Tuesday, September 17, 2019 7:45 am
Senator Douye Diri is the governorship candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the Bayelsa governorship election slated for November, 2019. He recently spoke to journalists on efforts being made to reconcile aspirants who contested the primary with him, his agenda and relationship with the incumbent Governor Seriake Dickson. Excerpts.
Q: What are you doing to reconcile with the aspirants who contested against you for the PDP ticket, knowing that some of them may be dissatisfied by the outcome of the primary election and may want to leave the party?
A: We are trying our best, even now, as we speak, we are still continuing. We are calling, moving to them, we are also using their friends, brothers to reach them to ensure that we come back together as a party. But you will agree with me that party politics in Nigeria is not the way it is in other climes. And that’s why you can see that even while I was in the House of Representatives, people move cross party lines with ease. So, we are not there yet, I believe that we need to consolidate on what a political party is. Beyond the issue of getting control of governance, a political party has other functions that it owes its members such as educating them and bringing cohesion within the party and all of that. But here, we all zero in on political party as just being an avenue to grab political power. I think we need to move beyond that. And that’s why it is difficult when you come into a contest like this, before you know, somebody is already moving away and saying that I am going to the opposite party- not even to any other party, but the opposite party that will give you a fight of your life. What I read about political parties are different from the real politics as practiced in Nigeria. But to answer your questions directly, we are trying our best. We are talking to them, even this morning; I have discussions with some of them. Many of them have agreed that they will not go to any other political party. They will stay back, work with the party to ensure that the party wins because if I win the election, I am not the winning as Douye Diri. I am nominated by the PDP, so, it is the PDP winning the election. I am not saying we are home and dry yet, because at the end of the day, we need to get all 20 of them to come back to the fold.
One of the formidable aggrieved aspirants from that primary was Timi Alaibe who seemed not to be very happy with the outcome of the contest for the PDP ticket. What are you doing to get him to your side because you also have a formidable opposition in Bayelsa State?
I was with him for about ten years. I also will like to let you know that myself and Timi Alaibe are from the same local government, so, he is my brother. We are still talking to ourselves, that’s why I said we are not home and dry yet. You know politics is like looking for a wife to marry – these days, it is very easy. But in our own days, a woman can take you 10 years to woo. We are still in that process. I still see him (Alaibe) as a brother and I believe that he too sees me as a brother. Basically, I don’t believe that there is anyone of us who is indispensable, including myself. But I agree with you that he is a factor, he came into the race and he did very well like every other person. Everybody in that race – the 21 of us was in that race to win. I don’t believe that anybody will like to go and throw away N21 million. So, we are trying our best to still talk to him. We are engaging our brothers back home, our friends and all of that just to ensure that we put up a common front to engage our adversaries. I don’t see them as political enemies, they were our adversaries. And to also correct an impression – yes, we have a fight in front of us, but I don’t see the other people as being so strong on ground to fight the PDP. If we have a free, fair, transparent election, the APC cannot win a councillorship election in Bauchi State, that’s the truth. It’s all these hypes about federal might, using security agencies to intimidate or using INEC to go and write a result – those are the propaganda that we have been receiving. Our appeal here is that the security agencies must be professional, INEC must be an umpire and if there is a level playing field for us, I can assure you that the opponents are neither here nor there to actually contest this election with the PDP.
What is the level of your consultations with former President Goodluck Jonathan before you decided to embark on this contest?
The former president was my governor. I worked under him as commissioner and that tells you the relationship that I have with him. Even before then when I was executive secretary, he was the deputy governor under Alamisieyeigha before he became president. And when I was in the House of Representatives there was a probe panel on the former president and it was myself and one Boma Goodhead that scuttle that panel when a decision was taken by the committee that the former president should be invited to the committee, not even to the House. I find that very ridiculous and that brought a problem between me and my colleagues who is from Kwara State and was the chairman of that committee. I saw national dailies carrying the other day that I almost beat up Honourable Atunwa I the House of Reps, but there was nothing like that. I was only angry at what they were doing because I believe that no other former president has been so humiliated the way they wanted to humiliate former President Jonathan and the question I asked then was, is it because he was the minorities? He was the first president to come from the minorities and I think finally, that was put to rest. So, I have a very cordial relationship with the former president. And he was the first person I consulted. I went to him in his house, he received me. In fact, he took me to his wife because the wife was like our mother at that time when he was governor. So, my wife, who was commissioner’s wife, was like her daughter. So, I consulted him and he gave me his blessings. I consulted many others of our leaders before I finally went into this.
