July 19, 2024

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No Governor Can Pocket Me – IPAC Chair

8 min read

Dr. Brizibe Kpodo is the Bayelsa State chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the newly elected chairman of the Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) in the state. In this interview with JOHN ODHE in Yenagoa, the state capital, he reasoned that IPAC under his watch would serve as a close check on the state government to do the bidding of the people and won’t be used by any authority.

Excerpts.

Why did you contest for the state chairmanship of IPAC?
Actually, we needed some changes in the leadership style of IPAC in the state. We needed some level of maturity and understanding in contemporary issues and what development is all about. This we want to do in relationship with our code of conduct which empowers us to play an advisory role to government and to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the purposes of free, fair and credible election in the country. So, we needed a new leadership with a bite, with vision and understanding of these issues so that we can make progress in doing our job in making sure that the dividends of democracy get to the masses of this area.

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What brought about the abrupt end of the immediate past leadership of IPAC in the state?
I was the secretary when we were all in Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP). From there we put our heads together and we metamorphosed into IPAC. This council, at a point in time, had 74 political parties, and it became chaotic because most of the parties had no focus. But we thank God that, INEC in its wisdom, with various stakeholders, reduced the number of these political parties to those that are capable of functioning as national political parties in the country. Therefore, we were now reduced to 18. But unfortunately, the last IPAC executive council in the state, all their parties were deregistered. So, there was a vacuum and as the secretary of IPAC as at that time, it was my responsibility to galvanize the remaining political parties in order not to create a vacuum so that we can move ahead. So, what stopped the flow and movement of IPAC leadership process in the state was because of the deregistration of the other political parties. It now hindered our movement to now reconvene and reorganize ourselves. So, it was that leadership vacuum that led to my emergence as the new chairman of IPAC in the state.

What does IPAC intend to achieve under your leadership?
IPAC, as the name connotes, is an advisory council. One, it will check inter and intra-party squabbles. It is a body where we are going to advise ourselves and get ourselves in line with the requirements of the 1999 constitution under which each party was registered. Again, we are to advise INEC on the best possible ways to adopt to achieve free, fair and credible elections in the country. Also, to interface with any government that has been elected in any state or at the centre, cooperate with them and see how the dividends of democracy can reach the ordinary masses. By that we mean the policies and programmes of each government has to be monitored to meet the interest of the people. If it is not, we are going to raise objections. Then, we are going to criticize constructively and where government does well, we are going to encourage and applaud such government and ensure that development gets to the ordinary masses.

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Often times, we have witnessed situations where leaderships of all political parties would act like appendages of state governments, are we expecting anything different?
I think IPAC comprises registered political parties including those who are in government. I am aware that several parties hold several positions in different states and in the national assembly. Like my party, APGA, we have more than eleven House of Representatives members, over 40 state assembly members and one governor. We have an entire state. So, you can see that a party like that which is the number three party in the whole country is a platform in which we can challenge any government because we want to do better. So, parties that make up IPAC, regardless of who is the leader of IPAC, PDP is a member, APC is a member, APGA is a member. All of us we plan, we reason together before we come with any decision. Therefore, in Bayelsa state here, we will work together. Recently, l chaired a meeting where a representative of the PDP was in the meeting. The APC too sent their representative. So we do not see any situation where only one person will take decisions or coerce the present leadership of IPAC in the state into his pocket. That is not possible. We have to work together, reason together and ensure that the decision of everybody is binding on everybody. No governor in Bayelsa, as far as I am concerned, will do that in this regeme. If that was being done in the past l wouldn’t know because I do not see IPAC as a tool to be used by anybody or government for any purpose because we play advisory role. That is our position. In Bayelsa state, under my administration, there will be nothing like IPAC being pocketed by any government or governor to do their bidding. It is the bidding of the people that we will do and we are guided by our code of conduct and the 1999 constitution of Nigeria.

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Local Government elections in Nigeria have become a one-way traffic whereby only the party in government sweeps all seats, what do you think is responsible for this anomaly?
I think the level of awareness to our people is not enough. What the people know, what they are fed with, is just one party and when my brother is in that party, l have to be there or l will be ostracized. But we have our fundamental human rights to belong to any association and any group. So, we want a situation where other parties will go down to the rural areas to sensitize the people. If they believe that this is the man that will lead them, let them go to an alternative platform to deliver that choice of theirs. It is better than going to the ruling party where you will become a second fiddle and at the end of the day, you are thrown out. So, if you are able to do sensitization, inform and educate our men, our women and our children in the villages, they will be able to understand the reason why their opinion and their decisions should be respected and why their candidate should be put in office for either a councillor or a chairman. That way, they will be able to hold their representatives accountable rather than people being imposed on them and they are driven away from their polling units just because they are not members of a particular party. That is our own responsibility and I assure you that if we do that, we are going to get there. For instance, there are states that have two or three councillors. If we apply that, getting to the nucleus of our people in their environment, informing them and telling them that this is what you want, and that they are capable of defending their right, there will be a change. But unfortunately, the moneybags will go there and impose a candidate on them. And because they don’t have any alternative platform, they are coerced into the ruling party. That is why if you go to places like Lagos, the APC will clear everything; you go to Rivers state, PDP will clear everything, and you come to Bayelsa, PDP will clear everything. This is the practice all over the country where the party in control of the government house tends to take everything. Even in this regard, we are appealing and strongly suggesting that processes be put in place and necessary legislation be made for the national independent electoral commission to take over the conduct of the local government elections in the country to reduce this kind of intimidation, oppression and imposition of candidates on our people.

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What is your advice to all the political parties?
We have been doing some consultations. We have advised all the political parties. If you do not have very substantive issues, there’s no point going to litigations. We have found out that some of them go to litigations just to ask for money to be settled out of court. That is not a good practice. So, we have decided to advise the leaders of all the political parties to be reasonable and agree on what to do. In some parties, candidates would go to court separately from the leadership of the party. That is wrong. You have to work together and make sure you have reasonable facts and figures before you go to litigations. The essence of going to court is to get justice. So, if you feel aggrieved that your votes were stolen, then go and see to the end of that matter in the court, not to be settled by somebody somewhere after which you go and withdraw your case. We are therefore advising all chairmen and candidates of the political parties to be strong, ready, go for the election and see to the end of it. We are ridiculing ourselves by demanding money to get our cases withdrawn from the court. Your opponent can borrow money from somewhere and pay you off but justice has not been served. We want justice to be served. So. If you are going for election, be prepared. Political parties should be ready and make sure that if they are contesting an election, they contest it well. If you lose, lose gallantly and if you are robbed, we will all support you to go to court and get justice. We are advising ourselves not to do that. Let us cooperate with the government that has been established and see how the dividends of democracy can get to everybody. If you find out that the policies and programmes of the government are not in tandem with the interest of the people, you prepare towards the next election and come out with fresh ideas so that the masses can vote for you and change the government. It’s not by violence. Not by going to court. I think that the present crop of party chairmen are more organized, disciplined and responsible enough for us to achieve this.

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