Ebiye Ogoli is the spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Bayelsa State. In this interview, he speaks on the strength of the PDP in his state and also commented on the return of some people to the party, after their sojourn in other political parties.
I like us to talk about your party and what is going on in Bayelsa State. Let me start by asking you about people who were aggrieved during the last primary elections for house of assembly, for house of reps, for senate, and some people left the party as a result of that. How has the party been managing this situation?
It is like a culture in Nigeria, cutting across party lines; you know when primaries are conducted, what happens is that in some cases, you know politicians believe that the game is almost like that of sports, will almost accept the results of the elections, but as usual, you know human beings, some will not accept, some will not easily accept the result of the election. I want to assure you that the primaries that were conducted were conducted in line with the rules of the game, talking about the provisions of our constitution. So, everybody went into the elections believing that they were going to make it at the end of the day, but as it turned out, some persons that lost out, some persons that lost decided that they needed to go to court to try their luck, if they could get something from the court, which of course, it is their fundamental right to do so. So, that one is not quite a problem to the party because it is not the first time, people have been going to the court. But be that as it may, the party has also set up a machinery, a reconciliation machinery, to start to talk to some persons, actually, some persons that really needed not to go to court that have gone to court, some persons we know that actually don’t have any valid reasons but for purposes of trying to make them prove a point, they went to the court. So, the party has set up a state-wide reconciliation committee and they may go round talking to some of these aggrieved persons, some have actually accepted, some have given some little conditions which, if those conditions are met, they will decide to drop their agitation.
And what could the conditions be?
Like some persons said they have spent money, you understand? So, some of these persons said they have given monies to recoup back the expenses that they made, you know, they could have to forgo whatever petition that they have taken at the moment. But some have actually decided to take the path of peace and that is to listen to the voice of reasoning to actually leave what they wanted to do, which is the pursuit in court.
So, by and large, it’s not as if everybody has gone to court. Some persons have actually accepted to reason with the party and work for the party and actually, there are also others that did not go to court, they congratulated the opponents that won, because it was a clean, clear election. I mean, the primaries were very transparent and honest. But our democracy, we are still developing, we have not got to where we are supposed to be. Sometimes when I read in the papers that it looks like our party is shaking, no, no, no, there is nothing like that, it is a normal thing, people go to court; even those of them that have gone to court, it’s not that much considering the number of persons that went in for the primaries, we had quite a number of persons that went in for the primaries, but if out of the lot, less than five per cent have gone to court, I don’t think that one should make headlines. So, by and large, the party is getting strong, we are receiving opposition members of other political parties coming over in droves. In fact, you need to be in our office, the whole of this week we have been having a field day receiving persons from other parties. By and large, we are increasing on a daily basis, and we are really ready to go in for the elections.
When you say you are increasing, it’s a bit not too clear because the other day I read where they said a lot of people defected from the PDP to the APC.
Ah, ah! Where are the pictures na? Sometimes when people make all these sensational news, I begin to doubt if we listen to hearsay or we go to such places to really get our facts. We have a lot of fanthom stories going here and there but the point remains that, ask the ordinary person in Bayelsa State, those on the street, they should be able to tell you the feelings of the people. That is where you will begin to understand whether PDP is not doing well, because when people say people are decamping, it means the performance of that government or the persons in power are not going down well with the people but this is not the true situation of what is on ground. PDP is doing so well, our governor is working so hard, building infrastructure and doing some of the things that made people to be angry in time past, he has been able to assuage the feelings of the people. So for me, some of those things I feel that they are just sensational, they are not true. Like the other day, we received quite a huge number of persons in our office , it’s not something that anybody is going to say it did not happen. Go to the social media, you will see them, they came, the people were all over the place, from Agrisaba, from Mini, from Ikensi, these are the very wards from where the APC party chairman came from. The people were all over the whole place, about 1000 of them. So we are not just dishing out figures, these are human beings that came, everybody saw them and you know our secretariat is on the road, quite there, open and people were all over it and people saw them, the roads were all jam-packed with cars.
What would you say about this perception that because of what the minister of state for petroleum, the APC is waxing stronger? How do we reconcile these and what you are saying about the PDP?
Well, that is their own cup of tea. For me, I can only talk about my party, but if you want to find out, you are a journalist, go to the particular locations where they are saying.
