By Pedro Amen Okojie
October 1 may be the most significant date in the history of few states in Nigeria, and Bayelsa State is one. While the rest of the county celebrates Independence from the British, Bayelsa has the unique honour of celebrating her creation on October 1.
Bayelsa, as an acronym of three former Local Government areas, namely; Brass, Yenagoa and Sagbama, which were part of Rivers State, was created on October 1, 1996, and carved out of the old Rivers State by late General Sanni Abacha, who was Head of the Nigerian state at the time.
Consisting of eight local government areas, namely, Brass, Ekeremo, Kolokuma/Opokuma, Nembe, Ogbia, Southern Ijaw and Yenogoa, which houses the state capital; Bayelsa has had both military administrators and democratically elected governors.
Phillip Ayeni was a military Administrator from October 1996-February 1997. Another soldier, Habu Daura took over as Administrator in February 1997. Omoniyi Caleb Olubode served as administrator from June 1997-July1998, Paul Obi became an administrator in 1998 and he was the last military to rule the state.
As Nigeria ushered in Democracy in 1999, Diepreye Alamieseigha, though a military man, became the first civilian governor of Bayelsa State. Goodluck Jonathan who later became Vice President and President of Nigeria, was the second civilian governor of Bayelsa State in 2005, followed by Timipre Sylva in 2007.
Then came Acting Governor Werinipre Seibarug, who assumed the position when Sylva’s election was nullified.
Timipre Sylva was re-elected governor and ruled till 2012.
Nestor Binabo took over as Acting Governor after Sylva’s election was terminated by the Supreme Court, from 2012-2014.
Henry Dickson was elected governor from 2014 – 2020.
A landmark judgement by the Supreme Court of Nigeria overturned fate and providence smiled on Duoye Diri on 14 February 2020 as he was affirmed Governor of Bayelsa State to date.
Tag his ascension to the apex office of the oil-rich Balyesa a miracle, or God’s gift as widely believed, but the trajectory of the incumbent Governor Douye Diri appears much more than how the Oxford dictionary describes a miracle as: ‘an extraordinary and welcome event that is not explicable bylaws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency.
Given the censored performance conducted to buttress this piece on Governor Douye Diri’s stewardship; the Sampou town born, in Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, probably has proof that there is more to him than just an accidental governor or a poster boy of his predecessor installed by proxy and providence.
Emergence and the ‘Miracle’
Nevertheless, it will be recalled that, on his declaration as governor by the Supreme Court, Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Diri Douye Diri, described events that culminated in his emergence as miraculous.
He publicly acknowledged that he embarked on a season of fasting and prayers that won God’s heart and brought about what was seemingly impossible in the eyes of many.
Indeed, never any man living except through a divine means could have ever foreseen there could be a twist in the climaxing story, especially in less than 24 hours to the sworn-in of his main opponent, David Lyon, the declared winner by the electoral umpire, the INEC.
Against all odds at the eleventh hour; Lyon was sacked on the eve of his swearing-in, this change of circumstance foisted the nickname, The ‘Miracle Governor’ on Diri.
Douye Diri was returned miraculously as the authentic governor-elect, hence the new normal: ‘A Miracle Governor’.
On Track for Great Achievements
It would be recalled that Diri made a declaration at a media parley with senior journalists in Abuja, that given the way God brought him to power, he was determined to change the fortunes of the Bayelsa people by taking concrete steps to reposition the state and create opportunities for the natives to flourish.
In this piece, we shall highlight some of the landmark decisions that validate the widely held notion that Governor Douye Diri is on course to bring a new lease of life to Bayelsa State
Checks indicate that governance in Balyesa under Douye Diri has indeed taken another dimension of transformation in Balyelsa within the short term in office.
Less we sound immodest, capturing Governor Diri’s trajectory in office connotes so many things.
One of his media aid once opinionated that every citizen of Balyesa state must be conscious that Douye Diri does not claim to wave a magic wand in governance.
But Governor Diri has indeed proved his mettle. He has demonstrated that he is not an accidental governor, but one who is mentally prepared for the new assignment.
