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‘Sometimes I Ask Why I Am Still Alive!’: Alamieyeseigha Last Interview Before His Death

Former governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha died on Saturday after suffering cardiac arrest.

He was said to have gone into coma two days earlier and was placed on life support at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital before his eventual death.

In his last interview with Vanguard, the fugitive ex-governor who was pardoned? by former president Jonathan is said to have asked rhetorically why ?he is still alive.

He also spoke about former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan in the interview.

Excerpts:

Let’s start by asking what informed your choice of former President Jonathan as your deputy governor in 1999.

One is that I came from Southern Ijaw Local Government, the largest in the Bayelsa State and may be in the whole country. My political calculation was to pick somebody from the Ogbia axis, that is the Eastern part of the state to balance the political equation. So, I needed Ogbia votes. Number two, I wanted a deputy governor who had high level of intelligence and stable character like Jonathan.

I also needed an establishment person and somebody who was not too ambitious that if I was out, he could stand in for me and could run the state. I needed somebody, who would not attempt to cause trouble if I travelled out of the state so that I could sleep well. It was a combination of these factors that made me to choose Jonathan as my deputy then. I set out an objective criteria on the qualities I needed and when the late Chief judge of Bayelsa State recommended him, (I did not know him before), I readily accepted him. In fact, I had to drive in my car to his residence and asked him to resign from the then OMPADEC, where he was working at the time.

Within the period Jonathan worked under you, did you at any point imagine that he would one day become a vice president or president and what were those leadership qualities you identified in him?

Leadership comes from above. No matter how you try, if God almighty does not destine you to lead, you will not be a leader. For Goodluck, I knew that he was going to be vice president of Nigeria as far back as August 25, 2005. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had once told me that since his former vice, Atiku Abubakar and I wanted to take his job that it would be over his dead body and that unless he died, Atiku would not be president of Nigeria. He told me that since Atiku had picked me as his running mate, he would disgrace us. He said that he was going to use my deputy to rubbish me before everybody. So, I knew.

But some say, like Balarabe Musa observed recently, that Jonathan was not prepared for leadership and that accounted for the loss of power by the South.

It is not right because Jonathan is more experienced than any president that has ruled this country in the past. How can you say that somebody who has been in office for 16 years is not qualified? If I may ask, which former president of this country was in power for 16 years? He was in office as deputy governor and was overseeing administration of local governments and was very conversant with the administration of local governments at that level. He was also performing the role of a deputy governor. He became a governor and is also familiar with governance at that level. He became a vice president and later acting president and a president. Which Nigerian has that pedigree? None. So, Balarabe Musa goofed. I am not aware of any special school that people go to become president. Academically, he is more qualified than any of them, and in our local environment at the University of Port Harcourt, he has street knowledge because he is locally bred.

Not everybody will like his style but I can tell you that if you sit down and catalogue what he has done for this country, no other president has done that. But it is his life style; he is a very quiet man, unassuming but with very high intellectual content. If Goodluck believes in something, the house can collapse but he will do what he believes in. He has a very strong character. It depends on who is looking at him and from which angle. From the beginning, people’s mindset were fixed for him to fail and to manage that perception was another problem. But he did well. All these things that the APC is claiming to have done in 100 days are just claims; you cannot fix the refinery in three months. Somebody must have done very serious work before. To do turnaround maintenance takes 18 months and not three months.

Some argue that Jonathan’s defeat in the election and the role played by the elite may create bad blood in Nigerian politics. Do you agree and what do you see in the future for Nigeria?

I have very radical views about that and I do not want to share them now. We are watching out what will play out at the national level. Will Nigeria or the ruling party still take us as part of Nigeria? Of course, they know that we are still feeding this nation. So, I think that they are conscious of that and they should also know that even the British could not conquer the Ijaw people.

We have the capacity to defend what belongs to us. So far, so good, the appointments that they have made, none has come to Bayelsa. The Special Adviser to the President on the Amnesty Programme, Brig-Gen. Boroh, is just coordinating the programme and I do not consider that as an appointment. Is that what we deserve? The Amnesty programme, we do not know whether it will end in December. We are watching.

Let’s take you to former President Obasanjo under whose leadership you were impeached as governor. Have you have forgiven him?

Let me make it clear here that I have forgiven all the people who worked against me. It is not only Obasanjo but everybody. This is because everything that happened, who did what, I know? I cannot be living in the past because it does not help. It pains quite well but again, if it was not permitted by God, it would not have happened. And for me to be alive, I thank God. Sometimes when I reflect on where I am coming from, I even at times ask why I am still alive, having passed through what I have passed through. It reminds me of Psalm 23, somebody passing through the valley of the shadow of death. I passed through it several times. For me to be alive, I do not need to have anything in mind.

Have you interacted with Obasanjo since that saga and what was the closest you have been with him since then?

I have been at a very close quarters with Obasanjo twice. The first encounter was at the Katsina Airport during the wedding of the daughter of late President Yar’Adua. I did not even know that he was in the VIP lounge. I wanted to use the rest room and here was Obasanjo directly sitting inside. I was even scared because he almost passed out.

I held his hand and he said DSP what have I done to deserve a handshake from you? There were other people; Kenny Martins and one of his political friends present. I said I was shaking him for two reasons. One was because of the Almighty God who created us. Number two is that tradition demands that we should welcome our visitors. Then Kenny got up and said, great leader, great leader and he came to hug me. The second encounter was when I was going to Dubai and if Obasanjo had known that I was in that aircraft, he would not have entered but I was already seated. We were very few in the aircraft. Because of fear, Obasanjo saw me and hysterically called me Fayose, Fayose and I told him that I was not Fayose. I said former president, Olusegun Matheew Kikiola Aremu Obasanjo, you are a devil incarnate. I said when we were small, our lesson teachers always talked about this devil and this devil and I never knew that the devil is a human being. I told him that you are a direct descendant of the devil. I told him that if you talk, I will throw you out of this aircraft.

I knew of truth that he did not sleep throughout the flight. The only thing he said was DSP, is it only you that entered prison. I too entered prison. He said you entered prison and I entered prison. He kept quiet and I left. But I have forgiven him and I can even go to Otta. He is an elder. One thing I know of Obasanjo is that you can say anything against Obasanjo but he is a leader. If he says he is going to do this, he will do it. You can call Obasanjo any time of the day or night and he will pick the phone himself. He will be ready to sit down with you to solve any problem even though he will not allow you to talk. He has invited you to seek your opinion on how to solve the problem but he would not allow you to talk and at the end of the day, you begin to wonder why he called you when he already had the solution to the issue. That is the type of character that he is.

I know him. For me to say he is devil incarnate, he is.

What do you think that Jonathan did well and did not do well?

Well, I was not in government and cannot say what he did well and didn’t do well. As far as I am concerned I didn’t lift oil, I did not have oil wells and I didn’t get any contract from anybody.
But you must have received some presidential gifts like cash and other tangible things more valuable than contracts and oil blocks?

Yes, I had unlimited access to Jonathan and I used to have free access to his home. If I met him eating, I would join him and so on. Jonathan has no money. So, if Buhari is looking to extract money from him, he won’t find.

What if the money is hidden somewhere offshore?

That cannot happen anymore in this world.
Are you saying he is a poor man?

No, he is a quiet and highly contented Nigerian but not a rich man.

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