Chief Abel Ebifemowei is a cousin to the first civilian governor of Bayelsa state, late Chief Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha. He is currently the flagbearer of All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Bayelsa Central Senatorial District bye-election which has been postponed indefinitely due to the EndSARS. In this interview with some media practitioners in Yenagoa, Ebifemowei, who is popularly known as TO, speaks on his chances to win the election and what he intends to do for his constituents. He also spoke on the circumstances that led to his disengagement from the Nigerian Air Force.
Your name seems to be ringing bell in Bayelsa state in recent times, especially since you joined the senatorial race, what are those qualities that make you what you are today?
I must tell you that the popularity of a man is what determines whether he is being generally accepted by his people or not. Popularity comes from how many lives you have affected positively. In those days when we were young, we used to hear the name of one Anini from Edo state. He was known all over Nigeria, even known more than some state governors. Yet, you cannot describe such a man as popular. He was rather notorious. Notorious in the sense that he was known for negatively affecting human lives.
But in my case, l am very, very popular because of my employment and empowerment machine. Sometimes, l marvel and ponder whether the things I have done for people, it was myself that really did them. But I think it’s God that did it because ordinarily, l could not afford to have done all the things l did for my people at that short period of my brother’s (Alamieyeseigha’s) administration. God has said to us that we should not share His glory with anybody. So, the glory still returns to Him. He only used me as a vessel to develop planet earth and increase human capacity development in the Niger Delta. So, to God be the glory. Actually, the name T.O. is a household name and it is in good direction, not bad direction. And I think if I am voted into the red chambers, more and more Bayelsans will smile, by God’s grace.
What actually compelled you to join the race for the Bayelsa Central Senatorial Bye-election?
Actually, it came like a surprise to even me. I just woke up early in the morning about three and a half months ago and l asked myself, “why is it that every time l would support people to the end and after they have succeeded, they would call me one good or bad name, especially bad name, so that they can chase me out of their administrations?” It has happened several times in this state. That is why l said, “why can’t l go by myself to contest and win, and when l have won, l don’t need to beg anybody to do those things that Bayelsans desire?” That is why I took the decision by myself and I think it is a welcomed idea and it’s very complimentary to the good people of Bayelsa state.
When elected, what are those primary things you intend to do for the people of Bayelsa Central?
I know a senator is not an executive governor but l can bridge the gap between the federal government and the people of Bayelsa state and the Niger Delta at large. Of course, you know that the APC is in control of the federal government and it is easier for an APC senator to interface with other colleagues to attract developmental programmes for our youths and our women. Look at what is going on, the CBN is giving loans, SMEDAN is there. So many things can come if you have a Senator like me who is vocal, who is acceptable and who is an extrovert.
How would you assess your chances to win the senatorial election?
It is God that gives power and when it is your time, nobody can take it away from you. I strongly believe that this is our time, this is the people’s time and this is my time and l am the people’s choice. I am confident of the 43 wards. l am so confident of the three local government areas and I am very confident of the 788 polling units in my senatorial district. I am very, very confident that I will do very well and that means that I deserve to be in the red chamber.
Are you not intimidated that Bayelsa is a Peoples Democratic Party ruled state?
Bayelsa was a PDP state when the APC took one of the senatorial seats. I am very confident that just as the APC took East senatorial district; it will also take Bayelsa West and central senatorial district, even as PDP is still in power.
Moses Cleopas, candidate of the PDP is seen to be your major opponent in the race, does that not worry you?
No. It doesn’t. In the nutshell, l cannot see Moses as my opponent. He is my political son. I only see him as a candidate of the PDP and not my political opponent and that is why I don’t have any fears.
There are reports of your opponents dragging you to court over your disengagement from the Air Force years ago. What exactly is the issue and are you worried about that?
(Laughs) l don’t have any problem with the Air Force. You see, when you give yourself to serve a local government, a constituency or a state, politicians will drag you left, right and centre, especially when they know that you are popular, just to cause unnecessary distractions. I was in the Air Force but l left 27 years ago. I left the Air Force without official leave. I was very young then and I served the country for five good years. And within those five years, l went to school for four years. I first of all studied Aviation Electronics with the Air Force as a very young boy. Then, l later proceeded to Russia Military Academy to study Missiles, Firearms and Explosives for this country. We were just seven that went for that course in the Soviet Union in 1988 and returned in 1990. And as a young boy with a lot of opportunities, I decided to leave the Air Force without official leave. Three years later, l came back to Nigeria after l had left for Germany. I got disengaged from the Air Force on Absence Without Official Leave (AWOL). In the military, when you go on AWOL, after some days, you get sanctioned. In section 106 of the Nigerian constitution, even if you are convicted, after ten years of your release from the prison, you are free to contest any elections. And this is twenty-seven years after l left the Air Force. I was not convicted, l was not sent to prison. I was only disengaged because I didn’t obtain permission before travelling out. So, there is no reason to worry about. I call it mere political distractions. Anybody who is standing to gain from that has already been disappointed because the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria is explicit on that.
What is your level of confidence in INEC in conducting a free and fear election?
Recently, we had a stakeholders meeting with INEC even though the two senatorial candidates of the PDP were absent. I was there in the meeting with my counterpart, the candidate of the APC from Bayelsa West, Chief Peremobowei Ebebi. Much was said about INEC and everyone was of the view that INEC has improved tremendously especially with the recent conduct of the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states. The transparency is becoming better and better. With what we saw in Edo and Ondo, l don’t have any fears about the ability of INEC to conduct a credible election. You know, when you are popular, you have an advantage. With my popularity, there is no cause for worries. I know INEC. I have been in the corridors of politics for decades. When you are popular, they themselves know and will play down any contrary advice they may be advised to play. I have seen it severally and I am very popular. So, victory is sure.
What is your advice to the electorate in terms of protecting their votes against hijacking of ballot papers?
Hijacking of ballot papers is not part of the electoral process. My advice to the electorate and my teaming supporters is that they should go and cast their votes in a very peaceful and orderly manner and wait around till the results of each unit are confirmed by the electoral umpire. We did it during the last governorship election in the state. The APC won widely. We are going to repeat the same feat in this senatorial election.