In this interview with CHIBUZO UKAIBE, Hon Fred Agbedi, representing Sagbama/Ekeremor Federal Constituency of Bayelsa State, speaks on some pressing issues ahead of the state’s governorship election
You are currently a member of the National Assembly and a lot of politicians abandon their people after elections waiting for the next round of election to go back to their constituencies. How close are you to the people you aspire to govern?
I am a grassroots politician. I was in Abuja here for the past four years in the 8th Assembly. I never stayed in Abuja up to 10 weekends. At every week I am in and out of my state and my federal constituency because I am a man of the people.
What are Bayelsans yearning for? They are yearning for a man who is resident with them. They are yearning for a man who stays in Bayelsa with them. They are yearning for a man they can see without asking for where he is. I am very comfortable telling Bayelsans that I want to govern them. I am the only aspirant who knows every community in Bayelsa state; I am conversant with the needs, aspirations and pains of the people.
Some governors are far removed from the people after election and may not even be aware if their directives on issues affecting the welfare of the people are carried out. What is your take on this?
I see the position of the governor as a supervisor. Once you have competent people around you, all you need to do is supervise them. If I visit your community and ask about a sector, the first person who is going to speak is the line officer. Governance is service, we are to serve our people. Those who don’t understand that the governor is a servant of the people think that the money if the state is their money. If you are given a public office to hold, you are a servant to the people and you must so put yourself in that position and that is what I believe in.
What are you bringing on board if elected the governor of Bayelsa State?
Governor Dickson has done his best. If I am elected today as governor of Bayelsa State, what the people expect is that I do my best. Nobody can completely meet all the demands and yearnings of the people.
One thing that I think is paramount, other than the federal allocation in this feeding bottle democracy that we are practicing, what have the resources in Bayelsa that you can harness to generate internal revenue with which you can run government in Bayelsa state. That is a priority in my administration. We need to deal with the issues of vocational education. It is very critical to grow the people’s desire to be independent, self employed and then run businesses and trade of their own to enable them make a living for themselves.
We have abandoned research for a very long time. We have raw materials. If you vote quality finances for research, you will always turn out report of raw materials in your environment that you can develop which will also get people gainfully employed.
In Bayelsa we have raffia palms that are tapped with which they process gin, the gin which the colonial masters described as illicit gin. Till today we are still at that level of illicit gin. If they were the kind of some exported or imported drinks that people should be consuming, we are still at that level because of lack of research and investment. People have even vacated that trade and that was the trade that gave our people a lot of money. Research is going to form a cardinal part of my agenda so that people will know what kind of resources you have in your environment and how you can harness them to get yourself gainfully employed as well as generate revenue for the state.
Bayelsa has gatala farms, why must we go the way of selling crude oil? Like Nigeria has failed herself by selling the raw materials. It is better that you turn that your raw material to finished products. There is need for us to ensure that we build a modular refinery which will assess the crude that will be produced from gatala farms to produce finished products for us to gainfully employ our people in the refineries and ensure that we make more profit rather than selling the raw crude.
If you compare the price of crude oil to palm oil, palm oil is more expensive than crude oil. Now we have lost focus completely on the issue of palm oil whose price is more expensive than that of crude oil. But because nobody wants to be involved in planting and process it, government will need to encourage that.
Our governor is doing so much to bring the age deep seaport to fruition. If there were Bayelsans who have one to five billion to invest in it, you will see that foreign investors will be happy to partner with them. But if there are Bayelsans like that, you will be working hard to convince somebody to leave his country and come invest in a community that he knows nothing about.
We will look at core competences of our businessmen and grow them so that they can attract partnerships to come and invest in Bayelsa state.
If you go to Bayelsa there are communities that have 24 hours power. Have we sold that achievement to the world? Today investors from around the world go to China to build factories because of cheap labor. Bayelsa has communities even inside the creeks that have constant power.
My government will deliberately tell the whole world that these communities have 24 hours power. You don’t need to come with a generator or buy diesel and you are going to make your profit from whatever investment you are going to put in Bayelsa.
The issue of security also comes to the fore. Brass NLNG needs to come on stream. If they can put three NLNG plants in Nigeria, Nigeria won’t have any problem of funding their budget. I have engaged the MD of NLNG as well as the MD of SHELL, we have agreed that NLNG should come with the details to fund how that investment can be realized.
Because I have access to all the nukes and crannies of Bayelsa, if anyone feels that this is his hideout, from where he is encouraging militancy, you will find me there. I will come there as governor of Bayelsa state.
What I want in the regard is to ensure that these people are put together and a security company is established with these guys who understand the creeks and know those that are capable of making trouble. This will not only make them work and get salary, but also, any investment coming into the state will deliberately create a shareholding in those investments for that company.
If you look at Bayelsa, you have an hotel that is standing there on the skyline. For me, even if that hotel is going to cost $1, sell it off. Try to ensure that you deal with the encumbrances around it and sell it off to an investor who knows that he will not pay too much for it, and he establishes his own four or five star hotel that is going to attract people to Bayelsa, of course they will be ready to take it up.
You come to Abuja here and we have an hotel that is lying fallow here. How can that be? For how many years? Sometimes when you get too greedy, you lose more money and waste your assets. No asset of Bayelsa should be wasted. It should be converted to a revenue making asset so that no matter how little, it is contributing to the internal revenue of the state.