Senator Douye Diri is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate for the November 16 election in Bayelsa State. He currently represents Bayelsa Central Senatorial district. In this interview with EBIOWEI LAWAL, he share his vision and plan for the people of the state.
LET us talk about your background. How did you rise to limelight?
I have my humble beginning here in Bayelsa. I schooled in the rural area of my local government, Kolokuma/Opokuma. Thereafter, I attended college of education in Port Harcourt, Rivers State where I bagged National Certificate of Education (NCE) in Political Science and Economics. After then, I was employed as a teacher, where I spent about seven years teaching and moulding characters, before I got admission to the University of Port Harcourt where I obtained a degree in Political Science And Education. Since then, I have been in public life.
I also had a stint in business, before I ventured into politics. When I joined politics, what I did first was to work with those who were already the political scene, especially from my local government and other parts of the old Rivers State. I was also an Ijaw activist. I was National Organising Secretary of Ijaw National Congress (INC).
Upon the return of democracy in 1999, I vied for the position of chairman of my local government, but lost that election. Before then, the late former Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha appointed me into the centre for youth development. I also served Bayelsa State as commissioner for Youths and Sports under Governor Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. I was elected into the House of Representatives to represent Yenagoa/Kolokuma/Opokuma federal constituency. And in 2019, my people also voted me into the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, where I am currently representing Bayelsa Central senatorial district.
There is a report of internal wrangling in your party, after the last primaries which you won, especially about the choice of your running mate. And up till now, the people of Bayelsa have not clearly known your running mate. Who is actually your running mate?
In answering your question, I will refer you to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) website. If you go to INEC’s website, you will know who my running mate is. I ran in a primary. After the primary the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria empowers me to nominate a running mate. And when I do that, I am not doing it alone. I am doing that through my party and my party has a responsibility of forwarding that name to INEC. It is only when INEC has published it that he becomes my running mate. That is why I am referring you to INEC website.
The PDP has ruled Bayelsa for the past 20 years. Are you satisfied with the level of development in the state?
No, 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 come out to contest this election. As a party, even on self-evaluation, we know that within the 20 years of our rule, there were certain tenures that did not do well. So, that is the reason some persons even left and joined the opposition. And that is the reason, 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 is the essence of restoration. That is why the restoration was coined.
To answer your question simply, we are not satisfied with the performance of the party for 20 years, not very satisfied. But again, let us look at it from the other side, for those of you who knew the old Yenagoa Local Government, comprising Kolokuma/Opokuma, Southern Ijaw and present Yenagoa, I am also satisfied to tell you that a whole lot of development has taken place in Yenagoa, and that the PDP’s successive governments have contributed so much to the development of Yenagoa as our state capital, compared to what you know as a old Yenagoa Local Government. This was a place where you had bushes binding one community with the other. This was a place where you had low development. The entrance was one tiny road and you remember at the creation of Bayelsa State, people were deriding us for having just one road in the state capital.
But today, I am sure that we don’t have just Mbiama – Yenagoa road. Many other roads have been added, though we are not there yet. That is why I said ‘not very satisfied.’ But I can assure you that I am satisfied to an extent. Those of us who are founding fathers that stood for the creation of Bayelsa State have nothing to regret, because we are still a developing state.
Do you think that the level of development is commensurate with the huge allocation that came to the state in the past years of the PDP rule?
I disagree with you that the money coming into Bayelsa, compared to the money taken away from Bayelsa, is huge. It is inadequate, compared to what the Federal Government has done here. If Bayelsa is giving so much to the Federal Government, why are we having only 13 per cent and why are we crying over that 13 percent that is nowhere near adequate for the development of this state considering our terrain and environment? We have 13 per cent of derivation out of 100 per cent, when we should be talking about controlling our resources and paying taxes to the Federal Government. That is the practice worldwide. Nobody goes to sit with plates 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 and here we are struggling and abusing ourselves with a paltry 13 per cent. So, I want to urge every Bayelsa people 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. If that is done, then, we can be asking ourselves how much do we have and how much have we put into the development of Bayelsa State.
Power has been one problem confronting residents of Bayelsa State, especially in Yenagoa, the state capital. What plan do you have to improve the sector?
You will agree with me that power is on 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 Dickson came in, we have been having blackout. No, the first people that should take the blame are the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). 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 on the exclusive legislative list. Things like this should not even be on the concurrent list. They should be in the residual legislative list. The scenario with the concurrent list is that the state government can also approximate power to have its own electricity, 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 begin to get the approvals that they want us to get from the national scene and try to see whether we can bring in independent power project, just like (Melford) Okilo and others did when they were governors. And I am sure even in this administration, I was party to certain discussions on bringing in more independent power projects. You know we are sitting on gas in Bayelsa, and we will engage all major oil companies to the point that they will support us as a state and my government will productively work to bring more independent power plants, in order to solve the problem of darkness, not only in Yenagoa, but also in our local government headquarters and in various communities.
Some of the state’s workers have been complaining. How about workers’ welfare?
I have often said that most people who criticise government do not know what is inside government. If you stay out to criticise, you wouldn’t know what to do.
To answer your question, I am guided by the fact that I am not yet the governor of this state. 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 is 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, a development that is leading to increase in crimes in our state. And that was done very well in the reorganisation of the civil service. There were people who were receiving salaries in six, five, three or two places and at the inception of the present government, I headed a team to my local government and we saw a lot of things. People who were not resident in Bayelsa were receiving salaries. Some were in Port Harcourt, Abuja and their names were on the payroll of Bayelsa State government, thereby depriving our children of being employed. People who were over 65 years had age declarations that made them younger than their own children. When those policies came on board and today, I am told the policies have created chances for about 1,000 people to be employed into the civil service. That came as result of good policies of reorganising the civil service as the engine room of government.
When I come on board, I will oil that engine room and make it effective. I will oil it in terms of training and retraining, in terms of having people who have the capacity and competence, in terms of people who are interested in the civil service and not people who have secured employment and do not come to work. You remember the policy of this present government of logging in and logging out. I remember when we came in, the secretariat was a ghost town. Nobody was coming to work. But today, this story is different and we are going to sustain those types of policies. So, that is the best we will do with the civil service.
How about the area of youth development and sports?
You know, as a former commissioner for youths and sports, I am passionate about sports development. When I come in as governor, I will ensure that Bayelsa United (Football Club) come into Premier League again. I will upgrade infrastructures and sports facilities in our state.
We acquired land under my tenure as sports commissioner at Elebele axis to build a model stadium. In fact, we even awarded that contract, but because our tenure was very short, the contract was unable to take off before we left and that place has been abandoned since 2006. I feel very bad about it. Now, we don’t have an international-rated stadium in Bayelsa, in spite of how sporty our people are. During my tenure as commissioner, I was one of those who advocated comparative advantage in sports. I know that in Bayelsa, we are very good in combat sports; we are very good in wrestling. I know and believe that in Bayelsa, we have skills in football and other areas. So, I will improve on these.