I want to eradicate poverty as assembly member – Sapere-Obi


Tuebi Sapere-Obi, the chief executive officer of TEOET Global Enterprises, in this interview with AHERHOKE AMOS OKIOMA, bears his mind on why he wants to contest for the Sagbama Constituency 3 of Bayelsa State House of Assembly, why he chooses YPP, his manifesto amongst other issues.


May I meet you, by way of introduction

My name is Tuebi Sapere – Obi. I’m from Elemebiri community in Sagbama LGA of Bayelsa state and my village is under constituency 3 in Sagbama LGA and it is made up of 17 communities.

I’m an entrepreneur, in construction, entertainment, tourism and hospitality. I reside in Yenagoa and also do business here. I’m married to a beautiful wife from Isampo community in Kolokuma/Opokuma LGA and we have three children, two boys and a girl. I’m the candidate for YPP in the 2023 general elections.

What informed you of the choice of a political party (YPP) that is relatively unknown?

I believe that the political awareness right now is that the party does matter. it is the personality of the candidate that matters and that is my belief. That is what is going on presently. That’s why I said the political climate is getting wider every day, it’s not about jumping into one of those big parties or popular parties as the case may be.

By the way, there will be no space there. Especially for an upcoming politician picking up the tickets in those parties are not certain except you’re called by a Godfather and for me, I wasn’t called. I just think it’s time to look into the business of leadership because of how it affects my regular business here, so I made the decision of contesting. I’m very certain about contesting.

It’s not about losing at the primary level and commending yourself. We have 18 political parties registered, why stress yourself into a place you will not pick a ticket? I was so confident in myself and the way I started it and how far I have gone. I started over 3 years ago, I’ve been going from community to community telling them of my ambition of contesting and some would ask me “why come this early?” The election is still far away and I’ll simply reply that I can’t come 4 – 5 months or even one year to the time and then bring posters, caps, t-shirts and start sharing and expect to win when I’m not well known to them.

So because of that, I needed to start very early, I’ve gone to all 17 communities over a year ago to tell them that I’m contesting. And also, while I was talking to them I hadn’t even joined any political party then, but I felt like it wasn’t a problem. I told them that when the time comes, I’d get a political party.

Why I started early is because I wanted them to look at me and analyse me, if I’m fit to be given such responsibility to go and represent the constituency, and if they find me worthy I don’t have to worry about the political party because it’s the people that vote, not the political party. If they accept me then they’d definitely accept the political party that I present to them.

What do your constituents expect from you?

The first thing that should be considered is what you are going to do, not how much you have in your wallet. I’m doing it with the little resources available and maybe the people who believe in the project would support me. So I’m not interested in those big political parties.

I cannot beat my chest and say I’m willing to spend millions to secure a party ticket when some parties give me for as low as 200 – 400,000 thousand thereabout, that’s what I told them and they were comfortable with it. I also went further to present the kind of blueprint of empowerment l intend to deliver if I find my way into the assembly.

One thing that spurred me to say I want to contest is the high rate of poverty and unemployment, there is hunger everywhere and I think it’s a deliberate act of the political class to keep the masses at that level where they will always be begging for food. So when the election comes they just give a little change and get the people to vote for them. It hurts a lot, I’ve noticed over the years I’ve seen these things happen.

If elected, I will keep to my word and eradicate poverty in our communities. I kept focusing on the communities that I’d create employment and all that.

What added value do you intend to bring to change the narratives as a lawmaker?

Right now the world is facing e-commerce, while this is happening people are predicting that very soon agriculture will take the lead.

Looking at agriculture, the ordinary Ijaw man is born a farmer. Growing up, you already know how to farm. And then you find out that that’s the major source of survival. They’ll use that money to train you, though subsistence, but they’ll use that money to put food on the table for themselves and the children. We’ve been surviving like this for years and now it’s time to look into commercial farming. I told them that should I find my way there, we’d go into mechanised agriculture.

What l mean is that the 17 communities would choose whatever kind of farming they wish to have in their community, I’ve found out that different communities are good at different types of farming systems. I want to use my community, Elemebiri, as an example, from when I was a child I knew that in my community we have a lot of pepper and Okra. Until today, this is still the major type of farming in my community. Though it’s a quarterly thing, it has helped so many people build houses and send their children to school.

While going around then, we picked voluntary coordinators that believed in the project we were about to embark on and decided to come to join us on that level and I was able to register a foundation.

So we had two coordinators each from the 17 communities. So whatever type of farming the community chooses, the community will provide us with the land, a land big enough to give us what we’re looking for. Then going further, the constituency, in collaboration with me will see how we can clear the land, prepare the land and prepare a nursery bed for the pepper before the time for planting.

And the foundation will be on ground to support them at every level until harvest season. When they start coming we will have money on ground to buy the things we’re lacking. People come from Onitsha to my village to buy pepper and okra and they determine and fix the prices of these commodities, but what we intend to do is to build a farmhouse.

Pepper is a perishable commodity, so for instance, if we end up not selling all the baskets of pepper we could take them back to the farmhouse, dry them, grind them and seal them. So those peppers can now go to the markets outside my community.

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This will now create jobs because from people that will farm in the village to those who would grind, package and sell the commodities all of them would be put under salaries. So we’ll get the account details of these persons working in the farm, they’d be in the village and get the usual or regular alerts at the end of every month. We will set up the accounting/ management teams that would run a particular farm and these are people from that community and we will only oversee as a foundation.

At the end of the day money realized from the farm would be used to develop that community. The money may be put into other sectors, maybe health, ICT and infrastructures as the case may be because there is money. So we choose to get computers in the schools, so the children in those communities would see and know how to use computers. We can also decide to put the money into education, you know, buy textbooks from the money realized.

