Claudius Enegesi’s name rings a bell anytime, anywhere, especially in Bayelsa State where he was chairman of the ruling PDP in the state. He was the first chairman of the party. He was also the pioneer speaker of the old Rivers State house of assembly.
Enegesi is known for his doggedness and fighting spirit.
For the first time since 1998, he decided to defect to the APC. That was last week. He made his first appearance as a member of the APC last Monday during the party’s rally in his Ogbia Local Government. TNN monitored and traced him to his Otuesega village where this interview was conducted. It was transcribed by JOHN ODHE.
You have dropped the umbrella and picked the broom, how did you find that easy?
I had no difficulty in dropping the umbrella and picking up the broom. Because of what has been going on here in Bayelsa State for the past three years, l decided to be a little bit reticent and taciturn, watching the events as they unfold in the PDP especially with the governance of the state. You know very well that l have been a PDP man since 1998 until yesterday (October 21, 2019). But for the past two, three years, things were not moving right in what I believed and what convinced me, about 20 years ago, to be in the PDP. Even if suggestions were made, they were all turned down and it is very disheartening. So, for me to take the eventual decision that I took yesterday, it was very easy and when I did it, l became relieved as if I was carrying a very big burden, a burden in the sense that the interest of my people here was not being protected by the PDP. The government here was not respecting where l come from. If you get into politics, it is not about your personal interest. I came to find out that the governance of Bayelsa became so primitive and personalized with arrogance and disdain for the people; and that is not the essence of being in politics and governing the people. The state became so divisive along ethnic or clanish lines promoted by government. But to be in government is to build and pull the people together for a holistic development and cohesive existence of a people, not to divide them. Bayelsa of today has become more divided. Yea, it can be mouthed that Bayelsa is a homogeneous ljaw state but with the present government, it became so disunited, promoted by government where the phrase of core-ljaw and non-core-ljaw was promoted. So, for somebody who spent a good part of his life in politics, we must realize that we are one people. We ought to work together, pull our resources together and develop our state. We are all aging. The founding fathers of Bayelsa state knew what they were doing to pull all of us together, to excise us from former Rivers state so that development can come closer to the people. But governance became personalized. Instead of going forward, we are retrogressing and I think that the vessel for a government has to be progressive. Ordinarily, I am a progressive person but I found myself in the conservative. But I think the time has come for me to really exhibit my progressive tendencies.
At what point did you disconnect from Dickson?
I wouldn’t say l disconnected myself from Dickson; he disconnected himself from, not only me, but from the people. That is why you can see the avalanche of movements. So, it’s not an Enegesi thing. There is a mass movement from those who are not even politicians if you go to the streets and villages of Bayelsa state, even from the illiterate market woman. So, he disconnected himself. Let me tell you something, whether we like it or not, in this country, especially the south, there is a political revolution. The electorate are becoming more enlightened every day. So, when you discuss politics with them, the way they perceive is not the way our fathers and mothers perceived years ago. In every community you go, there are graduates and children who have gone to school and they can read and write. With the help of the social media, they follow events unfolding. They lend voice, they interact, they argue, they want to know exactly what is going on and what is good for them. So, there is a lot of enlightenment. So, if you are still behaving primitively and you are governing a people and you think they don’t know what is expected of government, then there is going to be a revolution. There is a revolution. You can’t enter my village now and you see a group of boys or girls discussing and you talk to them and they will not understand. They will, because in the midst of them are graduates. Some have first degrees. Some have gone to secondary School. They speak, read and understand English. They understand what is governance now. Gone are those days when politicians would come with a bag of rice and tell the people oh, l will do this and that and the people would believe you. It is no more like that. So, he (Dickson) disconnected himself from the people. I have come this far and I think by my associating with the progressives now, we would be able to make the difference because I don’t think l have much years of active politics. I have done my best. I have paid my dues.
Virtually all the big names in Ogbia where Goodluck Jonathan comes from have left the PDP for APC. Psychologically, what do you think is playing out?
