From the day he indicated interest to run for the governorship of Bayelsa State, and up to the day he was sworn-in to the office exactly three weeks ago, one thing that has come to define Governor Duoye Diri of Bayelsa State is his deep penchant for peace and harmony. It was the central theme in his speech, moments after he took the oath of office to become the fourth executive governor of the Glory of All Lands. It was also the main theme of his state-wide broadcast to the people a few days after taking over the reins of Governor
On a day when many a politician would wax boastful and even taunt the opposition, Diri was all for peace and harmony, insisting that inspite of differences in political beliefs, all Bayelsana are ultimately one and the same people, and that they have no other state than Bayelsa. He asked all the people to come home and join him in the mighty task of developing Bayelsa and enlisting it in the comity of societies enjoying responsible and purposeful governance.
The new governor came very well prepared for the office he was holding. He was virtually everything in grassroots politics, from being floor member to Executive Secretary, Centre for Youths Development u dear the administration of Alamieseghsto commissioner under the administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, and then Principal Private Secretary to Governor Seriake Dickson, before resigning that post to win election first as a member of the House of Reps in 2015, and then as Senator of the Federal Republic In 2019.
This has served to expose him to the privilege of seeing first hand, those things that these three leaders, his predecessors, did rightly, and those that they might have, as humans prone to making mistakes, got wrongly. As a passionate believer in the cause of the Ijaw nation also, Diri was at a time the National Organising Secretary of the Ijaw National Congress. Even in that position however, the new Governor was advocating for deployment of peace to attain development, insisting that only in atmosphere of peace could Ijaw attain their manifest destiny and compete with their heads held high as global citizens.
Bayelsa was very lucky because what it needs at this point in time, and indeed at all other times, is the peaceful atmosphere to excel and thrive. Now with a very responsible leader whose mantra is peace, peace and more peace, the state is poised to witness unprecedented growth that could surpass those of its other governors, put together.
Now only three weeks at the helm as governor, Senator Diri has prioritized welfare of civil servants, as engine rooms of governance. They may be few in number, compared to the larger society, but without the civil servants, no government could run, and without a government, any society is doomed. It is obviously for this reason that the Governor is making the Bayelsa civil servants his best friends. It is going to be a romance like no other, all for the good of the state.
Just a few days after becoming governor, Senator Diri ensured that civil servants in the state were paid their salaries for the month of February before the month ended. Right now he has directed for the payment of outstanding salary for the month of January, for all tertiary institutions in the state. Assuredly better days are ahead for all workers in Bayelsa State.
Governor Diri also believes that no society could fully develop when illiteracy and ignorance are allowed to become the commonest denominators. And as a strategist, he has decided to solve the problem from its root, by befriending the teachers and making their welfare his top priority. Sadly, education is a bottomless pit, and there are always challenges occasioned by dearth of resources, but from the look of things it is one area the new Governor is poised to develop to unprecedented heights.
From what has happened in the past three weeks, weeks that are action-packed, Bayelsa is in for its moment of real glory. Senator Diri means business, and anyone that is truly desirous of taking the state to higher realms has a ready-made partner in the Governor.
Supporting Governor Diri to become a resounding success is a task for all Nigerians, not just Bayelsans, because the state is too strategic for the survival and well being of the country. It is not just one of the nation’s cash-cows, but also a state inhabiting some of the most principled politicians that the Nigerian nation has ever produced.
In general, the Ijaws are a resilient people whose words are usually their bond. They are always reliable as partners in every political calculation, and those that are desirous of leading the nation beyond 2023 should also woo the Bayelsans by keying into their growth and development, with Governor Diri as arrowhead.
For me, personally, my interest in Bayelsa stems from the fact that some of my greatest friends and benefactors hail from that great state. They include former National Security Adviser Andrew Azazi (of blessed memory), Honourable Seriake Dickson, the immediate past governor, as well as the incumbent, Senator Duoye Diri. Others include Surveyor-General Ebisintei Awudu, and of course Commanding Archbishop Willy Winning Buting, who is now my spiritual godfather. Other great friends include Hon Otaribara Precious Daniel, and Mr. Fred Fabour, with who I served in the exco of the Nigerian Guild of Editors for six consecutive years. All of these are great men who should partner with Governor Diri in the onerous task of taking Bayelsa to the next level. I have no doubt they are going to do so.
Individually and collectively, these great sons of the state should join the administration in fashioning out ideas that would remove more Bayelsans from poverty and ensure sustainable growth for its excellent people. Luckily, this is also top on the agenda of Governor Diri, and this column fully supports the new Governor and wishes him the very best.
Meet the Archbishop who predicted victories for five successive Bayelsa governors
He was in far away America when he saw a vision that a man called Senator Duoye Diri was going to take over from Hon. Seriake Dickson as the next governor of Bayelsa State. At that time even the gubernatorial primary elections of the political parties had not held. So, when eventually he came to Yenagoa and told Senator Diri, who he was meeting for the first time, that he was going to be the next governor of the Glory of all lands (as Bayelsa is known), there were understandably skepticisms in Diri’s camp. By that time the prophesy seemed rather too far-fetched.
There were more than thirty political heavyweights aspiring to fly the flag of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the secondary election billed for November 2019. Diri was just one of them, even though he was one of few in the pack who could boast of a rich experience in the executive and legislative arms of government. He served the administration of late Alamiesegha, a commissioner under Jonathan, a principal secretary to Dickson as Governor. He therefore has served under three governors in different capacities. He was also a member of the House of Reps and later senator of the Federal Republic. But then in politics, especially Nigeria’s variant, anything is possible. So being the most educated or experienced does not guarantee victory in any way.
