Senator Douye Diri is the Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate for the November 16, 2019 election in Bayelsa State. Diri, who currently represents Bayelsa central senatorial district in the Senate, on the platform of PDP, has been a critical player in the politics of his state since the commencement of the current democratic dispensation in 1999. He shares his vision and plans for the state if elected as the governor of Bayelsa.
Daily Trust: Your party, the PDP has ruled Bayelsa for the past 20 years. Are you satisfied with the level of development in the state?
Senator Douye Diri: We are not satisfied with what has come into Bayelsa and the level of development we have seen. If we are satisfied, then there will be no need for me to contest this election. We know that within the 20 years of our rule, there were certain regimes that did not do well, which was why some persons even left government and joined the opposition. So, when the government of Governor Seriake Dickson came in, we called it “Government of restoration”. For you to restore, it means the locust must have eaten up something. That was why the restoration slogan was coined.
To answer your question simply, we are not very satisfied with what’s on ground so we are pressing further for complete satisfaction. Now, for those who know old Yenagoa local government – comprising Kolokuma/Opokuma, Southern Ijaw and present Yenagoa, you can see that a whole lot of development has taken place in Yenagoa. Successive PDP governments contributed so much to the development of Yenagoa as our state capital. Initially, it was just one tiny road that led to Yenagoa, but today, I’m sure it’s not just Mbiama-Yenagoa Road, but several other roads have been added. We are not there yet, that is why I said I’m not very satisfied, but I can assure you that we’ll surely get there.
DT: Do you think the huge allocation coming to the state in the past years of PDP rule is commensurate with the level of development?
Diri: I disagree with you that the money coming into Bayelsa compared to the money being taken away from Bayelsa is proportionate. If Bayelsa is giving so much to the federal government, why are we getting only 13 percent? And why are we crying over the 13 percent that is nowhere near the development of this state considering our terrain and peculiar environment? That we have 13 percent of derivation out of 100 percent given to us, we should be talking about controlling our resources and paying taxes to the federal government, which is the practice worldwide. Nobody goes to sit with our plate at the end of every month to collect what they call ‘federal allocation’, even when that federal allocation is used to develop other parts of Nigeria while we are here struggling and abusing ourselves over a paltry 13 percent allocation.
So, I want to urge every Bayelsan to join me in the crusade for the abrogation of the Land Use Act, because that is what has deprived the Niger Delta of its own wealth, and if that is done, then, we can be asking ourselves how much we have and how much we have put into the development of Bayelsa State.
DT: Non availability of power supply has been one problem confronting residents of Bayelsa State, especially Yenagoa, the capital city. What plan do you have to improve the sector?
Diri: You will agree with me that power is in the exclusive legislative list in Nigeria, and so, if there is darkness in Bayelsa, the first point of call is the federal government. A lot of people have misinterpreted it to mean that since Governor Seriake Dickson came in, we have been having blackout, but no, the first people that should take the blame is the Power Holding Company. As you know, this is not a company owned by Bayelsa State, all the lines are owned by the federal government of Nigeria and that is why we are also talking about the restructuring of this country, things like this should not be in the exclusive legislative list.
They should not even be in the concurrent list, things like this should be in the residual legislative list, but because they are all controlled by the federal government, you need to go and talk to people in Abuja to do something in your state. If you want to have an independent power plant, you need approval from Abuja, those are things that are wrong with our federation.
So, power situation is actually not from Bayelsa here, but we will try to get the approvals that they want us to get from the FG and try to see whether we can bring in independent power project, just like Okilo and others did when they were governors. My government will productively work to bring more independent power plants in order to solve the problem of darkness not only in Yenagoa, but in our local government headquarters and in various communities.
DT: How about workers welfare, a lot of them have been complaining?
Diri: I’ve often said that most people who criticize government do not know how government works. In answering your question, I’m guided by the fact that I’m not yet the governor of this state, but when I become the governor, I will sustain parts of the policies that I was part of in the current government before I left for Abuja. One of them was to look at the Civil Service and see how we can bring in most of our youths who have graduated and are still roaming the streets.
We have to reorganize the civil service. At the inception of the present government, I headed a team to my local government and we saw a lot of things. People were receiving salaries in five, six, three, two places and people who were not resident in Bayelsa were also receiving salaries. Some were in Port Harcourt, Abuja and their names were in the payroll of Bayelsa State government, thereby depriving our children from being employed. I’m told the policies have created chances for about 1000 people to be employed into the civil service. That came as a result of good policies of reorganizing the civil service as the engine room of government.
When I come on board, I will oil that engine room and make it more effective in terms of training and retraining, having people who have the capacity and competence, as well as people who are interested in the civil service and not just those who have secured employment and do not come to work.
You remember the policy of this present government of logging in and logging out. When we came in, the secretariat was a ghost town, nobody was coming to work but today, the story is different, and we are going to sustain those types of policies.
DT: There have been some internal wranglings in your party, after the last primaries which you won, especially about the choice of your running mate. Up till now, Bayelsans have not clearly known who your running mate is. So, who is actually your running mate?
Diri: I will refer you to INEC’s website, if you go there, you will know who my running mate is. I ran a primary under a platform which is my party, the PDP, and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria empowers me to nominate a running mate. When I do that, it won’t be alone. I’ll be doing that through my party and my party has a responsibility of forwarding that name to INEC and it’s only when INEC has published the name that he becomes my running mate, that is why I’m referring you back to INEC’s website.
DT: How about the area of youth development and sports?
Diri: You know as a former Commissioner for Youth and Sports, I’m passionate about sports development. When I come in as governor, I will ensure that Bayelsa United goes into the premier league again, I will upgrade infrastructures and sport facilities in our state. We acquired a land during my tenure as sport Commissioner at Elebele axis to build a model stadium, but because our tenure was very short, the contract was unable to take off.
DT: Tell us about your background. How did you rise to the limelight?
Diri: I have my humble beginning here in Bayelsa. I schooled in the rural area of my local government – Kolokuma/Opokuma, and thereafter, I attended a College of Education in Port Harcourt, where I bagged NCE in Political Science and Economics. I was employed as a teacher, and spent about seven years teaching and moulding characters, before I got admitted into the University of Port Harcourt where I obtained a degree in Political Science and Education.
I also had a little stint in business before I ventured into politics. When I joined politics, I first worked with those who were already in the political scene, especially from my local government and other parts of old Rivers State. I was also an Ijaw activist – I was a national organizing secretary of Ijaw National Congress.
With the return of democracy in 1999, I vied to become the chairman of my local government -the newly created Kolokuma/Opokuma and lost the election, before then Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha appointed me into the centre for youth development. I also served as the Commissioner for Youth and Sports under then Governor Goodluck Jonathan. In 2015, I was elected into the House of Representatives to represent the Yenagoa/Kolokuma/Opokuma federal constituency and in 2019, my people also voted me into the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, where I’m currently representing Bayelsa central senatorial district.