Mrs. Patience Ama Zoufa Diri is the wife of Bayelsa State governor, Senator Douye Diri. A lawyer and entrepreneur, Mrs. Diri knows the importance of a conducive atmosphere for the growth of businesses and she believes her husband since assumption of office on February 14, 2020 has created a peaceful environment for investors in Bayelsa. In an interview with Saturday Sun, Mrs. Diri who recently marked her birthday, provided an insight into the vision of Diri and also spoke about her intervention to help the elderly, women and children. She unveils what many don’t know about the governor.
Who is Mrs. Patience Ama Zuofa Douye Diri, apart from being the wife of the governor?
When I got married to his Excellency I was already a lawyer, I would say I was already standing tall; as a lawyer, as an entrepreneur, as a woman in my own right, I already know my rights.
Looking back, is there anything you would like to correct in your journey in life?
I wouldn’t wish to say I would like to correct anything because the good and bad experiences make you to be who you are today, if we take just the good, what happens to the bad? Even in biblical reading, you see that the people God used are the people that the people had condemned because they were sinners and all that, for me it’s not about correcting but it is about learning from those things. If there is one thing I would like to wish for, it is that I have more money to invite more people to celebrate with.
This is a new year for you, a new beginning, so what is next for Mrs. Patience Zoufa Douye Diri?
I have pondered on this too, like people say at the beginning of the year they have resolutions, I have seen that most of the times the resolutions are even broken before they start. I’m one person that likes to take up challenges, I am one person that is open to learn, I’m one person who is also open to correction, a new age for what God has installed for me, not just for me as a person but for my purpose in life because as a human being if you don’t know your purpose you are lost already. I believe I was created to touch lives, it has nothing to do with the office or being married to His Excellency, it has to do with more of my own conviction, I pray and I wish to touch lives not just about monetary gifts, touch lives more on human capital developments, touch lives more on women empowerments because I am one woman who doesn’t believe that our women should tie wrapper, attend functions and be given stipends. Every woman should be independent, self-reliant, the average Ijaw woman I grew up to know is hard working, I want to see those qualities again in our women, I want to see those women going to the farm and being proud to be farmers, those women who are proud to be fishers, raising families and making impact.
You have passion for the elderly, women, and infants and that is visible in your works. Are you satisfied with the moral standard of the youths?
No, I am not and I keep saying that at every opportunity that I have, we have lost that moral standard and parental responsibility, so I see lack of respect, lack of good upbringing, poor education; everything begins from the home because you cannot leave your responsibilities to the teachers in school to take care of your child. As a parent, what you are inputting in your child matters, the bible says train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. Parents have failed in those responsibilities.
Looking critically at the youths, you will agree with me that the issue of anger, violence, and sexual abuse is the problem most time, what do you advise parents do to correct these excesses?
Reflect on what you were brought up with. I was brought up to say thank you, I was brought up to see my elders and greet, I was brought up to know that when I go to a public place and if the place is filled and an elder walks in, I stand up for the elder to sit. I believe what we see today is as a result of poor home training. The excesses are as a result of improper upbringing because if you are brought up properly you can’t hide it. When you are brought up right you can’t hide it.
What is your take on the rise in the incidents of rape?
I have always been an advocate against gender violence. When I talk about gender violence, I am talking about both male and female. When we talk about rape and we streamline it to just the female folk I don’t believe that, I am a lawyer and an Assistant Director in the Ministry of Justice and I have always been a prosecutor. Rape does not just affect the female folks; rape affects even the male youths. It is a sad reality that stares us in the face everyday. I won’t say it has not been there in the past but I keep asking myself and at one point it became like the new norm. I also will say that parents have not helped in the issue of rape. I grew up within a period where I must be at home within a certain time; I dare not find myself outside that period that I should be at home. My parents knew the company I keep. It is not like society is better now than it was before. Now rape is even committed within the home by parents themselves, so the perpetrator is sick but I think the society is molding us to see more parents attacking venerable children. Let me give an example, you are married, you have children and they are all boys, you leave them in the home and you go to work, sometimes parents wake up in the morning not even attending to the child, you are rushing out for work and you tell your maid to take care of your child, no supervision, the maid takes the child to the bathroom and begins to play with the male child, it takes one step to the other, it gets to the point where they begin to show them pornographic videos to watch and they begin to teach them how to play with their sexual parts, you bring people to your home and you are not watchful and you are too busy to watch how your children are molested.
As a lawyer and wife of the governor, what will be your idea on how to curb this problem?
Like I said earlier, I am a prosecutor so I go to court and I handle such matters, my colleagues can attest to that, when a file comes to me, I read it very well and I tell my boss if we are not going to the court, let me not waste my time, I don’t believe in the social media hype, I have a duty first to myself and to my society, I took that oath to defend and protect the law, when I was called to the bar, and I will always keep it.