Two months later, the primary elections held, and Senator Diri won resoundingly. It was at this stage that the pessimists in the victor’s camp started believing Archbishop Winning. To be fair to them, though, they knew about the man of God making the prophesy, but then they are humans who have witnessed false prophets whose predictions have never come to pass. Then the d-day came, that is, the day billed for the secondary election.
By that time so many factors came in to play. Obviously some mistakes were made and a lot of people started turning their backs against the political party whose flag Diri was flying. And there were very desperate politicians in the camp of the other political party that had made up their minds to win the governorship for their political party by hook or by crook. Luckily for them they control the government in the centre, and could deploy the forces of coercion to force their will on the people. Not surprisingly, therefore, when the governorship election held, Diri’s PDP lost. For many in the camp of Senator Diri, that was the end of the matter. One or two persons even switched camps and joined the victors.
But even if the whole world thought that was the end of the road for Senator Diri, the same man of God believed otherwise. He was still unrelenting. He told everyone around that the next governor of Bayelsa was Senator Duoye Diri, and not Mr. David Lyon that was declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). A lot of people were perplexed.
Now who is this man of God who remains undaunting even in the face of insurmountable odds? His name is Commanding Archbishop Winning Willy Bunting, an Ijaw man of Bayelsa origin, a true man of God whose prophesies have always come to pass. But then he is publicity shy, the very reason his name may not be a household one across Nigeria.
In 2012, Archbishop Winning made the same prediction for Hon. Seriake Dickson, who was contesting for the governorship of Bayelsa State for the first time. He was a member of the House of Representatives at the time, and I was editing a national newspaper. It so happened that my group politics editor, a fine guy called Francis Agbo was very close to Dickson, and he sought my support to promote the man free of charge, convincing me of Dickson’s agenda aimed at lifting tens of thousands of the people of Bayelsa out of poverty.
The people of the state supported Dickson, and he won the election handsomely to become the fourth democratically elected Governor of the state. I did not seek Dickson until three years later, in August 2015 when he hosted the Nigerian Guild of Editors to its annual conference in Yenagoa, the state capital. After the conference, I kept my distance, and there was no communication between me and the immediate past governor of Bayelsa State until a few days to his handover of power, having rounded up two consecutive terms of four years each.
I was in the residence of a good friend, another illustrious son of Bayelsa, when he announced to me that a great man of God was visiting him the following day, and that I should strive to be around to meet the man. Though I am a Muslim, I readily welcomed the idea, and off to the residence of my friend I went, at the appointed time the following day.
Less than ten minutes after Commanding Archbishop Winning settled down in my friend’s sitting room, he asked whether I know Senator Duoye Diri, the person who contested the governorship election under the PDP in November last year. I answered in the negative. He then asked whether I would be interested in meeting the man who would be sworn-in as Governor of Bayelsa State on February 14th instant. I corrected him by saying that the man that would be sworn-in was Chief David Lyon, but the man of God interjected by telling me Lyon was not going to be Governor; that he saw the crown well settled on the head of Duoye Diri. I found the whole thing very strange.
Less than an hour later we were in the residence of Senator Diri. We met him all alone with his wife and son. I was introduced by the Archbishop as a journalist and a friend. After a brief prayer session, the man asked Senator Diri to fully get set to succeed Hon. Seriake Dickson.
In my life, I have heard all sorts of prophesies with most of them failing to come to pass. And in my heart, I thought that this man oozing decency and integrity at their highest was taking a big risk, as February 14 was only a few days away.
From that day, however, I became quite close to Senator Diri, so much that I also took the risk of predicting his victory in the Supreme Court, in this column of January 31, 2020. I wrote as follows:
“Whereas the PDP is complaining of injustice, it is very possible they will benefit from a future pronouncement of the same Supreme Court, in respect of its candidate in Bayelsa State that was unjustly edged out. That was an election that is openly known to have been marred with irregularities…”
I wrote these lines on the strength of my meeting with Archbishop Winning only three days earlier. Within a matter of few days, I came to find in Senator Duoye Diri a man of unimpeachable integrity, of deep intellect, a man who has a clear vision and is also desirous of lifting the state to unprecedented, higher realms. Owing to my friendship with Senator Diri, I became like a family member, meeting with him everyday and discussing his case in the Supreme Court.
Senator Diri clearly had a very solid case, but then this was Nigeria, and Diri’s opponent is a member of the political party ruling at the centre. So for me and many other supporters of the Senator, we were only at best cautiously optimistic.
But whenever we tried giving vent to despair, Archbishop Winning would whip us back to line, insisting Diri, and not Lyon, was going to be the next governor.
Then the d-day came. And off to the Supreme Court we went. And when the judges took a long break after hearing arguments from lawyers of both sides, I sent a note to the Commanding Archbishop expressing fear that Diri was going to lose. But he replied immediately insisting the Senator was going to win. And he won. Justice took its course when the apex court found that the running mate to Lyon was engaging in unwholesome practices with his name.
The Archbishop was also adamant that Diri was going to emerge victorious after the APC took him to court, seeming a review of the judgement that gave him victory on February 13, 2020.
This same man of God had earlier, in a similar fashion, correctly predicted victories for Alamiesegha (1999) Jonathan 2005) Sylva (2007) and Dickson (2012) before the incumbent Diri (2020). And what is more,Archbishop Winning is not a politician. He only says it as it truly is. He doesn’t manipulate any vision, as some are won’t to do.
With Diri now as Governor, better days are assuredly ahead for the whole of Bayelsa.