Stop Running Politics of Desperation in Nigeria’

Keniebi Okoko

Emmanuel Addeh dialogues with Mr Keniebi Okoko, who emerged  second runner-up in the Peoples Democratic Party  governorship selection in Bayelsa, State

The PDP party primary in Bayelsa has just been concluded. Some politicians feel aggrieved with the outcome. As a major stakeholder, what does this portend for the state and the country in general?

The parties are built by people and the only way to build core value in those parties is to stay within and solve those problems. It’s not proper that every time there is a small issue, people run and dump their party and move to the next party.

And when they have an issue in the next , they move to the next party. What values do these people hold dear? Or is it always about you alone? About your position?
Shouldn’t it be about the party, your state or the country at large?
Sometimes, if you don’t win and you have a way to to help the party, do it so that whoever has won can learn from those things you suggested because no man is an island.
That is why I was able to concede to Senator Douye Diri and congratulate him because inasmuch as I felt I should have won, he has emerged the winner.

The best thing for me to do is to join hands with him and make him a better governor than he would ordinarily be. Not to think of , oh I lost, I must fight him or move to another party. No!

Sometimes, solidarity matters, trying to help another person with your thoughts. Sometimes, it’s better to say, listen, I feel I should have won, but since you are now the representative of this party, these are the values I think you should worry about.

I would want you to worry about the civil service, prompt payment of salaries, about education, how people can get scholarships without knowing anybody, worry about infrastructure, electricity, security etc.

These are the things that should be your cardinal priority as you take over leadership, so that people can remember you.

It must not always be about ourselves and and our vision . It cannot be . The country or this state cannot move forward if we continue that way.

Are you suggesting that politicians should take the President Goodluck Jonathan route who congratulated President Muhammadu Buhari after he lost the last presidential election?

Exactly! What if Jonathan had decided at that time that he was not going to concede after the election. Do you know how many souls would have been lost? Or if after the election that he abandoned PDP for the APC?

How would it look?  By now Nigeria would be a one-party state. So, we must always look at the big picture.

We must be able to do what is right for our people. When people tell me , you are young in politics, that’s why you are talking like that, I say no. Values don’t change. You are who you are.

What you are expressing is what and who you are. The way my father brought me up is the way I am today. I am not going to betray my people because of my own selfish interest.

None of us is perfect , we all have made mistakes and have come short of the glory of God. But one thing that should be inherent in anything we do is the love for one another. And it’s the love for Bayelsa state that made me go and visit Douye Diri.

The same urge to move my state forward , has made me go and listen to Governor Seriake Dickson and to support the party because I believe that collectively, we can make a change. Not one governor can change a state. We need collective effort and if your governor is doing something that you don’t like, you don’t run away from the party, you confront him.

Today, if I am on the seat with Governor Dickson, I can tell him , Your Excellency, this thing you are doing is wrong, Sir. We should try and unify the party and not divide it. We need the kind of people who will tell them the truth , rather than lying to him because of personal ambition. We need to say the truth.

What about those who argue that our democracy has not developed to a level of not jumping from one party to another and that it has to be part of our democratic culture for now?

Because something is a culture, it makes it right? Today, kidnapping has become almost like a culture, so all of us should go into kidnapping? Then why is everybody complaining about it? Secret cults have become almost a culture in our universities. They are part of our evolving society, why then don’t all of us indulge in it?

That something is happening does not make it right. We are supposed to emulate what is good in the first world nations. If that is democracy the way that it should, then people should be happy that they have someone who’s thinking that way.

Are we going to keep evolving as a democracy without values? When are we going to stop evolving and do the right thing? That argument seems to me like a very faulty one.

Anyone that reads your comments would think that you are referring to one of the candidates who hasn’t congratulated the winner because he probably did not win.

If it’s Timi Alaibe, you are talking about , he’s my good friend. He’s someone I respect. It has nothing to do with Alaibe. On the contrary, if you look through the people that just defected, there was somebody that left from Peoples Democratic Party to African Democratic Congress , back to PDP and now to the All Progressives Congress in less than four months.

These are the kind of people that I am referring to and not Alaibe who has as of now not defected to any other party to the best of my knowledge and when I recently visited him, did not tell me he was defecting.

These people know themselves, who jumped four parties in four months just because their candidate did not win and I am not trying to personalise these issues. When we personalise them, we end up not seeing the argument and it becomes petty.

Are you saying we need to reform our political party system in Nigeria?

Definitely, we need to have a new mindset. We need to reform our party system and improve on our democracy. We should make our parties value-based.

We need to make the people stand for something. If you can’t stand for something, you can’t stand for anything. You have to be passionate about this. I am passionate about deepening democracy.

Why can’t the APC and PDP work together on a bi-partisan basis? What is so difficult about that? In a proper democracy, they have bi-partisan laws passed for the good of the people and based on a common understanding. I do not know why we keep dividing the country based on party lines. We should always look at the common man that’s suffering.

There is nothing wrong with President Muhammadu Buhari working with somebody in the PDP in the interest of the people. Why can’t a PDP person work with the APC for the good of Nigeria? Or do you say because you don’t like the APC you condemn even the good that they do? Timipre Sylva is qualified to be a Minister of Petroleum, the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami , is qualified to be there.

Do you now look at them and say because they are not PDP, they are not qualified? So, you don’t have to jump from party to party to help Nigeria or to help Bayelsa. That is the way to move the country forward. That is why the parties should respect each other.

I have friends in APC, because there are also people in PDP that are not good people likewise the APC . But if you see a government official that is competent , do you attack the person because he’s not APC?

For example, the new Inspector General of Police, I don’t know him personally, but I know he’s making efforts to stem the security issues that are coming up. Do we say, because he’s under the APC , he’s a bad IG of Police?

There’s a guy that heads one of the special outfits under the IG, Abba Kyari, the one that goes about apprehending kidnappers and all that, does it mean because he’s appointed by the APC, he’s a bad policeman?

Now that a candidate has emerged in the PDP for the November 16 poll, what do  you say to supporters  of the different office seekers?

I will soon schedule a meeting, and keep selling my ideology to them. That we should try and strengthen the party and add value to the party. Our ideas should be in the front burner. Let us make Bayelsa a better place, not minding selfish motives.

We must think of the ordinary man. I am passionate about a transformed Bayelsa and it must come to pass. I am supporting Diri because I feel I can help him succeed.

I really don’t need anything from Diri. But if I am giving him advice and he’s taking it, I am already a governor in my own way. It’s not just by sitting there on the seat.

If I advise him to partner with so and so company that can create jobs in Bayelsa and he does it, I have made a difference in the interest of my people.

Do you agree that the primaries were free and fair?

If I gave it a shot and the delegates thought it wasn’t my time yet and the delegates voted, then we go with the flow of the decision of my party.

I am not desperate. To the best of my knowledge, the primary was free and fair. I was there until the early morning. The build-up to the election was pure politics.

Why are people complaining? They all did it one time or the other. So, because it hasn’t worked to your advantage, it’s now a big deal. It’s politics, it’s just unfortunate that it did not fall on my laps. Now, I have learnt one more way to do things better next time if I decide to run again. That’s the way I look at it.

Let’s stop running the politics of desperation in Nigeria. That’s a major problem. Lets take politics back to the people. The politics that if I don’t get it, nobody does, must stop.

Does it mean no other person is qualified? Your own qualifications might be different from someone else’s. Some people might say I am not qualified because I have never held a government position, but someone else will say he has successfully run a business, so he can run the state, he might be right. It depends on how you want to look at it. By the way, the grass is not always greener on the other side. The party you are moving to may even have worse problems than the one you are leaving.