Friday, August 21, 2015 4:09 pm
Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State recently fielded questions from representatives of different media houses, including TheNEWS. He spoke on the coming governorship election in the state, his achievements and how to make the coming polls peaceful.
Q: In Bayelsa, there are skirmishes here and there in the political circle. And people are concerned about your political survival. Are you jittery?
A: Well, not skirmishes here and there as you put it. But last Saturday we had decamping, major leaders of our party shifted their political affiliation to APC but for me who has been managing a whole lot of issues for almost four years now, I know the undertones. For example, most of those people who crossed were part of the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria which was like a political party in Bayelsa and they have structures from the ward levels to the state level, parallel to the PDP. Now you a have a parallel government, you have a parallel PDP and all those issues that I have to manage over these years.
All the people moved to the APC because they lost elections, couldn’t become PDP flag bearers, even their candidates sponsored in the other parties lost elections to the PDP candidates. So it is the need for platform to express their political ambition, it is basically fuelled by ambition and then positioning for federal appointments, these are the key factors.
For those who want to be governors, you can’t stop anybody from having ambition and some of them are perennial contestants to the governorship. I am the presumptuous candidate from my party, the PDP. What I have done in my state, majority of them believe that I have performed. There is no doubt about performance. Then it is not realistic to expect that PDP will not make me their flag bearer. So if you have an ambition as a politician, to contest governorship, and in that kind of scenario you move over to the next available platform which appears to be viable, in the sense that at least it controls the federal level, that’s the attraction. So all of them are going there to contest for governorship, which is not realistically open to them in the PDP, by so doing they are also in the APC making themselves available for federal appointments. It hasn’t gotten anything to do with my leadership in the party other than a number of them and their supporters could not become the flag bearers of the party.
Take for example, Senator Lokpobiri who has been in the Senate for two terms and wanted a third term and didn’t get it, the leadership of the party decided not to field him. They said, two terms are okay let’s give it to another person. So he became disaffected, he went to court, and the court just two days ago struck out the case, and then he went to APC to run for governorship. The same thing for the one who was in the House of Representatives for two terms, now a new person is there. He lost his nomination process and now he is going to APC to contest for governorship. The same for the woman who when I became governor (I was in the representative before then), she was selected to replace me. When the Senate came to her own local government and she couldn’t go back to the House of Representatives, she is now decamping. All of them like that. Even the former chairman!
That gentleman that moved to APC was not chairman of our party; for the past six months he had not been chairman, there are issues of mismanagement of money and his colleagues, all of them, suspended him. No other official of the party left with him. But now, a suspended chairman went to APC and they embraced him as if the PDP chairman of Bayelsa state has moved! It not as if the government has not done well or the party is not strong. No, it is because of ambition. They want to contest governorship. I refer to APC in Bayelsa as a party full of governorship aspirants but a party that has no membership.
All the people going there are all aspirants, so the members are the aspirants, so that is the real situation of APC in Bayelsa, they don’t stand a chance in the governorship election other than the expectation, well in the Nigerian context, ahh, a party that have the federal government will bring security, police, army, INEC, they will write result, other than that, they are not on ground, and particularly against a government that has a governor that has a direct link with the people, connection with the people, the community, the ordinary people who are the most important. It is not big names or names that are visible because of the office they had before and at the end they still have only one vote like any other person!
We are on ground; that is what it’s playing out. It also has historical background. In 2012 when I became candidate; my colleagues in National Assembly, none of them supported me. And these are still the same people. We won election without them. I tried to bring all of them in, and now close to election, they have gone back again to their old game. Some of them because we have lost the presidency, are now moving away to the other party, even in the last general election, at a time, they had a lot of power, the so called Abuja group, had a lot of influence and power, undermining me and the PDP in the state level, fielded a candidates against our candidate, they lost. These are the same people that are getting themselves together to go to the APC.
