Bayelsans ready to re-elect Governor Douye Diri – Alabrah
Daniel Alabrah, a veteran journalist, is the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the Governor of Bayelsa State, His Excellency, Senator Douye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). An erstwhile Special Adviser on Public Affairs to the immediate past governor of the state, Seriake Dickson, now serving as the Senator representing Bayelsa West in the Red Chamber of the National Assembly, Alabrah was once a Deputy Editor at The Sun Newspaper. He was at a time the Head of the Media and Communication Unit at the Presidential Amnesty Office, in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja.
In this interview with Iniobong Iwok, published by Businessday, the CPS expressed confidence that Governor Diri’s second term ambition would be realized on November 11 when the Bayelsa governorship election is billed to hold. Alabrah maintained that the governor has done so well that Bayelsans will not hesitate to re-elect him to continue with his good works for the growth and development of the state.
How prepared is Governor Douye Diri for the gubernatorial election holding on November 11?
Governor Douye Diri is the most prepared candidate for the November 11 election. He has campaigned more than any other candidate. You know he is the man to beat in this election.
He has visited more communities campaigning than any other candidate. In the last four weeks, he has campaigned in more than 40 communities in five local government areas. As we speak, he is visiting Sagbama local government area. So, on the average, he visits 16 communities in a local government that has three constituencies and most of these are riverine communities that you can only reach by boat.
The message of the governor has been very simple: judge me by what I have done. Everywhere he goes, he tells them his achievement in each local government and the communities.
Interestingly, the responses and reception have been overwhelming. For instance, when you see the visuals of the visit to places like Ekeremor main town in Ekeremor Local Government Area, Oporoma and Amassoma in Southern Ijaw, Agbere and Ofoni in Sagbama, and Sabagreia in Kolokuma/Opokuma council areas, the crowd were overwhelming.
The governor has equally been inaugurating projects in different communities and local governments visited. Recently, when the PDP national vice chairman, South South and the zonal executives visited, they said the party was very impressed with the performance of Governor Diri and that they noticed he was busy inaugurating projects while campaigning unlike some states where the governor had no significant project to inaugurate in their first term.
Party members are afraid that the instability in the PDP might affect Diri’s chances. Do you agree?
What instability in PDP?
Several members, including former Governor Wike and his group, are still aggrieved. Is this not a source of concern?
There is no crisis in PDP. Nobody is causing problems in the party. As you are aware, former Governor Wike is a Minister serving in the President Tinubu administration. At the moment, there is no problem in PDP either in Bayelsa or at the national level. It is true there were issues before the general election. But after the election, there has been calm in the party except perhaps the media wants to create one.
In Bayelsa, the PDP has never been so formidable. The party has been so cohesive that the governor is going into this election with a united house. Besides, he got this ticket on a unanimous platform. There was not even one aspirant that picked the form to contest with him. Honestly, there is no issue at all.
During election season, it is not unusual to find people who resign appointment due to different interests. But for us, it is not an issue at all. No significant member of the PDP has left the party.
Conversely, the opposition APC in the state has been terribly depleted. Most of their key members and supporters have crossed over to the PDP. This has largely boosted the PDP chances in the election coupled with the good performance of the governor. One interesting development is that you find APC members who say they are not leaving the party, but we are not voting for our candidate. A lot of them are saying that openly and are not hiding it.
This is one election we are confidently going into. It is not because it is PDP but because the party in Bayelsa has performed well. People can say what they like as it is an election season, but if we go into the election today, Governor Diri would win overwhelmingly.
Opponents are saying the governor has not done much despite the huge revenue accruing to the state. What is your take?
One of his opponents you might be referencing was governor for five years and a minister for almost four years. Sadly, after ruling the state for five years, we are using binoculars to search for his achievements. Such critics should be campaigning on their own achievements while in office. The question Bayelsans are asking is, what did he leave in the governor’s office or the Government House? His five years were years of horror, pain, insecurity and below par performance. We cannot point to one significant achievement of his administration. What does that kind of person want again as governor?
Now to your question on the governor’s performance. This is a governor that is constructing the three senatorial roads in the state at the same time. This project is financially consuming for the state. Apart from infrastructure that the administration has invested massively on, the governor has equally built schools and hospitals as well as embarked upon perhaps the most elaborate human capacity development programmes in the state.
At Ayamasa in Ekeremor LGA and Ofoni in Sagbama LGA, a few days ago, the governor inaugurated two of the eight technical schools the government is building across the eight local government areas.
This is a man who has achievements you can physically see. In Bayelsa East where Sylva comes from, the Diri administration is constructing the Nembe-Brass road. The governor is doing a road to Sylva’s community.
