BY DAPO AKINREFON
MR Clever Marcus Ikisikpo recently emerged winner of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP primary election for the Bayelsa East Senatorial district, although his opponent and current occupant of the seat, Nimi Barigha-Amange has dragged him to court over the exercise. The chairman of the House Committee on Petroleum, Downstream in this interview with journalists, spoke on how he won the election and his plans for the senatorial district. Excerpts:

Could you review of your recent primary election which has now pitched you against your opponent who has dragged you to court?

What is going on is a manifestation of the real democracy that we have been preaching. Democracy gives us the freedom to express ourselves without fears. It does not matter really, whether what some people are saying is really true as they exercise that right in a democratic regime. I do not want to join issues with anybody who is making claims and allegations about how the PDP primary for the Bayelsa East Senatorial District was conducted. I have read quite some tissues of lies in the newspapers.

Ikisikpo

Of course like you rightly said, the matter is in court and for that I would not want to make elaborate comments. However, let me say for record purposes, these are facts that are already before the court, the primary election was conducted in a free and fair, very transparent manner under the watchful eyes of Independent National Electoral Commission,  INEC officials.

It is also on record that the INEC representative also made his report to the effect that the primary election was conducted in a very free and fair manner. But he added a proviso, that the exercise was conducted in Yenagoa.

That is one of the major issues that is being contested by your opponent…

I have told you before that this a democratic era and anybody has the right to make whatever claims he so wishes. The PDP has the sole right to initiate the processes for the conduct of primaries, just like any other political party. In the case of the election in question, our party was constrained, for security reasons, to conduct the election outside the senatorial district.

It pains me that this is becoming an issue. For your information, all the primary elections for all the House of Representatives and Senate, that is the primary election for the all the National Assembly seats in the state were conducted in the state capital for very critical, security reasons.

The man you call my opponent was very well aware of a letter, I will call it a warning letter, from the state police commissioner, some five clear days to that election, addressed to the governor and chief security officer of the state, wherein he told him that if he(the governor who is also the leader of the party in the state) and the PDP chose to conduct the elections in the senatorial district, that he could not guarantee anybody’s security.

In fact, that letter said…” this is to notify you that I and 1,126 officers and men in this command, comprising the following 1,000 conventional policemen and two units of mobile policemen are directed to move to Delta State command for re_run of gubernatorial election from 03/01/11 to 10/01/11, to strengthen security coverage of the election.

When the governor got that letter, he got in touch with the party in less than 24 hours. I can also give you a copy of the governor’s letter. All that the governor said was look, there is a security challenge, so my party leaders, re-adjust yourselves and inform all stakeholders appropriately.

It was based on the letter too that the PDP then decided to inform everybody through the mass media and through the party’s notice board, that there were changes and that all contestants should inform all their supporters to report at the stadium in Yenagoa for the primary election.

That was how the INEC got to know. That was how all the contestants were informed and those we were all at the venue for the primary election. Is it not shocking to you that all those who contested for that election for the National Assembly were at the stadium and accepted the outcome as God’s decision through the voice of the delegates? Must we always fight dirty because we did not win? Election should not be a do or die thing.

On one breadth, he is saying the PDP did not conduct the primary and on the other hand he is saying that he should be declared winner of the primary. If you say election did not hold, how come you want the party to declare you winner? That is hypocrisy. If late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo were still alive, he would have called this political rascality. I leave the court to handle this matter and I have absolute confidence in the ability of the courts to do justice to this case.

What you are just seeing is a drama that is meant to entertain the courts and distract me. But I have refused to be distracted. I have chosen to remain focused. I am going ahead with my campaigns and my people have remained very resolute. Maybe he thought that by playing out this script, my people would be confused. Unfortunately for him, our people know the truth. They were in the state when the announcements were made by the party that the primary would hold at the stadium.

They witnessed the exercise from start to finish. They were there when the results were announced and they also were present when I was declared winner. He is my elder so I would not want to talk to him in derogatory terms. But you can be sure that we are soon getting to the end of the case and by God’s grace, the truth shall prevail and we shall laugh last.

If you look at the petition he wrote to the PDP, you will have a good laugh. On one hand, he alleged that delegates list was kept secret, that the primary took place in Government House, Yenagoa; that the headquarters of the senatorial district is Twon_Brass and that, that is where the election ought to have held.  But in the same letter, he wrote that 650 delegates were waiting at Nembe for materials that they did not see, but that after they had waited for too long, they decided to conducted the primary in Nembe and after that exercise, he was declared winner with 525 votes.

Is that not laughable? You are the same person that said election ought to have held in Twon-Brass, so who took the delegates to Nembe? Meanwhile, these are the same delegates whose names were kept under wraps. How can there be no election that was conducted by the PDP officials yet you were declared winner with 525 votes? Now, if you actually got such votes in an election, why are you, in the same letter, asking that the PDP should ca
ncel the election and conduct a fresh one?

What is it you want to go and do at the senate?

I want to go and do what others who have been there have not been able to do very well. If you have followed my political records, you would have known that in all the offices I have occupied, the interest of the people had always been paramount to me. I keep telling people that I am not interested in making money. This is one of the things I have learnt from my brother and political father, Dr Goodluck Jonathan. I like to live a simple life and rather than enrich myself, I like to make my constituents happy.

That is what I did when I was in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly. That is what I am doing now in the House of Representatives. I’m an experienced lawmaker and because of the experience I have got, if I move to the upper chamber, I will do better. If you consider my antecedents with respect to my performance you know that I went to the House of Reps. in 2003. Ogbia is a neglected local government area.

In 2003, I moved my first motion and that first motion saw three different committees from the National Assembly coming to my local government to see things for themselves –  how poor the place and its people were, how they have been marginalised and the committees worked hard and put things in order. Like today, I’m happy that one of the refineries is to be cited in my local government and those are some of the benefits of representation.

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