From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Governor Henry Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State has dispelled stories from certain quarters that his relationship with former President Goodluck Jonathan is not cordial.
Speaking in a media chat in Yenagoa, the state capital, the governor who commended Jonathan for not interfering in the affairs of the state said that the recent launch of the Education Trust Fund attended by the former president should be enough proof to people that he has no rift with Jonathan whom he described as his leader.
On the upcoming Bayelsa governorship election, Dickson lampooned the All Progressive Congress (APC), describing it as a party of cultists, adding that there is no candidate the party would present that would defeat the PDP candidate. Excerpts:
The whole state is looking up to you for guidance and direction as leader of the party and of the state, could you tell us what we should expect next in the state politically?
What next politically? Two things we have, one local council election and then the transition in terms of the governorship elections that will be coming up later this year, I think those are the two political hot items. I just came from a meeting now with my political appointees, the restoration team. I know a very few of them are this way and that way, but you will expect that, I have over 1,200 to 1,500 appointees, so it’s no big deal if one or two are moving this way and that way and that is to be expected because it’s perfectly legitimate, but the bulk of my team is intact, they have shown an incredible discipline, commitment, loyalty and order and that speak to the new political culture that we have worked hard at great costs and very difficult circumstances to enthrone in our state. If it were other times, by now dynamites will be going up in Bayelsa, rival campaign teams will be attacking one another, but here people are politicking, the social media is awash with aspirants and whatever and they are moving around and that is the beauty and that speaks to the order, discipline and sanity that we have brought to the state and these are some of the non-physical legacies that I expect the new leader that God and our people may give to us on the 14th of February 2020 to deepen, move away from a state of brigandage, a state of lawlessness and a state of intolerance you know. On the governorship that you talked about, yes I have told my team now that before I travel all of us should continue to consult and to pray and we are still in the prayer mood, I have directed the religious team to announce days of prayer and fasting for the state and they have told me they will get some dates this June so I encourage all of you, all those who will not be able to attend to pray for our state, for God’s direction and for God to take over the transition activities because the stakes are so high for the state in terms of continuation of the critical policies that affect the lives and destinies of our people in education, healthcare, infrastructure, on the reforms and changing the mindset of our people, on building a stable state where people are not molested. For eight years there has been no report of me or my team attacking anybody, there are no dynamites going off anywhere, there is no unwarranted assault of anybody, everybody is at liberty, free to agree or disagree as you please, we want that to continue, we don’t want cult elements to take over our state again and I told my team that the APC is not a political party, I have always said that, in Bayelsa, it is a criminal organization.
There was a recent report that you appointed former President Goodluck Jonathan as Special Adviser?
Let me use this opportunity to thank all our leaders, all our people who turned out en masse to encourage me and to encourage the state when we had our launching of the Bayelsa State Education Development Trust Fund and I want to particularly thank our donors, our partners who came, those who made pledges and donations and specifically and especially thank former President Goodluck Jonathan who came as a special guest, I invited him to come as a special guest, I know his passion for education and you people know me, I say things as they are, he is a very passionate man when it comes to education and in my speech I talked about his own plans for our state and he was part of that government, I was Attorney General so I knew his plans for education, what he started, that scholarship programme that he did for the very young people, I came and redoubled it, but it was a compliment to him and a recognition of the role he has in encouraging what is good in our state. But beyond that, because of some of the kind of stories you press people always bandy around, let me say that event should have shown to most people that there is no problem between us, former President Goodluck is my elder brother and my leader and will continue to receive his due respect and so two of us we know what we do quietly. Let me even put you people on notice that even in this transition if there is one person that I will sit down with, it is former President Jonathan and when I am ready, after all these prayers and so on, I will visit him, he is the elder and we will compare notes, I have the direct responsibility of administering and managing the state, but I believe I have his support.
Still on how the next governor of Bayelsa State will emerge, we will like for you to give us more details, will your party adopt the principle of zoning for the November 16th governorship election in the state?