In Bayelsa Central, the governor is constructing the Yenagoa-Oporoma-Ukubie road just as he has completed the Sagbama-Ekeremor road in the Bayelsa West senatorial district as well. The second phase of this road will get to Agge community. Interestingly, these federal roads that the state government has undertaken all lead to the Atlantic Ocean on the different flanks. So this government is opening up the state.
The focus of the Diri administration is to create access by road to the rural areas and riverine communities. Our state is about 70 per cent riverine.
Honestly, there is no basis for comparison between the Sylva administration and that of Governor Diri. You cannot compare the two of them. I am not saying this because I am his spokesman. This is what the people are saying.
Also, today Bayelsa is one of the most peaceful states in Nigeria. At any time of the day, you can move freely. This was not the situation some years ago. During Sylva’s time, we had all sorts of cult wars in the streets of Yenagoa. But under this government, not anymore as there is zero tolerance for crime and criminality. Security has been one of the major priorities of this administration. The people of the state can now sleep with their eyes closed.
Are you not worried that INEC might not conduct a free and fair election?
INEC needs this off-cycle election in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa to redeem its image. There were noticeable lapses in its performance in the general election. However, it is the people that should tell us if they have confidence in INEC. We are not the ones to say if we have confidence in INEC.
As an umpire, it behooves on INEC to say that it will be unbiased in any election whatsoever. It should also be able to say that the process it has put in place can stand the test of time. Once any election loses the element of credibility, everything is lost. If it lacks the element of fairness, everything is lost. INEC should be able to conduct an election and at the end of the day say this is credible.
The same thing with the security agencies. We expect them to play their role during elections in a manner that they would not be seen to be compromised. We are in a country that is still developing its electoral process. Otherwise in other places, people don’t bother about the security agencies. They just cast their votes and go home. Nigerians can’t wait for that period where you don’t have to shut down the state because of election.
INEC knows it has its back against the wall when it comes to credibility and it has to prove to the people of Bayelsa, Kogi and Imo that these elections can be free, fair and credible. The elections should be without all the drama of the BVAS or iREV and without the drama of security agencies trying to join the fray to participate in the election that they are supposed to be observers.
Figures indicate that unemployment is high in Bayelsa. What would be Governor Diri’s plans to create jobs for the youth and women if re-elected?
The national average for unemployment is about 34 per cent. When you look at the average for Bayelsa it is within that axis. So, unemployment is not peculiar to Bayelsa, according to statistics released by the NBS.
One of the priority areas of this government has been human capital development. We have invested so much in vocational training. The emphasis either in our educational policy or in human capacity development has to do with training our people in areas they can become self-reliant. We have done a lot in vocational training across different skill areas for our people. As we speak, no fewer than 10,000 young people have been trained in different areas, including agriculture. What we have done has contributed to the low crime rate in Bayelsa today. And a lot of those trained are empowered to set up their businesses.
Almost 500 persons were trained in agriculture at the CSS integrated farm in Nasarawa State. When they finished, those that do not have land we empowered them, gave them seeding and money. We cleared the land for them and today they are farming. Some are involved in tailoring, paint production, catering, hair styling etc all empowered by the state government.
This government is focused on changing the perception of our youths from civil service jobs because of the huge wage burden. For a small state like Bayelsa, more than N5b is spent monthly as salary for civil servants and appointees. Government has also been consistent in clearing the gratuity arrears dating back to 2007/2008. Now they have reached 2013, 2014 or 2015 depending on the number of retirees from each local government area.
This government has also made sure that our youths are involved in sports. If you are following Bayelsa’s performance in the last three years, you would have noticed that the talk is that our state is now a hub in sports. There is no competition today that Bayelsa participates in that we would not come out among the first three. This has not happened before now. All these are because of our youths that are motivated.
This is a government that knows what it wants and is going about doing it. The physical achievements you have seen today speak for us.
So which is preferable? Is it the man in the saddle doing it or the man who says when I come, I will do it? Funny enough, the man who says when I come back I would do this or that, what is the assurance he would do it? The people of the state are wiser now and they would not go back.
What would be the focus of the administration if it returns for a second term?
This government is laying the foundation for the state’s industrialisation, and you need to provide the basics, including the need to build roads.
We are also focusing on providing stable power. The state built a gas turbine plant from the period of the late former governor of the old Rivers State, Chief Melford Okilo. The turbines were functional even during the Sylva administration and they supplied light to the state free. But suddenly, during Sylva’s time, Bayelsa was connected to the national grid and the people started paying for electricity. Ironically, the same man turns around to say there is no power in the state. Which state generates and provides uninterrupted power in Nigeria?
Until recently when the immediate past president unbundled the power supply challenge by placing it on the concurrent list, even states that built power generating plants in the past could not distribute nor transmit electricity. But this government is taking advantage of the opportunity to revive our turbines and increase their power-generating capacity. It is also building a smart prepaid metering factory. These will create employment for our people as well as generate revenue for the state.