The clamour for Dickson's successor has begun. It is speculated that the seat may be zoned to the central senatorial district of the state. Three local governments make up the district-Southern/Ijaw, Yenagoa and
Kolokuma/Opokuma. But the people of Southern Ijaw believe it is their turn to produce the next governor in 2020, though the election is to hold about the end of next year. A new group, the Southern Ijaw House has emerged for this purpose. Convener of the group, Igor Goin Assembly spoke with JOHN ODHE in Yenagoa.
The governorship election will hold in December, 2019 in Bayelsa and there is what people now called the 'southern Ijaw agenda.” What is it all about?
The Southern Ijaw (SILGA) agenda is to ensure that in the next governorship election, somebody from Southern Ijaw Local Government Area emerges as the governor of Bayelsa State. We want all political parties in the state to look into Southern Ijaw and pick their governorship candidates from there. It is about the dream of a SILGA person occupying the Creek Haven come 2020.
It is because Southern Ijaw produces almost 70 per cent of the resources of the state but only two of its communities can be assessed by road. We are the most underdeveloped local government in Bayelsa State. We are the highest in terms of number but the least in capital development. We want our person to be there to drive the road infrastructure to the ocean. That is what we think should be done.
Does that not sound like a selfish intent?
No. That is not a selfish intent. The Nigerian man has not developed to the extent of thinking outside his immediate vicinity. He still believes that we should do things by ourselves. That does not mean that other parts will not be developed. But because of the difficult situation and the huge funds involved, we really need our person to be there to drive the development agenda. SILGA is about 70 percent of the entire state and it is just lying down in the forest.
Southern Ijaw is the local government with the highest rate of militancy in the state. All the generals you hear about are from there. So, why not open up the creeks instead of allowing them to languish in poverty in the creeks and return to militancy?
The current governor is not from Southern Ijaw; yet he has opened up parts of the area, particularly, Amassoma; the first airport to be constructed in Bayelsa is located at Amassoma. Does that not mean that a governor from other parts can also develop your area?
You can see that all the developments in the area are concentrated in Amassoma because of accessibility. The road to Amassoma has been there since Alamieyeseigha and the governor came to improve on it by locating the airport there because of accessibility. Why can't we take the airport to places like Korokorosei or Izetu and take a road there? It's capital intensive. There is pure concentration of development because you have only mentioned Amassoma. Can you also mention any community where you can site a project that can benefit all in SILGA?
But the governor is constructing a road from Anyama to Oporama?
How feasible is that project now, with the present economic situation, considering when the governor will leave office? Actually, we want somebody that will come and build on the governor's achievements and we have the people to do that. Yes. The airport is now in SILGA but what of if the next governor comes and says he does not want it there, what happens? The governor is taking a road to Oporoma, fine. The road has passed Anyama, fine. What if another governor comes and says the road is capital intensive and does not have economic value, what do we do? We would have been stucked again and that will take us another 28 years before it will come to our turn. By then, you and I won't even have teeth to eat meat again. Why should we not do that now?
Check the Bayelsa Senatorial District, Kolokuma/Opokuma for instance, all the villages are interconnected with roads apart from Igbedi; courtesy of their son who was the chairman of NDDC. Southern Ijaw has not even got the opportunity to have such a person in NDDC to do roads to outside villages. If you look at Yenagoa, every governor that comes in must improve on the capital city to at attract investments. So you can now see that they don't need the development as much as we do.
Have you also considered the governor’s interest of other local government councils? Must they wait till their sons become governor before they can experience development?
No. We have a peculiar problem. The general belief is that there is difficulty in developing southern Ijaw.
All the local government areas are connected with roads except Brass and Southern Ijaw. Ekeremor has a deliberate effort for a road to get to them before the end of the present administration of governor Dickson. I commend his effort. It is our own thinking that every LGA should get a road but ours is most difficult. The cost of the bridge alone that will cross the River Nun is enough to construct a road from here to Port Harcourt. The governor has done his best. We want our person to also come and open up the creeks to the ocean.
Somebody from your place has been a governor in the state?
Alamieyeseigha's government was truncated. If his administration was not cut short, we won't be having much problems.
But the governor did complete four years as the constitution demands. Another four years is just an addition?
It is mandatory that if you can do eight years, nothing stops you. This is because to develop Southern Ijaw, you cannot just give somebody four years and be able to complete all his projects. The present governor is writing his name in the annals of achievements because he is doing eight years. He is taking his time to execute his projects. So even if they will give us four years, let us start first.