I wouldn’t want to comment on whatever they say he is doing for his people, but here in the state, we are concerned about Governor Douye Diri doing things that have never happened in the past, historic events taking place, like the Nembe-Brass road. You know when he inaugurated it, a lot of persons thought it’s just one of those projects that he is going to abandon almost after mobilizing to site, but go there yourself, find out if the road is going on. The work is going on steady, the Central Senatorial District, they are just crossing the beams and on the Agobiri bridge which is going to lead to Angiama and adjoining communities, thereafter the company can now squarely face the 647 meters long bridge crossing Angiama to Oporoma. The company is ready, they are already working, so these are things that are practical. Go to Ekeremor, Sagbama road is on-going, these are senatorial federal roads. So when they talk about another party, me I don’t really want to join issues with them. Whatever they want to say, it is what the ordinary citizens in Bayelsa feel that concerns me as a person.
Is this governor doing well, is there peace in Bayelsa, has he been taking care of all the grievances? All those issues that made somehow certain issues to arise during the last governorship election? All of those issues have been tackled, like payment of arrears, promotion arrears, civil servant bonuses, all of those things, the governor has, in fact he has even stepped into paying gratuity, which has not been paid for quite a long, long time.
Going to the higher institutions, he is paying, even now I’m sure you are aware that ASUU strike, the federal government has not been paying their own staff, the ASUU members in the federal institutions, the federal universities, but here in Bayelsa NDU, the governor is paying these people, even though they are not working for the past seven months or thereabout. This man we are talking about is a God fearing, he thinks about the people, he is a man from the village, he was a teacher, so that is the kind of human being he is, and so he feels that if his own brother somewhere is crying out loud over a wrong policy that is going on in the state, it is his place to correct it and he has been going about correcting them. So for me, I don’t like joining issues with any other political party, because me, I know, there are leaders that you know, their own mindset is just to go in there and get whatever they want to get or maybe just to acquire power, but there are others that believe that acquisition of power is for the progress and upliftment of his people, and that is what this governor is all about.
I’ve been in politics from 1999 till date and each of these governors that have ruled this state they are all PDP governors including Timipre Sylva, he was a PDP governor. I’m not going to criticize him but I also know that of all these governors, this one that we have now is the one that I will feel that has the heart for the people. He wants to know what the people are saying, even the opposition that we are talking about, he listens more to the opposition than even to the PDP people because he wants to know where he is going wrong so that he will be able to correct himself. So this is the kind of person we have as governor of this state and we are so happy and so grateful to God. I must assure you that for the PDP, we are very, very comfortable, very happy and we keep thanking God, grateful to God that we have a man that is a gift to this state.
Okay, we will get back to this, but let me take you back to a comment you made earlier, that about 1000 people defected and joined the PDP again…
(Cuts in) Yes.
If 1000 defected to the PDP, would you say that in that case the APC is dead in Bayelsa, or is half dead or is on life support?
The 1000 persons were from two local governments. In fact, we had two big chieftains, APC chieftains, one of them was the alternate director -general of the gubernatorial campaigns of the APC in 2019. So that is the man that came over to the PDP and I wouldn’t want to repeat what he said, but there were some very serious issues raised as to the reason why he is coming over. Professor Seiyefa Dressman is not the kind of person that you can just say because probably it’s hungry, so he can just begin to dish out whatever he likes on public discourse, no. He is a kind of person that is very serious minded, very conscientious, a man that we will regard almost like a leader or one of the leaders of this state. So, when such people come over to the PDP and to say that they are coming over because they want to come to lend their support to what the governor is doing, then you should know that something good is happening. Another person is Ebikini Diongoli, he was a local government chairman, he also became a commissioner. Yes, he was also made a commissioner. So, these persons came with so many persons from KOLGA, they are their supporters, they brought a lot of people from KOLGA and the other segment was from Nembe Local Government, led by the immediate past local government chairman, talking about honourable West Alalibo. He was able to mobilize a lot of persons, I don’t know how many wards but I think from two wards or so, they were very many, they were all over the place. In fact, they had about five leaders that were addressing us and each of them represented their groups. So, there were a lot of persons, our secretariat was jam-packed. I am not saying that the APC has gone into extinction, I will not say that, if I say that, that will be unreasonable, I’m too conscientious to make certain sweeping statements. But I also know that they are on the decrease.
