Ahead of November 16, governorship election in Bayelsa State, the Peoples Democratic Party’s governorship candidate, Douye Diri, shares some insights with Stanley Nkwazema on his party’s chances at the poll, Timi Alaibe’s factor, the vision that’ll drive new Bayelsa and Ijaw nation and advice for INEC and security agencies.
If you become Bayelsa State’s next governor, you will be inheriting very big shoes in terms of governance performance. Does that worry you?
Certainly not. In agriculture, education, health, security – you name it – the current administration has scored impressive positives and laid a good foundation. We shall build on it and fill in any gaps. Our economic base is very weak. Our current government has done a lot shoring up the state’s economic base. Our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) rose from about N500 million monthly to around N1 billion. We have to be more pragmatic. We hope to leverage on that and ensure that our people will have an economic base.
Bayelsa State election is next month. What are your chances and strengths against the opposition?
Our chances are very bright and as you rightly observed, the major opposition we have is the APC. But, as the APC is constituted today in Bayelsa, I don’t think it is a major threat to the ruling party in the state which of course is the PDP. You are talking about them in that perspective because they are the party in power at the national level. Bayelsans are not dumb. They have supported the PDP since the party was formed in the state and have won every single election. They are coming together again to do just that, come November 16, 2019.
PDP appears to be entering this election a divided house with the gale of defections to the opposition?
I don’t know why everybody is looking at the PDP. There are crises in APC; there are cracks in APC and nobody is talking about them. The PDP has very little compared to the APC. At the state level, they are suspending themselves, suspending the party chairman, all party officials and now have various factions. Nobody is talking about that. In PDP we were 21 aspirants that took part in the primaries. Now out of that 21, only one went to court. In the APC, only four were cleared to contest and virtually all the other aspirants went to court to challenge it. As for me, in politics, it is normal; you agree to disagree. Yes, in the PDP, we have some people defecting to APC, but we are working on that. Only recently, the party set up a national reconciliation committee and they have been working. The state set up that committee a month ago, immediately after the primaries and they went to work. That is why you see the PDP still intact in spite of the pockets of defections that you have noticed.
What of the Ndutimi Alaibe factor… same Local Government Area?
I will disagree with you on that. Chief Ndutimi Alaibe did not lose. I have always said that there is no winner, there is no loser. And the only person that has won is the PDP. The person you are talking about was my political godfather, so to speak. I was his political ally. The person you are talking about is from the same Local Government Area with me. And so, if there should be any winner, he should be the winner, our party should be the winner and we are engaging him.
The party is engaging him. I in my own little way is doing everything possible to engage him, to see every reason to convince him that he is not a loser; that he is a winner and the party is a winner. Further, if I become the governor of Bayelsa State after the election of November 16, 2019 and sworn in, the age-long deprivation of our Local Government not producing a governor would have been addressed.
What about the imposing strengths of Governor Dickson, singling out Douye Diri?
For anybody who undermines the strength and powers of a sitting governor, in a presidential system of government and one who has seen the battles right from his days at the Ijaw National Congress, as Attorney General of the state, as a member of the House of Representatives and now serving out his two terms in a state like Bayelsa – honestly I don’t know what the person thinks. I think, I have come a long way with His Excellency, the Governor of Bayelsa State. Over the years, we have known long before he became governor. We were all involved in the creation of our state Bayelsa. We are all founding fathers of our state. And so, for me, I know that he was going to play a key role in who succeeds him. Much as the people will vote, but as a sitting governor, I realized that very, very early, when I started the move to Creek Haven.
What you think Bayelsa needs most as a people and then the Ijaw nation?
What Bayelsa needs now are not militants, violence or killings. Bayelsa needs a soothing balm. Bayelsa needs to consolidate, Bayelsa needs stability. And so Bayelsa needs intelligence. Bayelsa needs a visionary leader. That is what we are bringing to bear on the table.
Where do you stand on the Ijaw cause?
I think that is plus-one for me out of all us who are candidates. I would say that I was one of the outstanding Ijaw patriots, having been elected as the first National Organising Secretary of the Pan-Ijaw organisation known as the Ijaw National Congress. I served the Ijaw nation for about seven years. And those were really very tough days. The present governor of the state was also in that struggle and is very much in it. I believe in the Ijaw nation; I believe we are stronger together with intelligent people doing their best for Bayelsa.
