Mr. Einstein Oribo is a former senior special assistant to Governor Seriake Dickson on mobilization and the champion of Who Grammar Help campaign for David Lyon, during the build up to the November 16 governorship election which the APC won. In this telephone interview with JOHN ODHE, he expressed shock over the revolution that took place on the Election Day, noting that he was baffled to see Bayelsans courageously voting the candidate of their choice even when money was being dangled before their faces to do otherwise. He also spoke on the expectations of Bayelsans from the incoming government.
How would you assess the 2019 governorship campaigns?
If you ask me, to a very large extent, l will say over 80 to 90 per cent of the electioneering campaigns were very peaceful. The governorship candidates went about doing it lawfully and politically, canvassing votes. The only unfortunate incidence recorded was when some miscreants wanted to disrupt the peace of the Nembe Kingdom. Apart from that, all the campaigns went on smoothly. It was a very wonderful moment. The Peoples Democratic Party went on with their campaigns, the All Progressives Congress (APC) went on with their campaigns. It was the same with any other political parties. One major observation l made on the side of the APC is that, for the first time in history, people would voluntarily go out for campaigns without being influenced financially to campaign for a governorship candidate. For the first time in my political sojourn, l noticed that a lot of people went to campaign with their personal funds. Some people printed t-shirts with their personal funds while others made donations in cash. People went for campaigns and returned happily without money being given to them by the APC candidate. It was a wonderful campaign experience. Judging by the peacefulness of the campaign period, l think the parties did very well except that incidence that occurred in Nembe, which I think the security agents will fish out those elements that wanted to interrupt the peace of that environment.
This is the first time that Ogbia, your local government area, which has been supporting the PDP would be coming out massively to vote for the opposition party. What informed this development?
We, the Ogbias have been known to be a united people. Growing up as a little boy, there was this slogan we normally had which was “Ogbia! one vote!” But recently, due to some political exigencies and interests, some people tried to disunited us. But being people who, originally, have the DNA for unity, we came out and said “no. We cannot allow an individual to disunite us.” In Ogbia kingdom, as far as politics is concerned, we saw Chief Melford Okilo, of blessed memory, as our political father and he gave political birth to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and we knew that we will continue to have wonderful people if we keep that oneness. But we had a situation where our sacred socio cultural group, the Ogbia Brotherhood, was almost being made mockery of. There was a point where people made derogatory statement such as “the brother in the Ogbia Brotherhood is dead, it is just left with the hood.” Such things angered us and brought out the unity in us and we felt we have to demonstrate it. Like you rightly said, Ogbia used to be a PDP local government. That was because our father, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was so blessed with the PDP and we remain grateful till today. Ogbia will never forget the PDP for giving us the opportunity to produce a former deputy governor, governor, vice president, acting president and former president of this country. But unfortunately, the handlers of the PDP took advantage of that to disunite us, look down on us and under develop us and put us in a very bad light. So, we felt that if that vehicle is no longer safe enough to convey us to the destination we wish to be, there is no more need to remain in that vehicle. I have always said it that political parties are just vehicles. The destinations are different. If you board a vehicle to Port Harcourt for instance and you find out that the driver has suddenly become hostile, it would be risky to continue with that same vehicle. Rather, you will look for another vehicle that will take you safely to that same destination. That is exactly what happened to Ogbia Local Government Area. Our unity, oneness and brotherliness as a people were tempered with by some inordinately ambitious politicians in the state. We felt that the time has come to invoke the spirit of unity that we had been known for. Apart from that, our late father, Okilo used to tell us something that is still echoing in our minds, that it is disastrous to have a parallel political party with the one in control at the federal level. He had always advised that we should align ourselves with the party at the federal level and that is what we did. Of course, we know the importance of the Ogbia local government in the Nigerian map. We all know that Nigeria as a state has nothing without Ogbia local government. We know that if we have a parallel party with the federal government, it will definitely give us issues.
What is your assessment of the election that held on November 16?