Well, there is nothing playing out. The former president knows what is going on, not because he sanctioned it. We are all grown up individuals and we know what is good for our people. We have very high regard and respect for (former) president Goodluck Jonathan as a father, as a friend and as a leader of this country. We in Ogbia, even if we find ourselves in different political parties today, it doesn’t remove that respect and regards we have for him. Let me be frank with you, I never wanted to speak during the APC rally at Ogbia town. I restrained myself because if l had done, even Adams Oshiomhole would have been shocked at what would have come out of my mouth. I would have descended to the arena to be at the same level with Dickson when he talks to people. But I said no, let me dignify myself. Goodluck Jonathan will not be surprised if we, the Ogbia elite, he will not be surprised because it is not him. It is about Dickson, who has no single regard for Jonathan, the Ogbia people. The highest level of disdain is how Dickson holds the Ogbia people and these are the people who made him. So, you can see what is playing out now. It’s a total rejection of his attitude and disrespect. If you can disrespect us, then we don’t have you in mind and so, we part ways. It’s not about Jonathan. God created Jonathan a different mould. Maybe that’s why God elevated him so rapidly. As a leader, he can absorb, having attained that kind of height. He has that kind of thick skin, that even when his people are being insulted, he will just look at you and laugh; nothing spoil. But his people behind him are really feeling it. That is the revolution; that in any gathering by governor Dickson, before he opens his mouth to make a sentence, he is to abuse the Ogbia people. I ‘m a leader in my own right, a former national officer of PDP. From the inception of the PDP, I have always been a member of the national council of the PDP. As a state chairman, by the constitution, l was a member of the EXCO. I left and became a national ex-officio twice and then became a national deputy treasurer. So, it’s not about Goodluck. It’s about the protection of our identity and pride as a people, a people that have contributed immensely to the political development of Bayelsa state. I was the pioneer chairman, l fought APP to institute PDP government in the state in 1998 when we just transited from military to democratic rule. Then, Dickson was chairman of AD. Even the national PDP did not reckon that PDP was going to win in the state. They gave it to APP until l became chairman and stabilized the party. I fought and went to the trenches. We were young men. We had no money but we were determined and dedicated and we won that election. Years after, Dickson, being an opportunist, Goodluck had to bring him from his bad state at Ididie Hotel Road, Ekeki and was made a commissioner, House of Representatives member and governor. All he can do is to insult Goodluck, his people and where he comes from. As a true son of the people, would you in your normal reasoning be comfortable to seat down with an individual like that who abuses your people.
What kind of abusive words did he actually use against your people?
Let’s not even ask about words. What about the development of the people. You drove to Ogbia. How is the road? In 2012, there was a serious flood in Bayelsa state. Let’s say in the whole of the country and in Bayelsa, being a littoral state, that we are below sea level, there was heavy flooding. Bayelsa state was cut off, Ogbia was cut off. The only road and bridge that was linking the state capital to Ogbia and Nembe was cut off. I personally went and met the governor, and told him ‘the flood has come down, can you please come and rehabilitate this road for our people?’ He told me twice that he was not going to do it. I went to him a third time, do you know what he told me? Then, Goodluck Jonathan was president. He said ‘go and tell your president to come and do his road.’ Quote me. Then, I said ‘look at this man. Does he forget that I have access to the president?’ So, one of those weekends, I had access to Mr. President on a dinner table with ministers and service chiefs and all that, and we were discussing about our environment. The president is a scientist, l am a scientist. So, l now delivered the message that Dickson gave to me. I said ‘Sir, we are now discussing about our environment. I met the governor and told him that the only road we have has been washed away by the flood and he (Dickson) asked me to tell you to come and do your road.’ The president could not believe it. The whole table was quiet. Then, he said ‘well, is FERMA not there? Tell the chiefs in the area to write to FERMA , ask them to come and rehabilitate the road. After all there are no federal roads in Bayelsa state.’ The next day, l came up with a letter. A copy of that letter is still with me. Then the letter was approved by Mr. President for FERMA to rehabilitate the road up to this village. I was coming from Abuja when the contract was awarded by FERMA to NigerCAT. The then commissioner for works who is now a senator and running mate to his party, then went on radio and said Dickson had started rehabilitating the Ogbia road. I got angry and I went up there. It took Jonathan to calm me down and l wrote Dickson off. He tried to take credit on radio that his government has started rehabilitating the Ogbia-Imiringi-Etegwe road. I said no. It was then FERMA was directed to put their signpost that they are the one rehabilitating the road.
If we talk of light, the only government’s presence here was the Melford Okilo Gas Turbine which was giving electricity to the people free of charge. We have about 22 megawatts rotting there, dilapidated by wilful negligence or neglect by Dickson because it is in Ogbia land. So, it is not just abuse. We are talking about body language and of course, in utterances. You saw on the podium during the rally how somebody was giving a breakdown of how Dickson has abused the Ogbia Brotherhood. So, it is not only to hear from me. Ordinarily, by age, I am older than Dickson, if not by five or six years, because when Dickson was born, I was already in primary school. So, if you rule a people with that level of disdain, then you don’t deserve their friendship; you don’t deserve their company and you don’t deserve their respect.
