Daniel Iworiso-Markson is the immediate past Commissioner for Information and Orientation in Bayelsa State and candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) for Ogbia Federal Constituency in the 2023 general elections. In this interview, Iworiso-Markson speaks on why he left the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), his quest to represent his people at the National Assembly and sundry issues. Excerpts:
Your sudden resignation from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) came as a huge surprise to many. What informed that decision?
It was a painful but inevitable decision that I had to leave the PDP. It took me quite a lot to arrive at that courageous decision. I knew that it was not going to go down well with most people, including Senator Henry Seriake Dickson, my former boss and the immediate past governor of Bayelsa State. But then I had made up my mind and there was no going back. I was one of the loyal members of the party that was treated so unfairly, especially in the build-up to the primaries of the party. I contested for the ticket to the House of Representatives and I knew that if a level playing ground was created, I would have won. But from the moment I joined the race, I became a strong target for character and personality assassination. I was serially blackmailed, humiliated and frustrated. Right there at the venue of the primary election, there was a directive that a particular aspirant should be voted for. My delegates were threatened to be dealt with if they cast their vote for me. Prior to that time, some of my staunch supporters were called to the Government House to withdraw their support for me. It was a grand and calculated action by some forces of darkness.
What could have led to all of this orchestrated action against you?
Personal hatred borne out of pure malice, treachery of the worst kind exhumed from the pit of hell. One of the lies that was consistently told against me was that I am a Lagos boy and do not have any electoral value. This lie was sustained throughout the period. Those who were behind it claimed that if I got the ticket, the PDP will lose the main election. Some of the people behind the lies were people I had helped to deliver their own election. I worked for their victory and emergence in previous elections. As if that was not enough, after the primaries, I was never contacted by the leadership of the party in the state and even the committee that was set-up for reconciliation. So, it became very clear to me that I was now an orphan in the party. I had to leave. Those who kicked against my defection did so because they have not suffered the kind of humiliation I suffered. I was treated with disdain and they extended it to my supporters. Many of my supporters who are appointees of the government were excoriated for daring to support me without waiting to get clear directives from the governor. The witch-hunt of my supporters and gross disregard for my person, not minding my contributions and years of loyalty to the party even at great cost to my personal safety and life, made it unbearable to continue with the party. Anyway, I am at peace with myself where I am now.
Why did you choose the SDP?
Their ideology as a party which is in tandem with my New Deal Agenda for the people of Ogbia. I believe that the SDP platform is the right vehicle. I consulted with my political family and supporters who all endorsed the SDP as the right vehicle. As the candidate of the party, I am optimistic that by the grace of God, I will emerge as the winner of the election. It is an opportunity for me to test my strength in the political arena. Let me also see if truly I lack electoral value. But I must say that my aspiration is people-driven. It is the people of Ogbia that want real development that are behind it. After the PDP primary, they knew everything that happened and kept insisting that I move to another party and realise my ambition. It was part of their counsel that guided me. I am happy with the kind of support that we have received so far and we will break new grounds as the day goes by.
You were close to the governor, did you inform him you were leaving the PDP?
I tried to out of respect and honour, as the leader of the party. I made several efforts and attempts to reach out to him but it was unsuccessful. I knew that it will be bad for him to hear it from the media. Sadly, since I couldn’t, I left. I must say here that I do not have anything against the governor. We have been together in government since 2012. We both worked under Senator Dickson as governor. We were in fact one of his closest aides. When the party decided that it was him they wanted to fly our flag in 2019, we all supported him until the last day. Some of the people who are claiming to love him today were nowhere. They abandoned him and pursued their own agenda. They were seriously negotiating how to cross over to the APC because they never believed that the Supreme Court would favour us. This is what even the governor knows. But today, they are the ones that are calling the shots and making things difficult for him.
