November 11, 2014
Hon. Ayiba Duba, is a pioneer member of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly. During his time in the Assembly he served as the majority leader. After he left the assembly in 2003, he was appointed the general manager of the Bayelsa State Newspaper Corporation. He is currently the campaign director of the Senator Emmanuel Paulker Campaign Organisation. In this interview with EBIOWEI LAWAL, he bared his mind on the recent zoning arrangement that is raising mix feelings amongst politicians from Bayelsa Cental Senatorial District and other sundry issues.
Senator Paulker is receiving so much opposition from people over his third term ambition. Why is he insisting on running when very highly placed people have opposed his return?
Your use of the word ‘opposition’ is relative and then saying that ‘highly placed people are opposing Paulker’s re-election’ is another thing I don’t want to agree with because those of us that are supporting him are the who is who, the timber and calibre of Bayelsa Central Senatorial District. If you take a census of the political elites in this senatorial district that we come from, you would find that all the political elites are behind Paulker.
So if you say people are opposing Senator Paulker’s re-election ambition, yes in every clime you would always find political opponents that are ready to contest against you. So if you say Paulker has opponents in that context then I would understand. However, if you look at the people that are contesting against him you would see that they don’t even have the political clout to stop Paulker.
Majority of the people, chiefs, political elites and even the physically challenged from the senatorial district are strongly behind Paulker. So the issue of highly placed persons opposing Paulker’s re-election ambition is not true.
There is serious clamour for zoning and this decision has been taken at a meeting. Why is it that the senator does not want to respect that decision?
You see when some of us that are custodians of what PDP is in Bayelsa State hear certain things, sometimes we just laugh at them. I have been involved in everybody that has gone to the senate from this senatorial district. I can comfortably tell you that some of us have been privileged to be among a group of political like-minds that have sent all those that have gone to the senate from this senatorial district.
I can take you back to 1998 when elections were first held in the state and confidently tell you that there was nothing like zoning arrangement. In 1998 when we founded PDP, Senator Paulker was part of those that founded the party in Bayelsa State. So I am amazed when those who joined the party in 2006 and 2007 are being so sympathetic that they are from Southern Ijaw and are going about saying that they want the seat to be zoned to Kolokuma/Opokuma.
Senator Birigidi in 1999 started this whole process. I was part of those who made it possible for him to go to the senate at that time. At that time, nobody talked about zoning. In 2003, he re-contested and went back to the senate. Again, nobody talked about zoning. In 2007, this same Senator Birigidi from Southern Ijaw came back and contested for a third term.
There was no issue of zoning, the Southern Ijaw man who is today spear-heading a zoning arrangement because he loves Kolokuma/Opokuma people so much didn’t tell Birigidi not to contest. Nobody said ‘Birigidi, you are our son, the Kolokuma/Opokuma or Yenagoa people have not had it, so leave it for them’. That never happened.
Senator Birigidi at that time was almost sure he was going to get the ticket before Obasanjo called Timi Alaibe and Goodluck Jonathan who is now the president to do what was known as harmonization at that time. That was how Paulker emerged flag-bearer of the PDP for the Bayelsa central senatorial district.
So you can see now that the talk about zoning is a figment of someone’s imagination. So I want to condemn in its totality any claim that there is zoning arrangement in our senatorial district. And if there is any need for us to believe that there is any zoning arrangement, it would still be the turn of Yenagoa to produce the senator this time.
Before the emergence of David Birigidi, Amaitari Zuofa and Tari Etete had two tenures for Kolokuma/Opokuma; after him Birigidi had two tenures for Southern Ijaw and Paulker had two tenures for Yenagoa. So the normal thing to do is to allow Yenagoa that took it last to take it first. So it is not out of place for Paulker to return to start the rotation process.
Another issue against Paulker is that he has been sleeping in the senate. What do you have to say about that?
You see, I didn’t want to go personal in the cause of this interview but this is one issue that must be treated. I have been a legislator, a pioneer member of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly and at that time I was the majority leader. The question I would like to ask Kombowei Benson, the speaker is this, is the house he is leading an Assembly?
If Senator Paulker is a sleeping senator then he is a zombie of a legislator. He is a zombie lawmaker. As far as Bayelsans are concerned, there is no house of assembly in the state.
What do you mean when you say there is no house of assembly?
Let’s ask this question, what is the status of the house he is leading in the eyes of Bayelsans? Do Bayelsans feel that there is another arm of government? Apart from looking for petty contracts, what else do they do? Even the so called bills they have passed into law, you are a journalist, have you ever seen them conduct public hearing on any of the bills?
People will wake, a bill will come this morning, in the afternoon the bill has gone through first reading, second reading, and committee stages within a day and passed. And then the governor is ready to sign it into law in the evening. Is that a man that should call a senator, a ranking senator, a sleeping senator?
That is an insult. Kombowei Benson needs to apologize to senator Paulker. It shows that he does not even know the workings of the assembly he is leading. If he is a legislator that is worth his salt, Kombowei wouldn’t make that reckless statement, a sleeping senator. Who is he?
Does Kombowei have a followership? You spoke with him as a journalist, does that man sound like somebody that is worthy to be a speaker? Does he even know his job as a speaker? Where have you heard that a bill is sent to the house and in less than three hours, the bill has gone through all the processes?
Can you beat your chest and say that Paulker has done what he was elected to go and do in Abuja for the past eight years?
