Dr. Patrick Ezekiel is the chairman, New Bayelsa Initiative, NBI, a socio-political pressure
group that believes in the inherent leadership qualities and abilities of individual personalities to transform Bayelsa state with her God given resources. A Senior Lecturer at the College of Education, Omoku, Ezekiel, in this interview with JOHN ODHE in Yenagoa, speaks on why Bayelsans should shift their focus from political parties to the stuff an individual is made of, as they prepare for the next round of elections. He also spoke on the debate concerning where the next governor of the state should come from.
What is the ideology that drives the New Bayelsa Initiative?
The superstructure of the NBI is built on the foundation of good governance in Bayelsa state particularly and Nigeria in general. Our focus is on Bayelsa state because charity, they say, begins at home. Our concern is about the enthronement of good governance in Bayelsa state. The time has come for Bayelsans to think of rewriting their own history. We, in NBI, believe in that individual personality that has the political will and leadership ingenuity to deliver the state from the woods. It is none of our business which political party the person belongs.
Unfortunately, Bayelsa with her huge resources has suffered an untold underdevelopment in the hands of insensitive leaders. We cannot continue this way. The state may crash someday if we continue the way we are going. So much has gone down the drain. We need a leader who can deliver us from this mess. This goes far beyond political platforms.
But there is a general notion that the PDP is an Ijaw party. Are you not aware?
Bayelsa state does not and cannot belong to any political party. That's an error. Sometimes, politicians whip such sentiments to curry political favour from the vulnerable and gullible electorate. It's a political strategy to brainwash our people. There is no element of truth in that argument. It is all deceit. If persons who are bereft of leadership ideas are given leadership positions under the guise of a political platform, what do you expect? It will be preposterous for a state to choose her leaders based on a particular political platform at the expense of a visionary leader. When did the PDP become a Bayelsa state party? Do the people of the state not know those in the PDP? Do we not know their pedigree? Are they not staying here with us? Have they not held positions of trust? Have they not held portfolios in the entire country or the local government? So, if we see somebody that is not competent, do we vote for him because he is a member of the PDP? That's an invitation to self destruction. That will usher in another round of pains and sufferings.
In the nutshell, political platforms of individuals is certainly not the problem of our people. Our major challenge is the man who is coming on board. What can he offer? Is he sensitive to the plights of Bayelsans? Will he be ready to utilize state resources for the development of the state and it's hitherto impoverished people? The questions we should be asking ourselves are what are his antecedents? Not about his political party. As the 2019 elections approach, we are again caught in the web of critical decision making. We must be careful enough not to repeat past costly mistakes. Allowing rubber stamps to be in charge of our common wealth will only spell doom for us. The governorship position of a state is a very sensitive position that should not be left in the hands of mediocres. Bayelsans should disregard the false ideology of belonging to a particular political platform. It was concocted by a few selfish individuals who knew that they could not win elections on the ground of popularity. It is unacceptable to the ljaws. We are wiser now. Let the people make their choice of leaders who will govern them, irrespective of their political platforms.
Do you believe in political power sharing or zoning?
Of course we do. Power zoning engenders equality and fairness. It creates room for even spread of development. It also checks political dominance by one group or set of persons over another. The sharing formula reduces monopolization of power to the advantage of a particular group and to the detriment of the other. When power is centralized for so long a time, it breeds oppression and marginalization. That is why from time to time, power needs to shift and revolve amongst a people that are lawfully, geographically bind together as one.
Would that not create an undue opportunity for mediocres to find their ways easily into positions of trust under the guise of zoning arrangements?
Under normal circumstances, such a situation does not arise. This is because leadership is a very serious business. It is not meant for the lazy, neither is it for the faint-hearted. It is not for the unserious minded. Leadership is not for thieves and the wicked who remain insensitive and think of only what goes into their private pocket, even when their people are suffering and living in penury. Knowing this, it now behoves on the people of the particular region whose turn it is to produce a leader, to govern the entire state to be careful who they present to the people. One thing is sure. There is no local government in Bayelsa state that does not have a competent person to be the governor of the state. Often times, it is the people that always make the wrong choices.
Therefore, the region to which power is zoned should reach a consensus and bring out the best to steer the ship of state. They know themselves. They have lived together for years. They know one another's antecedents. They should realize that the whole region would have failed the whole state if that individual they produced fails to meet leadership demands. The blame goes to the people of the region or district, as the case may be, that produced the governor. The same applies to the areas that produce senators, House of Representatives and state house of assembly members, local government chairmen to the least positions in the society.
Electoral malpractices are gradually shifting from ballot box snatching and all forms of violence to what is now known as vote buying. Is that not dangerous to the good leadership that your organization yearns for?
Indeed, it is a very dangerous trend to our fledging democracy especially in Bayelsa state where rapid development is all we highly need. But be that as it may, there is a simple solution to the worrisome problem of vote buy during elections, which is fast gaining roots in the Nigerian democracy. The only solution is self realization and determination. Those who ignorantly sell their votes should realize that it is not their votes that they are selling. They are actually selling their consciousness and mortgaging their future and the future of their children and children yet unborn. If the electorate can realize this and be determined to defend their votes for the sake of their consciences and the future of their children, the menace of vote buying will die a natural death. If I may ask, how much would be enough for one to sell his or her entire future?
Invariably, what the electorate are ignorantly doing is signing a four-years suffering agreement with a governorship candidate for N2,000, N3,000 or at most, N5,000 in some cases. That is exactly what voters do when they collect money from politicians during elections. Any politician who goes to borrow money to share to voters during elections will definitely recoup immediately he gets into power. There are no two ways about it. It's a matter of give and take. Let us choose between N3,000 and good governance. Let us decide between N5,000 and road infrastructure. It is a decision between N2,000 and health care delivery. Let us choose between N3,000 and good education for our children. The choice is ours. The choice we make in the 2019 general elections will define and decide where we shall be in four years time.
Going by the zoning arrangement in the state, it appears that the Bayelsa Central Senatorial District would produce governor Dickson's successor. Which local government amongst Southern Ijaw, Yenagoa and Kolokuma/Opokuma, in your opinion, should produce the next governor?
Ordinarily, any of the local governments you mentioned above can produce the state governor. However, some factors need to be put into consideration. As we all know, Southern Ijaw produced the first civilian governor of Bayelsa state from the same central senatorial district. Normally, southern Ijaw shouldn't be in the picture this time. It is therefore left for Yenagoa and Kolokuma/Opokuma to harmonize and produce the governorship candidate. If you ask me, I will give it to the Epie/Atissa kingdom in Yenagoa local government area. Being host of the Bayelsa state capital, the Epie/Atissa need to have a feel of the creek haven so that it does not look like a story of a landlord being alienated in his own land. Like I said earlier, given the opportunity to produce the number one citizen of a state does not give the room for fielding midiocres. The people of Epie/Atissa should look within and present their best to Bayelsans.
What effort is your group making to actualize its dream of enthroning good governance in Bayelsa state come 2019?
Very soon, our presence will be felt everywhere in the state. In the next few weeks, we will embark on a radical sensitization of the electorate on the dangers of vote selling. We shall be holding town hall meetings across the eight local government areas of the state. The meetings will cut across party lines because we don't preach political parties. We preach leadership qualities. We peach development and unity of Bayelsa state. We shall let the electorate know that if they make another costly mistake during the 2019 elections, the repercussions will be anguish, pains and suffering for another four years.