Mr. Williams Maxwell Eyilakeme is the candidate of the African Democratic Party (ADC) contesting for the Southern Ijaw Federal Constituency, Bayelsa State in the House of Representatives. A native of Amatolo in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, Eyilakeme is a graduate of marine engineering from the Niger Delta University, Amassoma as well as a philanthropist who had trained over five thousand Bayelsan youths in different skills.
He spoke to JOHN ODHE in an exclusive interview in Yenagoa where he bore his mind on why he is running for the position and what he intends to achieve.
Why do you want to represent the people of Southern Ijaw Federal Constituency?
I am contesting because of the pains in my heart. I am in pains because my people have not tasted true representation since 1999. They keep telling us the same old story that we are the leaders of tomorrow. I am now an adult yet they are still telling us the same old story. That tomorrow they used to tell us is now. It is time for the youths to take over and to do that is to take a bold step to change the narrative. I represent that young man who has seen the pains of his people. Before now, people have been holding that position but so many things are still lacking in Southern Ijaw Federal Constituency, which is made up of the entire Southern Ijaw Local Government Area. Because of misrepresentation, the youths are being engaged in cultism, kidnapping, robbery and other ant-social vices. In fact, the youths are supposed to be the strength of society but they have been turned to nuisance in our society by self-seeking politicians. This ugly narrative can be addressed if the youths are being properly engaged.
If I am elected, I am going to sponsor bills that fully support youth empowerment and rehabilitation. Already, even as an ordinary citizen, I have been running free skills acquisition programmes in the state for our youths for close to ten years now. Just of recent, I sponsored a programme called Bayelsa Youths Must be Skilled where we had 5,000 youths. 2,000 of them were trained in different skills. Today, as I am walking along the streets of Yenagoa, many of those youths are calling and showing appreciations to me. Some would say “thank you for making me a professional in shoe making; I am now a professional in fashion and designs” and so on. These young men that are being engaged, I don’t think they would go back to their former way of life because when you are meaningfully engaged, you won’t have the time to be involved in illicit ventures. So, if I am elected into power, I am going to sponsor a Bill in the national Assembly that will compel every university in Nigeria to make it compulsory for every undergraduate to acquire a professional skill before graduation so they can become employers of labour and not job seekers upon graduation. As a Marine Engineer, I know the importance of skills acquisition. It would baffle you to note that while I was in school as an undergraduate of Marine Engineering at our prestigious Niger Delta University, I did not undergo any practical that was carried out from year-1 to final year.
How were you able to sponsor that great number of youths in skills acquisition considering the financial involvement?
You are asking how I was able to do that despite not holding any political office. It is simple. While I was still in school as far back 2011, I asked myself what I should do to help society especially now that white collar jobs are failing. It was then the thought came on how to impact this generation of helpless youths through skills acquisition. At that point, a thought came to me that if I am able to train one person and that person trains another person, this unemployment rate would be reduced. I then began to search for like minds – those who have learned skills and are doing well in their different areas of specialization. I now called on various skilful men and asked them to train at least three persons each and they accepted and we went that way. We are not receiving any funding from anybody but it is based on this policy that I have just explained to you. It is a voluntary work that we are doing. We have been able to assemble skilled men who were able to duplicate their professional Knowledge to others who in turn trained others as well. This is what we have been doing over the years. Our track records are there. My first training programme kicked off in Amassoma. The second was at Tombia village and then to Azikoro, Ogbia main town and Otuoke. Also in 2017 during the tenure of the former governor, we looked at it and he said it is good we come to the city. So, we now had a massive training here in the Yenagoa metropolis. We used the Community Secondary School, Biogbolo and the BISHOP Dimeary Grammar School, Ovom as venues. There were 3,000 participants where we had morning and evening sessions during the training exercise. All these persons were trained and during the exhibition, many of them were saying “wow, we are now professionals.” We were able to achieve this because we drafted in patriotic core professionals who impacted the needed knowledge in the applicants. If I could do this when I am not in power, just imagine what I will do when I am elected into office to represent my people. I am going to change a lot of these negative narratives about our youths. The joy of it all is that most of these skills do not require much funds to start. So, what we did after the entrepreneurship training was that we now sought for little funds and gave to those who came out best in their respective departments to help them kick-start immediately. Now show me any of those representing us both in the national and state assemblies that did what I am doing now before they became legislators. I bet you, none of them. The truth is that l will do more when l am elected.
