Senator John Kojo Brambaifa is one of the elders of Bayelsa State behind the aspiration of Mr. Timi Alaibe, a former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), to clinch the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the Bayelsa State gubernatorial election, holding later this year. Brambaifa, in this interview, speaks on why Alaibe is the candidate to beat in the governorship contest.
Recently, you led a group of Bayelsa elders to the APC National Secretariat to obtain nomination and expression of interest forms on behalf of one of you, specifically Mr. Timi Alaibe, to enable him run for the governorship of the state. What informed that decision?
Well you know very well the credentials of Timi Alaibe. When he served the Niger Delta, comprising nine states as Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), we all know the result. Alaibe’s credentials are better than any other person’s credentials we have seen in recent times vying in the governorship election.
Also we put into consideration the fact that Bayelsa, from inception in 1999, has been so unlucky with leadership. And, therefore, this time around, the elders came together and agreed that we cannot afford to fail. We said we must look for very credible hands to salvage Bayelsans. So we looked around and saw the credentials and achievements of Alaibe and realized that he is the only outstanding person. This is the reason the elders decided to buy the nomination and expression of interest forms for him and persuaded him to come into the race.
From all indications, he has agreed to join the race; in fact, he has filled and submitted the forms, but the most important thing ahead of him is the primary. How are you working to make sure you go through a rancour free exercise in the state, considering the fact that there is another force, a former governor, Chief Timipre Sylva, who has been in the party before your candidate came on board?
We are democrats, we believe in the rule of law. And if you go down memory lane, APC has organized primaries, and the most recent is Kogi State. It was free and fair. The free and fair that we are talking about is a two-way thing. If a party has good policies, if the party knows what is good, it will always come out with policies that will not enable anybody create an atmosphere that will create unnecessary rancour. Our party is noted for organizing credible primaries. Because the party has that record, every aspirant will abide by the rules; so it will definitely be free and fair.
Are you confident that your candidate will win the primary and what are the indices of assurances that he will win?
I am absolutely confident because we have worked hard. This is not a situation where we will sit at home and canvass for delegates support. We will go out, we will meet them, we will sell our candidate to them and we can conservatively say that, if we go for into the primary today, we will get 75% of the votes.
The case of Bayelsa is close to that of Kogi where the APC conducted the primary and a former governor emerged. Do you foresee a situation like that happening in Bayelsa?
We are talking about change. In fact, we have sampled opinions and the people are saying that if it is the former governor that becomes the flag bearer of the APC, they will stick to the incumbent governor. I want to ask if you are aware of this scenario and feelings amongst ordinary Bayelsans?
We have sampled opinions and that is why most of us decided to pitch our tent with Alaibe because we need a good candidate to face the ex-governor who has also shown interest. And because Alaibe’s records stand out, there is no way the people of Bayelsa will not be happy. He is the right candidate. Of course I agree with them. If barely four years ago, the former governor was pelted with sachet water, I don’t see, at least for now, the people changing their minds so soon and forgetting the reason they pelted him with sachet water. I believe Bayelsa would be given the right choice, so that there will be no question of the people getting angry. We are pretty sure that a better candidate will win on the first ballot and Bayelsans will be happy for it. So when he comes up as the candidate of the APC, Bayelsans will massively vote for the party.
You just talked about the possibility of Sylva’s candidature. Have the elders and chieftains of the APC made attempts to approach him, to talk to him, to appeal to him to allow your candidate fly the flag of the party. Have you done that or you just left it open that everybody should run?
Before we came to this edge, before the mass movement, the great rally that we organized where a mass of people defected to the APC, a group of elders, those of us who wanted to leave the PDP for the APC, went to his house and confronted him to tell us if he was interested in running for the governorship of Bayelsa and he told us, in clear terms, that he was not interested. We were about 15 that met him and he said he wouldn’t contest. And for somebody who was interested why did he have to wait till the last minute before buying and submitting his nomination and expression of interest forms? On the second leg of your question, why haven’t we talked to him since he showed interest?, we have not done that because we are democrats. And if in an earlier situation he said he was not interested and today he has decided to be interested, let’s go to the field.
Do you take that as betrayal?
I do not because it is his constitutional right to run for the governorship of Bayelsa. You can make a statement today and tomorrow do something else, it is your right. After all he didn’t sign any agreement to that effect. If you ask him, he could even say he didn’t say it because there was no written undertaking. So it is his constitutional right to say he was not interested and then changed his mind because circumstances may have made him change his mind to contest.
Assuming your candidate wins the primary, how do you intend to face the incumbent governor. Are confident that the APC would win?
I am very confident that the incumbent will fail woefully. In the history of Bayelsa, I have never seen any governor, for three and a half years, who did not commission one project. One of the indices to judge any governor is how many projects he commissioned during his tenure. Dickson has not commissioned one. There are projects littering the state half done. That is the evidence of lack of planning. That shows his level of planlessness. It also goes to show that he didn’t prioritize and so much money has been pumped into the half projects. The man has performed woefully and Bayelsans are becoming wiser. The Ijaw that people used to know in those days are becoming wiser now. The people are beginning to ask questions. If you know a situation where your child was awarded a scholarship and your child is stranded overseas without money, and you have to now borrow money to rescue the child, what do you think about leader who abandoned that child? Is that leader worth his salt? There is no way that if we go into election people will vote for the incumbent.
Do you share the same confidence, assuming your candidate is not the party’s candidate; will your party still win?
I am a party man. But I don’t think it will happen. I am very confident that my preferred candidate is going to emerge as the flag bearer, so I do not wish to go into that. I know that our candidate will win.