Fresh from one leg of his campaign tour of communities in Bayelsa where he recorded rapturous receptions, Governor Henry Seriake Dickson [pictured above] fielded questions from the media on the forthcoming governorship election.
Basing his confidence of victory on his widely acknowledged record of performance, he asked his main opponent: how many ‘monkey bridges’ did you build?
Q: What informed your decision to embark on a community -to- community campaign? With what you have seen so far how much of democracy’s dividends would you say has really flowed down to the people at the grass root level especially in Brass and Southern Ijaw Local Government Areas?
A: I want first of all to use this opportunity to thank the chiefs, elders, leaders and the good and wonderful people of the communities and Local Government Areas and Wards that I have been to so far for their outpouring of love and support and encouragement. It was touching to see school children wearing uniforms that my government supplied carrying banners in appreciation of their Governor and praying for me for the investments I am making for their future. That is a lasting dividend of democracy: the investment in the future of the state, in the hearts and minds not of a few Yenagoa -based critics and Abuja- based politicians. I saw hope and appreciation in the faces of our people, we got gifts from every community and political leaders. Our people do not know any other political party contesting for this election other than me as the candidate of the PDP. I saw the massive outpouring of genuine love and support from the chiefs, elders, youths, women groups.
Well, you asked why this community to community tour? Part of what I am doing and have been doing is to quietly in my own way change the way politics is played in this state. The level of maturity and tolerance I have brought to bear on the politics is such that you see the opposition campaigning against me as vigorously as I am also campaigning. That is happening for the first time. When the APC’s Chief Timipre Silva was governor, you saw what he did. Even the primaries in his own party was filled with shooting and holding people hostage. When he was here as Governor, anybody who wanted to campaign against him will be attacked. One of his supporters, Chief Rufus Abadi, knows what happened to him in his house at Otuan. But some of our people have short memories. I want to challenge my opponent Sylva to do same and sleep in the communities as I am doing, instead of bragging about federal force. No one knows him at the federal level other than he was used to unseat his brother. Let him go to our communities and relate with them freely as I am doing.
I sat in a dining hall built by my Government in Okugbie one of the investments we have made in all the communities. We are not where we want to be yet but we have made a difference and they appreciate the roads and they are all waiting to receive me. The last community on my way was Ayama and all Tarakiri communities. They were very receptive such that for three days they did not go to the forest or farm, they waited for me for two to three days, to encourage me. I cannot thank them enough. It is my prayer that after the election I will go back on this community tour because it has also opened my eyes more which is the central purpose of this Government: to see the people’s material conditions and how much I have tried to solve all their problems and to see what remains to be done.
These gentlemen called APC are trying to take our state nowhere. Despite the old names, their communities do not appreciate them, they have no support. I have done what no government has done before, spent two nights in Southern Ijaw, one night in Korukoreseigh which is my speaker’s community. The enitire ward waited till about 8pm when we got there. We commissioned their pavilion, a road that we did, they also have the schools and investments that are there. All we are doing is to consolidate so that by God’s grace those boarding schools will start by January and I cannot wait to see these children that I saw in all the communities wearing smart clean uniforms provided by the Restoration Government, with books supplied. Our children are bright and because of the investments we have in education they can compete with their mates elsewhere. That is why I am not surprised that our educational rating has gone up from 28 in the national chart to fourth in WAEC results. If we achieved this within this short period then imagine what will happen when i consolidate with all these twenty five constituency schools coming on stream?
Where have you seen that kind of investment of over twenty six billion naira put in and concrete jobs in the communities and the communities are seeing it so they know it is not just talk?
I do not see anybody seriously contesting against me, not even my good friend and brother Sylva and his APC. They are only holding meetings in Abuja and threatening their own fathers and mothers and brothers that they will use federal forces to come and over run their own people for their own purpose not for the development of our state. This is a man who had been here for 5 years, where are his statistics of development? What did he do for Bayelsa. He is only playing on the nature, fears and greed, the envy and jealousy of our people. There is nothing in their politics for the people of Bayelsa state other than putting some bad belle people together to fight me. Because I did not allow them to go to Senate for a third time so I must not go for Governorship. Even the people in their communities know they have a Governor they can trust, they know when I make a promise I keep it. All the promises I made in the course of the Tour I am fulfilling right away.
Leadership is about trust and responsibility, building not destroying. So anytime somebody talks about destruction you know that is not a leader but a gangster, a criminal. It is because of the weaknesses of Nigerian institutions that these people have been allowed to grow the way they are and people mistake them for leaders. You cannot be seeking the mandate of the people and saying ”Whether you like it or not I will bring soldiers” as if you are the one who employed them and saying Nigerian troops are at their beck and call. Are Nigerian troops members of APC? They want to just destroy our institutions and our country. PDP was in power for 16 years, Lagos and other states remained in opposition does it mean Jonathan could not order troops before he conceded defeat?
