Senator Douye Diri is the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Bayelsa State. In this interview with Victor Oluwasegun, the lawmaker representing Bayelsa Central District speaks on the politics of succession, his plans for the state and preparations for the November 16 poll.
Your slogan is: Prosperity 2020. Why did you chose the phrase?
Yes, there is. Once upon a time, the state was ravaged by locusts.
Real locusts or figuratively speaking?
Figuratively. Locusts. The sitting governor now came in with restoration. All that the cankerworm and locusts had eaten were restored and moving further, after restoration, we’re talking about prosperity.
It has a Biblical connotation …
It’s biblical, and also due to the sequence of events that has happened in our state, that’s why we have tagged our own prosperity; moving from the restoration that has already been done. So, we want to move beyond that to a prosperous Bayelsa.
You were a teacher, National Organising Secretary of Ijaw National Congress, Youth and Sports Commissioner, member of the House of Representatives and Senate. Now, your want to governor. What is the driving force?
Service. That’s why you cannot associate me with hundreds of millions and billions being stolen. And so, it has been service, service, service. In fact, when I was in the Ijaw National Congress. There was nothing like salary. Then, we worked assiduously to make sure that Bayelsa State was created. So, for me, the driving force is the environment I find myself and how to change that environment so that we can bequeath a better environment to our children. That’s the driving force.
So, what distinguishes you from the others?
Well, you just enumerated my rise and how I’ve served over the years. I have also been a follower over the years, because for you to be a good leader, you must also be a good follower. I’ve followed and I’ve served and I believe that, out of all of them, just a few of us have the experience of the executive arm of government and the legislative arm of government. Today, the governor of Bayelsa has done so well and stabilised the rampant impeachments that were going on in the Bayelsa House of Assembly because of his background of being in the legislature and the executive. He is a former commissioner also. I believe these are selling points for me. I also believe that my involvement in the development of the Ijaw race and the issues of the environmental despoliation of the Ijaw territory vis-a-vis the international oil companies, IOCs, had also opened me up to go in there and see what we can do to bring back our environment and ensure that poverty is reduced. Because we’re like the people inside water and yet soap is getting into our eyes and we cannot get the water to wash our eyes. Some other people are receiving all that is coming out from our land.
Would you say you’re one of those people canvassing for the restructuring of the country?
I’m one of the people canvassing for the restructuring. I was a member of the Constitutional Amendment Committee, while I was serving in the House of Representatives, representing Bayelsa State on that committee. And part of what we pushed then, was to ensure that the Land Use Act was amended, because that is robbing Peter to pay Paul. Taking our resources to the federal and then, giving us peanuts. And then, they will ask us why we’re not satisfied with the peanuts that has been given to us. You take one hundred percent of our resources and give us 13 percent. It happens only in Nigeria, not anywhere in the world.
So, what were you angling for then?
We were pushing for the amendment of the Land Use Act, together with the Amendment of the year The other two went through, the NYSC Act and the Securities Act went through, but the Land Use Act never saw the light of the day. We did that at our committee level. It went through, but by the time we came to the National Assembly to vote, we were voted out. And that is the reason we’re fighting for the restructuring of this country.
You were the Commissioner for Youths and Sports. What were your achievements?
I didn’t start it from being commissioner, I was he Organising Secretary of the Ijaw National Congress. And as a youth, we mobilised our people towards resource control and the stark realities of our land. And from there, I moved on to be the Executive Secretary, Centre for Youth Development, before I became the Commissioner for Youths and Sports. So, it’s been a lot, mostly to mobilise our youths towards the stark realities that are facing us and to overcome them. On resource control, there is no federalism where resource are taken from one place and then brought to the centre to be shared on monthly basis. And so, I would say that we have been able to motivate and mobilize our people to the realities of our situation and see what we can do to overcome them.
I don’t know what the position of Bayelsa state is on Ruga…
The position is a total no! The present governor has said it over and over, times without number that there is no land in Bayelsa. You know we’re an amphibious people. Our land is criss-crossed by rivers and rivulets, and of course, were by the Atlantic Ocean. So, where would we have land to go and do Ruga. So, that is totally out of the question.
I wanted to speak on the issue of security. Recently, a deputy governor’s convoy was attacked and four policemen were killed. What does that say on he state of insecurity in the country, and the response of the federal government to it.
Well, I’m not a social critic, I’m a legislator, and if you follow us, from the 8th Assembly, you’ll know that that was one of the selling points that the 8th assembly had drawn the attention of the whole country, drawn the attention of the executive to the level of insecurity in Nigeria. The security Chiefs were invited severally. In fact, the House at a point spoke of firing all the security chiefs. So, we’re all feeling the level of insecurity. I feel that the only way is to restructure this country. You cannot call a governor the chief security officer of a state. He’s not in control of the police or the army. He’s not in control of anything. He’s a security officer nominally. Just a nominal security officer. And the only way is to restructure it. Let the governors in their own domain, at their own level, appropriate some powers on security. So that you can actually hold them responsible when there is a level of insecurity. But, as of today, every bit of insecurity, the blame is on the federal government.
People say for you to have an accelerated rise in politics, you need to have a godfather. Do you believe that?
Well, you see, it depends on how you look at it. There is no politician that is an island. Every politician develops and as you’re growing, there are those on top to pull you up. So, if such people are described as godfathers, so be it. And then, there are those who don’t understand the terrain of politics. They’re just outside criticising politicians. I invite them to come in and take over leadership. There are some of them that criticise destructively, but there are also those who constructively criticise. While I don’t succumb to somebody being a godfather to cause underdevelopment, I also will not agree to those that say in politics, you’re totally on your own. Because it’s more of a teamwork. For instance, I want to go be the governor of Bayelsa State. Alone, how do I do that. So, you need the good, the bad and the ugly.