Bayelsa State Governor, Douye Diri, who recently got his victory through the Supreme Court, has assured of better days ahead for the people of the state. He also speaks about his vision and other related issues in this interview with select journalists. ORJIME MOSES was there.
After the Supreme Court ruling which awarded victory to you, how do you feel?
No other case has attracted much attention as my own and Supreme Court has never served punitive measure to anybody like it did to the lawyers of my opponent. For the first time the Supreme Court did not just penalise my opponent, the penalty was also passed to their lawyers, senior lawyers. That is to serve as a deterrent of not seeing the Supreme Court as the final arbiter.
Recently, we have the issue of N2.9 Billion car loan, I don’t think any Chief executive, particulaly for somebody like me, who has been in government, both at the executive and at the legislative arms to come in with all the experience, and begin to run a government that will lead to collapse.
We did what we did, not only for Executive, we are buying cars for the legislators, all members of the state Assembly.
We must create an environment that is motivational for people to perform and such that if you are coming to an event in public transport, it will take you longer time than if you are coming in your own car, at that level of a public servant.
I don’t think I need to go and buy a second hand car for them, that will break down on the road, and people will start complaining, that he has come with his habit, they informed us before that he is a miser now he has started by buying a second hand vehicle for us.
I will do that also for the judiciary in the state, let me tell you this, that is why we are yet to appoint commissioners because we want them to hit the ground running. We will create an enabling environment for them, that when they come in, they will have all of these things like cars. Cars are a necessity, they are not luxury. They are a necessity for people to work.
During my time as commissioner for youths and sports, I had up to two cars, my official car and a spare car, that my wife and my family used.
I want to clear that, let the opposition not see it as people who want to live opulent life. Of course, the governor of the state is the image of the state, I don’t know the kind of image they want to present before Nigerians and outside. If I go out of the country, I represent my state and as well represent the country.
That is why we did what we did, and you know we can’t do that without the approval of the State Assembly, that is why we took it to the state Assembly. The lawmakers did not say no, that it was not necessary, that they as lawmakers can go on motorcycles, the governor can go on tricycle. I have made up my mind that whatever they approve for me I will go with, and wait till the time they will call on me to make changes. They (lawmakers) did not do that, they were reasonable, they saw the need, the necessity of it, that was why that approval was given. I know that is one thing, particulaly the opposition is trying to feast on, and we know them.
People tend to forget yesterday, as student of political science, we always view yesterday to project for today and tomorrow, so we don’t forget yesterday of what some people have done.
It is because I am a miracle governor, I am trying to forgive and forget, we are not dwelling on the past, we are trying to view today and project for tomorrow. So, by tomorrow we will be assessed by our word of developing our state. We want to focus on human capacity development of our state.
We want to focus on the infrastructure, particulaly, as it relates to road, education and health, which must have been done by the previous administration. We want to focus on aquaculture, agriculture, trade and investment.
Why did you decide to take loan, after all, Bayelsa is a rich state it collects oil?
Everybody believes South South states must be rich. I don’t blame anybody that says that because our country runs on oil, and the oil reservoir is in Bayelsa, so we are like people inside the river, taking our birth inside the river, then soap is entering our eyes and we are looking for water from the bucket to wash the soap.
That is what has led to the other question of militancy, kidnapping and all of that. Don’t forget I was a member of Ijaw National Congress, I was the pioneer National Organising Secretary, we fight, we bring activism into our land, when people realise what we are and we have to stand for it.
So, I am not surprised when people say we are rich. Yes, we are rich, and I keep saying even when I was in the National Assembly. I have a friend from Adamawa, whenever we exchange greetings, he will say “Honourable Diri Resource Control”, then I will reply honourable so,so, (I don’t want to mention his name) resources exploretrated. He will challenge me that who exploretrated your resources? I will tell him the North. Rather than use our resources for us, it was taken hundred percent and we are left with 13 percent, even the 13 percent we don’t know 13 percent of what is given to us.
I think I will urge my brother governors to actually look at it. The Constitution says minimum.
The minimum should have been 13 percent, and we have been running on that minimum from that begining till today. How come that they have not been able to review the 13 percent, to review it the way we are reviewing the minimum wage.
