Hon. Fred Agbedi is a member of the House of Representatives representing Sagbama\Ekeremor Federal Constituency of Bayelsa State. In this interview with OSA OKHOMINA, the PDP chieftan bares his mind on the issues surrounding the forthcoming governorship election in Bayelsa State.
Many were surprised that you were not among the three preffered governorship aspirants choosen by Dickson and his Restoration caucus. How do you react to that?
There was no Restoration meeting to decide the issue of preffered aspirants. After Governor Dickson in the Restoration, I am the next person. And any meeting I don’t attend, as a key anchor of Restoration, did not hold. That is what it means. I’m sure that the issue of preffered aspirants at the purported meeting is a fairy tale.
If there was a Restoration meeting and I was called and I sent apology. It means there was a meeting. But if I was not invited, there was no such restoration meeting. I can tell you on good authority that was why we named our campaign team as Onward Restoration Organisation. This is Restoration itself. Go and check all others who claimed to be Restoration members. Go and check their slogans. You will not find anything restoration.
I beat my chest to say it. You cannot become a governor when u have abandoned Restoration. Is that the way to go? We can continue rescue, sustain and transform. That is the way to go. Onward are those things we have not completely restored. We will continue to restore them, sustain and transform them because without transformation, we cannot be remodeling. There is no newness. That is why we are Onward Restoration Campaign Organisation.
You are from Bayelsa West senatorial district where the outgoing governor is from. And the Central Senatorial district is advocating for zoning and demand the position of governorship. What is your idea of zoning?
I have heared people talk about zoning. They ask people of Bayelsa West, what is the matter? They said it is the turn of Bayelsa Central to produce governor. The question I ask is that whether there have ever been zoning in Bayelsa?The answer is ‘No’. It is very simple that in leadership, politics and governance in Bayelsa, there has never been zoning in the state.
The state was created in 1996. The military handed over in 1999. I was a member of the founding fathers of Bayelsa. I was also involved in taking Bayelsa people to meet Alhaji Usman Dagogo, the Chiroma of Katsina, who was the Deputy Chairman sub-committee on State creation in the Nbanefo Panel.
I was involved in connecting Bayelsa to him in the quest to create Bayelsa State. So, I know how Bayelsa was created. I know how it was funded and realised. And I was one of those who came to launch Bayelsa. And I have been a leading politician, if it was bayelsa founding fathers that was calling a meeting on zoning, I would have been present.
And I challenge anyone to a public debate on the argument about zoning in Bayelsa. If you don’t know, the last election was between the Central and West Senatorial districts. We know the history of party primaries in the state. We know who won the PDP primaries. But the general election was contested by the Bayelsa West and Central. If you zone election, it means all the contestants should come from the area it was zoned to because there was no zoning, people contested from all senatorial districts.
Some won the primaries and they were denied the ticket and given to other people. Of course, the general election was contested by people from all senatorial districts. And you know that the late Alameiseigha was declared winner of the election. So, where was zoning in 1999? And of course, when Alameiseigha had issues, did anybody zone it to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan? He was Deputy Governor and naturally he stepped in. You cannot talk about zoning when a man naturally stepped into office. You can’t talk about it.
And of course when Goodluck was going as Vice President, what were the issues? It was, say let us zone. But did we zone? He handed over to Chief Timipre Sylva and it was not by zoning. And of course, Dickson came in. Dickson was not a product of zoning. He was a product of the decision of the Green Movement. The members of the Green Movement agitated that one of their own must must become governor. And the lot fell on him. And he inherited the desire of the Green Movement to produce a governor.
So, who or where was zoning? I challenge those people who now say zoning should be respected. For some of us, it is an insult. Maybe they don’t know what they are talking about. They should come and ask some of us who are founding fathers if they are not founding fathers.
They should come and ask us who are political leaders if they are not political leaders at that time. We will tell them the history. In any case, Bayelsa is not a state of first and last born parentage. All the three senatorial districts are equal.
‘It is only in parentage that you say this man is a first born and the other is a last born. And you say, first born chooses and last born take last. Who is the first born in Bayelsa? Who is the last born? Can anybody tell me? If it is not so, it will be nice for us all to taste first so that we can tell the story of the first born tasting first and the last tasting. That is the way to go. Other than that, you know that it is a govt policy of right of first refusal If you are resident in a house and government wants to sell,you that is resident will be given right of first refusal. It is only when you don’t want to buy, you can deny yourself of such right.
