Less than a month after the November 16 governorship elections in Bayelsa State, in which 45 parties are expected to participate; INEC, the Security Officers and all the State institutions responsible are also working tirelessly for a successful vote. In this live media talk, Governor Seriake Dickson expressed concern over INEC’s alleged breach of the trust of the people of the state.
In coordination with other security agencies to rig the last polls, among other emerging political developments in the country. Akam James, was there for LATESTIME
His Excellency Sir, to what extent has the party’s reconciliation committee reconciled those that are aggrieved within the PDP?
You know the PDP is the biggest and the largest party, and as you know in Bayelsa we dominate the political landscape. Since 1999, we have produced all governors and there no politician in the State that was not made by the PDP. So it’s a large family, and you know our governorship primaries recently conducted in the state was not like the one the other party did, where a leader of the party just brought a name out of his pocket in a hotel room and that was it and it stands.
In our party, it goes through a lot of processes like what happened during our Presidential primaries and was watched live by everyone. In such contest, only one winner will emerge, and the winner did emerge at the end of the process in person of Senator Douye Diri, while some persons who don’t like to take defeat were angry. Let me once again thank those that contested with the winner, almost all of them congratulated him after the election. While some were aggrieved and the party has set up a committee to reach out to them, headed by Bauchi state Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, and then the reconciliation committee chaired by former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and I believe that is the way to go. It shows a working party, we are engaging all of them, but the recent development where some party leaders who were working with us until recent, they moved to the other side, and the people are surprised of the sudden move.
What is going on is money politics, people are paying people to decamp. Some get N10, N15, N20 million to decamp according to their status, while others are been given offers; but for us, we don’t have power to that, but we recommend people for better appointments. The offers are not even the issues, but whether they will keep to the promises is another thing. The promises are coming in a way, and I don’t know if all those who have been in the party since will be sidelined and the new people take over. As the holy book says, “Behold all things are new, old things are passed away” that’s what we are seeing in the APC now, old things are passing away. Old members don’t count any more, all those who stood to fight us in 2016 governorship elections are not playing any role again, which there’s a serious issue with them.
In preparation of the campaigns, I saw some copycat of our organogram and programmes, and I saw very few APC names, that tells us that APC is a party in distress, but for us, we are planners.
If you have a party which is glorifying new members, people that are enticed when elections are close, been put to handle campaign council and advisory committees, that tells you that it’s not ready for election and has no structure. And again, the point that people are enticed and promised appointments is the prerogative of the ruling party to do; paying for defection is what is going on now. I’m not contesting, and I believe that they’ll also reach out to me to make an offer. I don’t know yet. People shouldn’t take that too seriously because what I saw during the 2015 election was defections that were hard shaking. We were almost left alone, all the big names left, and the few who stayed back were not committed, yet we won.
Elections are won by the people not leaders, though leaders have a role to play, but what most people are interesting in is the big name that decamps and not the structure, message, and the voters; then you’ve already failed. Most of the defectors are doing it alone, leaving their supporters and followers who are in constant conversation with me because I communicate with them directly and that is what they don’t know. Their supporters are still reaching us, complaining that ‘thank God their leader has left because all the things sent to us through him were never delivered, he eats and takes them alone.’ That has been the message I’m getting and I hope the leader of APC is listening to the people of the state before they spend their time and resources paying people to defect.
There are some persons who are with them now that will never work with them at the elections, these people are not involved in the political warfare of these serious times going on in the state. No one in the state has gone into more serious political battle than myself. I know what I’m talking about, even when we have rallies in the constituencies, the people are with us and not with them, the game is not about the leaders resigning appointments.
For the past 8 years, I have been very generous in governance, just yesterday, we inaugurated 32 RDAs Chairman, and each has been mandated to inaugurate a 14 member council, which is provided by the laws of the state. The other day, it was 60 advisers we inaugurated, and we had about 130 before, which some have left due to some reasons; and in total, we have about 3000 appointees at different levels, and we believe it’s a legitimate way of earning a living in a civil service state. That is why I say if 10, 15 or even 50 leaves us, it doesn’t really affect our capacity to win election, yes it may make some headlines but not important to the outcome of the election.
