From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Daniel Iworiso-Markson, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Henry Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State is undoubtedly one of the closest aides to the governor because of his role as one of his media strategists during the 2016 governorship election in the state. Relishing his role during the period, Iworiso-Markson decided to document what can be regarded as a front row account of events and behind the scenes activities that shaped the election in his book titled Bayelsa historic election: How Dickson won, federal might versus peoples power
In this interview, Iworiso-Markson who shed light on the book, said democracy is on trial in Nigeria and the people must be ready to rise up and make sacrifices like Bayelsans to stop rigging in all forms if they want democracy to survive. According to him, the book is a definitive account of an election where the leadership in government at the centre and her candidate acted out a script that transformed a mere election into a warfare and perpetrated acts of violence against public morality during which there was violation of human rights, kidnapping, shooting, maiming and intimidation.
He explained that the operation take over slogan of the Federal Government-backed candidate was put to real action but scuttled by the greater will of the people. “Before the election, there were reports that the APC in Bayelsa State was stockpiling weapons to perpetrate violence at the elections, but little was done to tackle this concern. Thus the true account of what happened in the 2016 Bayelsa governorship election and the sordid interplay of some “dark forces” which conspired to make it so painful to us as Nigerians are what is presented in the book for history and posterity” he said.
Iworiso-Markson who also seized the opportunity to disclose some activities lined up to celebrate Governor Seriake Dickson’s re-election anniversary said at the end of his tenure in 2020, Bayelsans would have no cause to regret that Dickson was re-elected governor.
Why did you write the book?
By February 14th, the Restoration Government will be marking the anniversary of Honorable Henry Seriake Dickson’s re-election as governor of Bayelsa State. Since he first contested and won the governorship election in 2012, I have been an active participant and close watcher of events and especially the politics of Bayelsa State. My appointment by Governor Henry Seriake Dickson as his Chief Press Secretary only exposed me to greater understanding of the dynamics shaping the politics of the state, which regrettably were to underscore the complex web of intrigues, which characterized 2016 governorship poll in the state. As part of the activities lined up to commemorate the anniversary, I wrote this book to promote democracy in the country because the reader would also discover and as corroborated by Governor Henry Seriake Dickson convincingly, that what took place in Bayelsa was more than an election. It was war.
What are key lessons you want the public to learn in this book?
Basically, it is to show how the people could help themselves to reject political imposition by being active in the defense of their votes as Bayelsans did and even having to throw their bare bodies to challenge armored tanks on the day of election when it was clear that the “army of occupation” was desperate to rig the election. Let me state very clearly that democracy is very much on trial across board and it is our collective responsibility as active and patriotic citizens to save the situation, because the development of the nation’s democracy has an important relationship to our economic development. Hence, democracy must be given a chance to survive and really flourish. Likewise, the state must as a matter of fact survive; otherwise there can be no democracy. As we have seen in the Bayelsa election and even most recently, the Rivers re-run national and state assembly elections, what is clear to the unbiased observer is that the conscious attempt to rig elections caused such unscrupulous activities that resulted in the mayhem in both states.
We were helplessly shocked to see such loss of lives and property. But this shouldn’t have been the case in a democracy. It is an issue, which hopefully will continue to be reflected upon by all concerned, because of its implication in the advancement of our democracy and mutual co-existence as a people. This is why we must never allow its recurrence in any part of the country. It is a challenge to our moral and spiritual being that we as a people should not be involved in this kind of cruel conduct which was so dehumanizing and unjust and all in the name of politics. But politics itself is meant to serve and not to kill and destroy. Thus as a civilized means of engagement, it craves for superiority of argument in a peaceful atmosphere and driven by sane and honourable people who are fired into participation because of the common good. This is the irony of our democracy, which has been bastardized by the elite that only seek to maintain the interest of the few in society.
Having won the election against all odds, how is your boss settling down to deal with the challenge of governance in a recession given the promises he made during the campaign?
Election has now been won and lost but what next? If I get you correctly, that’s the thrust of your question. Interestingly, this point was captured in the book. But it is important that we properly situate the philosophical underpinning of the election; that Dickson ran on a promise in 2012 but ran on concrete achievement in 2015. His signature projects are everywhere. In fact, if he decided not to run again in the last election, he could actually say he had already put his footprint on the sands of time in Bayelsa State. Recession or no recession, Governor Dickson is intent on making a difference. Indeed, he made such a huge difference in his first four years and it was on the strength of his very impressive and remarkable performance in office in his first term that Bayelsans returned him to office for another term. You will recall that while presenting his case for re-election, the governor’s focus had been on the need for continuity of his vision for the state. This takes the form of uninterrupted development in infrastructure, particularly opening up the state through connecting those inaccessible but important locations by roads and bridges.
Thus, he hoped to enhance commerce and civilization, manpower-development through his free and compulsory education, scholarships, health, job creation and the very broad plans for the diversification of the state’s economy. His focal points were such ambitious projects like the Agge Deep Seaport, constructing a road to Brass, investment in power-generation and the eco-industrial park as well as the completion of the airport among others. He is concerned about spreading prosperity as much as possible and within a short period of time. To him, nothing was impossible with the right vision, dedication and aspiration to make a difference in the lives of the people.
Apart from the book, what other plans are in place to mark anniversary of his re-election to office?
The book is not even a major part of the programmes lined up to commemorate his re-election. We simply wanted to take advantage of the period to introduce the book since we cannot, as it were, gloss over the myriad of telling issues and abuses that characterized the election. Something must be done by the collective of our people to say never again shall we allow such electoral oddities in any part of the country. History will not forgive us if we continue to sweep under the rug those salient issues of that election, which obviously have consequences for our national stability and development. However, to answer your question, among the plans in place to mark the anniversary is the commissioning of completed projects. These projects include the state archives, museum, language centre, new secretariat annexes, the very magnificent new governor’s office complex, the very impressive Government House hospital complex and of course, the pharmaceutical storage and distribution centre as well as the world class Diagnostic and Forensic Centre, which has since become functional, being the first of its kind in Africa.
Many won’t dispute the fact that in its first term, the Dickson-led Restoration Government displayed strong commitment and determination to making a difference in the lives of the people by providing such massive and strategic infrastructure throughout the state. Besides the construction of roads, strategically located bridges were built in the three senatorial districts. Equally strategic is the construction of an airport and the emphasis on the Agge Deep Seaport. In the estimation of Governor Dickson, the successful completion of these two projects would speed up the quest for a diversified and vibrant economy, thereby making oil just one of the sources of income for the state. The airport and seaport would jumpstart the state economy so much in terms of massive job creation and boom in trade leading to a huge leap in income for the state and of course a new lease of life for the people.