Bayelsa: You are afraid of your own shadow!, Sylva fires at Gov Dickson
Says PDP candidate is ‘Bush Man’
Former Governor Timpre Sylva hits Governor Seriake Dickson in the battle for Bayelsa State. The governorship election in the state holds only six days away. Sylva, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the poll, says Dickson, flying the flag of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), will fall at the election. The APC candidate spoke in an interview. Excerpts:
By Samuel Oyadongha, Yenagoa
There is the question being asked by many, including your opponent, and that is, what did you forget in the Government House since 2011 when the court annulled your tenure?
Anybody that asks that question is ignorant. I left Bayelsa State Government House unwillingly and all Bayelsans know the circumstances under which I left, and, since then, no other opportunity has presented itself for me to re-contest for that office. This is the first opportunity and so I don’t know why anybody will ask me if I forgot anything. Actually, the event of 2012 should be fresh in the mind of every well-meaning Bayelsan. I was disqualified by the powers, that-be from contesting an office I was occupying at that time. Most well-meaning Bayelsans think this is the time for God’s justice and justice being done by bringing me back and that’s why you see this overwhelming support. I didn’t forget anything in Bayelsa State Government House but government, as far as we are concerned, is occupied by a usurper who came and used federal might. Today, when they shout about federal might?. Look at Yenagoa; do you see army check point? Now, take your mind back to the election in 2012, we had over a hundred check points in Bayelsa, manned by fierce-looking soldiers. The Government House was blocked with an armoured personnel carrier, APC, and, of course, military helicopters were flying over Bayelsa. Now, nothing of such is happening and yet they still scream because they are scared of their own shadows. The people of Bayelsa would have given me a second tenure if I had been allowed to contest but I was barred from re-contesting that election. Today, those people who barred me from contesting that election are no longer in office; so the Bayelsa people have the opportunity of choosing their rightful leader and that is why I have presented myself.
Your party, the APC, dislodged your brother, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, from the presidency; don’t you think this might affect your chances at the poll?
I don’t think this will have any impact on the election. Every Ijaw man should be fair to me and the APC. The former President set the scene for his exit from office by bringing war to his home. He started the fire and he didn’t start the fire in any other place, he started it from home. After I was removed from office, I went on exile and, when I came back, I was arrested many times. They never left me alone, they wanted to kill me, they wanted to jail me, they wanted to do everything to me. I was visited by elders from different parts of the country and the question on the lips of all those elders was, ‘do you not have elders in Bayelsa State who can intervene between yourself and the President?’ And I had no answer to give them. Now, I was pushed to the wall, I was pushed out of PDP. I didn’t leave PDP, I was pushed out and they were very joyful about it. Now, I saw an opportunity to find a roof over my head in the APC and the Lord crowned our effort. Now, the former President is history. If he had brought everybody together, I mean put his own house together, Amaechi (former Rivers governor) wouldn’t have left probably, I would not have left probably. In 2011, we all supported him but, unfortunately, he himself and those who were around him felt we were no longer needed. Jonathan lost the election and the people of Bayelsa must move on.
So, well-meaning Bayelsans need to look my way and, I think, many Bayelsans know this and that’s why they are already looking my way. And that is why we are definitely going to win the December 5 election.
What informed the choice of your deputy, because people say he is over 70 years. Is it because you want a man who is not ambitious?
Change means so many things to different people but, to me, there is only one definition of change. Change, to me, means a different way of doing things. Stupidity is defined as doing the same thing and expecting to get a different result. We must begin to do things differently if we expect a different result. What informed my choice of a deputy was the fact that if I carried on with the same ticket as I had before, then it will amount to doing things the same way. I am 51 years old and I thought I need an older person with experience to be a counter balance. That is why I chose this very experienced retired school teacher. He is also a very good Christian.
Your opponent, the incumbent governor, has said that the election is not going to be about him or you, but about the people of Ijaw which cast your candidature as anti-Ijaw interest. How do you react?
In a way, I agree with the governor that the election is not about me or about him, but it is about Bayelsans and about the Ijaw people. But when you take it further, you can see the state of mind of the man we are talking about. He is confused. I had said that none of APC or PDP is an Ijaw party, they are national parties. What can he do for the Ijaw nation on his own? What can he possibly or what can Bayelsa, on its own, do for the Ijaw nation? Nothing. The person who loves Ijaw people must take Bayelsa to the centre and this is what is going to improve the lot of Bayelsa people. So, if we are talking of Ijaw patriot, I consider myself one and, I think, today, that some well-meaning Ijaw people are quite happy with me because they believe that without me, there would have been no link with the centre, there would have been no bridge-builder. So, I think that, on the contrary, the APC is the patriotic party and I am the patriotic one. And I think the Ijaw people should embrace the APC because this is our time to really get to the centre, we have to live in this same country, whether our president lost the election or not. It is not the Ijaw people that lost the election because Ijaw people did not contest election. I saw the PDP and the PDP presidential candidate, who was an Ijaw son, but he lost and we have to carry on in this state, we have to carry on in this country.
