Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Moses Oruaze Dickson, younger brother to the immediate past Bayelsa State governor, Henry Seriake Dickson is a lawyer, businessman and philanthropist. In this interview, he speaks on the first 100 days of Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri and the mounting pressure from the people of Sagbama/Ekeremor on the former governor to represent them in the Senate.
How will you assess the 100 days in office of Governor Douye Diri?
I must give God all the glory for putting naysayers to shame. I recall that after his inauguration, some prophesies came forth that he was not going to stay beyond 40 to 70 days. But here we are today. Power comes from God. As someone with the tailored capacity for the position, Governor Diri has shown leadership since he came on board. He has made governance to be more simplistic. In Bayelsa today, there is resounding joy among the state workforce because of the prompt payment of salaries, pensions and gratuities. The governor has prioritized workers welfare and even the labour unions in the state can attest to that. Also, driving round the streets of Yenagoa, especially at night, you will see the beautiful solar- powered street lights that have added to the aesthetic beauty of most parts of the city centre and still expanding. He has prepared the ground for commencement of the Etegwe/Tombia flyover to allow for free flow of traffic in that axis of Yenagoa. He has also concluded plans for the completion of the AIT/Elebele road and other internal roads that will decongest traffic on the two major roads.
However, as the world continues to struggle with the realities of the health emergency, the first 100 days has been a challenge because of the Coronavirus pandemic. It has slowed down most of the plans of the government. Thankfully, the good people of Bayelsa by the grace of God are standing by their government as we confront the emerging realities that have shaped our lives.
Looking at the legal battles that threw up Governor Diri as the number one citizen in Bayelsa State, will you say that the sobriquet ‘Miracle Governor’ is justified?
How best can one explain the last minute judgement of the Supreme Court just on the eve of the swearing in other than the fact that God manifested himself? Most people had completely lost hope. But you see, God is not man, Douye Diri has long been pencilled down by God for the position. The whole delay, trials and so on was to expose a lot of things. For me, I believe that God wanted to use those moments to show Diri some hidden things, to open his eyes to a lot of things. It was also a period to test his faith.
He is a man of destiny. His meteoric rise in the politics of Bayelsa and Nigeria can only be attributed to divine orchestration of the Almighty. Like David in the bible, Gov. Diri is a man after God’s heart and I like the fact that just like his predecessor, he acknowledged God in all that he does. For me, I was confident that he was going to be sworn in. I knew God will vindicate him and everyone who genuinely stood by him. So in the end, it happened and we give God the praises. Indeed, he is a miracle governor.
You were one of those who worked hard for Governor Diri in the last governorship election. What gave you that level of faith, even when some persons ditched him?
I am a man of conviction. When I believe in a cause, I stay with it. There are things in life that I don’t compromise and one of which is loyalty. When Diri emerged as the PDP candidate after the September 3, 2019 primary election, it was only natural that those of us who want the best for our state give him all the support to win the main election. So, from that moment, I made up my mind alongside many of my colleagues both in the legal profession and within corporate Bayelsa to support him and contribute our own little quota to ensure his victory. I didn’t look back and even when the election went the other way, I still saw him as the authentic winner of the poll.
I never for once saw another person taking over that seat. In my dreams, in trance, I saw him sitting comfortably on the chair. So, throughout the legal battle, I was calm. In fact, I kept telling some of my friends, staff and associates that it is not over, even after the Appeal Court delivered its judgement in favour of the other person. As a lawyer, I also looked at the case and came to a conclusion that there was no way if it is viewed on its merit that he will not be sworn in. And I believed in the impartiality of the apex court. But above all, I knew God was at play.
Looking back at the role you played before the election, would you say it had an impressive impact on Diri’s victory?
Well, no one person makes a leader. It’s the people that select their leader and whatever I did was only a contribution just like others. Nonetheless, every contribution was important and I remember Governor Diri and his Deputy went round the state to sell their manifesto which the people liked and became interested in them. But to answer the question, yes it helped. I say yes because an independent poll was conducted online which affirmed the positive impact on his candidature.
Prior to the election, there was a strong need to make him have more media presence and for him to connect more with the people, particularly the youth populace in the state and beyond using the social media. You know young people of my generation are more in the social media and events that happen there elicit our interest and determine our sense of direction.
When we spoke to him about it, he liked the idea and gave us the support. So, I assembled a crack team of young professionals within and outside the state. Very smart people to build his online media profile and enhance his personality.
It didn’t take too long before we changed the narrative. We got testimonies from people of how they have changed their perception about him. People saw him more often and were able to judge by themselves his lovely disposition and beautiful mien.
The live social media sessions he had were massive. He was joined by thousands of people. In one of the sessions for instance, over twenty thousand people watched it. He provided direct answers to their questions and made them know what form and shape his government will take when it comes on board.