Undoubtedly, the former senator of the federal republic is perceived to have innate leadership traits which have been groomed over the years in the Ijaw struggle for survival in the Nigeria space, and various political appointments and positions he has held over the last 30 years.
Governor Diri had earlier announced that his administration would focus on growing the Bayelsa economy and veering it away from civil service to an agricultural and business-driven economy that would create wealth for the citizens.
“We will create a vibrant economy that would propel wealth creation, economic boom and industrial revolution that would make our people work for themselves instead of waiting for monthly allocations from Abuja, which is not helping our people and state for now
“I will provide streetlights in Yenagoa, the state capital before my first 100 days in office and I will also strengthen the agricultural sector in the state to create the needed jobs and income for many households,” the governor said.
Douye Diri’s Humble Background
It will also be interesting to know that, this former school teacher who has taught in some secondary schools in the rural areas of old Rivers State, probably have come face to face with the suffering of the common people, perhaps a seed of burning desire to change the situation of his people.
Sequel to the blueprints of his campaign manifesto “Consolidation for Prosperity Agenda”, Douye tends to have demonstrated he is a consummate team player and keen listener, one who knows his onions but is not opinionated, always prepared to admit that he does not know it all and would take advice base on superior reasoning.
On assumption of office, Governor Diri has reportedly invested in people-oriented policies and programmes.
There is an assurance of superb work going on underground to facilitate a manifestation of quality results that will stand the test of time in Balyelsa.
As parts of his numerous strides within the pace of time, Diri is reportedly building legacy physical infrastructure that will stand the test of time, which include:
Completion and issuance of operating licence to the Bayelsa State Cargo International Airport;
*Award of contract and flag-off of the construction of the collapsed Elebele bridge, 4.5km Igbedi road and Phase 2 of the Glory Drive,
*Planned eight new technical and vocational secondary schools in the eight local government areas of the state.
*The security status of the state has improved tremendously in such a short time. Reduction in crime and violence is a testimony given.
*Expansion and beautification of Edepie/Etegwe Roundabout
*Rehabilitation of the Sabagreia/Opokuma Road
*Completion and commissioning of the reconstructed Imiringe bridge
*Completion, equipping and commissioning of Kaiama Referral Hospital, which findings reveal is to be replicated in the remaining seven local government headquarters.
As verified, the governor has re-mobilized contractors back to the site for the construction of the Yenagoa-Oporoma road, construction of the Sagbama-Ekeremor road, Igbogene-AIT outer ring road and completion of the Isaac Boro Expressway, the commencement of repairs/rehabilitation of damaged internal roads in Yenagoa metropolis.
All these were projects implementations in less than 24 months in office, despite the distractions of twin pandemics of Covid -19.
Also, some of the above projects according to a report are exclusive of funds released to the state Ministry of Local Government, Chieftaincy and Community Affairs for rural projects across the eight local government areas.
The welfare of civil servants
Other milestone impacts of his government’s short term, according to reports include regular and prompt payment of salaries to civil servants; the release of N200 million monthly for the payment of long-outstanding pensions; introduction of Diri-Boost initiative to empower young Bayelsans interested in small and medium scale enterprises
Massive investments in Agriculture with the allocation of land, and provision of seedlings to about 3,500 selected farmers in the eight local government areas of the state.
Indeed, the administration of Douye Diri has shown it is not just about all the bravado of being a ‘Miracle Governor’, but a well-equipped achiever with a penchant for practical actions.
Surely it is upon this premise that Governor Diri has chosen to lead a legacy of carefully planned and executed projects. This need has necessitated profitable dialogue with investors from various industries to make them see why Bayelsa is best for beneficial investments.
Peace and stability are magnets for investments and development, the swift intervention of the government of Douye Diri, in various ethnic clashes in the state and cult groups is said to be another show of commitment to a safer Bayelsa giving way to brewing tensions and unrests in the state.
