BAYELSA: PLOT AGAINST EBEBI A DISTRACTION – ASARA A. ASARA
The former Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information, Chief Asara A. Asara strongly feels that President Goodluck Jonathan should contest for the number one slot in 2011. To him, if the major ethnic groups doesn't support the project, the minority groups spread across the country will gang- up and ensure that Jonathan emerges president.
In this interview, he reveals, for the first time why he suddenly resigned his appointment, the focal point of President Jonathan's administration, the impeachment proceedings against the deputy governor, Peremobowei Ebebi and more. Excerpts:
Why did you suddenly resign as Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information?
It was based on a private reason. Like I told the governor in my resignation letter, my resigning from Bayelsa State Executive Council was based on personal reasons. It was a personal decision that I took for my personal interest. I entered the government in my own volition. So, I had to resign when I wanted. This is the first time I'm talking about it. I left for my personal interest and that of Bayelsa. Now that Goodluck is president, it's not good to overheat the system. Anything bad that happens in the Bayelsa, some people tend to attribute it to the president.
But some people raised petition about your stewardship. What is your response to that?
I am aware of that. Let them go to the EFCC or call me. I am available and ready to respond to any question. That's all I can say for now. But I looked at the government. It wasn't towing the lines of the founding fathers. There were people who came together to fight for the creation of that state. They had a reason. That area was excluded completely from the scheme of things in the country. It looked as if it was not part of the Nigerian project at all. There was no development- poverty everywhere. Our environment was devastated by oil exploration. Some of us thought that now that we have our own state, we can now use it and right these wrongs. My mindset was that whatever we have should be used to develop the state.
By leaving, don't you think you betrayed the governor who appointed you?
When people talk about betrayal, I wonder if they know how I worked. They don't know my relationship with the governor. I didn't betray him. He is rather the one who betrayed me. He knows how I worked. I don't want to comment more on this unless the governor confronts me or opens a press war. Appointing someone a commissioner is one thing, ensuring he performs is another.
I would want us to put this thing behind us. Take the state television we started ,for instance. We needed just a little for the television-Gloryland Televission- to function. Nothing was done until I left. He perhaps thought that the credit will come to me. But it will actually go to him and the state. After 13 years of gestation period, the television began to function, Bayelsans will give him the credit.
If you go there, you will see that we have done the landscaping. We've done so many things- the studio is ready. The only thing left is for the contractor to be paid. Once that is done, the management of Gloryland Television- as he calls it- will start using it. Even the six million naira we borrowed from Diamond Bank, I had to use my own four million naira to pay back. That overdraft is still pending there. The parastatals that made up the ministry of information have been removed. There is nothing for one to work with in the ministry. This is partly why I left. But there are bigger reasons behind my resignation.
Earlier on, the governor of your state inexplicably worked against Goodluck Jonathan emerging as president. But he is now drumming up support for him. Why the sudden swing?
In fact, the question should be directed at him. Like you know, I hate to be flattered. I am not deceptive. I don't believe in speaking through the two sides of my mouth. The president can't be carried away by such a gesture. He's the chief executive of Nigeria and the governor is the chief executive of Bayelsa. I don't know their meeting point. I don't know if President Jonathan has told him that he wants to run in 2011, and has made him his campaign manager. But if Goodluck wants to run for the election, he doesn't need the campaign of anyone for Bayelsans to support him.
The way you are sounding, you must be quite close to President Goodluck Jonathan. Tell us, is he running in 2011?
Hmm, the president and I have not discussed it. So I don't know if he's running or not. But the matter is a serious one. If Nigerians are sincere and are people of honour- which I think they are, they will be the ones to tell Goodluck to run. It's not a tribal issue or sentiment. That's why people like Solomon Lar, Gemade and many well-meaning Nigerians are clamouring for him to run.
The youth in the north have made it clear that they don't care who is going to be the president of the country. They want someone who will fix those things that are really the problems of Nigeria. We are talking about light, poverty, development, security of lives and property and infrastructure.
The youth clearly say that though the north has been on the saddle of power but the area have nothing to show for it. Compared to the south, the poverty level is quite high.
What do you think of those who claim there will be chaos in the country if President Jonathan runs?
We shall hold those people making such permutation responsible if anything goes wrong. Some members of the older generation who are saying this should known better. They are supposed to tell the younger generation where the Ijawman stood.