Why we’re doing this is because I believe the money in the assembly is not big enough to start sharing or to say you want to take care of everything and that is why I’m coming up with ways these communities can develop ways of making their own money.

When the so-called constituency money comes, we would now know what to use it for, allow me to say capital project or thereabout. But we will not just fold our hands and wait for them to pay for the constituency projects and then use the money to pay and that is all.

So it’s the same thing for communities that want to farm cassava. We fix the lands, buy the cassava stems and watch them do the farm. We will build a farmhouse close to the cassava where they will harvest, get a grinding machine to grind these cassavas and fry them, and so Garri bags would just be coming out from the community which they will take to the market to also sell and generate money for the community. So we’re looking towards self-reliance and sustenance of these communities before thinking of some other kind of projects.

The basic thing about the assembly is that it’s law making, it’s to go and make laws. And oversight functions. But it won’t be easy for a single member out of the 24 to make laws that will stand, so we would also know how to lobby our colleagues to make sure that good laws are passed. Because I intend to widen this whole idea, for it to be passed as a law at the assembly level.

It will get to the point where the government would vote for a particular figure for this purpose. We know what food is, if you can survive and sustain yourself, you will now look upwards and say okay let me now sell. We’re looking forward to even selling food to a neighbouring state and even exporting pepper because we have large amounts of pepper, a nice aroma that we are ready to export, you know, in pepper farming.

Likewise, every other product in the seventeen communities. Seventeen different products from seventeen different communities, you know what it is. There would be enough food to eat and you wouldn’t just sell everything and besides, it is in your community.

Another thing I’m looking into is paying WAEC fees for very brilliant students or those that don’t have the privilege to go to school.

We’re looking into different aspects with the little resources like I said, I’m a business man and I’ve been surviving in business for some time now, over six years and I started from nowhere but I have over 30 staff now, you know from the little resources coming in I’ve been able to manage this whole system and gone into other projects so I feel that if we find our way to the assembly to represent these people bringing like minds together, people who are willing and genuine enough and have the people at heart to work together as young people, yes we can work together deliver something different from what we have been seeing in the assembly level.

You also asked about why I chose YPP, this is because YPP is a small party, it’s not about the size of the vehicle that matters, it’s the capacity of the vehicle. What I’m trying to say is that YPP is a small party but it’s like a family thing where everybody understands the projects in front of us and everybody is working towards them.

Nobody dictates and expects others to bend, but you have the right to make suggestions, bring your opinions to the table and people will understand. The meaning of YPP is Young Progressive Party, I see us as young people that want to make a change, young people that are tired of the usual. We want to make a genuine change. That’s why I chose YPP, I’m sure I’d get the ticket to make this change and not end up in the primary.

The leadership of YPP in the state and national level have also made it easy for everybody to see this as a project we should all do together to succeed. YPP also slashed the price of the form for youths below 40 years, they gave me the form for half the price.

As you go about your consultations, what has been the reception from these 17 communities so far?

Consultation is still ongoing because we haven’t started campaigning yet, for me it doesn’t end like I said we started three years ago and we’re still doing consultation. The constituency is big, we have to meet with the high and low to share ideas.

So far, the consultations have been going very well. I see myself as what I’ll call “the ordinary man”. What I thought before going into consultation was that it was going to be very difficult and tedious because there was no money to throw about.

We go as ordinary people to these communities, though we don’t have money they welcome us and listen to us attentively. The people in the grassroots are not fools, they understand when people are lying or telling the truth. When we talk to them we tell them very practical things that they can do but haven’t been given the opportunity.

We make them understand that leadership is not for any set of people called politicians. Leadership is for anybody who understands how to do things properly. A leader is a person who understands that once he’s given a task, it’s to get it done immediately.

So they too can be leaders. I told them that I’m looking at how I could come down home so that I’ll be involved in this process because aside from being an assembly member and getting good salaries, we need to be at the grassroots. It’s not always about sending people over there and ask them for results, they could tell you that everything is fine while it isn’t.

I have a business where I have up to 30 staff, but when it’s time to clear grass you’ll see me holding the cutlass, you wouldn’t even know that I’m the owner of the business. Whenever the leader gets involved in the job everybody will be doing the job like a personal thing because they find the leader doing it with them. These are a few things I tell them that make them happy.

And then, for the elite class they would tell you that that’s how politics should be, most of them know the proper thing to do but it’s just that they haven’t seen a person who they would trust down there and deliver to their taste. So we’ve been able to talk with them and make them put us in a position where we are at an advantage because we’re not the governor’s candidate or Abuja candidate, but I tell them that they sitting down there are my godfathers. My party is YPP, what is YPP without the people? If they believe in the project and also believe in me, they should vote for me when the time comes.

So far the consultation has been going quite well, the people are happy to meet us especially because it’s the first time that they’re being involved in a thing like this.

I’m very confident coupled with INEC’s new development about the newly introduced machines, I would say that is one of the happiest things happening to me since I started this project, I didn’t even know that it’ll come. This machine has made me believe that all the clone PVCs are waste now.

As there would be no room for ballot snatching and rigging. All the real voters would not just want to play with their votes. I’ve been encouraging people to go and register and obtain their PVCs and get ready to vote and protect their votes.

Finally, what is your advice to your constituency?

My advice to the people in my constituency is that they should register and get their PVCs and they should vote and make sure their votes count. Make sure everything goes smoothly, free and fair. They should try to capture any irregularities such as people coming to the pooling units with money to buy votes. They should take down all that information.

I’m very confident I’m going to win and the people are also confident in us as this time around it is not going to be business as usual.

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