By Allison Abanum
JUST recently, I was chatting with a friend on governors that have made tremendous impacts in their states, especially during this period of COVID-19 pandemic that has cause the whole world to be at a standstill. When I mentioned Douye Diri of Bayelsa State, he was curious to know what the governor has done. When I was done telling him of the governor’s achievements in such a short time since he assumed office he was speechless.
So it became clear that as a people we are good at fault finding. Do not get me wrong, I am not fan of any political party. I believe that government is a continuum, PDP, APC or any party. As long as you can deliver on your promise by improving the standard of living of the citizens, then you have my support. Hence, I decided to change the narrative with the use of my pen to bring the spotlight on the new governor of Bayelsa State and some of his laudable achievement since he was sworn into office on February 14, 2020.
Douye was the first national organising secretary of Ijaw National Congress, INC, a notable organisation of the Ijaw nation. He was also appointed as executive secretary, Centre for Youth Development from 2000-2002, during the tenure of the first governor of Bayelsa State, the late Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.
Then again, from 2005-2006 he rose up to the position of Commissioner of Sports during the Goodluck Jonathan administration as governor. He also served as the governing board member of the University of Maiduguri, and a one-time Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Disciplinary Council, Bayelsa State in 2012.
He was appointed deputy chief of staff in 2012, but a year after, was appointed as principal executive secretary, he held the position till he resigned in 2014 to represent the Kolokuma Opokuma and Yenegoa federal constituency at the Federal House of Representative. It was a landslide victory. Douye’s achievement in such a short while since assuming office is really commendable, considering the circumstances surrounding his appointment.
While some unprepared and opportunistic leaders would in the first few months witch hunt and settle political scores with their enemies’ or those whose mandate they did not get, he hit the ground running by giving the masses a taste of good governance and exemplary leadership.
One thing that really stood out is the level of maturity he has shown in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the fact that Bayelsa State has only recorded a single case of COVID-19, yet he is proactive in the fight against the dreaded virus. In addition to the Niger Delta University teaching hospital; the newly built mother and child referral centre was commissioned as an 80-bed isolation ward.
Also, apart from the partial close down in Bayelsa State, part of prevention measures to curb an outbreak and possible spread of this virus in the state is the closure of land borders between Port Harcourt and other neighbouring states to restrict interstate movement of persons and goods. Like it is said the virus does not spread, it is people that spread the virus.
That’s not all. He also went ahead to sign executive order on security/public health. This will give a legal backing to fighting the pandemic. By this act the governor is making a bold statement that “prevention is better than cure”.
The problem with some of these so-called political leaders is they just fold their hands and do nothing. Indeed, this period of the corona virus palaver has once again exposed the calibre of some leaders we elected into public office both at the federal and state levels.
Again, to cushion the effect of the partial lockdown caused by this deadly pandemic, the governor has rolled out measures by providing palliatives which include food stuff and other relief materials to vulnerable people in all the nooks and crannies in the state, irrespective of party lines or affiliations. On a lighter note, after all it is believed that hunger kills faster than the virus.
Another reason I doff my hat for this governor, is that despite the fact that oil revenue went low as a result of the corona virus pandemic and this has shut down most economies of the world, he has set up plans to ensure the diversification of the economy to other sectors. For over half a century Nigeria as a nation relied entirely on the revenue derived from crude oil sales. Infact, about 90 per cent of our foreign exchange income flows from crude oil. The time has come in the wake of the drop in crude oil prices to diversify the economy to commerce.
In my opinion it takes an exemplary leader like Douye to harness the available resources for growth and development. He further went ahead to reduce the cost of governance by 50 per cent. This move would go a long way to cut wasteful spending and channel the resources into restructuring the state’s economy.
Prior to this time, there has been concerns over the country’s cost of governance from eminent Nigerians, intellectuals and top government officials. For him to take the initiative to reduce the cost of governance it shows that he has the best interest of the state at heart.
Fully aware of the role cash flows in economic development, the governor has carried out civil service reforms that ensures that salaries are paid on the 28th of every month. That is not all. He also paid the back log of pensioners’ gratuity owed them. This has further demonstrated his commitment to the welfare of all retired and serving civil servants in the state, because in reality they deserve life both in service and retirement.
As we continue to lay claims on the achievement of the governor, one would ask how he has been able to achieve all these. Well, he has constantly attributed his success to God. My counsel to him, however, is that he should remain focused and not be distracted by those who do not wish the state well.
All the governor needs to do is continue to remain diligent, never soil his conscience, integrity and the good reputation he has built all these years. He should continue to be committed to the welfare and development of Bayelsa State. Also, he should run an all-inclusive government by carrying as many that wish to be carried along irrespective of their political party towards a greater state. The time for political acrimony is over. It is time to unite for development.
My advice is echoed in the words of Ernest Agyemang, that he should regard his election as “a journey to make real impact that changes lives, give meaning to life and living, and turns vision of the masses into realities demands a true focus, an utmost zeal and robustness and an unfailing tenacity to do whatever necessary within the powers and reach of a true leader, and with needed dexterity, wit and wisdom, to make real impact have a meaning and give real liberation to the masses.”
Abanum, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Bayelsa State.