At an interactive session with journalists, a 35-year-old governorship aspirant in Baylesa State, Moses Siasia, said Governor Seriake Dickson’s plan to seek re-election in next year’s governorship and the ambition of his predecessor, Timipre Sylva, to return to office do not pose any threat to him. He also speaks on former President Goodluck Jonathan and his plan to develop the state.
Q: For a 35-year-old man like you, do you think you will get the party elders to support you to get the party’s ticket?
Moses: There are some elders that are positive-minded while some remain myopic and wouldn’t love to let go because that is where they get their pay from. But we must convince them that it is time to take the interest of our people serious and I believe that God will give us the grace to champion this course to the next level.
Q: How would you run a successful government with the high level of debts which successive administrations in the state incurred?
Moses: If you do not take up the challenge you will continue to allow people to accumulate debt for the state. My will is to put a stop to debt owing. We must create investments that would boost the state’s Internally Generated Revenue of the state which is currently less than N1 billion. We are going to diversify the economy and face sectors like tourism, agriculture. I would increase investment enough and create environment to attract investors. We would tax the rich and the big hotels in the state and complete the abandoned five-star hotel project that former President Jonathan started so that people can come and see.
Bayelsa is where oil was first discovered in Nigeria. We would create a museum, a city out of Oloibiri, then develop Akasa and create a beach there. The environment in Akasa in Bayelsa is better than Miami in the US. If you sit in Brass at night you can sight Guinea. Bayelsa State is central to the Gulf of Guinea. You can get to Equatorial Guinea under one hour through boat from Brass. Hence, we can build partnership, build a sea port. We can use the opportunities to create wealth for the people. I am not going to run a debt owing state. There won’t be need to borrow to execute any project. Some of my partners are currently supporting some states in building infrastructures. We would also team up with them. There are a lot of my partners who are looking for real business environment to invest; we can create that. The current administration created Bayelsa Development Centers in the United Kingdom and South Africa but not many investments have come to the state through this means. In one year, we can bring about 500 companies in Bayelsa. We can create massive employment under one year, in fact about 50,000 jobs, viable jobs, not 10,0000 jobs or street sweeping jobs. We are going to create job that will give security. Wealth to me is not about how much I have in my account but how many lives I have been able to touch and that is why I want the people to vote for me. I have done that in the past.
Q: How real is your promise not to run the state without borrowed funds when elected? Isn’t that impossible?
Moses: My business is not in debt. You must take loan to fund massive projects but the strategy we have used to run our business is to build partnership and that would be adopted too. Running a state is not so different from running a business. Some state governors were able to leave office with good reserves without debt. What we have is enough to sustain the state. For instance, most investors have it in their business plan that they are going to get gas from Bayelsa and this makes the state very strategic. And we are going to build investment around this with the support of the Federal Government to ensure that we create massive wealth for our people. Our aim is that we transform Bayesa to a point that everyone would become proud of it.
Q: How were you able to transform yourself despite the challenges you faced in your younger age?
Moses: I fend for myself 17 years ago. I was in the street of Port Harcourt selling Ice Blocks but at that time I told myself that I wasn’t going to be subservient to my situation. I am going to work hard because I believe that there is a deposit of potentials in me. And that was how I started from that humble background. I wash rugs, plant flowers and today the story is different. Today, I have built a business of a group of companies. We have interest in various sectors. I have employed many persons, mostly youth. We started what is called the Nigeria Young Professional Group and in two years today we are in 15 countries. We are the only young group in Nigeria that is registered in USA and United Kingdom and we are about finalising our registrations with the United Nations.
Q: Majority of the militants from the Niger Delta Regional are from your state, what is your plan for them?
