TIME FOR IJAW PRESIDENT IS NOW â€“ EGBA
The politician who has survived many administrations, in this interview with Sunday Sun, bared his mind on several issues insisting that now is the time for an Ijaw man to be President of Nigeria. According to him, the much talked about zoning formula is not sacrosanct arguing that Nigeria found itself in a unique situation in 1999 that gave birth to the arrangement.
How do you feel as a Bayelsan having one of your own as President?
The feeling is hard to describe. More so when he is someone you know. He is somebody you practically know. He was our governor here and almost everybody knows him on a personal basis. The feeling is simply wonderful; you just feel you are on top of the world. It is also humbling because you now realized that there is so much focus on us as Bayelsans. This is the reason why the governor is also calling on Bayelsa people to begin to change the way we do things because whatever we do here even among ourselves would reflect on our father and leader who is the President of the country. So it is important that we conduct ourselves in a very civilized manner so that the rest of the country would be proud of us. So we are very proud and we are confident that he is a man that would deliver; he is a man the entire country would be happy with at the end of the day.
You were quoted recently as attacking the zoning formula
Yes, first and foremost, we must take into cognizance the circumstances under which the zoning system came into being. The zoning formula from the beginning of this democratic dispensation came into being to assuage a feeling of the South- West, where the late MKO Abiola came from and they felt short-changed because Abiola was not allowed to rule the country after winning an election that has been adjudged to be free and fair. So, because of that, every part of the country agreed that the Presidency should be conceded to them. So we had followed up that to the point of the administration of late President Umar Yar' Adua who unfortunately passed on.
But now we have found ourselves in another unique situation. This is where I am coming from. At that time, the country and indeed the political class reacted to the unique situation we found ourselves. If maybe Abiola had been allowed to rule, nobody would have come up with the zoning formula that would deliberately allow one section of the country to stand for the Presidency, it would have been an open affair.
Now we have found ourselves in a situation in which a sitting President had died and the Acting-President had been inaugurated as the President. Fortunately or unfortunately, he is coming from a part of the country that has never produced the President of this country. Based on this unique situation, we are now saying the zoning formula which in the first place is not enshrined in the constitution, should allow him at least stand for the primaries. If at the end members of the PDP say they don't want him, that would be fine but he should not be precluded from presenting himself to the party. And if he presented himself and the members say they want him, then so be it.
In any case, the zoning formula has always been breached. In the last primaries where Yar'Adua emerged the flag bearer, remember that people from the South-south stood for the election. Even when it was zoned to the South-West, people from other parts like Abubakar Rimi also stood. So the zoning formula has always been breached. I must also say as an incumbent, it is disrespectful for the party to tell the President not to run more so when I know he would perform. Because of the fact he is the incumbent President, we are saying that he should be allowed to stand for the party primaries and the end, this would be the views of majority of the party members.
Let me seize this opportunity to talk about comments of people in this country in the likes of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar that there would be political repercussion if the President goes on to stand for the party primaries. I don't believe that to be correct. If Atiku who is also an aspirant is so sure of himself, then he should not be afraid but allow all of them to stand for the primaries.
One of the planks of our argument as the South-south people is that we have always aligned ourselves with the North. Politically right from the First Republic, we have worked with the Northern political class. Now our son was second in command to a Northerner and things happened the way it happened, we are also saying the North should also remember the way we have worked with them politically since our democratic experience. They should remember our relationship and concede to us.
The last time it came to the South- West, we all worked with President Obasanjo and remember that the South-south gave him the highest votes even when his people did not vote for him. In Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta, he had 100 per cent votes. The South-south has always tended to go where the majority goes. We are the smartest people politically because we have never got it wrong as regards where the national trend has always gone. We think the Nigeria people should concede to us. Coincidentally, it is our oil wealth that is sustaining the democracy we are running. So, if we are given political power, it is not a bad thing more so when we don't have the economic wherewithal.
Many Nigerians are complaining that Jonathan is prone to pressures from people who do not mean well for this country
Let me tell you, I worked with him as deputy governor, and when he was governor. I have not worked with him when he went to the Presidency but we are all seeing what he has been doing especially from the time he became acting president and now President. He has been very decisive. Don't forget that few hours after he became acting- president, he dissolved the executive council and without wasting much time reconstituted it. When he became President, he has been able to nominate a Vice-President. In spite of all the speculations that were making rounds, he nominated somebody that has come to be accepted. His choice has shown that he is a man of himself that makes decision. He was able to push his nomination through the National Assembly.
The only thing I can say about him which I know is correct is that he is a man who likes to consult. He is a man who likes to take everyone along. Even in the case of the Vice-President, he consulted far and wide. He is a very deliberate person in terms of taking decisions; he loves to consult. He can take his time to make a decision so that everybody would be happy. That he is very decisive is not in doubt. During the short time he was governor, it was obvious that he was decisive. Look at the projects he embarked upon and was even able to complete some of them. Even former President Obasanjo came that time to commission some of those projects. And those he could not complete has been completed by Governor Timipre Sylva and late president Yar' Adua commissioned some of them when he came.
I don't think anybody would accuse him of being indecisive. The only thing is that he takes his time to consult. Two, he is a very humane person. He has the milk of human kindness in him. Maybe, it is the qualities that people are misinterpreting. For me, I don't see anything wrong for a President to be compassionate. That only shows the human side of him. I don't think President Jonathan would be shy to hide that fact that he has the milk of human kindness in him. At the end of the day, you would see that Nigerians would be proud to have him as president.
What if Jonathan fails to run?
Obviously we are clamouring for the Presidency because we have the best chance in President Jonathan. If for any reason he decides not to run, then our chance is next to zero. We don't see any other person from here that can have the weight and clout to recover the Presidency other than a sitting President. I' m very positive if he does not intend to run, people of the South-south, and Bayelsa would be able to convince him to run and convince the rest of the country to allow him to run. I believe if he runs, he would win because he would have done enough to show everybody that he is a man Nigeria needs.
There is so much protest against Governor Sylva by politicians based in Abuja, is there any hope for peace?
First of all expect democracy dividends; protest under democracy would also not end. Two, there is no state in Nigeria that has no internal crisis. Some states are worse than Bayelsa. At least in Bayelsa, nobody has been killed. In some states some PDP chieftains have been killed but the case of Bayelsa is not like that. Even our Chairman that was on exile before has come back. There would always be division in any state where politics is played. It is just that people like to amplify what happens in Bayelsa to make it look as if it is worse off whereas it is better off. Even the recent bomb blasts were things orchestrated to give the state a bad name.
When President Jonathan was here as governor, we know all the things Timi Alaibe and his people did to antagonize him. In fact, it is the fight between Alaibe and Jonathan that took the President to where he is today, because if he had not fought back, he would have been crushed. When Alamieyeseigha was there, the same Alaibe group fought him till they ensured that he was impeached. It is the same thing that has been happening. It has never been any better. Remember in 2003, it took the intervention of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar to make peace between Alaibe and Alamieyeseigha before we had peaceful primaries.
The Governor is doing everything to bring everybody together. He has done it in the past and after settlement, things again happened to get us back to the beginning. But even now, I know concerted efforts are being made. Even personally, I am a preacher of peace and understanding. I am also reaching out to those opposed to the governor to make peace. We would keep working on the peace.