Such a further commitment to ensuring the security of life and properties is attributed to the administrations’ move to significantly improve the ‘Doo Akpor’, the state-owned arm of the police force with some security hardware and stipends to boost morale as well as the donation of buses and financial support to the Bayelsa state vigilante service to help carry out their duties effectively.
Rated high after 100 days in office
Recalls that after 100 days in office as a governor, Diri was placed in the spotlight.
The Governor was showered with encomiums. He has been rated very high in many aspects.
Lauded by opposition APC
Governor Diri’s delivery of the dividends of democracy in the state was particularly lauded by a chieftain of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Bayelsa, Chief Perekeme Kpodoh, in a statement.
According to Kpodoh, although he is a member of a top opposition party, his praise of Diri’s achievement is aimed at encouraging his administration which so far has recorded improved electricity, security, and the payment of workers’ salaries and the benefits of pensioners in due time.
“Governor Douye Diri has done a lot with the few steps he has taken in recent times. This gratuity and retiree benefits he is paying has gone a long way to put smiles on the faces of pensioners and increase their health status.
“A man that has worked for 35 years and because of a poor system, he is not expecting gratuity and one administration came with a surprise package and settle it.
“The present administration is not about putting up a bogus structure and claim he has done something for 100 days. What he is doing with the payment of salaries and pension is visible and it touches lives. Look at the demolition of shanties and illegal structures.”
Kpodoh added: “The truth is that we cannot be castigating where there is no need to castigate. He has just spent a hundred days and he has four years to go.
“How many of them came in and do something for a hundred days. The man has started touching lives for a hundred days.” He opined.
Fashola commends Governor Diri on infrastructure
The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, another opposition chieftain from the ruling APC, this week commanded the Bayelsa Governor, Douye Diri, for his administration’s infrastructure development strides within a short period.
Fashola gave the commendation this week when he paid a courtesy visit to the governor at the Government House, Yenagoa, after inspecting federal projects in the state.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Minister inspected four projects in Bayelsa, – the dualization of Yenegwe Road Junction, Kolo-Otuoke Bayelsa Palm road.
Others are the National Housing Programme Site at Elebele, in Ogbia Local Government Area, Igbogene AIT Ring road, under the state government, and the Federal Secretariat which is 80% completed.
His words: “Bayelsa has clearly shown it is an example for other states to emulate in fast-tracking partnership between the federal and state government on issues of development and I commend you.
“We found out that the cost of building a foundation in Bayelsa is the cost of completing the entire building in some other parts of the country.
Fashola lauded the Bayelsa helmsman on his intervention in the resolution of compensation issues for the Yenagoa-Kolo-Otuoke-Bayelsa Palm federal road.
He noted that it has enabled the contractor to cover 10 kilometres of the 20-kilometre dual carriageway.
Rewarded with Chieftaincy title on Developmental Strides
Emir of Bauchi, Alhaji Rilwanu Adamu, recently conferred on Governor of Bayelsa State, a chieftaincy title, for embarking on development projects that are positively impacting the people.
Adamu, who gave the commendation, when Diri visited him in Bauchi, said he was impressed with reports of his (Diri’s) performance in less than two years as governor.
A statement issued by Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the governor, Daniel Alabrah, quoted Adamu as listing some of the projects embarked upon by the Diri administration to include the Yenagoa-Oporoma Road, Glory Drive Road, a media complex for the state newspaper and broadcast organisations as well as the 60-metric tonne cassava and starch factory, among others.
“In recognition of your sterling qualities, the Emirate Council considered it worthy to confer on you a title that is reserved for brave, fearless and trusted personalities as the Wakilin Kudu of Bauchi. I congratulate you again,” the Emir said.
Nonetheless, many will agree that the challenges posed by the current situation globally, makes it a tricky and hard time to be in charge of anything whatsoever, but where others only see stumbling blocks, strategic leaders see an opportunity to impact.
Governor Douye Diri has seemingly chosen to walk on this path as witnessed in his moves to put smiles on the face of Bayelsans through social and civil service reforms, human capacity development and welfare management.