In my political journey so far, l have not witnessed an election that is so peaceful, so friendly like that of the November 16, 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa state. We have all been involved in politics and electioneering processes for a very long time. The election that brought in governor Dickson for a second term was characterized with violence. Yet it produced a governor. But in the one of November 16, 2019, we never experienced any violence in any of the areas. I am still in shock over what happened in Bayelsa state on November 16. It was like a festive period; a people with the resolve to make a change. Mothers, fathers and the youths came out willingly to exercise their franchise. That was the day the menace of vote buying that has characterized our electoral process did not come to play. The PDP came with money as usual to entice our parents and youths who had already been impoverished by the out-going government and they thought they would be ready to collect any amount dangled before them but they stood their ground. They said ‘we don’t need your money’, just give us the opportunity to vote the candidate of our choice. INEC should take the Bayelsa election as a model to know that Nigerians can actually vote candidates of their choice without being induced financially. Bayelsans have demonstrated to the world that indeed they needed a change. Look at what happened in Southern Ijaw, look at what happened in Ogbia and other LGAs, they were almost eighty to ninety percent. Look at Sagbama, the local government of the governor, people came out enmasse to vote.
What would you say to all the candidates that contested against David Lyon
Let me use this opportunity to congratulate Chief David Lyon, the governor-elect. All I will tell the other contesters is that there is no winner, there is no vanquished. The only winner of that election is Bayelsa and the people of Bayelsa state. All the contesters should drop their personal sentiments and think of broader sentiments that can benefit the people of Bayelsa state. If Bayelsans have spoken with one voice and have come up with one candidate, the microscopic view of about 45 persons, which is a very insignificant number, should not override the overall interest of the people. The courts are open. Those who are not satisfied should seek redress at the tribunal. But I advise them to work with the incoming government instead of wasting state funds for litigations. The election was not about Douye Diri, it was about a change from the norm. Bayelsa is bound to have one governor at a time and this time, the people have chosen David Lyon to be their governor. Douye Diri should rather think of rallying around the incoming governor to make Bayelsa greater, unless he wants to make us believe that he is comfortable with the way Bayelsa is right now. All the contestants should borrow a leaf from the former president, Goodluck Jonathan and congratulate the winner, come up with their own ideas and think of the way forward for our dear state. When Jonathan called and congratulated Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, it was as if the world had come to an end but today, the man keeps going higher and gaining more global recognition.
What is your expectation and the expectations of Bayelsans from the incoming governor?
My expectation from David Lyon is that he must live up to the expectations of Bayelsans. He has a very lofty task ahead of him. When I see Bayelsans rejoicing for voting David Lyon, l see a man with a greater burden. It is said that to whom much is given, much is expected. We are not expecting an excellent situation because he is not Jesus Christ. He should live responsibly. Bayelsans are not too difficult to be satisfied. They are not greedy people. Give them the basic needs of life and they will be your friends. Give the civil servants what is due them. Give retirees what is due them. Make our academic institutions affordable for our students. The youths must be taken off the streets and be engaged meaningfully. Our young ladies shouldn’t be standing at Hospital Junction again. All these things are achievable. He should learn how to create wealth through internal revenue generation. We must change the narrative of trying to tax civil servants from their own blood. One of the areas I want David Lyon to concentrate on, which I know he will do well, is education. Thank God that was the area some Bayelsans wanted to use in bringing him down but unfortunately for them, the man is educated. So, l know he is an education loving man. What many people don’t know is that being educated is different from speaking grammar. What Bayelsans expect is not grammar of spoken words but grammar of action.
He must surround himself with the best brains that Bayelsa has. It must not be an APC agenda but Bayelsa agenda.
Your advice to all Bayelsans?
First of all, l congratulate them for their courage to put their destinies into their hands. My advice now is to build bridges. Bayelsans don’t have enemies to fight. The only enemy we have is poverty and underdevelopment. We should stop making utterances that may disunite us. Those who did not succeed today may succeed tomorrow. We must not live the job for David Lyon alone. We must have a participatory government where everyone is involved in the governing process.