Where does former President Goodluck Jonathan stand in the 2019 elections in Bayelsa?
The former President will not just play a key role. The former President is a father to all of us. So I don’t want the former President’s name to be brought in. He is a father to all the aspirants and if one of us has emerged as the flag bearer of the party, I am very sure that the former President, who is playing reconciliatory roles even in the International systems, Africa and beyond, will also not want to see his own state on fire, his own party on fire. So, I am very sure he will douse all these feelings of disaffection and pockets of defection. I hope and believe that when he returns from his assignments, he is going to be fully involved in putting our house together
Ahead of next month’s election, what’s your message to Bayelsans?
Well, I want the electorates to understand that we have come a long way. The state is now 23 years since it was created. And so, we cannot still behave like a baby. And we cannot go back to Egypt. We cannot go back to militancy. We have moved from that level of militancy. We cannot have a militant leader or be a sponsor of militants as our governor. We cannot have someone who colludes and connives with oil companies as governor. Not someone who will collude with the companies and get something for himself and his cronies, as against getting things for the development of our state. As a matter of fact, we cannot afford to have somebody like that as the governor of our state.
To be candid with you, we cannot afford to have an uneducated person or somebody who is averse to education at this at this stage of our development. The governor of Bayelsa State is a diplomat who will meet with cerebral, intelligent people to advance the course of the state, meet with his colleagues in the Governors Forum. We cannot afford to have a governor who will be dumb when he meets with people. My advice to us Bayelsans and the residents in the state is to take our destiny into our own hands and ensure that we have a governor who will speak for us, who understands the issues, who is a patriot and who is an Ijaw in his blood and who equally understands that Bayelsa is a melting pot of the Ijaw Nation
You recently interacted and fielded questions from secondary school students. Why?
Listening to those children is reminiscent of my days in the boarding school. And you know that after our days in old Rivers State, there was no boarding school. Governor Dickson had the vision and brought back the glory by declaring emergency in the education sector and establishing boarding schools. For a school like the Ijaw National Academy (INA) you have brilliant Ijaw children, not only from Bayelsa, but across Ijaw land. Listening to those children and fielding their questions of sustainability of the scholarship that Governor Dickson has already given to them – they have free feeding, books, uniform, hand bags and well equipped laboratories and a conducive learning environment brought me back to my days in secondary school.
Possibly, we can replicate schools like that across all the local government headquarters of the state. I know we still have some as constituency secondary schools but we can replicate the INA, particularly across Bayelsa. I just believe that we will not make the mistake of bringing in somebody who will not be interested in education.
As a one-time teacher and Sports Commissioner, what do you foresee as problems ahead?
You must know that a sound mind in a sound body brings development of the individual and having being a commissioner for Sports, I know the impact of taking away young people out of the streets through sports. Again, sports is a money spinner if well managed for both the athletes and the state. It is not just taking them into sports but it also enables the state to mutually benefit in the process. It brings positive images to government. Those who are involved in sports are millionaires and billionaires. I have always said that if become governor, it will be a big plus to the sporting community in Bayelsa State. My achievements are there and I don’t want to re-echo them here. They are there as a commissioner for sports. If I come in, I will be the chief commissioner for sports.
A word for the electorate, INEC and security agencies?
I just want to caution and appeal to our people that we cannot go back to Egypt. We must move forward for the best. I want to advise that as voters in Bayelsa, we have to stay strong behind the PDP because that is the only party that has a credible platform and a credible candidate that you can engage and that can deliver to Bayelsa. Over the years, it is the PDP that has delivered every damn thing you see in Bayelsa State in terms of development and this election will not be different.
Again, let me also advise our umpires (INEC) to be true umpires and not to take sides. There are stories awash that the opposition will use INEC to write results whether the people vote for them or not; that they are going to use security to harass, intimidate, cause mayhem and violence. Let me advise INEC and the security agencies to do their jobs professionally. For the security, the hallmark of government is to ensure the security of lives and property. I don’t think that it is the same security that is paid with tax-payers money that will now unleash mayhem on the people during elections.
We have witnessed it in Bayelsa before now – security agencies involved in killings, particularly in the last state, National Assembly and Presidential elections. In my own Senatorial District, two people were killed by men in uniform. So, we want to advise very strongly that we cannot and will not accept that anymore. Let them be professional in carrying out their duties. Let INEC be the umpire it is.