Segun James holds a conversation with Moses Oruaze Dickson, philanthropist and lawyer on governance in the first 100 Days of Bayelsa State Governor, Douye Diri
How will you assess the 100 days in office of Governor Douye Diri?
I must say the achievements of Governor Douye Diri in the last few weeks is a tale of the unexpected among naysayers in Bayelsa state. 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, 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 has added to the aesthetic beauty of most part 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 has shaped our lives.
How has the government fared in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic in the state?
The government has been very proactive. If you recall, it took a while for Bayelsa to have the first case and even before the first case was reported, the government had raised the bar in terms of public awareness and other prompt actions well in anticipation. Since then the government has instituted some measures in line with the WHO and the Federal Government established protocols. I am aware the governor recently directed that 10,000 face masks be produced locally and shared to residents of the state. In addition, the borders of the state have been shutdown for weeks now, there is a stay at home policy and so on.
But most importantly is the establishment of the standard isolation centre at the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital (NDUTH). As we speak, out of the six cases including the index case that was reported have all been discharged from the isolation centre. In terms of sensitization, the government has also not done badly and I think that it is the level of awareness campaign by the government that has made the people to relax and not panic as we have seen elsewhere.
In my own little way, my foundation, the Goldcoast Developmental Foundation, working with donors and volunteers have carried out door-to-door enlightenment and soon we hope to start major support to the frontline workers at the borders who are protecting us all in the rain and sun to screen people and enforce the lockdown order.
We hope that if we can raise enough funds, we will take it a little further to continue to support the government’s effort by reaching out to the needy and vulnerable. We don’t work alone, we partner with other NGOs and kind hearted donors and volunteers who freely give their time and expertise to serve humanity.
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 acknowledges 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 your 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.
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 themsleves his lovely disposition and beautiful mien.
I recall during that period, how people will stop in their cars and inside tricycle to wave at him during his morning jogging excercise and in one of those days he was joined by popular comedian, I GO DYE, who was in the state for an event. When we pushed all of those contents out and people saw it, the reaction was always positive.
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?
To underscore this point, there is currently an ongoing collaborative effort between Agip oil company and its partners as well as the state and federal government to build a world class hospital somewhere around Igbogene. The foundation laying ceremony of that project was done recently by the governor with the support of the Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva who is also a son of the soil. All of these are indications of the kind of politics Gov. Diri plays and advocates. Developmental politics.
What is your take on the merger of some ministires by Governor Diri?
Fantastic decision. You know I come from the private sector where every kobo must be maximized to get efficiency and productivity. We run business with the people we need and so it was a step in the right direction. The reality is that the resources of government has been badly affected by the ravaging pandemic. Oil prices have gone so bad. So every government needs to think outside the box to salvage the situation. Same for us in the private sector too.
The cost of running more ministries is enormous. In the past we can tolerate it as a state but now things are very tight. So it is better to bring some MDAs together to cut cost, reduce some kind of bureaucracy and reposition them for optimum performance. Sports for instance is a youthful enterprise, so rather than allow it to continue to stand alone, it was a great idea merging it with the Ministry of Youth Development to become the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development. And I think in the early years of the state that was what was in existence. So good decision by the government and I believe that with this sizable cabinet when it is inaugurated, the State Executive Council will be rightly positioned to deliver on the prosperity agenda of His Excellency.
Some people are still in a legal battle with Governor Diri and his deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo over the last year governorship election. Do you feel concerned about the pending cases?
I feel concerned because the cases are unnecessary distraction. What we are seeing is the hardwork 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 works.
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 believe 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. I hear some groups have even resolved to buy his nomination forms and ambush him soon.
He is 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 unusal 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 governor, he opened up the Bayelsa West senatorial zone. Today, cars drive from Yenagoa to Ekeremor. That multi billion naira (Sagbama/Ekeremor) road was conceived over 40 years ago by the Federal Government but nothing happened. It took a Governor Dickson to kick start it and today the road has reached the stage it is.
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. He is not a bad product to sell and in fact like Garri he doesn’t need to be advertised but just for emphasis when he decides to heed to the clarion call of our people, my team working with all the numerous young men and women in the media in Bayelsa and beyond, whose lives he has touched so greatly in different and undeniable ways, will show to the world again the man Henry Seriake Dickson.