He has done wonderfully well. I am not a man that sings people’s praises every now and then but Paulker has done wonderfully well. I contested an election when all these selection processes were not part of election; so I know when a candidate is a good product. If I come from Kombowei’s constituency, he is not a candidate I will support.
You are in Yenagoa, go to the streets of Yenagoa and tell me, how do people look at that assembly? Go back to few years in the past and see how the assembly was the hope for the common man in Bayelsa, where people write petitions to, where communal crisis were solved but today what is happening in that assembly?
I have a list of all the projects Senator Paulker attracted to the senatorial district, and the local government Kombowei comes from, had 13 projects started and completed by Paulker. Except it is the hand of Esau and the voice of Jacob that is happening here, maybe somebody somewhere is telling him to say all he has said.
Go to Koluama II, Olugbobiri, Ayama Ijaw, Ondewari, Diobu town and Otuan, you will see water projects Senator Paulker constructed. In fact in the case of Koluama II, the senator funded a 1km water reticulation network, which takes water to the door step of the people in that area.
Go to Ezezebiri and Koluama II, you will see classroom blocks, VIP toilets and mono pumps the senator constructed for the schools in that area. What about the fully equipped ICT centre with internet facility? The senator built the Southern Ijaw secondary school, Oporoma? All these projects I just listed are all cited in the LGA Kombowei comes from and he has the gut to say Paulker has done nothing for his people?
Kombowei as the speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly is running for his third term, why didn’t he establish a zoning arrangement in his constituency before talking about other people’s business? If people say we want credible and articulate persons to be in the assembly, can Kombowei Benson meet that bench mark? Today if we say we need a sound mind to become the speaker in assembly, if not for the dirty politics some people play, could Kombowei qualify to be a speaker?
In his interview he said that the only constituency project Senator Paulker accomplished is the one at the Federal Medical Centre in Yenagoa, what about the water projects in Egbedi, Okoloba, Opokuma and Kalama towns? What about the fully equipped ICT centres in Sabagreia and Kaiama Grammar School? Are they not part of Paulker’s constituency projects?
You seem to have this strong conviction Paulker would eventually get the third term ticket?
Look, 20, 000 Komboweis cannot stop us. It hurts me to even respond to a man like Kombowei. It is because of the kind of assembly they run that makes me feel ashamed to tell people that I had been a member of that house.
But it appears Paulker would be contesting against the likes of Alamieyeseigha, a man who brought Paulker to limelight. What makes you think Paulker would win?
I was the majority leader of the assembly when Alamieyeseigha was the governor of the state. Alamieyeseigha was also Paulker’s boss, so it is even ironic for Alamieyeseigha to contest an election against his onetime commissioner. I know he wouldn’t do it.
He is qualified to contest quite alright but what we are saying is that he should stay back and continue to play his father figure role to all of us. We respect him as our father and I am sure he is reconsidering his intention to contest the election. That is if it is even true that he wants to contest the elections.
But it appears the governor is on the side of those who don’t want Paulker to return to the senate. What is your take on the issue?
I wouldn’t want to drag the governor into the matter because he is governor to all of us. Well in his bedroom, he might have preference for somebody who is in his heart and all that but then we need senior members, ranking members in the senate.
I don’t know how they do it in the house of assembly here but from what I know, at the national level, when you see them sit in that red chambers, third term senators take the front row, two term senators take the second row and if you are a first timer, you sit at the back.
Let us take our sister state, Delta for example. From Ibori till date they have the understanding of sending people over and over again. And even till now the likes of James Manager is returning to the senate. They know what it takes. Why do we still continue to send new persons that would need the support of people just to move a motion?
Do you think as an individual, I don’t wish to be in the senate too? But we have to do things in such a way that when you have a problem, you need to take to the senate, you would be confident that your representative has clout in the house. Who do they even give the leadership positions in the house? Are they not high ranking members?
How would you react to the general belief that the senator is using his relationship with the president to impose himself on his people?
If he is using his relationship with the president to impose himself on the people, would there be any need for people like us to be organizing campaigns? Why are we consulting people? Why are we talking to people? Why are we talking to statutory delegates? Why are we talking to chiefs? Why are we talking to the market women and our mothers?
That question is far from what people should look at. Paulker has not made any public declaration that he is the first son of the president. The president is father to all of us; he is our political leader, he is our mentor, he is everything to us but not a factor that would determine who the people would vote for during the elections. So the president should be left out of this matter completely.
But come to think of it, is it a crime if somebody comes today and says Ayiba Duba, you and Paulker are close friends? To me, the speaker’s reference to the president is even an insult to the president. In his interview, he said no federal presence in Bayelsa, referring to the president, is an insult. Kombowei is too junior to talk about the president the way he did. That is total disrespect.
As Bayelsans, can’t we do anything politically without dragging the president into it? Must we drag the president into everything we do? If as a senator, the president of the country is from your state and you don’t have any relationship with him, then there would be no need for you to go to the senate in the first place. Should Paulker be enemy to the president? Is Kombowei not relating with other political office holders from his LGA?
Is Kombowei an enemy to his own government? Making reference to federal presence in Bayelsa means he is spiting into his own pot of soup. To make such a statement, he is desecrating the office of the speaker. As a man holding a highly respected office, he shouldn’t be making comments that would create problem amongst politicians in the state.
Ask Kombowei this question. Is he sure that he can become a senator in his life time? Can Kombowei ever rise to the level Paulker is today before he leaves this world? He should answer that question before running to the media to make certain utterances that doesn’t befit the status of a speaker. Kombowei has only succeeded in telling people how parochial and how insensitive he can be.