As things are in Nigeria today, the minorities are in majority. Up north, we have minorities all over. If all the minorities come together, then the so-called majorities will no more rule Nigeria. In the north, when there's something at stake, they tell them 'we are all northerners'. Immediately after this, they dump them. Once that problem is solved, they tell them they are not Hausa-Fulani. Their sentiment is very strong. I'll advise Nigerians not to allow the minorities of this country come together. If this happens, the majorities will never have a chance to rule Nigeria again.
Let me take you a bit down memory lane.
When the colonial masters were here and when the nation's founding fathers were ready for independence, there was something that was lacking. The parties in existence were tribal-based. The colonialists were worried that none of the parties had a national outlook. They even decided that if there is no party without a national outlook, there will be no independence for Nigeria. And there was one minority man. His name is Chief Melford Obini Okilo. He and other notable Ijaw sons came together to form a political party. It was called Niger Delta Congress (NDC). They contested elections. Of all the candidates of NDC, Okilo was the one who won.
At that time, the dominant party in the East- we were all lumped as Easterners. There was nothing like South-South or Niger Delta region. Even at that, we were seen as minority. The dominant party in the East was NCNC. Okilo would have joined the party but he risked his life and decided to align with UPGA. That was what gave Nigeria her independence. But no historian or politician has made this revelation. Okilo played a major role that brought about the independence of this country. The alliance he formed made our independence possible in 1960. Since then, the Niger Delta has been the political friend of the northerners.
If anyone says that Goodluck Jonathan who is Okilo's political son, a man from the oil-rich Niger Delta, the main-economic stay of the country can't be president, that person is not a Nigerian.
Even Jokolo, a retired army officer says Jonathan should be allowed to run. And that if not, he and his people must be allowed to go with their oil. How much does those objecting to Jonathan's presidency contribute to the nation's economy? From what I have seen, the youth up North are more ready for Jonathan's project than most of us. But for now, Jonathan has not told anyone he wants to run for presidency.
We don't want to bring tribal sentiments and trivialize it. So, some of us have decided not to distract him within the short period in this tenure. We want him to fix some of the major problems bedeviling the country. At the appropriate time, Nigerians will be the judge .
The constitution is there. It has spelt out qualification for Nigerians aspiring to run as the president of the country. We should be thankful to God that a young man in his early 50s is the president of this country. This is the first time. Young men are now taking over the helms of leadership. Look at Obama and others.
So, Nigeria can't afford to be an exception.
But the ruling party- the PDP has its zoning formula
The party will do itself a world of good to allow a sitting president to contest. If they bar him, other parties will go for him. It will be in the interest of the party to allow a sitting president to contest in 2011.
Is president Jonathan going to continue with Yar'Adua's seven- points agenda?
He's now the president of the country. He's enlightened- a PHD holder and former governor of Bayelsa state. Within the short period, he should be able to know the projects he will tackle in the seven -points agenda. He may decide to jettison it completely and only deal with the projects that Nigerians are yearning for. There are electricity, electoral reform, post amnesty. If I'm the president, I'll concentrate on the three.
What about education?
Yes, education- the sector is in limbo now. Something urgent needs to be done.
Senator Kanti Bello recently said that Jonathan betrayed Yar'Adua. What do you think?
In what sense did Jonathan do that? The Goodluck Jonathan I know is incapable of doing that. When he was the deputy governor of Bayesla- and even when he later became the governor, he kept on calling Alamesigha his boss. Is that why Yar'Adua didn't transmit a letter to Jonathan? When Yar'Adua was ill and the AGF tried to stop him from acting, did he quarrel with him? We need to know how Jonathan betrayed Yar'Adua. Even when the man was smuggled back and Jonathan went to see him and his wife and was prevented, did he quarrel with anyone? No, he took everything calmly. Now that the man is dead, has Jonathan made any public statement against him? No. So, I don't know where Kanti Bello is coming from. Anyway, the man is too emotional for one to take him very serious.
Your home state, Bayesla is overheating. The state House of Assembly has commenced impeachment proceedings against the state's deputy governor. What's the implication?
It's quite distracting. We are surprise about this. Not long ago, Governor Sylvia was on AIT and told the public that peace has returned to Bayelsa. He even called Ebebi, his deputy, his brother. It is shocking that the promise has been broken. Bayeslans are being distracted. Instead of developing the state, money is now being spent to perfect Ebebi's impeachment. Well, I can put It Biblically; when the righteous rules, the people rejoice.