Let me put it this way. Is that to say that before the next governorship election, which going to come up towards the end of 2023, PDP will almost empty APC into its fold?
The APC you are seeing in this state, actually, APC was not a party to boast of. What happened was that there were internal crisis in the PDP, internal crisis. So, most of the persons that crossed over to the APC were actually PDP members. That is exactly what happened; it was the PDP members that went over to the APC, to make that party strong and to face us in the general elections. What is right now happening is that most of the persons that have crossed over, are actually original or foundational members of the PDP, they now know that we have been able to resolve a lot of issues that made them to leave.
I was like giving you example of Diongoli, he was the pioneer local government party chairman of Kolokuma-Opokuma, he is the one that built the party in that place. So for him to be coming back from APC, you should now know that he was actually a member of our party that left because of grievances. These are the people that we are bringing them back. It’s not as if APC had a lot of followership. No, no, no, they were actually PDP people that crossed over, you remember we had 29 aspirants that went in for the 2019 gubernatorial primaries. Most of them that couldn’t make it became offended, so to say, and left with their members and joined the APC. Now that they believe they have seen that there is a very positive rhythm happening within the PDP, a lot of them are coming back, and they keep coming back because you see sometimes we know this thing, we know that going into an election, the performance of your government is going to be the reference point. So, if you want to go in for the next election, the reference point will be about Douye Diri, what have you done, what are your track records? So those are the things they are going to look at and the APC too will have to campaign with something, what are they going to be campaigning with? They are going to be making references of what Buhari has done? And they also know that because the centre has failed all Nigerians, they won’t be having very quality materials with which they can use to convince the ordinary people in this state to vote for them. So that is the reason why a lot of them will say, ah, if this is the way it is going to be so what are we going to campaign with? As it stands, I want to challenge you to do your own independent investigations, see where the pendulum is swinging to, people will keep coming over to the PDP, we also have some pockets of grievances, still in the PDP fold, those of them that probably, like what you said, that the fallout of these primaries. But we want to assure you that before the elections, we are able to see how we can resolve all of them so that as we are going in for the elections, we are going in with one mind and one spirit, and I assure you that we are going to become victorious.
What are your fears concerning the return, the re-election of the current governor under the PDP, what are your fears?
I don’t have any fear, my only fear, let me just let you know, my only fear will arise when I know he is not doing the bidding of the people, the feelings of the people, if he ignores them, you know at the point, some of us too will let him understand, because the thing is this, let me just go this way straight, this time around we all know the reforms that has come with INEC, ordinary people are going to vote, so it’s not as if one big man somewhere is going to influence the victory of somebody, no. It’s going to be by reason of your performance, the way ordinary people feel about you. Take it from me, this state is mostly a civil servants state; most of the citizens in this state, they work in the civil service and if this man will continue to pay salaries as at when due, you know, like the last time I think it was 25th or 26th, some people started complaining, why is this man paying me too early? He has started paying gratuity, pensions have been paid. What was left was this gratuity issue and he has started tackling this gratuity issue so much. So, the civil servant community is comfortable with this governor, I can bet you, and now the other aspect that is also there is the infrastructure, that he is now taking it upon himself to continue to push and these things cost so much money.
I know that the people know that the man means well for this state. I think the other little part that is left, which of course I wouldn’t say is actually a result of his own action, is the level of unemployment and that one cuts across all of Nigeria. So some persons that are not employed, those are the ones that are not feeling that happy, but he keeps promising them. If you are current with what is going on, the governor has decided that every month, he is going to be spending over N50 million to invest in development of skills and promotion of businesses of small and medium enterprises. I must be sincere, we are not saying that we have done everything; the challenge we have is that we are not comfortable with the level of unemployment, particularly in Bayelsa State. A lot of young people don’t still have something to do, though actually some of these things are not his own fault. Some of our boys don’t even want to work, they just want to stay, just staying idle and collecting money from people; so to change their mindset, give them a re-orientation, that is actually the challenge we have. Everybody should start seeing himself that you need to do something not to stay back and be thinking of where to collect money, go here and there collect money and, all of that. So those are the small, small pockets of challenges we have. But on a general note, I think our governor has done so well