Before now it was hundred percent until it came down to 13 percent. We are not as rich as people think we are,we are not that rich. We are rich in mineral resources, we are rich in human capacity but our resources have been explotrated.
Taxes alone, taxes from oil companies, Lagos State is benefiting from it, Bayelsa is not benefiting from it, because oil companies headquarters are in Lagos. You can understand, taxes that they are supposed to pay to us, where the oil they get is from, and all their facilities that are taxable are in Lagos.
What we have is that resources belong to you, but anything deep down, well I don’t know. For instance last month, the allocation that came to Bayelsa State was short of almost N2 Billion from the previous allocation.
We were thinking let us benchmark what we had previously, let’s say it is N 2 Billion, we can say we can run on it, when the allocation came it was short of N 2 Billion, that explains why people are looking out for loan.
If you consider the state wage bill, in a way of reducing the wage bill, that is why former Governor Dickson was given a name. What we received when we came in (I was part of that administration before I was elected into National Assembly) the wage bill was about N 8 Billion plus, and we felt it was too high for a small state like Bayelsa. Higher than even the wage bill of some states that were created long time ago. In some of those states, their wage bill is about N 3 Billion, we know those states.
A lot of things went underground and the former governor fought it until he was able to bring down the wage bill to N 3 Billion plus.
Then lately, the issue of minimum wage came, as it is today the wage bill is now around N 5 Billion plus, close to N 6 Billion. Mind you, we have not even appointed political appointees, we are talking of civil servants and then terteriary institutions, by the time we add that of political appointees the wage bill will rise, then you should look at what will be left because, you see government must run.
That is why we go into borrowing, we have roads the former governor was constructing that we want to complete. They completed a lot of them on loan.
You add a capital market loan that was taken by the previous administration, which is about N 60 Billion, when you add interest and all others, it will increase the loan to about N 100 Billion.
If we should go into history of the state, some of the people complaining now are the cause of the wreckage of our state.
When you go back, you will see that the Billion Naira loans collected is for road development, and all that is on our neck because, when you take over a state you take over all the assets and liability.
So, everything is on our neck, except they don’t want us to function. Bayelsa’s wage hovers around N 10 or N 9 Billion by the time you remove all these and then deductions at source, you are left with nothing to run your government.
We are equally looking for means of survival, don’t be surprised if you hear we take loan again tomorrow.
We must work, that is why we are elected, this our situation must improve. That is why we are begging the Federal government, that it is time for us to review the 13 percent derivation.
What we have is not enough for us to do anything and we need the Federal government’s co -operation because I am one person who canvasses true federal system of government. We are running this government as if we are running a unitary system of government, different from Federal system of government.
In the Federal system of government, the units which we refer to as states, they approximate same power like the Federal government. We only run certain things as common thing, such as currency, security, immigration and all of that, every other thing you do it in your state and pay tax to the Federal government.
But where we are running it as unitary system, may be it is because of the long year of the military incursion into the politics of our country.
To answer your question, we are not as rich as people think we are. We are also trying to make ends meet, like most states that are not even oil producing, because of the 13 percent derivation given to us as oil derivation people think we are very rich.
We are not that rich, in terms of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR),Bayelsa is one of the least, like I said all these oil companies, most of them don’t pay tax to Bayelsa,the former governor tried to do something about it, there are some of those matters that are in court. I intend to meet the oil companies and look at what they will do for us, if they are ready and pay taxes to us, the way they pay in other places,we will be ready to withdraw the matter from court so that it can add to the IGR.
We are also looking at other sources of revenue, so that we can actually diversify and not depend on federal allocation.
How will you tackle the problem of insecurity in the state, as well as bring the activities of the militants under control?
You know that I am not going to expose my security measures for now. Let me use this opportunity to appeal to my brothers and sisters, when the Supreme Court gave its ruling,rather than protesting they engaged in criminal activities. In Imo State, with all the days of protest, not a single property was lost,not even a house was torched. That is a civilised protest. But when you now attach criminality to it, it is no longer a protest.
They torched my house,torched the former governor’s house, and torched the house of key officials, torched government facilities,our library was torched,Radio Bayelsa was not spared, key government officials properties were torched, those are common criminals. The security agencies imposed a curfew for three days, when I came in, I extended it.
We will have zero tolerance for criminality, yes you are allowed to ventilate your anger but, where your own right stops, somebody’s right also begins. You cannot disturb the right of other citizens.