I have said it before and let me repeat it here that I am not contesting this election because of my own personal interest. I am concerned about the development of Ogbia where I come from and intend to represent at the National Assembly. It was in Ogbia that oil was first discovered in commercial quantity and so we should have our pride of place in the country
What do you mean making things difficult for him?
They have succeeded in creating some kind of political dichotomy. What they call “Restoration Boys” on one hand and on the other hand “Prosperity boys.” Restoration boys being those who are close to the former governor and they themselves Prosperity boys, serving the governor now. It is this attitude they have advanced that is now a big threat to the PDP. They want to by all means alienate most of the people who still pay allegiance to the former governor. So, its laughable that in a party people could create such division and they are being allowed to do so. I feel so sad because we worked so well and kept faith for this governor to emerge. And when he did, we kept supporting him to succeed because we see his administration as an extension or continuation of the previous government. I personally was impressed about the steps he took to unite the party, bring back aggrieved members who had resigned and continue the legacy projects that were not completed by the former governor. But it is sad that people like us have to leave and many more are likely to leave because of the level of exclusion and victimisation that is going on in the PDP.
What is your relationship with the governor now?
We have a cordial relationship. He is the governor of the state and I have the highest regard for him. He knows I have nothing personal against him. If anything, he knows I genuinely mean well for him and I want his government to succeed. We may have been separated by politics because of our different platforms but we are all still Bayelsans and just like him, I am all out for the peace, unity and development of our state. That is my number one priority. That is why I am in the race for the 2023 House of Representatives election.
Do you think that the SDP has the spread and structure to defeat the PDP in Bayelsa?
Structures are built by people. We have about seven months to the election and people will be surprised at how widely accepted the SDP will become. I have said it before and let me repeat it here that I am not contesting this election because of my own personal interest. I am concerned about the development of Ogbia where I come from and intend to represent at the National Assembly. It was in Ogbia that oil was first discovered in commercial quantity and so we should have our pride of place in the country. We cannot continue to occupy the back seat. More so, the National Assembly is not a dumping ground for mediocres. If we have to get it right for the next four years, then we need to send our best and I consider myself as one of the best. I have had private and public sector experience. I have interacted with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. My contacts and connections all put me ahead of others in this race. I have also traveled widely and seen how places blessed with natural resources look like and it is time to replicate that in Ogbia.
I must say that this my aspiration is people-driven. It is the people of Ogbia that want real development that are behind it. After the PDP primary, they knew everything that happened and kept insisting that I move to another party and realise my ambition. It was part of their counsel that guided me
What will make you step down from the race?
Step down for who or for what? I am in the race to win. As it stands now, the PDP may not even have a candidate at the election because of the current crisis rocking the party. One of the aspirants who contested the primary election with me went to court to challenge the winner. And from legal perspective, if his prayers are granted, the court may ask INEC to exclude the PDP. So, who then will I step down for? I didn’t wake up to join this race only to end up stepping down for someone. I will run till the end. Power comes from God and He gives to whoever He pleases to give. God, through the people, will give me the power to lead my people using the Green Chambers.
Do you see yourself rejoining the PDP?
I don’t want to talk about that now so I don’t get distracted. I am concentrating on the task of being elected into the House of Representatives to rescue my people from the clutches of under-development, poverty, disunity and lack. I am determined and committed to offering better representation to my people. They need a strong voice that will be heard loud and clear. As contained in my New Deal manifesto which is anchored on six pillars. I want to work for a strong Bond of Unity, Education, Empowerment, create a Special Status for Ogbia, ensure the realization of the Oloibiri Oil Museum, and make it a UNESCO heritage site, as well as institute a channel for Effective Communication. This is the thrust of my aspiration.
With the gale of defections, do you think Governor Diri has a chance to be re-elected under the PDP?
The PDP is enmeshed in serious crisis as at today. The conduct of the last primaries and its outcome was not managed very well. It will be difficult for the party to win elections in many areas except they do something urgent to correct the anomalies and injustice. I am not going to dwell much on their affairs because I am no longer a member. I wish them well.