BY CHUKWUDI NWEJE
Udengs Eradiri is the governorship candidate of Labour Party (LP) in Bayelsa State. In this interview, he speaks on his agenda for the people of the state, why he will concentrate on education, agriculture, empowerment and power sector if elected. He also explains his choice of Commodore Benjamin Natus (rtd) as his running mate.
What informed your choice of Commodore Benjamin Natus (rtd) as your running mate?
If you will recall, I said that I was going to win the party’s primary despite what was done by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led government in the state. The state government spent over N100 million to purchase forms in the Labour Party and and over N200 million in the primary election. But out of the 105 votes and nine aspirants, I got 79 votes in that election to show that the people are truly tired of what is happening in the state.
I decided to pick Commodore Natus not by myself but by the standard that I set out for the stakeholders and the leaders of the party. I told them that I needed somebody who has experience in government, preferably a woman, who must have retired from the civil service, and if I don’t get a woman, then I should have a military officer, somebody who is my senior and has experience, and who can support us where we are going astray. You know that I’m a young person and I still have a lot of energy, so I need an experienced person to see beyond and guide me to succeed. Based on that, we went out to look for someone like Nantus.
In Bayelsa, politics is about Salt Water and Fresh Water. Those in the Salt Water are those in the Eastern Senatorial District. So, if they produce a governor, the Fresh Water would always produce the deputy. But in the last administration, they changed it to Fresh Water/Fresh Water and that was why the PDP lost that election and that is the same reason they will lose the forthcoming election again. So, I have gone to the traditional ticket of Fresh Water and Salt Water and by the grace of God. I have a cerebral military officer, who is going to deputise and help us drive the agenda that we are bringing to the table.
What is the PEAP Agenda of your manifesto all about?
The agenda is People, Education, Agriculture and Power. These are the critical areas that we think our state lacks and if we are able to deal with them quickly, we will resolve the crisis in the state. We want to revive the morale of our people and their healthcare because there are no proper health facilities in Bayelsa. There are fake drugs everywhere but we used to have the Bayelsa Drugs Distribution Company. The essence of that company was to be able to monitor the kind of drugs that are dispensed in the state. Unfortunately, it is moribund since this administration came on board.
So, we are going to be looking at healthcare. We are also going to be looking at water and sanitation because there is no proper drinking water in Bayelsa. We have a water board that water vendors supply water to. We are going to take the town in phases because we will process water directly from the river because there is a lot of iron content in the underground water. But we have a lot of water around and we can process that water, reticulate it into houses and then we will begin to outlaw boreholes in phases. If we do that, through the water board, we will be creating jobs for the young people because the PEAP Agenda is about job creation.
We talked about security; yes you don’t see rascality on the part of political leaders by the Douye Diri-led administration because he has reduced all those state-sponsored security-related activities, but security itself attracts development. So, they are not doing a lot of things right because of the incompetency in leadership. They should have used the advantages of security to change the society because young Bayelsans are selling lands and relocating to other states.
I can mention the number of businessmen, who were targeted and kidnapped and they paid ransom and nobody did anything. And so, they all left with the option of relocating from Bayelsa. These are people who were ordinarily in the state when it was created but they have all relocated and presently using phones to control their businesses. People are leaving everyday because of the hardship as a result of the incompetence of leadership. We are going into the flood season as we speak because everywhere is getting flooded but the government is saying flood is a natural disaster. But we are going to ensure that we embark on proper town planning to create more canals to control the water in the town.
The E is education. There are no teachers in our primary schools. The last time I talked about the education system in Bayelsa State, two days after, the governor ordered the employment of 2,000 teachers, but as we speak, those teachers have not been employed. We are going to employ teachers and upgrade facilities in our schools. The state-owned university does not have a proper living environment; we are going to build a university village, where there will be accommodation for lecturers and students.
With agriculture, we are going to revive the economy of Bayelsa. If we build food processing and storage facilities in our cargo airport, we will begin to export excess plantains, bananas and crayfish. Lagos State went to Kebbi and started Lake Rice; today, look at what they are doing in Lagos, the building of the largest rice mill and they have started a N30 billion rice project. Bayelsa had a rice mill but they are no longer working. So, we are going to invest in the business and make the state an international food basket. For power, we are going to provide 24 hours of electricity in the state and we are going to invest in gas.