Sylva said pensioners have not been paid. I am the one who said that our allocation is unfortunately low, even offices do not have allocation, I am sorry that is the situation but I gave my word and true to type we have started paying. When he was here he was not paying them for years, I have the records, he was owing over 6 billion naira in gratuities. Someone who could not manage N15-16 billion, can he manage N4.2 b that we are receiving now? Out of which we are still paying his debt. The bond he took runs till 2017.Do you think Sylva has changed overnight, that there is no record of his killings? I went to communities and they were telling me statistics of young people that were killed by Operation Famutangbe under Gov. Sylva’s watch, go to Amarata they will tell you the number of young boys they lost. But the good news is that the communities, the voters are the ones that matter in an election and they are with us which is another paradigm shift I am introducing in the politics of this state. After this election you will see that never again will someone call himself or herself a political leader merely because you have held one office and you are staying in Abuja, Lagos or Yenagoa. I went to Kpansia, the community waited 2-3 days for me and I got there at night, same for Opolo and they welcomed me, gave me a sword and tied wrapper on me when I got there because they believe in me. If Bayelsans are self-respecting and you want other Nigerians and people to look at you the Ijaw people with respect, then this is not the time to embrace APC. Ijaw people will not be put to shame.
From the ministerial position they gave you can see how they rate Bayelsa. From a state that lost Presidency, where our only permanent secretary has been removed, only God knows what happens next. Our highest customs officers retired. They say we got minister of State for Agriculture I say no it is assistant minister, in effect it is minister without portfolio.
The truth is that Bayelsans must wake up; the elites must learn to put the people’s collective interest ahead of their own selfish interest. Timipre Sylva went about promising people governorship and he became the governorship candidate, he also promised everybody the position of deputy governor and he failed them. This is the Jerusalem of the Ijaw nation and cannot be given out to a man like Timipre Slyva, a man that has never succeeded in anything he does. You saw him perform as Governor, let him tell us the opponent he allowed to campaign freely as I am doing now. Even though I disagree with him he has the right to campaign all over the State and I urge everybody to give him respect but do not vote for him, do not support him. When he comes to tell you what he has to say, ask him questions, why he allowed Famutangbe to kill people when he was governor. Ask him his record of security and how he intends to secure you going forward? Why he did not do all I am doing, schools, uniforms? Ask him what he did with the bond he got? Ask him why he apologised to the whole world and Nigerians for electing Jonathan? You cannot be one of us and go that far and expect there will be no consequences. You might not agree with Jonathan but It was wrong for him to have gone as far such that if God from this small state gave us the presidency, he was the instrument of people to destroy the presidency. I know what Timipre Sylva is planning, I know he does not forgive people.
Q: When re-elected into office, what are those things you would do which could not be accomplished in your first term?
A: By the grace of God and by the support of the people, we have started a lot of mega life changing projects. I came in here to make maximum impact within the available resources and time. Unfortunately our finances dropped precipitously. Last month we got N4.2b and after paying Sylva’s bond which we will keep paying every month till 2017 we manage to pay salaries, pensions. We cannot even pay allowances of people working with us, and we are not alone, all states and even federal Government are affected. Therefore the second term is to be dedicated to completion of most of these life changing projects that are almost at completion stage because every project has a gestation period. People like to see magic because of the energy we started with and because we had resources we were putting everything in and now people think I am distracted. I am not, it is a question of finances. Look at the airport, and ask Sylva why did he not do the airport. He played politics with everything, cleared a site and put a signboard before the first block was laid and got an ailing president to come and commission it!
Since I took over I have not fought Sylva, I just drew a line below his abysmal record and did things differently. I am the one who has security background. In our younger days I started as a police man and probably He was a subject of interest to the police even at that time so our background is clear. We know how to fight but in the interest of peace I do not believe in using government powers to bring people down. Politics is about using the power God gives us through the people to build and change lives .But for God’s sake if you cannot help a man, leave him alone do not go and shoot him and his children. I know what happened to the airport, not to talk of the Nembe- Brass road that so much money went into. You all know me and that is the difference between me and him. If you drive to Amassoma road now you will see the Airport. I have awarded the contract for the installation of the navigational instrument. FAAN has come to do the certification. In the next couple of months we will be landing there.
I thought they said the flyover was built by the Federal Government but now they are not saying that anymore. Ask Sylva why he did not build a structure like that. He calls it monkey bridge. How many monkey bridges did he build? He could not dualize the Azikoro road that we finished and that is the road they are using, going about wielding brooms. There is the dualization of Isaac Boro road. Such big projects have a time line. So if there is a shortfall within that period, the completion time elongates naturally.