I asked this question because there were insinuations that the former president was more comfortable with Timi Alaibe winning the primary?
Politics is a game of interest, until the man votes, you will not know who he is comfortable with. Those are all the intrigues. Let me also tell you this – at a point, the governor said he is not going to support any candidate. But someone said ‘if the governor is going to adopt any candidate, it will be me.’ So, anybody can claim that then former President was with him, but it was at the point of voting that you will know whether the former president was with you or not.
You are close to the incumbent governor. What are you going to do to ensure that people will not see you a stooge of Governor Dickson?
From my CV, it should be very clear to any doubting Thomas who I am and what I stands for and why I even agree to work for this current governor. Former governor Timipre Slyva was in power for five years and I didn’t even come to Bayelsa State. That tells you I am a man of principle. I choose my friends ad I choose who I want to work with and I choose to work with Governor Dickson. I worked with him and I am very, very satisfied working with Governor Dickson. You ask me why? There was a bill that was introduced into the State House of Assembly , it was called the transparency bill – Monthly Transparency Briefing – where you tell the state what comes in and what was expended. And because of my privileged position, in the engine room of government, every time FAAC comes and internally generated revenue comes, we sit together in a committee with the governor, the deputy governor, the commissioner for finance, my humble self and all the finance related people in government, We sit together to allocate what comes in to the various ministries, departments and agencies. And so, at that point, I knew that Governor Dickson was not taking anything out from what was coming in. So, when people say you will be a stooge to cover up, I don’t know what and what I want to cover up, having known that this was the process until I left for the National Assembly. Even, when I left, that process was continuing. So, I believe that I the first place, there is nothing to cover up, that the resources that came into Bayelsa were used for the development of the State. There is a lot of bad belle and blackmail in Bayelsa politics and in Nigerian politics generally. But with what I saw and participated in, I don’t think there is anything for me to cover up. I just believe that it is mu humility, honesty, and my principles that he recognized and he feels that this will be the candidate that will serve the people well.
What will be your policy thrust if elected?
Well, when we took over I 2012, the policy thrust was on education; there was a lacunae in our educational sector , so the governor declared a state of emergency in education. And I think to a large extent, he has ameliorated most of the gaps we discovered when we came into office. For instance, Bayelsa state was umer thirty something in all national examinations when we came in, but today, as we speak, Bayelsa state is among the first five or at most, among the first 10 in all national examinations. And so, that has been achieved to a level, but I will continue with it and ensure that we go higher. If we are among the first five, I think we can be number one or second. I know that’s a tall order when you have Imo, Lagos and other places, but we will try. That will be one. Next, will be the economy. For those of us who are from Bayelsa , who grew up in the old Rivers State and then, Bayelsa, our local ecoomy is neither here nor there. The sitting governor has tried to bring in issues in agriculture, to explore our comparative advantage in agriculture and trade. But I want to build on the economy. I want to have a local economy where our people will be directly involved. Today, the number of Bayelsans involved in our economic activities is virtually down too low. That will be the bulwark of my economic thrust, not forgetting the issue of security. No government can thrive and do well without security. We are seeing a bit of it at the federal level here, the level of insecurity in the country is so high. Those are the things that we will actually look at. That’s not to say we are forgetting other sectors.
Still about the issue of peace I PDP house. Recently, Timi Frank, a member of the party came out to say your emergence will give APC chance in Bayelsa and you just say that APC cannot even win a local government in Bayelsa….
I like it when people underrate me and it is out of that underestimation that I always bring out surprises. When people say my emergence will make the other party to win, they have not taken into cognizance that this was the same man who won continuously two elections into the House of Representatives ad into the Senate and you say that man is an underdog ? I am underdog; I want to be an underdog. And for the likes of my small brother, Timi Frank, I don’t think he has gone to his village, Odi, for the past 15 years. People stay in Abuja and Port Harcourt and rant, so let him keep doing his ranting. I know where I stand on; what I do back home; maybe he is right, but let it be with him.