What message do you have for the women, to keep their marriages and as mothers to counter these social ills?
People may misinterpret it but I have always said it when women come around that I would rather see women empowered; when I mean empowerment, it is not about giving them money, it’s teaching them skills, they said teach me how to fish and don’t give me fish. I will rather support women in that field. I have always had that fortunately, when I had women come and visit me I will always tell them I like to see them empowered, in their homes, in their businesses, in their communities and in their professions. I want to see women come together to speak and learn, teach themselves values that can be replicated at home, we had our parents teach us that but we are losing these things, when we as women live up to our responsibilities we have better society.
As a lawyer, people say you are the first legal adviser to His Excellency and that explains why he wins every of his court cases, how true is that?
I think I will allow His Excellency answer that but I know that at a point in our discussions he will say please I know you are a lawyer but let us look at these things sometimes from the layman’s point of view, I will also say that I did a lot of research, I called a lot of senior legal practitioners especially in the private sector to ask a lot of questions because the law evolves and I always go back to tell him this is what I read, this is what is involved, this is what this person told me, can you tell your team not to forget this point but I can’t take credit for it. But I can’t be a practicing lawyer and close my mouth when the matter is in my house.
Your husband is one year in office; do you think he has done well as a governor?
Yes, he has, my husband is one person who talks less and acts more, and a lot of people misinterpret his quietness and take him as a weak person. My husband came in at a time when not only Bayelsa but also Nigeria until date is experiencing an economic crunch. I know most people will say apart from salaries and paying pensioners what else has he done? There are states whose IGR is far bigger, they are not paying salaries regularly, they are not paying pensioners and they are not developing, but here is the man that came at a time when we have COVID and after COVID we had flood, the world economy shut down and he was able to do the basics to keep everybody afloat, hunger is the number one thing everybody was afraid of but he was able to pay salaries of civil servants, and you know Bayelsa is a civil service state and if a man is able to meet your basic needs by paying you salaries, looking at those who were able to work for government and say your entitlements you are going to have it and he could have said I am just coming let me be putting this money into my pocket people will only shout and after some time they will keep quiet but he decided to say let’s bring development to this state, so I will say he has done well. Doing well is not only relative to physical infrastructural, the environment – the conducive environment that will be able to attract investors. He has brought peace and security, reconciling warring communities, tolerant and accommodating, he could have been self-centered but rather he decided to prioritize the welfare of the people, for me that is what he is doing well.
The governor is a man of few words like you rightly said, but who is Senator Douye Diri and where is his strength coming from?
Sen. Douye Diri is a man from a humble beginning, who has schooled himself through the huddles of life to where he is today. Sen. Douye Diri is one man who has worked and made sacrifices for Bayelsa state. He served and God says he will lift the humble, he served in humility and God has lifted him today. Sen. Douye Diri is one man who fears God and reverence God, he wakes up with songs of praises every morning, anybody who is close to him and doesn’t know that doesn’t know him, he speaks to his God, that moment he never takes it for granted. Sen. Douye Diri loves his family, he loves his people, he is strict when it comes to his children, above all, he wants good for others, he sees good, he shares good and he wishes good for them all, that’s who Sen. Douye Diri is.
What motivates him?
If you follow his life and his calling, it has always been in the cause of the Ijaw nation and wanting to see a better Ijaw nation where we enjoy our natural recourses and we are not deprived of what is truly ours.
Over the years, tell us about a time he has failed?
Like I said earlier, you can’t take life out from the good and leave the bad. He has failed in politics but that doesn’t keep him down or make him lose hope. In politics when he failed it didn’t change him, it didn’t make him become bitter, he didn’t become violent. He has failed in business and he has risen out of it also, when the stock market crashed he was affected but that didn’t make him become greedy. He is a man that is contented with whatever he has, and even in his contentment he is still willing to go out to reach out to people. So like every human been, he never failed to rise, he believes in God and that has made him become what he is today.
If you were to ask Sen. Douye Diri to meet a global figure who will help to mentor him, who would it be and why?
It would’ve been late Nelson Mandela, because Nelson Mandela had passed through the huddles that he has passed through and it did not break him, it didn’t break his faith to stand for what is right, that’s one person I wished he would’ve met today. Nelson Mandela is not moved by material concentrations and he too is not moved by material acquisitions.
Who are those you will describe or call Douye Diri’s friends?
I will rather say he has seven friends, unfortunately one is gone, and those are his friends, they make up the good, the bad and the not so bad. They have come through thick and thin together but they are still together.