All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain and former Bayelsa State Acting Governor Nestor Binado spoke with Mike Odiegwu in Yenagoa, the state capital, on the preparations for the governorship primary, the chances of the aspirants and issues that will shape the November 16 poll.
How prepared is the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the forthcoming governorship election in Bayelsa?
Our party is strong. Right now, we want to do an in-house primary. We have many aspirants for the forthcoming primary. We have a former Minister of State for Agriculture. We have a retired Commissioner of Police and we also have Perye Aganaba, a young, vibrant, intelligent man. I also heard that a former Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) just entered the race. Th number of aspirants alone, who want to be governors of this state in our party, should tell you that the party is strong. We are very much ready to win this governorship election and form the next government of this state.
The governor has said that APC lacked structures and presence to win elections in Bayelsa. Recently, former President Goodluck Jonathan said the same thing. How do you respond to these?
For me, such statements do not make sense. I don’t know what they call structures. We have at the ward level, party officers, and other members of the party. We also have at the local government level and we also have at the state level. So, what structures are they talking about. They are living in denial because they know that the APC this time around has the best chance to win the election. One of the reasons is that we are united. We are the only viable opposition to the PDP in this state. So, I keep asking, ‘what do they mean by structures?’. We have everything we need from the ward to the state level. I am even surprised at the former President because the APC is the one representing him at the Senate. We won the election in his senatorial district in this last general election. The APC has a member representing Southern Ijaw at the House of Representatives. We also won some seats in the House of Assembly. Generally, in the last elections, we showed our strength against all odds and we are going to prove them wrong this time.
What kind of candidate do you think the APC needs to win Bayelsa state?
The APC must present a candidate that doesn’t have skeleton in his cupboard. We need a clean, approachable candidate that has no baggage. The candidate must be acceptable to everybody, not only to members of the APC. The public must appreciate the candidate and look at him as a total departure from the past. There is an outcry that this state needs a change because of the the misrule of the PDP. So, people want a change. Even in 2015, that outcry was there. So, this time, members of APC should put their heads down and listen to the public by looking at each of these aspirants in the APC. If we are able to present a young, vibrant, focused and peoples candidate, we will win the election.
Do you have a preferred candidate for this election?
As a politician, who has held reasonable positions in this state, as Deputy Speaker, Speaker and as the Acting Governor, that handed over to the present government, definitely I should have a candidate. I support the aspiration of Engineer Preye Aganaba. He is the one that fits into what the people in the state are looking for at this time. He is a young man, a computer engineer, who has done well in the business circle. He has also been a good politician for a reasonable length of time. In 2015 elections, he was the senatorial candidate of the APC for Central Senatorial Zone. He has been a loyal member of the APC. He was one of the founders or the leading member of the APC in this part when the former governor, Chief Timi Sylva, came into the party and because Sylva was a former governor, Aganaba handed over everything to him and at that point, Sylva became the leader of the party. The rent of the first office of APC was paid by Aganaba. He has suffered for the party as a loyal party member and I feel that anybody who has worked for the party should have a chance.
The argument against your preferred candidate is that he is inexperienced. Some persons also say he is too young and and may not have the capacity to govern Bayelsa. What’s your take?
Such argument doesn’t hold water. In the world today, there’s a kind of revolution, particularly in the circle of governance that power should go to the younger ones. Preye Aganaba is over 45. Is he still a young boy? Within the circle of youthfulness, he’s no more a youth. Anybody, who is above 40, is no more a youth in the Nigerian context. When you are beyond 30 years, you are no more a youth. That’s why even in the NYSC, once you are above 30 years, you don’t serve. So, why would somebody who is about 47 years old be called a youth. When did Gowon become the Head of State? What of Detie Spiff, who was 27 years and we see what he did massively. When did Seriake become governor? At what age did Timipre Sylva become governor?
So, anybody who says Aganaba is a young man is even praising him because he has the strength. Besides, in governance, it’s not the governor alone that makes things happen. If you have good advisers and the leader has listening ears, then, you have good government. When Dettie Spiff became governor of the old Rivers State, all his commissioners were old people, some of them old enough to be his father. He made serious impact. So, anybody who says the young cannot do it is making a mistake.
Preye Aganaba graduated years ago; had his own computer workshops. He has managed his private life, business life. Would you say he has no experience? What do they even mean by experience? Let me tell you, the traditional chiefs, some of them are not as educated as we are, but they are better administrators. The most difficult profession or part of administration is being a traditional ruler. If you want a very good governor, look for someone who has wisdom, who is intelligent, who will be able to gather a group of experienced advisers. Look at Bayelsa State, all the advisers are small boys and they’re afraid of the governor. So, how do you think such person can advise him? What kind of advice would they give?
Former Governor Timipre Sylva flew the flag in 2015, and it’s also rumored that, despite being a minister-designate, he would want to contest again. What do you think?
Everybody, who has satisfied the criteria in the constitution is qualified to contest. I’m also qualified to contest. If it is his desire, he is qualified to contest. The laws of Nigeria allow him. He can contest. However, I may plead with him that, having become minister, he should play a fatherly role as the leader of the party so that we will have a united family going into the election. Sylva has many followers. He has a lot of influence on persons and he is respected by many people within the party, both at the national level and at the state level. I will advise him not to contest. He should rather play a fatherly role and unite everybody in the party. The success of the party will be more glorious to him. That is what I think he should concern himself with.
