Former governor Timipre Sylva does not pretend about his admiration for President Muhammadu Buhari. In an interactive session on a private radio station monitored in Yenagoa, Sylva, who was the Bayelsa governorship candidate of the APC in 2015, declared that Buhari has delivered on his campaign promises to Nigerians. He spoke on various issues. Femi Folaranmi monitored the interactive the radio programme.
How transparent was the Osun Governorship election?
Osun election was quite transparent. You can see that everybody was frantically trying to make deals with one particular politician.
He became the bride of everyone. Fortunately for us, we were able to get him on our side.
Of course, that means logically that we would win the election. It was won fair and square; I don’t see what else anybody can say.
If the PDP had won, they would have shouted it was a transparent election. If APC wins, they should join to congratulate APC for this victory.
Your party, the APC in 2015 told Nigerians it would fight corruption and tackle insecurity but more than three years, how would you assess your performance?
We won the election in 2015 on a tripod. One was security, second was economy and the other one is transparency.
And on three counts we have been able to give a good account of ourselves. I always say that as far as transparency and corruption are concerned, it has a lot of layers.
We have the top layer which is the most dangerous. We have a situation whereby the money meant for government does not even get to the bottom of the government purse before it is stolen.
Certain people in government would have organised to steal it and the government would not even see the money.
That is one level of corruption. Another level of corruption has to do with contracts’ administration; some people in government and those with vested interests would try to corner juicy contracts for themselves for kick-backs.
Then we have the last level of corruption which we encounter everyday like Policemen taking from people.
So, if you talk about corruption, you must look at it in the layer form before you know if progress has been made.
For us as an APC government, the first thing we were able to achieve is to stop the first layer which is the most dangerous.
For instance, crude oil was sold; the money has not even got into government purse at all before it was stolen.
You must have heard the stories of the billions of dollars that were stolen at source before the APC government came in. That level of corruption is the most dangerous and we have been able to take care of that.
We were able to take care of that with the TSA. With TSA, it means the money must fall to the bottom of the purse.
Now to the second layer of corruption which involves giving of contracts, this is more like a systemic corruption and it is a more difficult layer to fight because civil servants and all kinds of people are involved in that layer of corruption.
We are not saying we have eliminated corruption but every Nigerian would agree with the APC government that we have been able to fight that first layer of corruption where the money does not even get to government purse.
You have heard about the issue of JAMB where they say nobody has posted more than N250 million but suddenly, JAMB is posting N5 billion.
Now the government sees the money. People say it was former President Jonathan that started TSA but let us face it; it is the character of President Buhari that allowed the success of TSA.
Yes, TSA was there but it was not being implemented. Many parastatals and agencies gave many excuses and they were excluded from the TSA and it never kicked in until we had an uncompromising President Buhari with the character that would ensure the implementation of the TSA. It is the APC government that had the capacity to implement the TSA.
On security, you would also agree that it has never been this good. Before now in Abuja, you want to come out of your house; you are careful because, you never know when the next bomb would go off.
Every Nigerian in Abuja was a witness to that. Today that does not happen anymore. Of course, we hear that Boko Haram is being fought somewhere, but it is like a story to some of us now unlike when it was almost like a daily occurrence.
APC government has been able to cordon off insecurity and restrict it to a certain area.
We on this side are lucky that we are not at the epicentre of that battle but at least we should agree that as a government that we have actually tried in fighting insecurity to a minimal level.
On the economy, as I always said, it was like broken plates that was arranged on a table before the APC government came.
Now, somebody had broken plates and arranged it carefully and we came and did not know that the plates were broken and we wanted to carry it up and it fell into pieces.
That was what happened. The economy was already in shambles. They just arranged it carefully for the APC government.
We were not the ones that broke the plates which represent the economy. Even in spite of that, we have been able to put the economy back.
We were able to pull Nigeria out of recession in record time. We have been able to do a lot as a government and I am proud of that.
Some Nigerians are of the view that the war on corruption is one-sided. Do you agree?
When people say the corruption war is one-sided, I laugh. The previous administration also engaged in the fight against corruption but the government then did not believe in it.
At least, the former President said he believed corruption was not the problem of Nigeria.
Of course then the corruption was one-sided, it was meant then for anybody that fell out of favour.
Like me, I was one of those who fell out of favour. I became a victim of the corruption fight.
But today the corruption is not the same like for example the Senate President who was an APC chieftain, an APC Senate President, was in Court. This has been unprecedented.
Though he has left the party but when the corruption fight was on then, he was in APC.
And I don’t see any government in Nigeria apart from the government of Buhari that would have done that.
Today, Joshua Dariye defected to the APC; he was an APC Senator and today he is in jail.
So, I don’t know what anybody is talking about that the corruption fight is one-sided.
