what this job entails, not flying about in expensively-rented choppers.
What I know is that I am in this business to serve and for me even life itself is for service to humanity, our society and God. And like I say time and time again, he who serveth God well serveth man well but we know as humans we are not perfect. I am the first to admit that I am a bundle of imperfection but I am very passionate about Issues I believe in.I am a man of conviction that does not go with the wind, and I believe that I have a clear vision as to where to take this state.
I believe that in the next four years we will all have a better story to tell. I believe that life is about impact and that is why I am in a hurry to transform our society and the state. Any opportunity we have should be used to impact positively . I try to be fair to everybody, to do what is right and believe is good. I try to make the world a better place than I met it.
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