Bayelsa State governorship election is only six days away. In this interview, Governor Seriake Dickson, who is also the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the poll, hits his rival, Chief Timpre Sylva, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the ruling party at the centre, saying ‘federal might’ will not make him Sylva win the election.
What difference have you made in the lives of the people?
We have changed the face of politics in this state by putting the people at the centre of development. Our attitude to accountability is second to none. For example, every month we announce what we receive in terms of revenue and how we spend it to empower the people.
I believe 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 (APC governorship candidate Timpre Sylva) 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 operatives are his errand boys and the JTF will handcuff people for him. He is flying around in helicopter but I am going around as a simple governor in boats and trekking with the people because, to me, the people must be liberated from these greedy persons that do not care about the development of the state. I am taking our message of peace, security and development to the communities and telling the people their future is in their hands, not in Abuja or Lagos. 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 gave me presents. So many of these people( our opponents) are disconnected from voters. I am busy with the persons who will vote and, as we move towards the election, Bayelsans will know that the ‘federal might’ and security they are using to intimidate people will not work.
We are sensitizing the people that no one wearing uniform will
intimidate them. They will vote with their PVCs and protect their votes. There is no magic that can be performed for the 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, that leads to loss of life or injuries irrespective of the party of the person affected. As governor, it is my responsibility to protect everyone. A situation where a minister goes to his community and openly threatens that if people do not keep an eye on their children on election day, the children will be killed is criminal. We should condemn that kind of utterance. On the incident at Ekeremor, based on the preliminary report at my disposal, the gentleman who died was the one who attacked PDP supporters who wanted to erect a banner. From the report I have, he was rushed to hospital for treatment and remained there for two days and then, against medical advice, returned home believing he was well. Then he developed complications and died. The police are investigating, so we await the full facts. In Gbarian Ekeptiama, PDP supporters were attacked and, as we speak, two have been hospitalised. In other parts of the state, such attacks are taking place but I condemn all of these. We should focus on winning the election, galvanizing supporters and telling the people to reject the government of killing and Famotangbe.
Bayelsans must not hobnob with discredited people. This man (Sylva) 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.
Unfortunately,because of greed, even people that were on exile during his government are supporting him. 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 of them he will make Directors and Board members as he has promised . They do not mind handing over the future of their own children. I condemn violence and I want to call on Sylva and his party to also condemn it.
How confident are you that you will win this election and have you done enough in your current term to deserve another mandate of the people?
I have performed better than my good friend if we consider the number of schools we have built during this tenure in spite of the short fall in allocation. If I do not feel confident that I have done enough, then I do not know the governor that should run for second term because, frankly, if a governor were to do the sort of things I have done, he will win.
Talking about PDP losing traditional strongholds, there is nothing like that. 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; and there are consequences. Bayelsa is different. We have a performing governor and, given free and fair election between myself and Sylva, forget the parties. That is why I am not surprised that communities are endorsing me. I have achieved what if a governor does in eight years, you will clap for him. Our people know it,people outside know it. And I am out to do more in second term; so I will get the second term by the grace of God.
You once described yourself as the ‘Countryman Governor’ and your good friend of the APC as the ‘guy man’. What ideological connotations do these terms have?
It is a ‘guy man’ who unleashes violence on the people to intimidate them while purportedly campaigning for their support. He has held political offices and was a governor for almost five years and does not have a house in the state capital to sleep in, not to talk of 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’, 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 done. 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. 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 get it. I was prepared for governorship. That is why when I came in, you could 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. When he was governor, he surrounded himself with people who led him to abysmal failure instead of guiding him and then they abandoned him. Instead of taking responsible as the leader of his government, he says we should hold other people responsible for the atrocities of Famotangbe. Up till now, he does not get it that leadership is about responsibility.
On security at the polls, security agencies are working on that and I want to use this opportunity to warn those who may be attempting, out of desperation, that it will not work, it will land them in trouble. Security agencies are no.
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 people of Bayelsa State regarding their safety as they file out on December 5 to cast their votes?
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. All I am asking for as governor and candidate is peace. I know that the citizens of this state have nothing to fear as far as their security is concerned, before, during and after the election. And because this is an individual election, not a national one, the security forces here will have a lot of support. Any criminal who decides to be used and those who choose to use criminals will not succeed. My assurance is that Bayelsans should not have any fear. 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 job. They should leave security agents out of their politics so they can provide security for all of us.
What is your response to the allegations by your rival: that you accused him of master minding the killings of Bayelsans through Famotangbe, his security outfit, that you are not accurate on the debt 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 it. I respect the office of the governor. I accord him the respect that is rightly due to 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 he took. If you were to know the pressure I was under from 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. The people know about 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, he did not do. When we were dualizing Isaac Boro Express Road, some water pipes had to be 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 his government did not do enough on 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 Famotangbe and you put people in charge, as someone in ultimate authority, as the chief executive officer, you take responsibility for the decisions you take. So he cannot run away from that. I want to use this opportunity to ask that he apologises to Bayelsans for the atrocities his government committed. 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.
In going round the communities, what are those things you noticed on ground that will influence your next tenure if you are re-elected? Will there be a need to develop the communities?
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 be a priority because I have seen that one little investment in your community touches many lives and changes their lives and the way they perceive government. I will find a way of emphasizing community needs in the budget, particularly the issue of women empowerment.