Now that the zoning formula has come back to Bayelsa central, let's do the four years first. I want to reiterate that the state capital has developed more than any other parts. For instance, I have my building here in the state capital, you have your own here. You can't go to Southern Ijaw and build your house there. But both strangers and the indigenes develop Yenagoa, including government infrastructure.
So, at this point in time, they are not actually in need of government's attention. They will get it but they have to wait. Like I said earlier, KOLGA is highly developed. Everywhere is accessible, safe for Igbedi community. The outgoing governor is from Bayelsa West Senatorial District. So, they can't be asking for it now. In the same vein, Timipre Silva and Goodluck Jonathan just left from the east. So it is back to the central and our brothers in the central should understand that we (Southern Ijaw) are terribly underdeveloped. If we were practicing true federalism, nobody will argue with us because we have all the resources to give to the state.
In Rivers state, an Ikwere son did eight years and left. Another Ikwere son is doing his four years and now ready to do eight years, do you think somebody from another local government cannot come out and contest?
You just mentioned Ikwere in Rivers State. Do you know how long those people suffered in the hands of us, the riverine people? Since the creation of that state, the Ikwerres had not tasted power till the time of Amaechi. The first governor then was, Diete Spiff, from here (Bayelsa), so on and so forth. The Ikweres suffered for so long. So they actually warrant and merit to go for 16 years. In fact, I am in total support of them.
But here in Bayelsa, it has gone round and has come back again, and we seriously believe in political power sharing.
You will agree with me that you can't do this alone. How are you carrying the other senatorial districts along?
Exactly. You are absolutely right. The first thing is that if you were in this state during the last governorship election, would have understood that SILGA is a political block. Timipre Sylva wound have been in government house by now if southern Ijaw votes had come in that day. Now, they have lumped us there in the creeks with that large population.
First of all, we are leveraging on our large population. Two, we also have the other seven LGAs. A lot of them have also seen how our situation is. We will do the lobbying, we will talk, we will do the horse trading and the rest of that. We will not walk in isolation but I can assure you that our number will go a long way. We have been talking to other local government areas and their responses have positive. They are working with the SILGA House to ensure that Southern Ijaw actualizes her dream.
You said there are many capable hands for the gubernatorial job, how would the SILGA house select the very best out of them?
You know that in politics, there are many interest groups even within our local government. Now, we have strategies already put in place to get the best candidate but I think that is not for the public discussion yet. When we start unfolding the strategies, if you are in town here, you shall see it.
Are you going to screen the candidates or how?
The SILGA house is a clearing house. We don't have the right to screen. What we are saying is that all the power blocks in the state that have the opportunity to give tickets to aspirants should give tickets to aspirants from southern Ijaw. After that, we will do the political conspiracy to come up with the candidate we will support.
Can you define the "conspiracy"?
The political conspiracy is a high level strategy that can't be discussed in the open.
There are a lot of your sons in government and some of them may want to contest, are they consulting your house?
Yes. They are consulting. We have a lot of them and they are all members of the SILGA house. They come to our meetings. They are part of the decision making. They are also aware that there is going to be a political conspiracy at the end of the day to get a candidate.
This "conspiracy", will it not cause a fight?
That is why there will be no fight because it is going to be an open conspiracy which has already started. There will be no fight. Intact, the house has agreed that if we have a candidate that will be acceptable state wise, not just the house, every other candidate will queue behind that candidate. We want all of them to go and do their political consultations far and wide so they don't constraint themselves to the SILGA house.
Have you extended this "conspiracy" to other political parties?
Oh yes. The SILGA house is not a one-party affair. Everybody, no matter their political party, they have been coming. All the candidates you have in mind come to our meetings and they are consulting widely for acceptability.
Which agenda have you set for them as a standard for acceptance?
We have not really set an agenda for them. The people of SILGA themselves know who can win a governorship election for them. They know those that are popular and have grassroots support. They equally know those that can move SILGA forward.
Amassoma was on fire recently, what did your group do?
Well, it is an unfortunate situation. We went to commiserate with the families that lost their loved ones. We understand that it was a government policy that was misunderstood. So, we didn't want to go into it in details so that we don't have conflicts with the communities and the government. Government has handled the matter appropriately and we are satisfied with what they have done. That's why we didn't do much about it.