Let us go back to the era when you were governor. There is the insinuation that you did not perform and left a lot of abandoned projects, including the airport project. What do you say?
That, to me, is the continuation of my opponent’s frustration and paranoid. When I came into government, there were a lot of ongoing projects, and I did not call them abandoned projects. Every government starts a project and if it doesn’t finish such project, the incoming government finishes it. Banquet hall was one such project, it was started by Alamieyeseigha. I completed it. The treasury building was another I completed. The judiciary building, the library, I completed them. The way I left office, nobody would have thought I would have completed all those projects because I left in the middle of my tenure. I wasn’t given time to complete the projects. When Dickson leaves now, he will leave a lot of projects also uncompleted. Does it mean I will consider them abandoned projects because he did not complete them? He has abandoned his own projects now, which is the real meaning of abandoned projects. All the hospitals he has been building have been abandoned. He has abandoned the Isaac Boro Road; he is the one that is abandoning his own projects. Now if you ask me about the Musa Yar’ Adua Airport, I sited that airport there because I felt it is viable economically in that spot. When I did the feasibility study, we found out that spot was equal distance from Port-Harcourt and to Warri. So we felt an airport like that will be very useful to our people and people outside our state like Patani, Ughelli and Ahoada, and thus boast economic activities.
Governor Dickson says you are a ‘guy-man’ and that the income of the state does not need a ‘guy-man’; and another thing is the issue of debts from Alamieyeseigha to Jonathan down to you. Can you tell Bayelsans how much did you inherite, how much did you owe, how much did you leave behind when you left office?
I wonder what Dickson means by a ‘guy man’ but I think I am a typical Bayelsan. Dickson is just a disgrace to himself and I don’t know what he meant by ‘guy man’, but everybody knows Dickson is a bushman. That is why he doesn’t have that self confidence, that is why he calls me ‘guy man’. He is ‘country-man’ and I am ‘guy man’. You also raised the issue of debt burden. I really wish he could be truthful. Unfortunately people are full of lies.
The figures are there. I inherited debts from Jonathan. Now, what we did was to service those debts. I took 50 billion naira bond because we felt that if we serviced the loans alone to commercial banks, it was costing us a lot. And then we took part of the bond to pay contractors handling Brass Road and the Melford Okilo Hospital. The bond was structured in such a way that it was a long term; so it could be easier for government to pay the interest. We were able to put all the loans that we inherited into that bond.
I will never lie to Bayelsans. I had a commercial loan stock of N20 billion which I was hoping to finish paying by May that year and I would have finish paying it if I, was there by then. Now, the government of Jonathan was owing contractors N111 billion and, by the time I was leaving, debts to contractors were about N207 billion. I inherited a debt of N111 billion and what Dickson inherited from me was N207 billion contractors’ debts. In my first year in government, I received N99 billion from the Federation Account. The first year Dickson came, he received N191 billion. Second year I received N154 billion, Dickson received N215 billion. The third year I received N106 billion, Dickson received N156 billion. So what is he talking about? Now, he is taxing civil servants which I did not do. He has got more to deploy for development but has he done so? Now, he says he has been paying N20billion commercial loan from 2012 till now? Bayelsans should take note of this, Dickson has borrowed more money than any government. Do you know that those transparency buildings I built from the money we received from the EFCC have been given out as collateral to banks to borrow money?
The PDP has continued to accuse you of using the security outfit, Famotangbe, to maim and kill innocent Bayelsans during your tenure.
I have always challenged the Dickson government, if they make that claim, to show me a name, half a name or two of Bayelsans that were killed by Famotangbe.
Famotangbe was a security outfit; Dickson himself realizes that there was the need for a specialized outfit. The decision to establish the security outfit was taken in a security council meeting because we need to set up a specialized outfit to combat the rising wave of crime, especially coming at the time after militancy.
So we decided to set up a security outfit in collaboration with the police.
That outfit was overseen by Pererich, my security adviser, but under the police. If any crime was committed by Famotangbe, Pererich is now working with Governor Dickson and so I challenge him to arrest Pererich if or probably order for my arrest. Those are just sweeping comments made by a drowning man. As far as Dickson is concerned, it is just the name that is the problem and the name was not my suggestion.