Moses: I do not see them as militants rather I see some of them as professionals. For example, on a high sea on a very high level of water pressure, someone uses a speed boat and go to the high sea to kidnap somebody and still uses the speed boat to escape with his victim. It requires a lot of technicalities to do what they are doing. We would try to ensure that they channel their energy into productive venture. We would show them the light to enable them use the potentials rightly and this will further strengthen the state. That is where human capacity development comes in. I have started meeting with some of them and they have been impressed that someone within their age bracket is coming out for a post like governor while some of them have not responded well. But we would keep them informed about the dynamics of contemporary politics which largely involves youth participation.
Q: How do you ensure that the investors coming into the state are safe and would ensure basic facilities which they must have been used to from where they are coming from?
Moses: We would use Bayelsa as example for modern facilities by Optic fibre network. You would have access to internet from anywhere you are. There are companies that are willing to come and do this and thankfully people are beginning to key into this. For security, I believe that once the people have a sense of belonging, the state becomes secured. This strategy was used in Borno and it is working. The environment becomes safe once you build confidence and the people are part of the projects. We must transmit values that would sensitize the people so they would know that they are critical stakeholders in the system. People will be able to access me as this would help to build their trust.
Q: As a young person, what are your plans for your fellow youth?
Moses: The lowest funded ministry in the history of democracy in Nigeria is the ministry of youth. Meanwhile, we gave them the mandate. When I was younger I used to see government development craft centres, skill acquisition centres, sport development institutions. Look at the education sector. It suggests that there is no hope for the young generation. When you canvas the inclusion of young people in governance, they would ask you the level of experience you have. So we have found ourselves in a state of dashed hope and opportunity. I have so much belief in the younger generation that is why I am offering myself to liberate my people from the suffering and hardship that they are going through. This is the first time in the new Nigeria democracy that someone of my age group would come out for a position like this, and as a governor being a member of the Council of state I am going to represent the interest of the youth. This is my will and I hope I won’t disappoint the people. We must put an end to political imposition and create a sustainable future for our people. My heart bleeds whenever I am asked ‘’where are you from?’’ Sometimes my friends say they want to come to my state and I wonder what they would see there. Meanwhile, Bayelsa State has a huge tourism potential. We have 75 per cent of Nigeria’s gas reserve. The level of political gain that Bayelsa has enjoyed has never been enjoyed by any state in this country. We have had the president, a petroleum minister, a national security adviser all from a state that is not up to one million in population and has eight local governments. But this political positioning has not been translated into gains to benefit the people. It will therefore take a will of grace that can bring about the needed change and that is what I am bringing to the table. I am not going to the Government House to sell pride but to sell humility, to serve my people. If I have been able to achieve what I have achieved in the private sector then I can bring the much needed development when in the public sector to our people.
Q: How do you intend to dislodge political heavyweights like the incumbent governor, Seriake Dickson and Timipre Sylva, who is also believed to be interested in the governorship race?
Moses: It is not about me. It is not just Moses Siasia. It is a movement. The people’s will is more important in politics. This was evident in the last general elections. Power is going back to the people and this is what would happen in Bayelsa too.
Q: Do you have the support of the immediate past president, Goodluck Jonathan?
Moses: People’s perception of godfathers in politics really worries me some times. I understand that there is need to gather the support of the heavyweight. I will consult the former president. I know he is open to the voice of the youth as seen in his works while in office and this is the time for him to show again that he believes in the youth.
Q: You said that running a state is not too different from running a business. How would you address the ill-work attitude of civil servants since no organization can achieve its goals beyond work attitude of its personnel?
Moses: It is all about perception. There is no one who cannot reorient. To tackle the wrong mindset of civil servants I would sit with them and drive them along into the heart of our developmental product.
Q: Does the ethnic game on ground in Bayelsa favour you? And how would you ensure that you are accepted at the grassroots?
Moses: I strongly believe in professionalism and so I don’t discuss matters like ethnicity or zoning formula. The incumbent governor is from my part of the state. He has used four years and I will also use four years. The choice is there for the people to make and they would make it rightly. I believe that we do not have to buy people’s votes because the people are wise now.