Christopher Abarowei is one of the party chieftains who joined the bandwagon of defectors from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Bayelsa State. The new crop of defectors are regarded by political pundits as fair weather politicians who lack the stamina to withstand political tough times. In this interview, Abarowei who described himself as a founding member of the APC, having served as the last state Publicity Secretary of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), one of the political parties that merged to form the APC, told JOHN ODHE that he did not leave his original party in search of political appointment in the PDP.
You claim to be a foundational member of the APC, why would you leave a party that you formed?
Three parties formed the APC. The legacy parties were the ACN, and I was the last state publicity secretary of the ACN. The ACN then had a huge capital to display, followed by the CPC because of the Buhari factor. Buhari was coming with about 13 million votes from the North; votes he got under a relatively unknown party. The CPC was the third pertner. Also, there was a faction of the APGA at the formative stages. That is the more reason why I call myself a foundational member of the APC. After the formation of the APC, the New-PDP which Timipre Sylva belonged to then came and joined the party. In the APC, l was a presidential delegate; one of those that voted for President Muhammadu Buhari at the time when this side of the divide, Bayelsa so to speak, were not ready to identify with the APC because some persons in Ijaw land tagged the APC as a northern party.
What are your reasons for leaving the APC?
Like l normally say, nobody offended me in APC, and l did not offend anybody. It’s all game of politics. The game of politics is a game of interest. Maybe, some persons were not my interest. Maybe, I was not the interest of some persons. The major reason why I decided to join the peoples democratic party is the miracle that happened in the Bayelsa state political space on the thirteenth of February, 2020. Everybody had lost hope. Everybody believed that it was a settled matter; and the finger of God just came miraculously. So, Douye Diri is a miracle governor and l want to identify with a miracle. My leaving the APC is not a function of me having issues with anybody. No. We are all brothers. I decided to join the PDP because I want to be a part of those that want to change the narrative as far as governance and service delivery is concerned in Bayelsa state. And I see that in Senator Douye Diri.
Many APC members including those that have left are blaming the woes of the APC on the state leadership of the party, are you of that belief too?
Like l have always said, l will not subscribe to that. The APC has given me a platform to express myself and I have used that platform very well. As far as I am concerned, l am not looking at the leadership. Like l have said earlier on, maybe, their interest is not my interest and that is where there might be a clash. But if they say they don’t like the leadership, l ask them to define what leadership means. For instance, some people may say the leadership of the party had not been fair to them. The question I will ask them is maybe you and three other persons are contesting for a senatorial position, it’s a game of interest; the leadership may say we believe Mr. ‘X’ may be a better option and they picked Mr. ‘X’ and you get angry, what if they had picked you, what would you have said. Let’s call a spade a spade, it means you were not going for a fair contest. You were just looking for favour from that same leadership that you are now condemning. Perhaps, you may have met the leadership and they say they prefer another person in your stead and you say you don’t like the leadership. What if that same leadership had said you are most suitable for the job, would you have castigated the leadership?
Some political observers consider all of you that defected from the APC as fair wheather politicians who are running to the PDP where they think the food is already done, what do you have to say?
Without fear of contradiction, l don’t belong to those crop of politicians. I have been in the opposition in Bayelsa State for years. Like l said, l was the last state publicity secretary of action congress of Nigeria. I did not defect to the PDP then. I have been in the opposition. Ebitimi Amgbare was my candidate, Kemela Okara was my candidate, Atiku Abubakar was my candidate, Nuhu Ribadu was my candidate at both presidential and governoship levels. I have been in the opposition. It’s not a matter of fair wheathership. What I am saying is simple and clear, that I have seen in Douye Diri, a man who can deliver the dividends of democracy to the people of Bayelsa State. He is a man whose leadership style l tagged ‘service delivery is my code.’
I have seen that in Douye Diri and that informed my decision to join the peoples democratic party.
If peradventure you are not recognized or given any portfolio in your newly found love, would you continue to pledge your loyalty to the PDP?
Absolutely sure. It is when you raise the bar so high that you start seeing falts. In 2015, l was a presidential delegate that produced Buhari. Prior to 2015, l was one of the voices that was speaking for the APC in Bayelsa state on radio, television, newspapers and what have you. But after the soup in quote was cooked, l never benefitted anything either by appointment or contract. Why did I remain? I stayed there from 2015 until 2019. After 2019, l also stayed through 2020 and in 2021, l defected. My defection is not a function of whether l get appointment or not. I am not here to raise the bar so high. I joined the PDP to add value and in adding value you take value because the labourer is worthy of his wages. But be that as it may, l don’t tie myself solely to political appointments. There are different areas you can explore as a politician to meet your needs and that is what I am doing precisely. But for now I am in PDP to add value.
If Chief David Lyon of the APC had not lost his governorship victory to the PDP at the eleventh hour, would you have left the APC by now?
If David Lyon had not lost and l see that his leadership style is in line with my expectations, l would have remained in the APC. I see in Douye Diri a man who is ready for service delivery. So, the issue of David Lyon shouldn’t have arisen in the first place. David Lyon was not sworn-in as governor; so, there is no parameter to judge him.
Critics of governor Douye Diri have blamed him for not hitting the ground running for more than a year after he was sworn-in, what are those things he has done that made you like his leadership style?
We judge a government by its policies. We look at the policies whether they are anti-people or people friendly. From day one, we have observed the Diri government from the perspective of its relationship with the immediate work force. What do l mean by the immediate work force in a government? The immediate work force is the civil service. I am happy and I say it without fear of contradiction, that since 2008, no government in Bayelsa state has paid gratuities. Douye Diri stole my heart with that act. Since he came on board, he has been paying gratuities. If you don’t take care of the aged, it’s just like us, the parents, if our children don’t take care of us, we won’t be happy. Somebody has put in thirty-five years of service to a state and at the end of the day, you don’t give him his right? For Douye Diri doing that, he stole my heart.
What is your advice to your new party, the PDP?
My advice to the PDP is short and simple. There should be unity of purpose. All of us should rally round Senator Douye Diri and make sure he succeeds. Like l used to tell people, the ljaws have a parable that if your hen, in a contest with another foul falls, the owner of the hen gets ashamed. As it stands now, Douye Diri contested under the platform of the PDP. If at the end of the day, he performs effectively, the peoples democratic party will use that performance as a yardstick to ask for votes in 2023. So, everybody should have that at the back of their minds. If Douye Diri performs very well for instance in Yenagoa, one or two persons may be interested in vying for the state House of Assembly, Reps or Senate. So if Diri performs very well, it’s not for him, it’s for all of us as PDP members. I advise that all hands should be on desk. I advise that where necessary, we give advice that will take us to a comfortable zone so that in 2023, we can go back to Bayelsans and tell them that we need to continue.