When you get into government; how do you hope to run a more transparent administration in terms of your spending?
I’m going to introduce technology in managing the affairs of the state, especially in the area of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). I’m going to look at the civil service because there are a lot of leakages in Bayelsa. When I was Commissioner for Environment in the state, I blocked the leakages around the activities that were controlled by the ministry, especially forest and logging and we started generating over N20 million on a monthly basis from a zero account.
After I left office, they started manual collection of those revenues. We will stop all that because Bayelsa has a lot of potential that we are going to invest in and introduce new ways of doing things as done in the advanced world. With technology, we are going to cut cost and ensure that some of those ministries that are not functional, we revive them, while those that are not relevant would be done away with, so that we can reduce cost of governance in the state.
How many primary healthcare centres are in Bayelsa State and what is your plan for these primary healthcare centres?
When you say primary healthcare centres, as I speak, I cannot give you a specific figure of the total number because what we have here apart from the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) and the Dr Ikoki Centre, is practically no functional health facility around the state. In my village for instance, when it rains, it falls inside the hospital. So, if we want to take an assessment, I do not have a total figure, but when the time comes, we will get to that point. But the fact is that the health system in Bayelsa is in a sorry state and you can’t even say where we are going to start to count them because they are non-existent.
In Bayelsa, we once had a situation whereby a running mate of a candidate that was first declared winner had issues with his qualifications. What are the qualifications of the running mate that you have chosen and is his certificate in order?
My running mate, Commodore Natus, went through the military school, and of course, you know he has his course mates everywhere. As a retired military officer, the issue concerning his certificate will not arise because he has served this country meritoriously. And you know the military; nobody would come like other situations that we had. So, the issue of qualification is not in doubt because the individual in question has served the country as a senior military officer.
As for the opposition parties, you can see what is happening as they are having challenges around the running mates they have picked. Personally, my certificates are on the internet for everybody to see. Can you imagine a situation where leaders, people who are supposed to live above board would be having issue over their certificates? My promise is that I’m going to run an all-inclusive government where the APC, PDP, Labour Party and everybody would be one.
As we speak, the flood has started; members of APC are packing their bags and running into the houses of PDP members that are dry and PDP members are running into the houses of Labour Party members that are dry. However, it is about the failure of leadership and incompetence of those who run the state. When I take leadership, we will open our doors to aggrieved APC and PDP members because this is a young leadership.
You have a sitting governor and a former governor as contenders, how would you leverage on the traction that Labour Party got in the last election to ensure that you are able to challenge these two top contenders?
What do they have? The only currency they have is the people’s money. In terms of performance, they have done so poorly. But again, I am a young man who has a track record because people know my history. Assess me and assess them; when they were not in government, what did they do? I have been a reoccurring decimal since 1999 to date on the issues that concern the development and progress of my state, the Niger Delta and Nigeria at large. I’m not afraid because it is my money that they are spending. I’m going to demystify that money because that money is meant for our schools, education and employment of the children of Bayelsa.
As for the APC, you have seen what is going on, they are in crisis from their deputy governorship candidate as well as the divisions going on in the party. So, I am not afraid of them because I am talking to Bayelsans and the stakeholders. Every Bayelsan has seen the neglect and incompetence in the state. Can you imagine that just recently, palliative buses and taxis were commissioned without drivers in Bayelsa?
Bayelsans are tired of that kind of leadership and I have told the young people that they are the ones that do not have jobs and teachers in primary schools for their children. It is time for young people to stand and take this leadership. Look at all the indices; Bayelsa is the second poorest state in the country after Sokoto even when we are the fourth largest oil producer in the country. In terms of resources, Bayelsa is the richest state compare to our numbers, yet we are talking about the poorest state. The problem here is leadership and we are here as a better alternative to provide leadership in the state.
SOURCE: The Sun
IMAGE: Facebook: @Engr. Udengs Eradiri