Do you think APC needs reconciliation ahead of the primary and the election?
For the primary what we need is peaceful primary devoid of violence. Then, we can definitely come back to unite to fight the oponent, which is the PDP. So, we need peace; we need unity to win this election. Whoever becomes the candidate will need support to enable the party win the election.
Would you say the party stands a better chance now to win Bayelsa?
Yes, our party is in a very better position than even 2015 to win this election. We are prepared and apart from that, we know what is happening in the camp of our opponent. In 2015, PDP heavyweights came into APC to make us stronger. This time around, we expect such defections and when you add it to other advantages we have now, that we didn’t have before, we will win the election.
Are you in support of the argument that Bayelsa should align with the party at the centre?
From the political history of the Southsouth, and particularly the Ijaw people, we have always worked with the center. In all the republics, we worked with the centre. When PDP was at the centre, because we aligned with them, it gave us the opportunity to produce the President of this big nation and that’s why we are advocating that this state needs to be tied to the center. Once we’re tied the center, we get more. It is just like you are a father of many nation and one of them will say ‘no daddy, I don’t want to come close to you’, what do you think will happen? That child will lose. So, we need to be tied to the center and that’s the best for the ijaw man. This state is the Mecca of Ijaw nation. We need to be tied to the center. If we don’t, we will lose much. I advocate that this state should be part of the center.
The leaders in your party are already quarreling over the mode of primary. So, which mode do you support?
In general elections, everybody goes to vote. Not so? For everyone in this party to participate in selecting the candidate, I would like direct primary. The direct primary gives every card-carrying member a voice to say ‘this is the person I want’ and that gives beauty to democracy. If we need democratic systems in our party to prevail, that direct option to me is the best.
What is your take on zoning?
Even at the federal level, either elective positions or appointments, people argue for quota system. In this state, though it’s not written, we have a mutual understanding, which of course, is moral. Alamieyeseigha came from the central; when he left, Jonathan stayed for about a year. Sylva came and completed the years meant for the East. People kept quiet to allow Sylva to come. When Jonathan was Vice-President and President, we didn’t allow the position of Jonathan at the center to cause any misunderstanding and on the moral agreement we had. Now, when Jonathan was there and Sylva was removed, the thing moved from the East to the West. No section or zone has ever completed eight years. It is the West that will be completing the eight years by February 14, 2020. This unwritten but mutually agreed movement of governor from one zone to another helps to avoid animosity among us. If we destroy that seeming understanding, it will bring to much quarrel.
…So, whose turn is it to produce the next governor?
It is the turn of the central zone. The central can bring anybody, but even when you come to the central, if a local government in the central has produced before, that council should allow others to produce the next one. In the central, there are three local government areas. Yenagoa, Kolokuama-Opokuma and Southern Ijaw. Southern Ijaw had produced because Alamiyeiseigha came from there. So, it is the turn of Yenagoa and Kolokuma-Opukuma, to produce the next governor of the state.
There’s no complexity at all. In a family you will not want one person to have it all at all times. It is good that you have today, your brothers and sisters will have it the next day. It brings harmony. So, if we say no it must be one person others will feel that you want to dominate them and let me tell you no human being likes domination.
To avoid the mistake of 2015, when the primary of your party was marred with violence, what type of primary would you expect the national APC to conduct in Bayelsa state.
It is only in indirect primary that the entire process can be marred by violence. But if it is direct primaries, I will also go to my ward to vote. Yes, the direct has its own disadvantages but they are limited. It is like general election, some places maybe peaceful, some may have violence but it may not affect the general outcome of the election. If there is violence in my ward, it doesn’t affect the other wards.
The argument is that most APC members don’t have permanent party cards. They said they were given slips and that they have lost them. How do you authenticate members to vote in direct primaries?
Such argument is a mischievous defense. If you’re a member of a group and you know that a slip is the only thing that identifies you as a member of that group, will you go and keep yours carelessly? I still have mine. It is only those looking for indirect primaries for reasons best know to them that will always present such argument. Some of the delegates have already told me that the aspirants are promising to pay them well. The APC is a party of sanity. We are saying we are fighting corruption but you who wants to be governor is instigating corruption and he wants to be governor.
You have not become a governor and you have started corrupting members of your party and the process. If I were at the national level of this party and I have such information that aspirants are promising to pay delegates, I will investigate you because you are not in line with the principles of our party. This party has three things; security, corruption and economy. You, who want to be governor are encouraging corruption, that means you are not party members. Then you are not even party members. Maybe, you don’t even understand the manifesto of the party you are in and you want to become governor. So, for me the best is direct.
Why are people afraid of direct primaries. Let me tell you, when we do direct primaries all our members, the teeming members of the party will have a sense of belonging and they are the same people who will vote for you in the general election. If you exclude them how do they know they are members of your party and get ready to vote for you in the general election. Commit them and make them feel they are actually members of this party. How do you know your strength. It is through that you can even know your strength.