The Government of Bayelsa is domicile in Bayelsa west and we have the right of first refusal. And as the last to taste it,we should . That is why we are telling Bayelsa people that we are buying it.
When you talk about zoning, the entire state will sit to discuss. we are the last in the sharing and we will take. Do you know, Osusu, our traditional contributory scheme? It is not only you that has problem. Every other person has problem., if you take first,them you also want so that the last person should start. So what we are saying is that it is the Bayelsa west. We are saying that Four Local Government areas have produced Governors.
My Local Government, Ekeremor, will not produced, likewise, Yenagoa, Nembe and Kolokuma\Opokuma. So,four of us will go into the race. Any of those four should produce the Governor. We should go by elimination. If Ekeremor produces, the next should come from the other three until we will come to ground zero. And we will all be happy that we have had a shot at governorship.
Why do you want to be Governor of Bayelsa State?
It is to develop Bayelsa, and I believe that if you want to be a governor, then you must understand the essence of a governor, the essence number one is to realize that you are to be a servant and you must be able to render service, you should not see yourself as Boss or rather you should see yourself as the servant of the people that is what I know very well and that is what I have come to do, to be the servant of the people.
I also know that the position of a governor is a supervisor, your is to supervise others, you understand the essence of supervision and you too must have the capacity to supervise, because the governor does not do everything by himself, the governor identify competent and capable hands of who represent him in implementing policies and actions of Government and until you understand that a governor is a supervisor and that as a supervisor, your first responsibility is to identify the right people who have competent and capacity to implement policies of government.
is what makes you stand out as a man who knows your job from day one and so I realize that as a governor your duty is to supervise and understand how to checks, monitor and applaud your lieutenants when they have done well, the ability to call your lieutenants to order when you believe that they are straying out of the radar and of course treat where it’s important and necessary to treat policies and their implementations and if you see that they are not achieving the desire goals and because I know and understand this, and I feel that the only way to express this is to serve at a greater height which is the geographical expression that we refer to as Bayelsa.
Many have asked the aspirants, what they are bringing to the table in terms of what they have done in the past. What are your contribution to your constituency?
As a serving member of my Federal constituency, I have attracted empowerment to at least 16 to 20 communities in my constituency, I think that I have gone to the level that I have come to seek the same role at the center and that is why I have come and have been mandated to fly the flag of Peoples Democratic Party in the Nov.16 governorship election in the state.
What is your plan to develop Bayelsa?
One of my plan is to render services, to serve my people, I feel that Bayelsa should be empowered. First and most important is the empowerment of Bayelsans.
First and most important is that Bayelsans don’t have financial empowerment, if they don’t have skill empowerment, then of course there is nothing you can bring to Bayelsans that will be worth more than empowerment.
We will ensure that Bayelsans have access to funds and how do they get access to funds. We have bayelsans that have core competence in business and as a governor, you must identify the core competence of Bayelsans and patronize them, you don’t only patronize them, you ensure that the service they rendered is paid fort hat is the only way to grow your people, as a contractor, business men, the state patronises you, we should be able to pay you so that you can make profit, revenue with which you move forward.
Once you empower bayelsans very well, bayelsans will turn the state economy around, they will make the economy robust and they move to compete at the national level and our government will not only empower them and leave them to go and compete at the national level we will also assist them where the governor needs to intervene where they are in a competition and how they are going to have such venture in the world and it discharge the responsibility of such venture, Bayelsa Govt will follow up and ensure that will support them to meet that venture at the end of the day.
Not only that, we want to grow Bayelsa, not only to the national level but also to the world because if we want to be a national and world player, we must have financial muscle. No matter how competent you are, no matter how effective you are in delivery projects, if you don’t have the financial muscle, you will not be able to compete at the national and global level and so that is what our target is that at the end of the day, Bayelsans, whatever it will cost them to be in competition at the national level and globally, we would ensure that they have that basis to be able to compete whereever they find themselves in Nigeria and across the globe.
What does government need to do?
What Government need to do is to create enabling environment, a condusive climate, build infrasturctures, social amenities and security that will bring a driving economy base, that is what our Goverment is going to do. Anything about factory, industries and funding of projects of public oriented, that are industry oriented will be the responsibility of businessmen to partner with other businessmen to bring them.
