Dr. Dennis Otiotio is a stalwart of the All Progressives Congress APC in Bayelsa state. He was state agent for his party both in the 2015 governorship election and the just concluded presidential, national and state assembly elections in the state. In this interview with JOHN ODHE in Yenagoa, he speaks on why his party is not in government house now in Bayelsa state, the party's fortunes at the 2019 elections and how it intends to translate that into victory in the forthcoming gubernatorial election.
How would you assess the 2015 and 2019 elections in Bayelsa state?
Well, you can see that the performance of APC in the 2019 general elections in Bayelsa state is tremendously better than the previous one. For instance, in the 2015 election, President Buhari got just 5,000 votes in Bayelsa state but here in 2019, Buhari got about 118,000 votes. We gave Buhari more than 35 percent of the votes. So, you can see that there is a great improvement. In 2015, we had just one house of assembly member, but in 2019, we have one senator-elect, two house of representatives members-elect and four house of assembly members-elect. We are still waiting for the fifth one. You are aware that in Brass constituency 1, we were leading and the PDP went to court to stop the process. Anytime that election is completed, we are going to win. So we are going to have five members in the state assembly. You can see that we have tried. But going forward, we believe that this year, we are going to take over Government House. In the forthcoming gubernatorial election, APC is going to win. Our performance in the just concluded 2019 general elections has shown that we are ready to take over the government of the state.
In 2015, your party lost the governorship election, where did you get it wrong?
Well, we did not lose the 2015 election. We were rigged out. By popular votes, we won. What happened in the 2015 election is that both the police and INEC worked against us. If you remember, in any polling units and areas where we won, they would cancelled the election. In any ward where we won, they would develop one excuse or the other to cancel the election. Most of the ad-hoc staffers were PDP nominees. You are aware that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was the president of the country and he is from this state. So INEC was like in total control. Those people who did the 2015 election were people nominated by the PDP. So, when we knew that INEC was going to use the same persons they used for the 2015 general elections for the governorship election that same year, we knew that we were going to be rigged out. That is why we protested and wrote petitions that the state resident electoral Commissioner and the Administrative Secretary on INEC should be removed because they were pro-PDP workers. But they refused to remove them and went ahead with the election. So, we did not actually lose that election. We won by popular vote.
One serious allegation levelled against Sylva in 2015 was that he used his security outfit, Operation Famou-Tamgbei to cause insecurity in the state during his days as governor. How will your party erase that allegation this time?
During Sylva's time, there was night life in Bayelsa state. People went about their normal businesses without any form of harassment and molestation. People were on the streets of Yenagoa till midnight. But now, by 6pm, you can't come out of your door. Today, people are clamouring to stay in the Famou-Tamgbei era than in the Doo-Akpor era. In my church, for the past six months, we have not had night vigil. We are a church that does night vigil every week. We have to cancel night vigil because of security concerns. Now, we hear of killings everyday. In Sylva's time, all the criminals and miscreants ran away from this state and took refuge in Rivers and other neighbouring states. Even the militants, do you know that it was Sylva that ended militancy? He was the person who proposed the amnesty programme. He was the one that brought all those 'Generals' you are hearing of from the creeks. I have seen a situation where militants came to invade the Government House at the eve of the governorship election in 2007. Everybody, even the then governor, Goodluck Jonathan, including the police, all ran away. But when Sylva came in, he was able to discuss with the militants and gave them orientation and they accepted the amnesty programme. Even within Yenagoa, there was nothing like cultism. There was peace. Fine, some of the policemen attached to Operation Famou-Tamgbei acted in excess of their powers. But those that did those things were disciplined. The police has an internal way of dealing with defaulters among them. Some of them were given orderly room trial while some of them were dismissed. You will agree with me that during the Famou-Tamgbei era, Bayelsa state was a safe haven. Yenagoa was a safe haven. Now, you can also agree with me that by six in the evening, you won't be able to go to your house or come out of your house. It is not safe. They are killing corpers, they are killing women, they are killing men, they are killing everybody. Nobody is safe anymore. So, the question is, do you want to stay in fear or in the Famou-Tamgbei era where you know that you are safe wherever you go? Nobody is going to bring out a gun to shoot you or cut your hand with a machete.
The state governor has always associated the APC with violence, what is your view on that?
