Tony Olutomiwa, Yenagoa
Ahead of the November governorship election in Bayelsa State, former President Goodluck Jonathan, on Wednesday, called on politicians in the state to embrace peace rather than violence in their quest to attain leadership positions.
The former president made the call, in Yenagoa, the state capital, at a workshop on credible governorship election and good governance organised by the Ijaw Elders’ Forum (IEF) in collaboration with the Ijaw Professional Association (IPA), G24 Embasara Foundation and Ijaw Women Connect (IWC).
Jonathan, who was a special guest of honour at the workshop with the theme “Building Consensus through Ijaw Charter and Ijaw Nation Code of Ethics, Leadership and governance,” said no nation can ever develop through violence.
He stated, “So, if Bayelsa state must develop there must be peace in this state and we must start from the political process because most of the criminal gangs that have emerged in this state grew through political activities, we the politicians use them as boys and thugs and at the end of the election it becomes a problem to manage them.
“So, for those, who want to rule they must try as much as they can to play down violence.
“If God wants you to be our governor or hold any office in government is not because of the gun you carried, don’t be deceived that it is because of the arms you carried, it is the will of God.
“This group Ijaw Elders forum and others should encourage us to meet from time to time, so that it comes a time that we shall stand and tell anyone who wants to govern us that we can’t accept this structure”.
The former President further noted that if investments must come to Bayelsa then the state must be peaceful as he commended Governor Dickson’s investment on education.
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He said, “I appreciate what the government of this state is doing especially in the area of education; educating our youth is even more important than the road because if we don’t educate them some of them will turn criminals and I agree with him totally on the issue of education in the state.
“What do you leave behind? Sometimes is not about the big houses you build or the money you have but how creative you are, what innovation you bring to government, what are the privileges we have, it must go beyond power, everyone is a leader as long as you can influence another person then you are a leader; you don’t need to be a president or governor so all of us are leaders.”
The former president also bared his mind on the relationship between the local governments and the states, pointing out that the situation had made the third tier of government unable to discharge their functions.
“Politically we should start at our local government levels because if our local governments are not functioning as local government even just to clean and cut grass they are waiting for state governor to go over and clean-up which is not right.
“Immediately the candidates are well defined I think we should have a forum where all of them will be with us, they must in our presence tell us that they will not use violence for the election because nobody expects us to praise him as the governor of Bayelsa State if one person dies,” he said.
In his remarks, Governor Dickson, who was represented by his deputy, Rear Admiral John Jonah (rtd), highlighted the achievements of his administration in all the sectors and called on the next government of the state to push for restructuring.
He said, “The next government must push for restructuring where the federal government collects taxes from the resources in the Niger Delta.
“One person cannot be a leader; it is a collective role that should be played by everyone.
“The essence of government is to provide service to the people and anyone coming should build on the Foundation that they have seen”.
Also speaking at the workshop, former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi Alaibe, said he had to abandon his governorship ambition in the past because of the need to avoid bloodshed.
He explained, “You will recall that since 2002 when I stepped into the political arena in Bayelsa State, I have had to pull back a few times in the middle of the contest – not out of timidity, weakness or lack of support base to win elections. Far from it!
“I have always taken such a decision when it became clear that for me to achieve my goal, I will have to swim in the blood of fellow citizens – by matching violence with violence. Instead of this, I have always chosen the path of peace at the risk of my political career.
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“Why should I create orphans and widows just because I want political power? In the words of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan: is my personal ambition worth the blood of a fellow Ijaw man? The answer is no.
“My position has always been that politics or election is not worth dying and killing for. It is not war.
“Seeking election to public office does not mean we should kill anyone who stands in our way.
“Seeking election to public office means convincing opposing elements with superior arguments.
“We must not kill the electorate to win election. We can only persuade the electorate to have their votes”.
“From our recent history, we have witnessed detonation of explosives at political campaign grounds, campaign offices and homes of political leaders and perceived political opponents.
“You are aware that I was, more than once, a victim of such senseless attack.”
“The bloodshed and killings in the last elections was another example of disgraceful acts of violence. It must never happen again. We must decide today to be decent in our campaigns, voting and in our reaction to the final election results.
“Election must not be contested and won based on the much-touted federal might. It must be contested and won based on the freewill of the voters.
“Every politics is local. Voters must not be intimidated by threat of violence. We must resolve today to depart from this path.”