The APC government has been very uncompromising on corruption and I make bold to tell you that anybody who is known to be corrupt in this government would either be shown the way out or be dealt with in accordance with the law.
You have seen that happen many times. You have seen the issue with Adeosun; you have seen the issue with Babachir Lawal.
They have been removed from government and it is now left for the security agencies to do its investigations and prosecute them. The government has done its own part. They have been shown the way out of the government which any responsible government would do.
Before now, this was not happening. People were accused of all kinds of things and they were there in government.
The APC government has been one government that has been uncompromising in the fight against corruption. The fight is on.
What are the chances of the APC in the 2019 election?
For me, I don’t see any reason why Nigerians would not vote for the APC going by some of the successes that I have listed.
During your administration in Bayelsa State, cultism was said to be at its peak because people say you are tied to a cult group. Are you a member of any cult group?
This issue has to do with stereotyping. What certain people have been trying to do is to stereotype me as a violent person and cultist.
I have never been a member of any cult group and would never be. When I came to Bayelsa as governor, I had one issue that I thought I should tackle and I thought Bayelsans should give me credit, even though I know many Bayelsans actually gave me credit, some prefer to listen to the other side.
That problem I tackled was insecurity. It was bigger than it has ever been when I came in. At a time we were even in Government House, armed men came into Yenagoa shooting and they were ready to come into the Government House to take us, me as Governor- Elect, and former President Jonathan as Vice President-elect then.
We had to be evacuated. Militancy was at its height in Bayelsa and in the Niger Delta when I came in as governor.
And I took it as responsibility to take care of insecurity. And I am sure many people would agree with me that I was able to tackle the problem of insecurity.
It was I that was able to come up with the amnesty programme. I conceptualised it. It was my whole idea from the beginning to the end.
It was I as governor of Bayelsa that sold the amnesty programme to the Federal Government; nobody can take that away from me.
I believe that Bayelsans should now see me and remember me for those things instead of trying to put a garb of cultism on me that do not belong to me.
I was able to conceptualise the amnesty programme because I felt that was the way to save the Bayelsa youths.
I was in touch with certain people who were advocating that the troubled spots should be levelled down.
But I was able to convince them on the amnesty programme. I designed it. Today, militancy has come to an end.
When we finished with militancy in the creeks, what happened was that crime moved from the creeks into the city because some of those boys in the creeks kidnapping, came on land and started perpetrating all kinds of criminality.
We had to deal with them and that was what appeared like a rise in cultism. Today, if people want to be objective, there is more criminality and armed robbery at anytime in the history of Bayelsa State. Innocent Bayelsans are being attacked and killed every day.
When criminality has got to the point that people sleeping in their homes can no longer sleep well, then that comes to the ineptitude of a government.
My 87-year-old Uncle was sleeping in his house in the village, where else can you be safer; he was kidnapped and killed. It never happened during my time as governor.
Would you want to contest again as governor?
I don’t want to talk about this. What is before me is the Presidential election. The governorship of Bayelsa is still months away and when we get to that bridge, we would cross it.
I have never said I am not going to run for governorship and I have also never said, I am going to run. I am still praying and I am still listening to my people.
Why have you not visited Governor Henry Seriake Dickson over the loss of his mother?
A lot of people have died in Bayelsa State. A lot of people lose parents in Bayelsa State. Unfortunately in Bayelsa, not many of those parents died in America, in the best cancer centre in the world.
I believe we have one of the best hospitals and I got that from former President Olusegun Obasanjo but unfortunately, it was not good for certain people.
I lost an Uncle to kidnappers and it was a very sad loss to me because that my uncle was a father to me and everybody knows that including the governor.
When Governor Dickson’s mother was kidnapped when I was governor, I even gave him money and supported him to find his mum.
Unfortunately, my Uncle was kidnapped when I was outside government and nobody ever supported me and finally we found the body of my late Uncle and brought it to the mortuary.
I was told that the state government offered to pay the mortuary bills but they never did. I did not even get a letter of condolence.
You set the pace for a relationship. They demonstrated at that time that death was not off limits. My uncle was buried by myself.
The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari attended that burial; the state government never sent even one person.
Today, my worry is that even if I visited on condolence, it would be misinterpreted and given all sorts of names.
So, what I did was to stay off. The government has never shown me any form of goodwill. When I came with the Vice President to Yenagoa, I was maltreated in the Government House; I was not even given a seat because as far as the government is concerned, they want to minimise me.
Of course, if a government has not shown you any form of goodwill, then you are afraid to near that government because you don’t know their plans for you.
Honestly, I wish him well but as far as I am concerned, he has not given me any indication that a visit from me to him would be appreciated.
As a former governor, I am entitled to certain pension, but I have never been paid a dime and he paid others and ensured I don’t get paid. I don’t need that to survive. The government has treated me very badly.