Ifeanyi Oduah, a public affairs analyst notes a couple of the game changing initiatives by Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State
When the Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Douye Diri took over the mantle of leadership on the 14th of February, 2020, he was received with mixed feelings and fumes on faces of many Bayelsans, because of the political events which heralded what many described as a divine emergence which earned him the appellation, “miracle governor”.
Coming from a relatively small community of Sampou, in Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area at the bank of River Nun in the Niger Delta. Governor Diri’s story can be likened to the biblical Nazareth where people wondered if anything good could come out of the small community of Nazereth.
Eventually, like Jesus Christ who came to change the narrative of Nazereth his birth place with prophetic fulfilment of his divine mandate; Douye Diri’s emergence as governor of the State. The miracle governor who has indeed changed the narrative of Sampou community has set a new tone for the sustainable development of the State.
Besides evolving a new frame of mind to enthrone all inclusive government regardless of political affiliation, for the building of a secured and prosperous State; governor Douye Diri has made it loud and clear to whoever cares to listen that he has a covenant with God and the people over the task of steering the State to the path of prosperity.
Armed with the cardinal objective of governance in line with his electoral mandate; governor Douye Diri believes in the long tested postulations of great philosophers from Plato, Aristotle and John Locke to contemporary thinkers like John Dewey and Harold Laski, that the business of statecraft is all about placing premium on security, welfare and survival of its citizens.
Unlike the average politicians in this part of the world where political rhetorics is a common denominator, governor Douye Diri had said it time without number that he would not play politics the development agenda he has set for himself and for the people of Bayelsa State.
To this end, he promptly inaugurated the twin council of Bayelsa Security Council and the Community Policing Council to squarely address the security challenges in the State with a conviction that no meaningful development can take place in an atmosphere of insecurity.
The twin Security Councils are unique Security architecture in response to contemporary clarion call for home grown system rooted in grassroots galvanisation.
On the issue of welfare, workers and retires in the State are recounting the blessings of the administration because of the importance the governor places on them. It is no overstatement that in the past ten years, retires have not fared well. They have suffered one neglect or the other in terms of delay in payment of monthly pensions to that of outright non-payment of gratuity. This has led to untimely death of some of them arising from frustrations. According to one Ebisuobo Maclean, a retiree;
“I went to the bank to receive my monthly pension in May as early as 25th of March. After collecting the pension, the cashier drew my attention to my account balance of N2 million. On hearing the amount I told the accounts officer that they should return the money to whoever that mistakenly paid it to my account. The accounts officer insisted that it was my gratuity paid by governor Douye Diri administration. I couldn’t believe it, that a gratuity which successive administrations have forgotten to pay me and Governor Diri paid within his three months in office”
The retiree simply prayed for the governor with excitement to the surprise of customers at the bank.
This testimony is only one out of thousands who invested the better years of their life in the service of the State, but were sadly neglected. With a backlog of arrears of gratuity, the State government has provided the sum of over #200 million(two hundred million naira) to offset it. This has breathed life into retirees who had written off their pension benefits.
Prompt payment of salaries are not left out, as workers receive salaries as promptly as possible before the end of every month. Though, the State governor in a rare sense of humility dismissed the attention it pays to the welfare of workers as usual service to the State and not be counted as an achievement. The people are however excited with new sense of hope because it directly touches on the welfare of ordinary people with a multiplier impact on their family and other dependants.
Within his 100 days on the saddle, governor Douye Diri’s first priority is to complete life transforming projects he inherited from his predecessors by mobilising contractors to site to complete such projects dotted across the State.
Like an adept in development studies he quickly identified abandoned project syndrome and the lack of continuity in project execution as one of the banes of development process in Africa. Governor Douye Diri is ensuring that such mistakes are not repeated by conducting project audit in order to build a sustainable development. This is in line with the spirit of the new government whose mission Statement is clearly defined as a government of prosperity.
Recently, the government set up a committee to give the State capital a face lift by the demolition of illegal structures which obstructs right of way and defacing the State Capital Yenagoa. In spite of the outcry by handful of persons who tried in vain to make political capital out of it; Bayelsans were unanimous in applauding the bold initiative in riding Yenagoa, the State Capital of shanties that have become an eye-sore to visitors and tourists.
According to a chieftain of the All Progressive Congress, APC, the main opposition party in the State, Chief Ignatius Olaweriemi;
“I must be very frank, regardless of political leaning and talking from a non-partisan position, governor Douye Diri has endeared himself to the people of Bayelsa. The demolition of those shanties is a bold step in the right direction. The State capital should be a cynosure to attract investors. With those shanties which had long become a haven of criminals, will drive away potential investors. We can’t afford to continue to walk on this worn out path”
The demolition exercise is actually part of the urban renewal drive of the Diri administration as well as executing the development master plan which had been distorted over the years due to lack of political will.
On general administration, besides cutting down cost of governance by reducing the number of Ministries from over 40 to 22 Ministries as well as cutting down of overheads; the Diri administration has put in place international best practice in the governance of the State by signing into law three bills critical to enthroning a regime of accountability and good governance. The bills are; Public Procurement Amendment Bill, Fiscal Responsibility Amendment Bill and the Debt Management Office Bill.
The signing of these bills into law is not only to check the excesses of those saddled with the responsibility of procurement in government’s Ministries and Extra-Ministerial Departments, but also ensuring that Bayelsa as a responsible State complies with the public sector accounting standards (IPSAS).
This initiative did not come as a surprise to many who have closely monitored his activities in public service, especially while he served at the House of Representatives as a member of the House Committee on Public procurement, where he worked assiduously along with his colleagues in exposing the rot and waste of resources in the public sector.
Also, it is worth mentioning that shortly after his swearing as governor of the State, Senator Douye Diri paid a surprise visit to the Abuja home of the former governor of the State, Chief Timipre Sylva. Chief Sylva who is the current Minister of State for petroleum Resources and leader of the opposition party in the State, the All Progressives Congress, APC, received him with an excitement not minding the political hostility that had characterized the preceding administration.
That singular visit was a huge relief to the people of the State as it rekindled a renewed spirit of reconciliation, hope, oneness and indeed deepened the spirit of Izon brotherhood among the political class, regardless of the individual political string.
That visit sent a clear message to political leaders and their followers, that in spite of individual or group political idiosyncrasies, they should not allow politics to tear them apart.
This is an uncommon display of political equanimity and the readiness of the governor in pursuit of an all inclusive governance for the overall unity and development of the State.
Today, it is no overstatement to state the obvious, that governor Douye Diri has brought breath of fresh air to the political firmament in Bayelsa, driven by the spirit of oneness, love, peace and the concomitant effects of security pervading the entire landscape.
Interestingly, in spite of the daunting challenges occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic, governor Diri has remained undaunted in confronting the further spread of the disease in the State side by side in addressing the development needs of the people.
Already, indicators are ominous that, if the Diri administration is given the much needed support by all and sundry, Bayelsa will be placed in the world map of development and a cynosure of investors delight.
What the time demands is for Bayelsans to keep politics aside and rally round the governor towards the drive to build a united and prosperous Bayelsa State of the dream of the founding fathers.