We cannot dismiss it in the sense that as a leader of the party, I can’t say if they are leaving the party that am not worried. No. That is not an ideal situation. In politics we are fishers of men, so the more the merrier. Even if one member leaves, I should be concerned, we wouldn’t have wanted it to be so, and you can’t stop somebody for having ambition.
I know our people, unlike the south west. We have always been in a party that has the centre. So this sudden loss of the presidency to most of them who wants federal position has given them the opportunity to move, not because there is anything against me. Whatever they are saying is politics, as a matter of fact, they are indebted to me personally because of opportunities I have given to them. Even as we speak, most of them have nominees in my government, because of the way I consulted them for cabinets and making appointments, some of them are still serving. They are all my contractors, government contractors, most of them, so it is not personal; it’s not because of lack of inclusion. No no, no. It’s just ambition, ambition, and this is where majority of Bayelsians disagree with their approach to politics.
Q: What is this notion in Bayelsa that if our brother had not lost the presidential election, the wife would have worked against you. Now you have other people working against you. Is the problem Dickson or what is the problem?
A: The problem can’t be Dickson that is part of what I have explained, the problem is ambition.
Q: Your former permanent secretary (Mrs. Patience Jonathan)…
A: Ambition could come in different ways and could have different devices. It may not be an ambition for one person to be governor. It may be an ambition to install another person, a person who is close and other things like that. I don’t like talking about the former president’s wife. My position is that the former president who is my leader and elder brother is supportive. Very supportive, he has been always supportive.
I don’t know of any plans people might have made to fight me. You know I have been supporting him from the beginning to the end. And I still do because that is the right thing to do and I don’t want to go into speculations. I believe that both of them are supportive.
I believe that what is happening in Bagels is as a result of ambition. I have started a revolution.
If you ask me, some people are uncomfortable with the reforms that I have started. Yes. When I started in Bayelsa, the wage bill was N 6 billion, six point something… billion, my commissioner for finance is there. Now with the steps that we have taken, the wage bills have been dropped down to 4 billion, now what that means was that about 2 billion naira was going into the wrong hands every month and that’s a huge amount of money. I mean that can make people go crazy- treasury officials, accounts, other civil service leadership and some political leaders over the years and some bankers, and so on and so forth.
Those in that loop were just carting away, just from that source alone N2 billion monthly Now if you stuck by your policies, if a Dickson has come to stop that, which is good for the state, you should know that you have stepped on people’s corrupt toes and according to Ribadu, when you fight corruption, corruption fights back and so it is a combination of all of this. And when you find out that people are not coming to work and you said No, as a civil servant, you can’t get paid. These are far reaching cultural attitudinal changes that you are introducing, and people resist change. So that is it.
Beyond that, we are more consultative, we are consultative. I am a man who believes in the supremacy of ideas. No one knows it all; certainly I am not perfect, I don’t have all the answers that is why everything I do, I consult. These people who are going they have all been involved in the formulation of policies, they are all contractors like I said. They all make inputs in the government. The issues are not about me like I said, we are also fighting a culture of over dependence on the government for survival, and they are no businessmen, their only business is politics. You live in a state where people don’t pay tax as I said; civil servants don’t pay their P.A.Y.E tax. Yes. Certain as it is. Other governors maybe thought that it is good politics and I said, No. You must all comply with the personal income tax act. That’s a federal legislation. Isn’t it? You journalists are also paying your PAYE tax but Bayelsa workers were not paying PAYE. And then there has come a governor who said No, you must pay your PAYE tax. I have not introduced any new tax. But I said No, things must been done properly. We have to lay a strong foundation for the development of the state. That is what we are doing. If others were giving jobs and people were not performing, that was then. In my own time, I have given more jobs because there is more development but I also insist that you must do the job. So someone will say ahhh why? Because, it is a culture e that am changing. The change that I have bought about in Bayelsa, the one that has taken more energy, more time, political capital from me is not building of roads and bridges (that is the commissioner for works sitting there).