So, if Dickson comes to Ogbia for campaign, what do you think will happen?
Nobody is going to stop him. He will campaign just like we will go to Toru-Orua to campaign. He won’t stop us, we won’t stop him but at the end of the election, the outcome will show. I just left the PDP now, there are still PDP members. It is not everybody that will follow me. But we are going to swell the ranks of the APC. If he comes, of course, he won’t come to my house because I am no longer under the umbrella with him. When the APC comes, they will bring the broom here and I will go and sweep the streets off.
You just left the PDP, if Dickson puts a call to you now, what are the kind of things you are going to tell him?
I will tell him I’m sorry, I am no more under the umbrella. We will meet on the Election Day.
What do you think would happen on the Election Day? Have you forgotten that Dickson is still in government?
What happened in Imo State? Rochas was a governor. What happened in Ekiti State? Fayose was a governor. What happened in Ondo State? Governors have been in office and their parties have been losing elections. I have just told you that the electorate are becoming more enlightened every day. The electorate expect of government the dividends of democracy to be delivered to them and if you don’t, with the PVC, they will show you red card. It’s happening. It’s not peculiar in Bayelsa state. We are developing as a democracy. Although the elements of primitively and the military thing are still there, but they are gradually wearing off. After our generation and maybe the generation immediately after us, it will hinge on delivery. If you cannot deliver, the generation to come will not give you that trust to lead them. So, it is not about the power of incumbency. Goodluck Jonathan was a president; with all the paraphernalia of office and the power of incumbency, but he lost.
Can we also look at the person of Douye Diri, candidate of the PDP, instead of focusing on Dickson?
Thank you very much. Diri is my friend. He has been in touch with me even before I made the last move. His cousin is my friend, we came from the University together. We talk on phone. Diri is not the one contesting election, Dickson is the one by proxy. If we don’t stop Diri, Dickson will go to senate. So, Diri has to pay for it to stop Dickson from going to the senate. If we allow Dickson and he goes to the Senate, that disdain he holds against the Ogbia people will be perpetuated. Period. He has waged a war against the Ogbia people. I was a candidate for national assembly. Even by the constitution of the PDP, Dickson removed my name as a delegate. Before the result of the PDP screening committee came out, Dickson sat on it. I have to go to Abuja to protest. Few days to the expiration of nomination was when the results of screening came out. Do you know his game plan? Many people did not know but some of us were aware that clandestinely, Dickson was also screened as a candidate for senate which has played out now. In fact, there was a day I told Goodluck, ‘look at the game your boy is playing.’ He didn’t believe. I told Jonathan that he should watch out, that Dickson was going to bring somebody from his place as senator and make that person a running mate so that there would be a bye-election for him to go to senate. So, our mission is to stop Diri so that Dickson would not go to the senate to continue to perpetuate his wickedness and under develop us as a people. I am a politician, so, l know. It’s not a dynasty that Dickson has to build. In a party that we built, Dickson would sit down and use his red biro to write the name of who is going to be a councillor in each of the wards in Bayelsa state. In a democracy, for every constituency, Dickson has to write who is going to go to the house of assembly. Dickson is the one who sat down and wrote who was going to the national assembly. In his own senatorial district, Dickson wrote his name and covered it. At the right time, he will pull off the cover and he emerges the senator. We are not a conquered people. We are a people with a discerning mind. We are not primitive. The time that you acquire power primitively is gone. You are dealing with an enlightened people who know what you know, if not better than you. It’s just that you are privileged to now preside over their resources. You don’t know better or smarter than the other person. Diri, if I were him, what stops him from sitting as a senator and complete his tenure? God willing and hearing the prayers, hues and cries of Bayelsans, that evil plot will not work.
What is going on now in Ogbia and other parts of the state looks like a revolution of some sort against Dickson, what do you think?
Well, you are seeing it yourself. That is exactly what I am also alluding.
Where will it lead Bayelsans?
Of course, development will be accelerated in Bayelsa state. The next person coming in will know that if he takes the people for granted, what they did to the other person will equally be done to him. So, you have to up your game. You have to sit up and serve them. It will send a signal that you can’t come in and lord over them because the power belongs to them.