Dr Erepamo Osaisai remains the first and only gubernatorial aspirant to have declared publicly, his interest to contest for the position of Bayelsa State governor. He was also the second person to pick up the party’s nomination form, indicating his readiness for the election.
In this interview with TNN, he spoke on the raging issue of the choice of three aspirants for the race after what was supposed to be three days fasting to seek God’s face and direction. JOHN ODHE transcribed the interview.
You are among the first aspirants to pick PDP's nomination form, how has it been so far?
The process is a very clear one. You pick up the form at the national secretariat of our party, the PDP. You are required to be nominated by forty-five persons. The spread of those to nominate has to be at least, two-thirds of all the local government areas of the state. We are in the process of getting all of that properly completed, ensuring that the person that is coming to sign that nomination form is currently a registered member of the party and he is a registered voter. That process is on. I believe that before the end of this(last) week, I should be able to return the form. We are required till about the beginning of August to return the form but I think we will do that earlier to be able to continue with the rest of our activities.
It must have been very painful to you to cough out N21million to buy a form?
Well, l won’t use the word painful. If you compare it to what aspirants had paid to pick the same form about six months ago, it was significantly lower than this. The amount is high but I believe that the party may have had its good reasons for doing that. Being able to win the nomination of a party and on going ahead to contest the general election and become successful entails the commitment of huge resources. Even though ordinarily, people would say N21 million is high but I think it's still a little component of the total cost of being able to mount an electioneering campaign and ultimately winning an election.
I think the concern is that the amount may hinder a lot of people from joining the race
You may be right but from the information available to me, we now have well over 10 persons from our party that have picked the form so far. So, if it was put in as some form of a deterrent to weed out what could be characterised as unserious candidates, it look s like we have more than a dozen of serious candidates.
Were you shocked when you heard that within the PDP there is a group called restoration caucus and that within the caucus, three persons have been chosen as preferred candidates?
I wouldn't use the word shock. It simply goes on to confirm that when you are going on to contest an election and particularly individuals who have ascribed to themselves the role of executors or implementors-in-chief. First of all, it was some three-days of fasting and prayers to ensure that a candidate that is anointed by God is revealed. After the three days prayers, three have emerged. That, probably, may be considered as the official trio of the inner group of the restoration team. But I have also seen quite a number of other aspirants who themselves could rightly be referred to as members of the inner caucus of the restoration team, picking up forms and all that. So, what I can say is that it might just be some kind of theatrics and the dynamics of people who plan and implement what I will characterize as a roadmap of their own objective. So, we will wait to see what will happen, but I think the beautiful thing is that the field is gradually getting crowded and it's going to be interesting. Ultimately, it is Bayelsans who are of the PDP that are definitely going to decide who will be the appropriate person to fly the flag of their party. Well,it's part of the electioneering process and it's going to be quite interesting.
Do you feel threatened that the deputy governor is also joining the race?
Threatened? No. Like l told you, I am happy that he (the deputy governor) had expressed his own desire openly to exercise his constitutionally guaranteed right of seeking elective office and also being voted into office. If you are talking about the restoration team, I will consider the deputy governor to be the number two member of the restoration team and he wasn't included in the first three. So, for him to pick up the form, it then means that those who are prepared to provide leadership for the state are only exercising their inalienable right to seek elective office and it's a good thing that he is doing that.
What have been your fears in all of this?
There are no fears but l will tell you that it is an indication of plans that have not come out the way they ought to be on the part of those who believe that they have the magic wand. It also tells me that the ultimate responsibility for nominating a candidate rests with the delegates from all the local government areas in the state. We hope and believe that they would have the opportunity, without any form of hindrance, to mix freely with the aspirants and eventually choose who they think will provide good leadership for the state and I am quite positive that they will give the nod and l will be the beneficiary of that mandate.
Are you saying so because of any body language you have seen or because of the support you have somewhere or was it revealed to you that after the three-day fasting and prayers that you are going to be the chosen one?
It's nobody's body language, it's my own body language. Probably, l have not been announced but l believe when the three-day prayers ended, l probably was the one. (laughs).
As your party's primary election approaches, what are your expectations from the delegates and the party?
What we expect and will always expect will prevail is for is a level playing ground for all the aspirants. We expect a free and fair nomination process where the rules enshrined in the constitution of our party is in conformity with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will be adhered to in a way that the delegates are allowed to freely nominate a candidate that will fly the flag of the party. For instance, there wasn't any serious rancour after the last well conducted presidential primary election of the PDP held in Port Harcourt compared to previous ones. There wasn't anybody that protested after the primaries. We hope and believe that that atmosphere of peace, friendliness, happiness and tranquillity will also prevail in our own case here.
If you have the opportunity of talking to the delegates now, what will you be telling them?
It's simple. The responsibility of nominating a party's flagbearer who ultimately will become the governor of Bayelsa state is a serious one. The delegates have to analyze each of the candidates that have presented themselves before them. Also, they have to ensure that they look at their antecedents, character, competences and also how that person has been able to have a vision and sense of direction, a political plank that will be able to bring sustainable development to our state and happiness for our people. That's my only advice to them. It's quite a difficult one but l simply say, delegates, don't allow yourselves to be choreographed.
There have been cases in the past where delegates were being hijacked or kidnapped sort of, kept in a secret place and paid money to vote a particular candidate?
We pray that that won't happen this time. I don't subscribe to that. I won't kidnap anybody. I won't even refer to it as being kidnapped. You are only kidnapped if you are detained against your will. Many of these people openly participate in these activities most times. I will tell you something that is quite interesting. You can keep somebody away in some confined space but at the time the person is casting his or her vote to nominate a candidate, that mind has not been captured. So, l am sure they will be able to express their free will as to who they want to be their own candidate.
What is the future of Bayelsa that you see?
From my own perspective, we have a Bayelsa state that, at this point in time, is struggling. We are part of this country whose economy at this point in time is not the best. Yet there are some islands of prosperity that are doing quite well in some states. It is my expectation that the incoming governor of Bayelsa state should be the one that has the understanding of what it takes to rejig the economic activities in this state in a way that we could add value to our various, numerous, agricultural products, process them in a way that the people could earn good living from them. It is also my expectation that there should be some good semblance of industrial activities that will lead to employment creation so that our teaming young men and women from the universities who don't have jobs could engage themselves to create wealth for themselves and be able to live happily. My thinking is that there should be sustainable development, improvement and growth in many components in our human development index; in our agricultural facilities, in our health institutions, in a way that the average person living in Bayelsa state should be happy and should be a satisfied person and to further contribute to the development of our own society.