You know that I have some experience in this game, do not worry, we are handling everything and it will all fall into place. The outcome of the prayers and consultations will address all of these concerns, but what is comforting is that there is no candidate from the opposition APC that myself leading the restoration team and my party as well as the former president on his own side giving support, can defeat us in this state, none. I have not seen any candidate in the APC. And I know Bayelsa and the Ijaw nation enough to know that none of these characters who parade themselves as likely candidates will pose an issue or threat. They will not be able to win any election, even in their own communities; they will not be able to win an election, the problem is that they will deploy violence because that is their trademark, and the federal security agencies will as usual come and do what they did; to try to hold us hostage. But I, leading this party even in a time that the APC was popular, we defeated them, they could manage by violence win a local government and even at that when we analysed the real votes, my party won, that is in Brass Local Government Area. So, they could not win in any local government area and this is how it will go in this election.
What are the issues you expect aspirants to talk about?
None of them is talking about how the military was used to come and kill people. For me, after winning the elections in 2015, we made the party attractive, we delivered and the people now have more confidence in the party, if we had lost that election there would not have been any PDP in this state anymore, and above all my all inclusive consensus building spirit has enabled all of them to come in, but I expect them to know that these are unusual times as politicians, what most of the aspirants do is to scheme, some sponsoring publications in newspapers and so on, but those things do not win election. Here, we must deal with the reality of the abuse of federal might and powers and how to take care of the capacity of these cult leaders who are parading themselves as APC candidates to inflict maximum violence on our people, but none of the PDP aspirants are talking about that, none of them is talking about the Federal Government and how they abuse powers. I expect them to also talk about why people are still in IDP camps in communities like Bassambiri, why people cannot go into Peremabiri community to vote or even live their normal lives and question the terrible things that the security forces are doing here.
With your recent appointment as the Chairman, PDP Governors’ Forum, what is your comment on the state of the nation?
The state of the nation is very clear to everybody. Whether there is a lot of hope, or we live in a country where there is hope, whether we live in a country where there is justice or we live in a country that is united, whether we live in a country with a government that is ready to rise up to the occasion… the answer to all these questions are very well known. I have spoken out on all the issues that I think are important, for example, how we should safeguard the judiciary, safeguard it from being a partisan arm of the government or of any party in power, and that was what I thought happened to Justice Walter Onnoghen and at a great cost. You see, these are the prices we should pay as an opposition; there is no space for scheming politicians in a political party that is in opposition, my voice has been very clear on all those issues. So, back to your question, my comments on the state of Nigeria is very well known, we now live in nation where life is both short and brutish; a nation where leading statesmen, who had seen it all, are beginning to doubt their identity and doubt the national project.
Still on the issue of security, as the Chief Security Officer of the state you must be aware of the kidnapping along the Bayelsa Rivers axis of the East West Road. Are there plans by the Federal, Bayelsa and Rivers State governments to explore a collaborative approach to tackle insecurity on the East-West Road?
Well, look! One of our colleagues, a former chairman of our Governors’ Forum – Governor of Zamfara State – and several other governors spoke out. And they have spoken out several times saying that they are not Chief Security Officers of their states. No governor is a Chief Security Officer of his state in actual fact, under this government. Under the APC-led Federal Government. Not even the APC governors. Some of them, for me, since 2015, all the security efforts we have made, are without Federal support and this in spite of the subversion of our security architecture by opposition politicians with criminal backgrounds, and criminal records in Abuja. What is happening on the East-West Road is very condemnable. And it affects us in Bayelsa, as most of our people ply that road. So, it is very serious. I don’t know any governor who is in control of security in the South-south. Everybody is undermined to the best of my knowledge. We are doing all that we can, using influence; using our assistance to support the professional few in the security service to ensure that law and order are brought to bear. I want to use this opportunity to call on the young men who are into this nefarious act to stop in their own interest.