Moses Siasia is the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) in Bayelsa State. He discusses his agenda for the state in this interview with VICTOR OGUNYINKA. Excerpts:
HOW has it been so far?
Well, things are going on well. We really appreciate the type of overwhelming support we are getting from people, most importantly our youths and women. This is the first time in the history of Bayelsa State that we have a woman as a running mate for the gubernatorial election. I believe women play a very strategic role when it comes to re-engineering every society. This is one of the surest ways my candidature would turn the challenges we are having as a people into windows of opportunities. I believe that the people are catching up and we will get there, one step at a time. You know they say ‘one with God is a majority. So, we will continue to trust God to lead us and because our minds are very clear to bring about total liberation to our people. We have delivered our manifesto to Bayelsans and everybody is quite pleased with the level of our promises and we believe when we get the mandate, we will ensure that all the promises that we made, we will keep to them.
You keep saying issues. What are those issues you are talking about?
Bayelsa today, as far as I am concerned, is bleeding because a lot of people who do not reside in Bayelsa have very different perceptions of the reality on ground. Today, after 17 years of rulership in the state, no airport and we are less than a million people with 65 per cent out-of-school children, high level of teenage and infant mortality rate, 85 to 90 per cent youth unemployment. These issues are so worrisome. There is no pipe borne water. So, today in the state capital, they are still using the Hausa people that fetch water as their source; no electricity and many other things, these are critical issues that need development. So, I am playing an issue-based politics. Even our civil servants are not receiving the best kind of welfare, the market women do not have a very good environment, the work force is bleeding at the moment. So, these are critical issues that we are providing critical solutions to because they are the challenges faced by our people.
Now, clearly, we have told Bayelsans that we have only two-point agenda. That doesn’t mean we are not going to take care of other sectors. As the PDM governorship candidate in the forthcoming gubernatorial election, what I have told my people is that I will ensure I diversify the Bayelsa economy because we have a very huge mainstay when it comes to agriculture and tourism. So, those are the two critical areas we want to invest in critically in partnership with the private sector, to ensure that we make Bayelsa a one-stop hub for economic activities.
With IGR generation the way to go, how do you intend to do this in Bayelsa?
It is just to encourage critical investments and also use the Bayelsa resources to diversify into agriculture and tourism and also commercialise social ventures. For instance, our target is to build water parks and museums, so that we can also use that as a source of revenue booster. We will also build resorts in terms of tourism, where we can attract people to Bayelsa, conference centres and technology villages. Those are the things we need to do to boost our revenue. But when you look at other areas like agriculture, Bayelsa is so blessed with a lot of agricultural produces and one thing I have said is that our robust plan is what is called the agricultural value chain system that we are going to introduce in government, three or four areas we are going to concentrate on. First is oil palm, then fishery, where we are also going to attract a lot of fishing prowlers; we are going to establish what we call a fish processing plant, where we are going to need for local consumption and export. We are also going to process plantain for local consumption. Today, we have plantain chips and people are looking for chips all over the world, people are looking for plantain flours. It is substitute to garri and our wheat flour.
Also in the area of rice, we are going to have a lot of rice plants and milling plants where we are going to produce Bayelsan rice for local and import purposes. We are going to do all these to boost our IGR and not depend on the federal allocations. This boils down to the point I always make, most of the leaders we have today are not thinkers. Today, the world is looking for substitute to oil and as a leader, if you are saying you need the mandate of the people like some leaders do today, they appeal to the Federal Government for bailout that means you were not ready to govern the people.
As a leader, if you are ready for leadership, you have to take full responsibility in whatever happens in your state. So, looking for bailout would never be our focal point and my administration, if elected will not depend on the federal allocation to survive. Also in terms of infrastructure, we are also going to encourage a lot of investors, like I always say that we would encourage about 500 companies to come and invest in Bayelsa State. Now, number one sector we are looking at now is ecotourism to bluesea economy where we can transform our waters into an economy hub using that riverine mass that we have to create wealth and jobs for our people. We are also going to build a deep seaport and also a ship building fabrication, where we can feed the oil and gas industry, which is very massive in the state. It is now that we need to start, if we do not get it right this time, Bayelsans have a choice, I keep telling them in my campaigns and I have to ensure they made the right choice come the election in December so that we can take our state to the next level.
You have talked about tourism and attracting foreign investors, with militancy and high rate of insecurity, how do you intend to overcome this?
Those carrying the arms are young people like me. I am aged 35. Have you ever seen an old man carrying arms in the state? It is because of the total neglect of my generation and some of us as young people are not realising that and that has been my major concern. We are the ones entertaining the elderly and now, we are saying that no way. We cannot entertain you anymore, we want to lead so that you can guides us to get to where we want to get to. Now, the issues of militancy and kidnapping is on the increase, and the reason is because there is no inclusion in governance, they don’t see my generation as one that would help the state in terms of growth but what I will do as a leader is to create an all inclusive government where I have assured young people, any state and country that fails to build these young people will plan to fail. I am not planning to fail. So, I have to carry the young men and women along in the skim of things, I am not that leader that will give them guns, rather, I will give them what they will use to create sustainable livelihood for themselves.
Elections in Nigeria are about spending big, are you sure you have the financial muscle to compete with the big wigs?
I have told people times without number that I have no godfather. People have been carrying news that I am former President Goodluck Jonathan’s boy and he is sponsoring me, I have no connections, no discussions and I have no support from the former president not from the incumbent governor but the godfathers I have are the people themselves that want this real change. Just like in the bible, some come with chariots, some come with horses but it is God that delivers his own so, it is not all about money. It is when you pursue your vision and goal with all manners of consistency then, money will come. The only support I have received is just from few friends and these are the ones that are futuristic in their reasonings. And then I have the market women, okada and tricycle riders. Now, the bigger ones don’t think that my aspiration is possible because they always look at the big fishes, which are PDP and APC. When I tell some of them my party, they wonder if it would go anywhere but they forget that we now live in modern realities, a world where the dynamics of politics has changed, people are not looking at political parties, they are looking at the credibility of individuals.
Do you think the wind of change is blowing to your side?
Well, seeing is believing. You cannot sit down in Lagos and you know what is happening in Bayelsa. It is when you see that we will welcome you as a believer of real change.
How would you structure your cabinet if you get the mandate of the people?
Well, the old people have led us for 17 years and this is where we find ourselves. Today, I am the first person who has made a woman my deputy governor and by the grace of God, she is going to be the first female deputy governor Bayelsa would produce and she is an experienced civil servant too. She is 55 while I am 35, what I am going to do is create 40 per cent inclusion of young people, 40 per cent of women and we give the remaining 20 per cent to our elders so that they can lead us properly and guide us with their experience and knowledge.
A 20 year-old girl beat a three time Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom, South Africa just appointed their first black opposition leader, he is 33 years. When you come to Nigeria, somebody will tell you that you are still young. The president elect of Canada was a baby when Gen Yakubu Gowon was the Head of State, they took a picture together then, now, about 40 years after, those same people are still in politics. Look at the category of people they nominated as ministers, is that change? As far as I am concerned, those who made president Buhari what he is today are young people. The issues of militancy, Boko Haram would continue because theyn don’t see themselves as stakeholders in the Nigerian state. Today, they are talking about Biafra; do you see any 60 years old there? As far as they continue to undermine the intellectual of the young people, Nigeria will continue to be unrest.