Everyday till today, I have been receiving the few committed APC leaders that have been there, not the new ones. I am targeting their field workers. They are fighting because they know what I can do, and they’re so many of them that are working quietly with us. We have several hundreds of thousands who were displeased with what is going on in the APC, and this are the people who fought me and PDP during previous elections in the state and I know them, and if not for the sacrifices of our supporters the story would have been different. We are not shaking if up to 50 appointees leave, but that doesn’t mean they should leave our party, they are all important. But the issues is that how many of those who are defecting can boost that as they decamp their entire communities have gone with them, none. Political leadership is not easy, if they are doing this to me who led them for about 8 years and has also supported them in one way or the other, should tell you what their community people think about them.
It goes around, the elections have already been won by us, and has been lost by the APC. I can see the indices clearly, for those who do not know will wake up on the seventeenth and what they will hear will shock them because winning election is not about defections, but about system, strategies, hard work commitment and structure which they don’t have. Even if you have all the money, and don’t have the system and trusted people, on the day of election they”ll collect all the petrol dollars and still work for us.
I believe we are very confident, our candidate is a sellable candidate and our platform is loved and accepted by the people and we have a superior message of consolidation and the difference is clear. Now, we talked about a message; I have always been an advocate of peaceful elections as a democrat. Several of my appointees and aides contested, and those who couldn’t make it are all back without bitterness and anger. In an election that my Deputy ran, SSG, Chief of Staff and many more participated and the people in my government were allowed to support whoever they wanted to support because we wanted democracy to strive, and we never punish any of them for supporting or refusing to support a particular candidate because it’s their right. And now we are all back trying to bring everybody on board and we are succeeding. That’s how leaders are made, I would want our people to be ready to exercise their democratic right to vote for a party and candidate of their choice, nobody should be coarse or intimidated or also induced to vote this way or that way because already we are seeing inducement for decamping.
I want Bayelsans to be free in electing a candidate of their choice, all the candidates especially the two leading ones are all my citizens, and am their governor. My duty is also to support the security forces, support the institution of the state and create a level playing field and enabling environment, but the issue of security is so unfortunate. The federation has all its ultimate repository and forces of coercion of the state and country, so mine is to continue to make the case and also use this opportunity to call on INEC to do the right thing. Their activities and conduct in the last National and State Assembly elections in the state didn’t give confidence to Bayelsans. We had a situation where people have driven away a night before elections and the following day the state REC allowed materials to get into that turbulent environment, where people were kidnapped and results written without PVCs. So INEC has a lot of work to do, we have never failed our people and our people haven’t also failed us but the institutions of state should not fail our people too.
INEC should be ready to conduct a free, fair and peaceful election, and the result will be accepted by all. The security agencies should not be partisan, this is the only nation where the federation appears to be more interested in insecurity, promoting and supporting criminality. From 2015 till date, the only thing to show by the federal government in the state is the level of violence, intimidation by security agencies that are ransacking our community and indigenes displaced since 2015. In Peremabiri community of Southern Ijaw LGA, the people are now IDPs in other neighbouring communities, and you say someone is in charge of this country. That is the situation we have at hand and even in the midst of this, we have been defeating them.
For those people who feel election period is the time to abuse the National security institutions and use them to intimidate and harass the people, it is so sad. Elections after elections I go to my own community but the leader on the other side is not like that, instead of serving and working with the people they carry soldiers, police and civil defence to beat up old people in their community. This are part of the situation we are dealing with, and I have to call on my brother and friend in whom I disagree on account of his political style, who is now Minister of state for petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva, whom we pray to work well with the support of the President to bring in a lot of things to the state and that’s what am interested in. I want to use this opportunity to call on him, that he should respect the people and fear God and not use the security forces at the disposal of the federal government in terrorising our people again, because we have seen enough of that and if they are popular with their party, then let them win so that Bayelsa can move forward. I hope he will also publicly join me in talking about peaceful election and lead his party and restrain the abuse of federal security forces that they’re known for since 2015. They should expect our issue-based campaigns which we have started, we are all Bayelsans and we want all Bayelsans to freely vote.
The aftermath of the election-related violence in Nembe Bassambiri is still troubling, the PDP members allegedly chased out of that community and are still in IDP camps, what is INEC doing to ensure they are not disenfranchised?