If you ask me about projects I will focus on, we need to complete these projects. Look at Igbogene bypass. That road is 35-36 kilometres. We have already done the bulk of the job. When you owe a contractor because of what happened, contractors will leave and it is all over the country even with federal government jobs. So by the grace of God after the elections God willing, these are the things to complete. We will start certain things but they will be minimal because we want to finish all these ones because they are almost 80% completed. Look at the Igbogene bride that they ply on, ask Sylva why he allowed those 1950 bridges to be there until I came in. The bulk of that work is already done leaving just the sand filling of the second lane, so in 3-4 months that work is finished. That is how to work for a people. We did not do that just to get praises. Nobody in APC can close their eyes and say we have not made any difference because we have made a fundamental impact. Look at the Transparency Building he started, but did not complete it. I have spent more money on those buildings than he did. We are going to complete these life changing projects and then the schools, because that is where the real future of our state is. By the time I finish this boarding policy, they will be the best. We must also do the fencing of those compounds and the teachers will be re-trained as the teachers training institute is set.
You can imagine where Bayelsa will be with Governor Dickson in the next 2 years with these projects finished. That is what Sylva cannot do because he does not have the discipline to manage lean resources. He does not have the vision and the passion and commitment. This job is not for ‘guy men’ but for a country man who knows the people, shares their problems and works for them. If you like him because he fought his brother and you want to reward him like Judas got 30 pieces of silver, no problem. If he is not good enough to be President Buhari’s minister, then our message which we must send out on the 5th of December to President Buhari and all the people in INEC and military is that we Bayelsans say he is not good enough to be our governor.
Q: What do you think will be the effect of the peace accord you signed with the other parties?
A: I signed because that was the right thing to do. My campaign is about peace, development and prosperity. You hear me ask people to accord Sylva the respect that is due him. I am not a man of violence unlike those who are merchants of violence and cultism. I believe that a political leader and anyone aspiring to lead people must show example and our society can only develop when you have peace. We have been able to achieve so much because of the prevailing peace and we want it to get better. That is why our PDP campaign is not about promises of what we will do. I hear my good friend went to Lagos to unfold a four point agenda, he did not even have the courtesy of unfolding it to Bayelsa people but he wanted Lagos people to give Bayelsa people a Governor that is why he went to Lagos and it was his own few friends that were present. We are not perfect but we must try our best not to deliberately hurt our fellow man. I am talking about peace, I educate Bayelsans and tell them their rights to go and vote not with cloned PVCs. The police will arrest those with cloned PVCs. We do not need violence in the PDP to win any polling unit, the supporters are there, they will vote, they will stay there and protect their votes. The votes will be counted and result will be declared. Luckily INEC has spoken up, law enforcement will be at every polling unit, I have sensitised community leaders in every community so nobody will come to any community to intimidate the overall community. Besides, this is one single election where the entire country will be watching. They do not know the dynamics of this election and my advice to Sylva is he should withdraw from the race because he is not campaigning or talking about issues and our people have rejected him.
I have a message for the one percent of our population in APC; please do not say we did not warn you, you do not have a candidate. Your candidate is not electable. Bayelsa, the Ijaw land has no space for APC; that our people have confirmed to me during our tour. Nobody can intimidate the Ijaw people. Resist intimidation in your communities and wards. Some people have been winning elections without elections actually taking place but this is different, and nobody has power to carry materials to his house as people used to do and announce results because this is a PVC-based election.
Q: On a final note, what is message do you want to send out to all our communities?
A: My message is one of gratitude and appreciation to the communities, chiefs and leaders and the good people. Women groups also were very receptive. I needed boats to transport the plantains, fish, snails and other things they gave to me. I cannot thank them enough. I am really humbled and grateful that I have this opportunity to serve you. I have told them that after the election, having voted me in as they have promised to do, I intend to go round and thank them.
For the communities that I am yet to visit, Countryman is coming your way so get ready to engage me. I am coming to see you problems and hear from you to know how to serve you better.
To my good friend Sylva, let him engage me on the issues. I am looking forward to an opportunity to debate his record of abysmal failure of leadership, service and development to our people, failure of security that cost loss of lives when he was governor and I hope he accepts that offer of a debate.
To our people, thank you very much for your support and encouragement. Continue to stand by the PDP, continue to vote PDP and stand by me as you have done. We are determined to serve you. The Ijaw national interest demands that we stand together right now and not allow ourselves to be distracted or divided because of small benefits and promises which they will not fulfil. We are not perfect but we are better off working together. So to you Bayelsans I say together we are marching forward.
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