The governor is the father of gangsterism. During the last election, I believe you know that they arrested the current chairman of Southern Ijaw local government area, Mr. Africanus in his house alongside more than 50 boys with heavy arms and ammunition. They have been moved to Abuja. Are they APC boys? No. They are PDP boys. In Nembe local government, the only person that was killed on the eve of the presidential and national assembly elections was an APC boy. He was killed by PDP thugs. We just buried him last Saturday. Anywhere you hear people say "thugs, thugs", it is the PDP that is perpetrating those thuggery. It is not APC. We are a peace loving party. It is the governor that will arm the thugs, fund them and direct them to commit felony and other forms of brigandage and then come to the radio because he is in control of most of the radio stations and begin to tongue-lash APC. But the figures are there. In Nembe, an APC man was killed by PDP thugs and in several other places, the thuggery was committed by the PDP.
The state government has accused members of your party who have contracts with oil companies in the state of conniving with security men attached to the companies to perpetrate security threats in the state. What is your take on this?
I am not in the oil and gas business. I don't even know those who are in the oil and gas surveillance business. But I can tell you that this oil and gas contracts started even before the APC was registered as a political party. Those contracts were awarded sometime in 2012/2013 when our party had not been registered. So, what are they saying? People have choice of membership. You can become PDP or APC member. If you have a contract and you decided to become a member of a particular party does not make that contract a PDP or APC contract. Oil and gas surveillance contractors are private businesses men. They might choose to belong to any political party of their choice. That is their constitutional right. Their job is to work with security agencies to prevent hoodlums from vandalizing oil pipelines to ensure that oil production can move on smoothly. In Southern Ijaw that the PDP mentioned, the thugs that were arrested with arms during the election were members of the PDP, not surveillance contractors. You have a job to report the truth through investigative journalism. If you do a little digging, you will find out that those who were perpetrating the mayhem in Southern Ijaw and other places were not APC members, neither were they surveillance contractors. They were PDP members contacted by the caretaker chairman of Southern Ijaw local government area. Why has the governor not come out to say that the chairman he appointed hired thugs to cause mayhem in Southern Ijaw? Up till now, those boys are in the custody of the security operatives in Abuja.
They say your party has no structures to win a governorship election in Bayelsa State, what do you have to say?
You are in Bayelsa. You know that they are living in past glory. Before this time, all of us were in the PDP. So, PDP was a big party then. But now, the real politicians have left the PDP and it's now a ghost of itself. It is living on past glory. The party to beat now is the APC.
They say the PDP is an Ijaw party, what of the APC?
Am I not an Ijaw man? Goodluck Jonathan was the president and they said the PDP was an Ijaw party. After Goodluck left, they went and brought a Hausa Fulani man in the person of Atiku Abubakar. The same Atiku that was in APC to remove the Ijaw president is the man they are now rallying around as an Ijaw party. So, how Ijaw party is that party? I can tell you that APC is the real Ijaw party because Ijaw stands for the truth and the APC stands for truth. That is why we now say, 'APC is our party'. We have been living in the deception of the PDP for a very long time. It is time to free ourselves from the mental slavery that we have been in under the PDP. We must liberate ourselves from that mental slavery and follow the truth and the only party that can help us to achieve that is the APC.
The state government said they have spent over sixty-five billion naira on the Cargo Airport, any comment on that?
Point of correction, they have spent over one hundred billion naira on that airport. They don't even know how much they have used on the airport. That is the costliest airport in the whole world. I have travelled to all the continents of the world and I can tell you that this airport is the most expensive one in the world. I have lived in places. I did my masters in the US, I did my PhD in the UK. This is the most expensive airport in the world but unfortunately, no plane can even land there. That's why they have not commissioned it. They have not been able to tell Bayelsans the truth. The truth is that the runway of the airport was not properly constructed. Anytime there is flood or rain, they can't use the airport. When they commission it, it's going to be a seasonal airport. It is only going to be used in the dry season. During the rainy season, it will be submerged with water. That is why the Air Force refused to take over the airport. They have made all the arrangements to take over the airport but when they saw that deficiency, they told the state government to raise the runway. Do you know what that means? It means that they have to repeat all that they have done. It is like when the DPC of your house is too low. You have to break all your tiles to be able to raise the DPC. So, all the billions they have spent on the runway is a waste because it has to be raised. If not, the slightest rain that comes will overrun it. So, all they have done there is a waste of resources.