Thank you for the question, in the case of Peremabiri in the last election, we took a decision at the State Executive Council meeting to recall them to enable them cast their ballots but at the last minutes, the security developed cold fit. The then Director of State Security was like an APC coordinator, and I made my feelings known about his incompetence and commitment to their party to the authorities who cared to know. I believe we are still discussing again because there’s a need for the people of the community who have been push out by violence and are registered and eligible voters to vote, there’s a need for all agencies and institutions responsible do everything for them to return. Am more interested in the process, they should be free to vote, and the dignity of our people should be respected. Today, with myself leading the PDP and Sylva leading the APC are in a privileged position, we should know we will not be here forever and a day of reckoning awaits us both in the future on earth and the life hereafter. We have to do what is right to satisfy our conscience and believe; the right thing has to be done for the security agents to return the Peremabiri people back to vote in their community, and also enable the return of all displaced people in Nembe Bassambiri to their native land. It shouldn’t happen to anybody from the state and I want the leader of APC to denounce political violence and work with me for a peaceful election. Let INEC do what is right with courage, and not conniving in promoting criminality and illegality.
In Borno and other parts of the North in the country, IDPs are mobilised and kept in places to vote, but here there are politicians who are always happy that their people are disenfranchised, and the danger in all this is Bayelsa East Senatorial District that has a lot of political leaders, is where politics of brigandish is gradually crippling from one community to the other. There are young people who have seen that the federal security forces are supporting illegality, the federal system that has failed our people is behind them, so they will also want to do same since others are not seen standing trial over what they did in the past. And that is part of the danger of having wrong political leaders. I will never and has never chased or harmed anybody who does not support me, I will only engage them to get their support. If you’re sure that the area is your stronghold, that’s the more reason you’ll provide security and stability. I’m very disappointed at the institutions of the country. It shows signs of a failing state, the country is failing because if in a state you know enclaves that are under the control of non-state actors that are giving instructions and directives to state actors and institutions, then it shows the country has started failing. It is Nembe today, tomorrow it could be another community. Some communities are better now because of our message of peaceful conduct and tolerance.
No Governor before me has witnessed greater opposition, and I have allowed the opposition to thrive in the state. All Governor before me were there when PDP was at the centre, so they don’t feel what I feel or manage what I’m managing. Since 2015, I have been working with the commissioner of police posted to me by opposition leaders, and other security commanders influenced and sent here by them, and yet I won’t make noise about it and I have worked with them. No one has been harassed for holding a contrary view to mine for the past 8 years, those who disagree with me are still in Yenagoa, attacking me in this same Yenagoa and still playing politics here, going on campaigns without any explosives thrown at them, no issues of assassination on anybody, can they accommodate dissenting views, while maintaining your own and I believe that’s a huge legacy am going to leave behind. And it’s my prayer that when our people go to the polls, they should consider those qualities. I am interested in leadership to have the ability to engage, ability to agree and disagree within the party and outside to the larger society, these are intangible but very fundamental for peaceful and a prosperous society.
Stakeholders in Bayelsa are clamouring for some form of debates between the governorship aspirants, in the hope that such will present the platform for them to ventilate their manifestos on how to take Bayelsa State forward if this is justifiable in your thinking, will you support the PDP standard-bearer in such an intellectual exercise?
I will be the first to support him, if they want sponsorship I will also do that, but I know we have NGOs who do that and that’s a good thing. I think part of the problems we have in the country is that we don’t debate enough, we don’t argue enough. Politicians just come skim themselves into power, they’re numbers of people you see in political landscape that are not politicians but are skimmers, some even covert power and manipulate people to get there, that doesn’t make them politicians. For me as a lover and promoter of knowledge, I will support and keenly listen to that kind of debate between all the candidates and especially the two leading candidates.
My younger brother Chief David Lyon of the APC and the candidate of my party Senator Douye Diri, as I said are my citizen and am their governor, so I will be interested in a robust and healthy debate, let them come so we can assess them. Let us know how they each understand the challenges of the state. It is not easy to say I will dash money, where is the money? You need to understand how to run a modern government. You must understand how much is budgeted for works, and how to release, for what purpose and when. Running a government is a serious thing and not popular campaign slogan, No. The entire country’s economy is still doing very badly, you need to be a governor and an economist to know this is a very tight time to be a governor.
We have been able to do all this by common responsibility and prudence, and I would like to learn how we determine the importance of education and its plans. As far as health care is concerned, like what we have done and their plans. Infrastructure, roads and bridges, how they want to fund them, and how they want to create jobs. With the groundwork that we have built, I want them to concentrate on the investment that will grow the economy of the state, and luckily for the next governor, I have taken the bull by the horn.