Those who claimed we are illegitimate, what we had in the name of an election was a coup d’etat, the so called 320,000 votes were voodoo votes,those are not votes from Bayelsa.
If you talk about local government area like Nembe, where two or three days to the election they are under siege, I led my campaign team to campaign there, we lost over 20 people and that same local government was said to have turned in 90,000 plus votes.
All PDP members were barred from casting their vote in the local government. In Southern Ijaw where my opponent comes from, most of our members were arrested on their way to cast vote. If you are APC member they allow you to vote, if you are PDP member you will be put under detention.
What I am saying is that, there was a coup planned all the way from Abuja.
There was a coup d’etat planned from Abuja, to take over Bayelsa State by all means necessary. So when you talk about legitimate,I am more of a legitimate governor and God was seeing us when they are doing all this. God was looking at us, you remember I promptly rejected all those results, the voodoo results the day they announced them.
The true results are very clean and clear, because we went to the tribunal, we were asked to go and inspect the result, areas where they declared 150,000 votes for Southern Ijaw, we have our forensic expert and we went for the ballot papers used and unused. What did we discover, where they said they have 150,000 votes, we discovered that total votes cast was 135,000 votes.
When they saw the way we were coming, they were afraid, because if we remove all these votes they know that the PDP has won. We that were defendants overnight came to be complainants. They said they also want to counter,they want to inspect my local government area and that of the former Governor,Sagama local government and Kolokumah local government.
we started saying we are the complainant now, you people say you have won the election, how overnight you want to inspect.The point I am making here,I heard the former governor and minister for petroleum resources saying that I am a product of illegitimacy. I felt I don’t want to join words with him,that is the way they have add up narratives about Bayelsa.
My party and my people are very decent people. We believe in using our brain and working with people to better Bayelsa.
if there is any legitimate governor, the governor that was robbed illegitimately,God in his infinite mercy restored my stolen mandate.
We will try our best to tackle insecurity,we will take it seriously,it is not something affecting only my state, but the whole region.
The South South governors met recently and agreed that we will have our own security outfit, and we have had the BRAIDE commission,which involves Bayelsa,Rivers State,Akwa Ibom State,Cross Rivers State, Edo State and Delta State we code name BRAIDE,we have asked this commission to work out the details,we are sure that,by the time our regional security outfit comes into place,a lot of this security challenges will be nipped in the bud.
What was going on in your mind when the Supreme Court ruling lasted, where were you while the suit was on going?
I have always believed in God, if you visit Yenagoa during the campaign,in every bill board or sign post, you will never see anything about God,in my bill boards and postals, the last phrase is in God we trust.
What was going through my mind is that God has come down to intervene in my matter.
My friend told me that in my own case,it is not that God just intervened but, God came down from heaven to preside, to be in the Supreme Court and presided as the Chief Justice of my matter.
Saying the truth, a week to that judgement,the first people that heard the case was Rose Vivor, they were the people that heard the motion,and we were of the view that, they were the same people that will hear the substantive matter,but the day the court renominate, we were shocked, and assigned the case to a new panel.
we that did not know they were going to change panel,our thought was how can you overnight change the panel.It was the Rose Vivor panel that was fixed for Tuesday, that Justice Odili presided that favours,they fix the day for Tuesday and Thursday, and the other judges so we have no access to anyone of them,not just having access to them,we don’t have the time to influence anybody,not only that we did not know them,we were tired, we had nothing, at times to move around became a problem.
Even during that time, I ,my deputy and one other person we were fasting everyday,calling on God to come down,he is the only person and his power is more than that of the Federal government.
Sometimes we break the fast in my house in Abuja,at a time my deputy started grumbling that he is not as fat as me,that he would break his fast by 12 noon,so that is why, whatever obligation I owe to God is as a result of this election. I made a lot of promises to my state that if God should deliver us. What was going on in my mind is that,is God real.
I have a background of being an Anglican,and my father was a lay reader in Anglican Church,we are of Anglican Church background, we don’t have experience of Pentecostal, when I became an adult and became independent on my own.
What I believe in before was influencing me. If I go to church and see people falling down in the name of miracle, I wonder is this real? From the day of the court ruling, I now believe that God works miracles.