The eventful journey of Senator Douye Diri, the flag-bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to the Governor’s Mansion in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, on 16th November is drawing close to its destination. He seems to be having what looks like a joy ride compared to his main rival, Chief David Lyon, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), whose party rivals have refused to concede the nomination and thereby splitting the State party down the middle, a tell-tale sign that the party, disunited as it is, would be unable to present a united front on 16th November.
Diri is also counting on the unequivocal support of Governor Seriake Dickson. The appointment a fortnight ago of 60 fresh hands and legs by Governor Dickson so that, as he said, he can “finish strong,” should be a further reassurance to Senator Diri that the governor is leaving nothing to chance. Diri is further insulated by the history of the PDP which has not let go its control of Bayelsa State since the beginning of the Fourth Republic. Indeed, at the flag-off of the campaign, the governor described the Diri-Erujakpo ticket as the “ticket of stability, the ticket of experience, the ticket of prosperity in Bayelsa State. Good roads will come to Southern Ijaw, to Boroma, Koroma. The next is Brass and the Brass LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas Project) must work.” Further assurance was given by the Inspector-General of Police who noted that the state has had a history of violent elections in the past. To prevent any such violence this time, he is deploying 31,041 Police personnel who he is sure will provide a peaceful atmosphere for the election. The Police, the I-G said, have identified all the flashpoints and dark places and are watching out for the ‘usual suspects,’ the trouble-makers, thugs and their sponsors.
Prof. MahmoodYakubu, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), was equally reassuring. All non-essential materials needed for the elections have been distributed. The election will open promptly at 8 a.m. on 16th November. As mundane as an early opening may sound, it goes a long way in the overall peacefulness of the election. Compare what happens when everyone is running late, materials are not delivered, officials are not at their posts. These create room for thugs, jobbers to create a necessity for violence.
On Thursday 31st October, 2019, Diri participated in the Bayelsa Governorship Debate. His principal opponent, Lyon, was “conspicuously” absent which probably indicates the level of stress he is going through given the upheavals in his party. Less charitable critics might be tempted to say that “no show” is evidence ‘inadequacy’ or ‘fear.’ But whichever it is, a candidate’s absence at the debate has never been considered a positive sign. The debate which held at the Trendy Event Centre was organized by the Push Africa Foundation, a non-governmental organization, in collaboration with radio stations in the state. The debate panel was led by Mr. Okhiria Agbonsuremi, a seasoned journalist, as is Freston Akpo of Radio Bayelsa, Bukola Samuel Weimimo of the TVC and Ezenwa Nwagwu of the Partners for Electoral Reform. Among the political parties and their candidates who participated in the debate were the Accord Party, EbizimoDiriyai; EneyiZidongha (GPN); Blessing Clement (MDN).
The Diri campaign had earlier expressed its readiness to debate issues in the election. The Director-General of the Diri Campaign Organisation, Dr. Nimibofa Ayawei, said the PDP candidate was not afraid to engage the people of the state in any debate. “Any debate that has to do with the election, the PDP will always be available because we want an issue-based campaign. It’s the duty of the other camp to make their candidates available… For us, we want to always interact with Bayelsans.” The Push Africa Foundation Country Director, Egberamen Doris, described the debate as an important landmark in the state’s democracy journey saying it would deepen the understanding and practice of democracy and the maturity of governance and politics in the state.
Senator Diri’s emergence in the PDP primaries was a bit of a surprise given the ‘political heavyweights’ he had to contend with, including the durable Tim Alaibe, who has attempted the office more than once. But Diri has grown from strength to strength, from his modest position as Executive Secretary at the Centre for Youth Development in 2000 to 2002 to being the state’s commissioner for Youth and Sports in 2005. His promotion has been slow but steady and incremental. In 2012 he has risen enough to be saddled with the responsibility of heading PDP’s Disciplinary Committee in Bayelsa State. His political science background seems to have fully prepared him for public service, and he began as the first National Organising Secretary of the Ijaw National Congress, the primary organization of the Ijaw nation.
In 2012 he was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff to the Government from where he contested to represent the Kolokuma,Opokuma and Yenagoa Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives in 2015. He won. In the House he was so productive, it seemed as if he had finally found his niche. He successfully sponsored bills, moved motions on critical issues, spearheaded initiatives. He was so concerned about the extent of environmental pollution in the Niger Delta, he moved a motion to reduce the preventable oil spills from the operations of the multi 0national oil companies. He also once urged the Federal Government through a motion in the House to declare Bayelsa State a natural disaster arising from incessant floods.
His more successful motions included the motion which led to the probe of the contract between the Nigerian Ports Authority and INTELS Nig. Ltd. Diri’s motion enabled the House to get to the heart of the matter in the dispute over corruption between the former Minister of Finance, Mrs. KemiAdeosun and the suspended Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Munir Gwarzo over Oando’s forensic auditing. During the sensational National Intelligence Agency (NIA) scandal when $44 million was discovered in a private flat in Ikoyi, Lagos, and the NIA top boss was fingered, it was Diri’s motion that received the House’s approval to begin an investigation into the affair.
Chukwu writes from Port Harcourt