Bayelsa State chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Awotu Onyekpe, speaks with EBIOWEI LAWAL on the party’s activities and preparations ahead of the local government and general elections.
HOW prepared is SDP for the forthcoming local government and general elections?
SDP is a party that holds sway at different levels of government. At this election period, as you know, every political party has its own political strategy. During the last election, the strategy we used was not successful. It is ideal that we have a new strategy so that we will be able to have a better alternative, where the people will be able to have a sense of belonging.
How do you want to strategise?
One of them is to enable us have a good location for our party secretariat. As a political party, we cannot work from our houses. You must work from a secretariat and you must make everything necessary possible for the people to see and access the party. SDP is one of the three political parties in the state that have the largest party secretariats. Our people are anxious for change.
We will give the people dividends of democracy. SDP is the most prepared to wrest power among the political parties. For the local government election, we are fully prepared to ensure we win all the seats.
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Don’t you think the party has been laying low before now?
We have seats in the National Assembly. In the Delta State House of Assembly, we have a seat, and in other states too. In Niger State, we have councillorship seats, and in Kano State too.
Local government election is just at the corner. How are you preparing? Are sure you will win seats? Are you trying to enlighten the public?
We have our agents all over the state and we are fully prepared. All we are asking the Bayelsa State Independent Electoral Commission (BSIEC) is to provide a level playing field for all the political parties and to ensure that every party participates, no matter how financially buoyant. We must give the security a boost because we have some security challenges in the state presently.
Our state secretariat was burgled, and doors broken the other day, and some items were stolen. This tells you how far extreme elements of some political parties can go. We are there to ensure people have a sense of belonging.
SDP is for the youth. They should come, the platform is open, and this is a party with the rule of law. We are going to ensure that we support any of our aspirants who win the party’s ticket to campaign vigorously in wards, units and communities.
Are you satisfied with your meeting with BSIEC?
We are human beings; we cannot say they can do it all. All people are asking for is to make the forthcoming election credible. There is nowhere in the world that you conduct a perfect election. But when the people are voting, and are able to judge the electoral umpire as having done well, certainly there will be a change.
Professor Jega did well irrespective of some challenges. People applauded him and we are also expecting that the ones who will conduct the 2019 election will also do their bit, and do even better than what Professor Jega did during his tenure. That is what we are expecting from BSIEC, especially taking care of the security aspect, and ensuring that there is no hijacking of ballot boxes.
And they should also make sure that elections are cancelled in any unit that ballot boxes are hijacked. At the governorship election, we said the moment you register and get verified, you vote immediately so that the credibility will also make you to have a sense of belonging that there was no foul play in the electoral process.
We are also appealing to BSIEC that the ballot boxes should not be taken just to anywhere for counting. It should be counted right there at the poling units. All agents should be able to know what the voting strength of each of their units is.
Don’t you think the two major political parties will be a threat to SDP?
There are no two major political parties. We are all major political parties, irrespective of the fact that you occupy the seat of power. So we also hope that the SDP will take over the seat of power.
Every political party was registered like others. So no one is a major political party that will subdue others. Every political party is a major political party.
As we approach 2019, don’t you think SDP will merge with other parties?
No political party is small. They all have a sense of belonging, and SDP is there to give that sense of belonging to anybody who is ready to join the party. SDP has a good leader at the national level, Chief Olu Falae. He is a well known man in Nigeria. He is a man who believes in the rule of law. SDP is there to bring change and prosperity to the people of Nigeria. SDP is there for all those with bright ideas.
How would you evaluate the APC government?
APC is a failure. We have leaders that cannot give the people what they need. A father that cannot give a child the desired quality education, security, can you call such person a father? The reason why men work day and night is to give better security and better education to their children. And when you fail in these aspects as a leader or father, you fail the people. Today we are talking about herdsmen. When IPOB came on board, they declared it a terrorist group without their killing anyone. And the herdsmen have killed more people than Boko Haram. But they have not declared them terrorists, because they have people who are backing them in government. We need a leader who will listen to the yearnings and aspirations of the people.
The most important things in life are security and education. Before now, we used to buy a bag of rice at the rate of N9,000 but now we are buying a bag of rice for N20,000.00. Is that one a government that will be able to give quality and better administrative rule to the people? No. That is why SDP is stepping up to take over power everywhere in the country. We are not taking power only in Bayelsa, but all over the country.
We urge the media to provide equal platforms to all political parties because sometimes you will find out that the media gives more attention to the APC and PDP when there are many political parties that are ready to bring better dividends to the people of Nigeria. Nigerians have seen that there is no better alternative than the SDP that is why they will find their way to the SDP. SDP does not have money to give to people, but the people have desire and decided to join.
What is your party’s view on restructuring?
Our national chairman, Olu Falae, believes in resource control, believes that power should belong to the people. That is what the party stands for. You cannot eat what does not belong to you. It is not possible. You can only ask from the owners.
If those who produce the oil control their oil, we will not have scarcity of the fuel in Bayelsa State and any other part of the country. When you have people who do not have the oil lift it from your area to their place, and then bring it back to you, it becomes a problem. You can see a lot of environmental hazard in Bayelsa state, and there are people who sit in Abuja and control our resources. That is why we are saying that the time is up. It is time for our people to stand up and tell them that we will not agree any more. Let us control our resources.
We will pay whatever tax you demand, but for you to control our resources and give us peanut is what we will not accept, and that is what SDP stands for. We believe in restructuring Nigeria.
For instance, we are having electricity problem here. If you allow each of the state to generate their own power and distribute it by themselves, we will not have the problem of electricity supply. Before now, we had a gas turbine and it was distributing electricity to virtually every part of the estate. But from the time power was transmitted from the federal level to the various states, It became a problem.
By the time you begin to restructure the country you give power to the states to enable them produce and distribute whatever they want to distribute. When you produce a plastic chair, you should be able to sell your product in your state first, before others.
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