Former governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, Chairman of Elders Committee of Peoples Democratic Party in Bayelsa State, in this interview, reviews contemporary political developments in the state and affirms that the alliance between the North and Southwest will never benefit his Ijaw people. He also narrates how the late President Umaru Yar’Adua saved his life, among other issues. Excerpts:
Do you think recent defections will affect the PDP in the forthcoming governorship election?
Our people need to be educated. I can tell you that I was one of those in 2003 that formed Action Congress. At that time, it was becoming clear that President Olusegun Obasanjo was going to chase most of us out of PDP. So we came together, about 18 of us. We said let us register a party and keep it in case President Obasanjo pushed us out of the party. We can have a platform to actualise our dream. Also at that time, Obasanjo had cajoled the Southwest governors out of their seats. He deceived them. Bola Tinubu was very clever, he foresaw what Obasanjo was trying to do. So he was the only one that survived because the agreement was that all the Southwest governors should all support him so that he will return them as governors for second term. Obasanjo’s election came first and he deceived them. Obasanjo himself, very cunning, formed Accord Party. When you hear of Accord, it’s Obasanjo’s party.
Tinubu provided the secretariat for the Action Congress. I, Alamieyeseigha, attached my Special Adviser on Political Matters, Chief T.K.O Okorotie, to that secretariat to put the papers together. We invited Chief Tom Ikimi, to be the arrowhead and he registered that party for us. It is that AC that transformed into ACN and then the present APC. So, there is nothing happening in APC today that I don’t know and they are the same people that are being recycled. So, my people should not be deceived. Politics is local. And the whole thing is about self-interest. It is either they have not been given appointment, their severance allowance during Timipre Sylva administration has not been paid or they were not picked as candidates in the last general elections. Then I asked the question, must it always be you? It is not right. Leadership is a relay race. You complete your assignment, you hand over to another person. It cannot always be you alone every time. There is time for everything, so basically that is the problem. By the time we go into the party primaries, all the noise you are hearing will die down, because it is only one candidate that the party will present. APC will present one candidate. APGA will present one candidate. By then, they will better appreciate the political environment. The expectations are high because we don’t have any industry in the state. Even the market woman at Swali Market will tell you how much is coming into the state every month. So the only industry we have in Bayelsa state is Government House. If you are shut out of Government House for four years, of course, I am sure your guess will be as good as mine. So, the struggle here is to always to be in government.
But what about the aggrieved PDP members who were expelled?
Now as long as you are a product of a party, the party is supreme. If you are a product of that system, you must respect that party. If you sabotage the party, the party has a mechanism to discipline erring members. There should be no sentiment about this. Some of them that were expelled did not do well. From evidence available, they sponsored opposition parties against their own party and no party will accept that. Again, as elders, we have intervened and those decisions have to be reviewed, and very shortly, too.
We shall review them, the working committee will sit down and review it on individual basis. Some of them will be reprimanded, while some will be admonished. And at the end of the day, I think the matter will be resolved amicably.
Would you say Governor Dickson has done enough to deserve a second term?
Governor Dickson, has done well. What I have seen on ground in the last three years in the state is very encouraging. Our problems have been the continuation of policies and programmes of government. I served this state for six and a half years. Goodluck came in, served one year, the remaining six months he was campaigning for the office of the Vice President. Governor Timipre Sylva came in. Of course I didn’t see anything visible on ground. I am not castigating him, but you could walk from Igbogene to Swali Market, I did not see anything that was added to what I left behind; even to complete the project I started was a problem. I feel very bitter when you come to government with good intention, you start a project for the good of the people and that project is abandoned. So that period was a setback. Dickson has come in, we can now drive to places that were impossible before and we can see changes.
Are you worried by the strong followership the APC is drawing from the youth?
This state is a PDP state. We, the elders will not allow foreign bedfellows to take over this state. An Ijaw man has never been conquered. We would not allow it to happen. You can call it any name. Whether they come from the Southwest, whether they come from the North they won’t conquer us. If anybody tells you as an Ijaw man that these people love you, it’s a lie. I know them and they know me too. The South-west and the North if they come together they will continue to produce the President of this country for life. We have no hope, so we must consolidate on what we have here. We cannot afford to fall into that trap. We will perpetually be slaves to the bigger tribes. We should protect what belongs to us, we shall not allow our young men to be brainwashed. This country must be restructured. We must practice true federalism, otherwise these people will continue to exploit us. We had a President from here. They just decided to take it back, and they took it. Is that the system the young people want to run into? What will even the Federal Government do to you if you decide to stay where you are? You are receiving allocation from the Federation Account, the federal government is equally receiving its share, what do you expect from them? Is it not better to utilize what you have received and be able to be ingenious enough to attract investors to develop your local economy, than depending on the Federal Government? The whole thing is deceptive. What they did not get from the 13% derivation, they are getting through the back door through the local government system. There is no Federation in the world where local government is a federating unit. Don’t be afraid; this youth population you are talking about. They have leaders that control them. It is like my humble self, going to Amassoma and I say this is the direction we are going, which of my children will stand up and say no? They will follow my direction.
How has it been since you left office almost 10 years ago?
The Lord, Almighty God is Holy and has sustained me and my family effortlessly. Though the challenges are always there, but if you are serving God, you don’t need to be worried about tomorrow. He has always sustained me. I am not doing anything that is income-generating per se. I am also, not begging anybody for help. I am contented with the little pension I receive. I am a man with a contented heart. I am always happy. My family is also not complaining.
This earth, where we are is a workshop. So, it is expected we must pass through certain experiences in life. I have learnt my lessons for good, a leader must also be capable of enduring pains when it comes. You can never have comfort all the time. If what happened to me, if it were today, I would have known how to handle it better. So many things happened. Anytime I sit down and recollect some of these things, I laugh over them. I thank God, I would not have been here talking to you. I would have been a dead man because several attempts were made to eliminate me. But thank God, I am alive today and I also thank the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, who saw it coming and called as a President and saved my life. He said, “Ganuwa Katsina, they will kill you if you think anything will happen, nothing will happen.” He said, “Weeks after your death, your people will make noise. After, it is the same your people that will send CV’s for appointment and that will be the end of you.” This Nigeria, don’t argue with anybody. If it requires removing your dress to set yourself free, come out of it. I did not sign any paper that set me free. They signed everything by themselves; they took everything I had, I came out of detention with only N500. Everything I had since I was born was taken away from me. Even this house we are in now, if it were located outside Bayelsa State, it would have been taken away from me. They couldn’t try it because they would not have been comfortable in it. My people were ready to protect it. It is good we are alive to be telling these stories so that the younger ones who have not experienced these things will learn from our experience.