Do you have the blessings of your kinsmen concerning your political journey?
There is a strong desire of my people for a change especially the people of Amatolo, and other communities in SILGA. They have been neglected for so long because we are in minority. From 1999 till date, we have not got any political appointment. That is why I went home to inform my people of my intention to go to the National Assembly and the reception was overwhelming. They were filled with joy. Amatolo went agog with a mammoth crowd coming to receive me. I received Royal blessings from my Royal Highness and prayers from my people. So, I have the full support of my people.
How will you tackle the moneybags who rely on vote buying to win elections?
As a youth, I am not afraid of the moneybags. Indeed, the era of vote buying is over. I have been telling the electorate something they need to know. If for instance you collect a thousand naira from a candidate to vote for him because he has the money, what can a thousand naira do in your life in four years? If we go by simple arithmetic and divide a thousand naira by four, what you have in a year is two hundred and fifty naira. So, of what help is two hundred and fifty naira to any human being? That is why the people of Southern Ijaw have resolved this time to take their own destinies in their own hands. If peradventure any politician decides to give back a little fraction of what had been stolen from them over the years just to deceive them to vote for him again, they should not reject the money because it belongs to them. Collect the money and vote the right candidate that can change your life for good. My message to the electorate out there is say no to vote buying. Don’t sell your destiny. Vote the candidate, not the party. Most of these politicians do not even have a vision for their constituents. What they stand to gain for themselves and their families is their driving force. Please don’t sell your conscience. That porridge of two hundred and fifty naira cannot feed your for a year. If you vote me, apart from sponsoring life changing Bills, the constituency funds that will be coming will be judiciously utilized. It is not for me but for the people. Do you know that in Southern Ijaw, despite having existing Students Union there, I did not receive bursary before I graduated from the university? If I am elected, I will provide some stipends for the students in form of scholarship. I will make sure every of my constituents feels the impact of democracy. There are old people who can no longer do anything, how are you going to help them? Look at the deplorable state of our educational system. Look at the health sector; we have health centres but they are not working. Yes, I am going there as a lawmaker but there are funds meant for constituency projects. Why not we use them for the development of our people? There are three things I hold in high esteem: human health, the safety of humans and humans well being. If you can take care of these things as a leader, posterity will surely judge you aright. There are people who elected you. When you get there, try and bring the national cake back to the people so that they too can have a sense of belonging.
Do you have confidence in the National Independent Electoral Commission in conducting a credible election especially with the signing into law of the new electoral Act which provides electronic transmission of election results?
The new electoral Act is the best thing that has happened to the electoral system. In 2019, I contested for Southern Ijaw Constituency 1 in the Bayelsa state House of Assembly. But due to the old way of doing things, materials were hijacked and they took the materials somewhere and started thumb printing. A lot of things happened along the line which made me unable to succeed. One of the strategies those old politicians apply is to starve the electorate and pauperize so that out of frustration, they would receive any peanut given to them during electioneering periods. But today, if these people are being engaged and empowered to be self sufficient, they won’t sell their rights for what cannot change their lives. So, I have full confidence in the new electoral Act because it is going to checkmate electoral fraud come 2023. At least, rigging will be minimized. Snatching of ballot boxes will be a thing of the past. I strongly believe that the 2023 elections would be better and many youths will emerge winners. It is not going to be business as usual for the moneybags.
What is your message to the electorate?
If they come as usual to give you peanuts out of your money they had stolen, collect the money and vote the right person. Vote for vibrant youths like me so that you can enjoy the dividends of democracy. Don’t sell your vote. Go and vote Williams Maxwell Eyilakeme. It is a vote for political liberation and emancipation. I have already designed some questionnaires which my campaign team will be distributing during the campaigns to know the immediate needs of my people. I have also drawn a programme for regular town hall meetings with my constituents if I am elected so that I can be getting first hand information about the pains of my people. I have tried it during my skills acquisition programmes and it worked for me. Most times what we hear on radio is that government has trained so, so number of persons. No one knows when forms were collected. But in my case, we went to the nooks and crannies, went to churches and informed the youths. It is the same method I will implore when I am elected to get data of the pains of my people, working in concert with Youth presidents, CDC chairmen, traditional rulers and other community leaders. If five persons are empowered in each community, it will have multiplier effect in the near future. So, if they bring the guns for you to go and kill and cause electoral violence, tell them to use their own children and leave you alone.