Take for example, we are taking about Agge Deep Sea Port, where the state government has done so much and has done a lot of works and are still looking for investors to come and invest, if we have Bayelsans who can pull together 3 to 5 Billion Naira, am sure that we would have achieve a lot or long milage as it is today because government funds are not sufficient to develop Bayelsa as it ought to be. So, once Bayelsans have good money, once they have financial muscle and financial capabilities they can attract partners that can put-in so much billions to bring such project into fruition, you will see that Bayelsan money will be domiciled in Bayelsa and they would be financially empowered to strength Bayelsa economy and to attract other investors to come and partner with our business men to invest in factories and industries and to grow Bayelsa, employment will come, its by so doing we will have robust business economy in Bayelsa, it’s by so doing that as a government we will also attract revenue to boost our Internally Generated Revenue to take the responsibility as government.
Any plan for refinery?
Yes, our government when we come onboard will also bring to the table the issues of oil production, Bayelsa state has oil well, we have the attala farm, the marginal oil field and what do we need, do we need to sell crude which is between 40 to 60 dollars per barrel and failed like the way Nigeria fail in selling raw materials, no for me the right way to go is to tell our partners with the Bayelsa oil company to build refinery.
We don’t need to sell the raw crude, we need to refined. If people who don’t have access to crude oil want to built refinery, what about us that already have access to crude oil. What we need is a refinery to process the crude and this will bring down the cost of this finished products. Because in Nigeria, Bayelsa is paying more than any other state and other part of this country because Bayelsa have deep riverine areas and anything you are buying at deep riverine, you can never determine what the cost is, so for me, Bayelsa oil company will encourage our partners to built refinery, process the crude to pms, to kpk, , what ever finished product that is going to be processed out of the crude oil is what Bayelsa needs for development.
If we have a refinery, people will be employed, the petrol , diesel that we are going to process in Bayelsa will reduce the cost of the finished products in the state, it will create employment opportunities and of course the government will also drew revenue from it.
Am also saying that as a chairman House Committee on oil and gas resources in the eight Assembly in the House of representative, I went into a number of discussions with the major players in the oil industries. You all known that the Bonny NLNG is a success story and it’s one of the highest finance contributors to the Federal Government of this country and if the Bonny NLNG will bring two more NLNG will certainly solve the financial teething problems of the country, whatever amount you want to fund your budget with three NLNG in Nigeria can solve that problem and they are desirous of getting it done, in the course of our discussion with SHELL, we have agree that the bony NLNG should invest in Brass NLNG and shell has also volunteer to invest in that project and so, that dream is ongoing, as chairman of that resources in the House of Representative, we have taken discussion largely to implementation level such that it’s only when some of us come on board, having realise it to this point, as a governor I can drive it to completion.
And what do you expect, an NLNG in Brass will open up the brass axis, it will bring employment opportunity for our teeming youths and will also promote businesses and then as a state we are going to drew revenue from it. That is the way to go.
How about the brass fertilizer company?
The Brass fertilizer company that has been on the dream line, I have discussion to the extent that the former Managing Director of NNPC has said what will need to do to make it come on stream and by that discussion their expectation is not much their expectation is not beyond Bayelsa state government power and having understand that this is what they want to have Brass fertilizer company to come on stream because it will also generate employment again, which will generate business, which will generate income, I think that, that is the way to go because if don’t address the issue that will create employment, issues that will , issue that will bring about robust business environment, issues that will create more revenue base for the government, then of course, we will still be relying on feeding bottle democracy. For Nigeria as far as am concern, we are practicing feeding bottle democracy.
How do you mean?
We say we are federal government, but we are practicing unitary system of government, at the end of the month, we all go to Abuja to collect whatever they appropriate to us, we do don’t know what they are given to us, they just say this is what belong to you and you pick it and come back which is not enough to sponsor our budgets and as for some of us, the first and most important thing to do is to look inward and generate an economy that will be self serving and we talk about this because if investors are coming to Nigeria and they land in Lagos, the moments they talk to Lagos audience and they know that it is a business that is going to succeed, Lagosians will tell you am buying it half a billion naira, or one billion or two billion and of course they don’t have any reason to come to Bayelsa when there is already money, when there is local content that is going to boost their investment of course they have to talk to that audience and then move away from there, that is the sentiment we are coming to government to solve.
Bayelsans will have the capacity to put money on the table in negotiating and creating business partnership that will develop our state.
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