By ADEKUNBI ERO
The information this morning (Tuesday, November 1) was that your principal, Governor Timipre Sylva, has been disqualified from contesting the PDP primary election. How do you react to this?
We have not been disqualified. Who told you we have been disqualified? This is a rumour. My governor is in the race. Nobody has disqualified him. No organ of the PDP has communicated such to him. The screening appeal panel has cleared him. We have a certificate to that effect. The National Working Committee has not withdrawn it. That is the position.
So, what do you think are his chances at the primary election given the formidable forces that are bent on stopping him?
Hundred per cent.
What is the governor’s relationship with President Goodluck Jonathan? The impression is that their relationship has gone sour.
My governor has a perfect relationship with Mr President. They don’t have a problem. Everything you have read in the newspapers is a figment of people’s imagination. We went to welcome Mr President on his return home from CHOGOM in Australia. As I speak to you, my governor is part of the Governors’ Forum going to the villa to meet with Mr President.
But there was this story about the governor’s threat to the President, which is being perceived as bordering on treasonable felony in security circles. It has to do with a telephone conversation between the governor and his former commissioner for health.
Yes, he did have a telephone conversation, but that was a very private conversation. He must have expressed anger, but nothing near what was alleged. It was exaggerated.
Should he fail to get the PDP ticket, what happens?
He is a loyal member of the PDP. We believe that the PDP will give him the ticket. We have no reason to believe otherwise. Let me say that every follower of politics in Nigeria would recall that in 2003, the PDP had an arrangement in which they were to return all the sitting governors. In Anambra State, Chinwoke Mbadinuju was not returned. The party is yet to recover from that crisis. I don’t want to say more than that.
But in the event of not getting the ticket, is he considering crossing over to another party as an option?
He is a PDP member and PDP has not said they won’t give him the ticket. We believe the PDP will do the right thing and give him the ticket.
One of the allegations against the governor is that of non-performance. His opponents say he has frittered away the billions of naira that had accrued to the state from the Federation Account.
That he frittered away all the money he has received? It is not correct. There are visible changes on the ground in Bayelsa State. The way the state capital was when he came into office and what it is now is obviously not the same. We have more roads. We didn’t have a standard hospital; we have that now. We have at least 52 internal roads. There was nothing like manufacturing going on in Yenagoa. But under Sylva, the Bayelsa Plastic Industry is more than alive producing and employing over a thousand Bayelsa people. The governor has sent several of our youths for training outside Nigeria. Information Communication Technology, ICT, in India; tailoring/manufacturing in China, medicine, engineering courses in Croatia, Belarus and other countries in Eastern Europe. We didn’t have a standard pitch to play football and the Samson Siasia Stadium has been built. It is there for everyone to see.
You talked about internal roads that had been built, but we learnt that most of these roads have completely failed which means they were not properly done.
If they have failed, does that mean they were not done? If the roads are being used and they have gone bad that means that the roads have been done but they were being over-used.
How do you react to the alleged use of the former security outfit, Famou Tangbe, to intimidate, harass and even kill political opponents?
That is fiction. Operation Famou Tangbe was not set up by Governor Sylva; it was set up by the state security council, and it is an arm of the Nigeria Police. It was not under the command of Governor Sylva, so the question of using an arm of the police to intimidate anybody does not arise at all. It was set up to check crime. In the aftermath of the amnesty programme when the militants started coming into the city and there was this feeling that if we didn’t set up such an anti-crime structure, the crime rate was going to soar and that was the spirit in which it was set up. If it is indeed true that we were using it to terrorise opponents, why is it that Bayelsans are asking that this arm of the police come back?
Why was it disbanded?
It was never disbanded. It was suspended for a while for reformation. The Inspector-General of Police ordered its suspension so that it can be reformed for better performances. As a government, we admit that there were a few excesses; we admit it. We are not ashamed to say so, but those reasons were not enough to disband it. It was never disbanded.
The state government is known to have borrowed up to the tune of N125 billion (N75 billion from a consortium of banks and N50 billion bond). Can you say exactly what this money was used for?
I think that the bonds are tied to specific projects. We have the state secretariat road 999 (and) the hospitals. This money does not come directly to any office of Bayelsa State. They go directly to the contractors doing the projects.
That was for the N50 billion bonds. What about the N75 billion loan?
I can’t go into specifics of that figure. That would be for the finance commissioner to answer you.
What is the debt profile of the state?
I cannot go into that. That is outside my terrain.
Why do you think your principal is so embattled?
He is not embattled; it’s the nature of politics. This is what makes politics tick.
But there seems to be a massive opposition against him.
Opposition? Not from the people of Bayelsa State, but from those with selfish interests who want to put the state in their own pocket. The people of Bayelsa are with my governor. Those who are opposed to us live in Abuja and outside of Bayelsa State. They should come home and join us to develop the state.
So, what is the expectation from the governor’s camp in respect of the imminent judgment on the appeal filed by INEC on tenure elongation?
We are confident that we will be victorious. We have won at the lower court and the appeal court. Our case is solid on points of law. We have no reason to be afraid.