Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, during an interactive session with the people of the state and media practitioners, including OSA Okhomina of Leadership, talks about his administration’s relationship with the workers in the state, the high rate of defection from PDP to APC and the forthcoming governorship election in the state.
The gubernatorial poll is now a few weeks away and some members of your party, the PDP, are jumping the ship. What is your party doing to face up to the challenge?
Well, let me assure you that this state is a solid PDP state. In the last general elections we saw that a number of these big wigs did not support the candidate of the mainstream party, the flag bearer of the party, yet we won resoundingly and these were elections that were far more keenly contested and more complicated.
Politics is not so. You are talking of a party of three senators out of three senators, you are talking of a party that has five out of five Reps members, and even at the worst of times when PDP in Abuja was contending against PDP Bayelsa with the support of faithful party members that we enjoy, we won three senatorial seats, five Reps seats, and won 23 seats out of 24. And one is now at the tribunal, though we still believe that even in that seat we should have been declared winner.
Now, you have eight local government areas, political appointees, commissioners, special assistants, board chairmen and members, you have almost one hundred and five counselors. How do you think you will suddenly, in two, three months almost overnight overthrow that kind of party? And to cap it all you have a performing governor on ground who knows elections, who is giving effective, proactive and consistent leadership to the party, because if I were not in position to give that leadership, let me tell you by now you would not have PDP in Bayelsa, not with the forces that were arrayed against this state and against our party. For more than three years I contended against forces without complaining; stubbornly and rightly resisting them in the interest of this state, in the interest of the Ijaw nation.
Some members of the opposition party have insisted that your claim over the funding of the flyover bridge built by your administration is filled with lies. Why did your administration fund some of these projects but fail to the flyover officially commission them for the benefit of the people?
All these projects in Bayelsa I wish to state unequivocally were conceived, designed, funded and completed by the government of Bayelsa. There is not one that was not funded by the government of Bayelsa hundred percent and I believe everybody knows.
I think what happened is this, everybody wants to be governor, every character, once you are 35 years. develop a governorship ambition Any position you hold you don’t use it to help the people, you don’t use it to work for the state, you use it to fight for governorship. That is what is happening in Bayelsa. So, a lot of people who were not in Bayelsa have had the inordinate ambition but were intimidated by the performance of my government and they say Ah… with the way this man is going if we don’t throw stories around and take away the credit that should go to him and his government we won’t be able to contest an election again.
So, they started concocting stories to deceive the poor unsuspecting people of Bayelsa that these are federal projects.There is no federal project that they will do and give you the money, there must be a contract, it must be in the budget and they will pass the budget, they will award it, and they will come and supervise and finish it.
Some 200 graduands claimed to have been abandoned by the state government in the country where they went for overseas training. Is it true? We will also like to know why they are not absorbed into the Civil Service as promised?
Well, it was this government that sent young people to Songhai but you see a lot of things have happened with the economy. Not many people in Bayelsa probably know that we are facing a very strong financial situation. People think there is so much money in government such that when you come to the Government House you just come with a truck and begin to pack money and they say often that the governor “no dey release money”. But they don’t ask often whether there is money.
Our programme of reintegrating them was affected but don’t worry a number of the agricultural programmes that we thought they would be deployed into are getting completed. The poultry, piggery, the cassava farm, the rice mills, a number of them are getting completed. It was funding constraints that we had; the speed we were going at was such that if the revenue had not come down by now we would have completed all these projects and we would have been thinking of other ones. But we were slowed down and we are working on it.
You talked about civil service; again you don’t just recruit people into the civil service, there are areas of need. Already, we have an over- bloated civil service. Anybody who is coming to promise you recruitment into the civil service is not qualify to be governor; tell the person so. But there are areas of need that we have identified for for employment opportunities .
How is your relationship with the State Workforce and why is it that your administration was not affected by the delay in workers’ salaries? And why was Bayelsa not included in the recent bailout offered by the Federal Government?
You spoke about payment of salaries and everyone knows that in Bayelsa State we don’t owe salaries, we are not in arrears of salaries. We are also not in arrears in paying retirees. Only yesterday, I met with the pensioners and they expressed their appreciation for the efforts of the government. The only challenge we have is about gratuity which has lingered for about 10 years. But in terms of regular payment of salaries, Bayelsa is not owing and we are also not owing pensioners.
What are the measures we have put in place? It’s a combination of prudence and the selfless dedication of my team. For us, the people’s interest comes first and that’s why even in my office for three months running, there has been no running cost paid. We don’t also have overhead paid for three months now, all because we want to ensure that salaries of workers are paid.
Osa Okhomina— Jul 21, 2015 LEADERSHIP NEWSPAPER