During his inaugural speech, Diri extended the olive branch to members of the opposition and those in the PDP who were dissatisfied with the process of his emergence. Has any action of the governor so far reflected that pronouncement?
Yes it has. You see, Diri is a man of peace and someone who loves to carry people along. His own brand of politics from what I know about him is not to promote animosity or violence. As an experienced politician, he knows that in the game of politics, numbers…numerical strength is important. The governor understands what it takes to manage people. For him, this is not the time for politics. It is time for development. And there is need to bring people together to take Bayelsa to a greater height.
So, I think he has started the process long ago. Recently, I read that he re-echoed it during the inauguration of the new State Working Committee of the PDP. He charged them to reconcile all aggrieved persons. Don’t forget that two crucial elections are coming soon, the Bayelsa West and Central Senatorial elections and the PDP needs everyone to ensure victory for the party.
Recently too, some close associates of the governor have been going round, meeting with some opposition figures. Gov. Diri believes that it is Bayelsa first before any political party. He is interested in the growth of the state and if people with the right experience and ideas are available, why not work with them?
As at today, some people are still in a legal battle with Governor Diri and his deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo over the last year’s governorship election. Do you feel concerned about the pending cases?
I feel concerned because the cases are unnecessary distractions. What we are seeing is the handwork of fifth columnists who are bent on exploring every means to throw spanner in the works of the government. But they won’t succeed by the grace of God. The governor and his deputy have gone through so much litigation in the last few months and it goes to show the grace of God and how strong they are. I think they must have developed a thick skin to all these court cases here and there.
I say it again that the mandate they have is divine and they will succeed. I trust that they will make the state better than they met it just as their predecessor did. I believe they will set an even higher bar for those after them and that’s how stable, sustainable leadership and development work.
But let me use this medium to call on all those who are still in court to think Bayelsa first. I accept as a lawyer that it is their legitimate right to seek redress when aggrieved but they should also have it in mind that only one person can be governor at a time. If today God has chosen Senator Douye Diri, we all should rally round him to succeed and tomorrow it might be the turn of someone else.
Your brother and immediate past Governor, Seriake Dickson is being urged by different stakeholders to run for the Bayelsa West Senatorial District election. Do you support the call?
Is he qualified? Yes he is! Does he have the experience? Yes he does! With this two questions being answered in the affirmative, then the call is not misplaced. It is on record that the people of Sagbama/Ekeremor Senatorial District have always sent their finest to represent them. They take their time, consult, assess and present their finest and amazingly, when they tap their children to go out and represent them, nobody has turned them down. I know that he is a man who believes that a leader is chosen by God through the people; he has never turned down the call of his people to serve them. With the series of meetings, consultations and mounting resolutions of the people from all comers in the Senatorial District tapping him again to go forth and represent them in the Senate, I don’t see how he will be able to turn them down. He is a man that will be going to the red chambers with a sound parliamentary background. Remember he was tapped by our people years ago to represent them in the House of Representatives before becoming governor for eight solid years. Prior to that, he had served Bayelsa as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice.
He is a lawyer of many years at the bar. He has played national politics and has an unusual national appeal. His credentials are intimidating and I dare say that only few if any can march that and that’s why I believe our people will soon be presenting one of their finest.
Those calling and insisting he runs know him. They know what his membership of the senate can do for us. They have seen his leadership style and his capacity to deliver the goods. They know him to be an erudite, outspoken and cerebral politician. As for me, I am waiting. If the man decides that he is contesting, then I will raise my team of friends, partners and associates to give him all the support that he needs.
For many, you have been committed to the growth and development of Bayelsa State as well as touching the lives of many Bayelsans through your modest philanthropic gestures. Why the commitment?
I am from a very humble background. I saw and tasted poverty in its raw form. It was not a pleasant situation but it prepared me for today. Despite my situation, I was much focused. My brother ensured that I kept the chase to be educated in order to give me an advantage to make it in life. I knew that with a sound education, I will be in a good stead to face the world.
Today, I am a lawyer, with a master’s degree and currently doing my Ph.D. God has been kind and has blessed me in a way. So, I feel the pulse of people when I hear or see them go through what I went through years ago. There are people, families who can’t afford a decent meal each day. There are graduates roaming the streets without a job or means of livelihood. It breaks me seeing that all the time. But like my brother will always say, ‘do your best and keep moving’. I therefore decided that I will use the little I have with my privileged position to better the lots of people. I have been doing that for close to eight years now, personally and through the Goldcoast Developmental Foundation which was established by me in honour of my late mother. With the blessings of God, I intend to increase my philanthropy to reach more people as time goes on. We must not always wait for government to do that. People should learn to give. We were taught that there are so many blessings attached to giving and service to humanity.