Fri. Apr 3rd, 2020

Diri: The Headache This Time

4 min read

After the November 16, 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa State, and the subsequent declaration of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief David Lyon governor-elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission (lNEC), it was clear to all that the leadership of the 23-year old oil rich state has shifted hand.
It was the first time Bayelsans especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were going to experience a change of leadership from one political party to another, a moment that never came to pass.
While preparations were going on for the swearing-in of David Lyon, the unexpected happened. It did happen a day before the D-Day. The Supreme Court sitting in Abuja, on February 13, nullified the electoral victory of David Lyon. David Lyon’s sin was the irregular certificates presented to INEC by his running mate, Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, which the apex court construed as furgery.
Constitutionally, Senator Douye Diri, governorship candidate of the PDP, who came second at the polls, was therefore declared governor-elect. The highest court of the land also ordered the electoral umpire, INEC, to immediately withdraw the certificate of return from David Lyon and issue same to the PDP candidate. The court also ordered that Diri be sworn-in on February 14 to succeed Mr. Seriake Dickson who had completed an eight years of two tenure as governor of Bayelsa State.
And so it was that Diri, a Sampou in Kolokuma/Opokuma local government born politician, was sworn-in as the fifth civilian governor of Bayelsa State. Not many people ever envisaged such a dramatic twist at the very last minute of preparation for a transaction that was too real in the eyes of men to be altered. Yet it came to pass. Not even Diri expected it. His highest expectation for a possible alteration, if any, was the election petition tribunal that his party had instituted against the APC which was ongoing before the shocking ruling of the supreme court which restored his lost hope to govern Bayelsa state. No wonder Diri after his successful swearing-in described himself as a ‘miracle governor.’
However, as his nickname implies, the miracle governor needs to put in more than ordinary effort to be able to surmount the humongous challenges his new office has to face among which is the widely reported looted treasury that he inherited.
It could be recalled that a few days to the exit of the restoration government led by Seriake Dickson, having lost the governorship election to the opposition APC, there were reports of massive looting of the state treasury as well as properties in government and other government agencies and parastatals. There was a report of over N800 million missing from the office of the then deputy Chief of Staff government house, Mrs. Ebizi Brown. In a similar vein, the then deputy governor, Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John-Jonah had to cry aloud that his office was ruthlessly looted.
Apart from a looted government house that Diri may be struggling to put in proper shape, the miracle governor will have to tackle the issue of over bloated workforce and the regular payment of civil servants’ salaries. It was gathered that the previous administration secretly employed over seven thousand workers into the civil service at the point of exit. Meanwhile, the state is currently owing workers of tertiary institutions as well as teachers some arrears which the new government led by governor Diri has to offset.
Another hard nut to crack by the miracle governor is the increasing gridlock on major roads in the state capital as well as the pervading darkness in Yenagoa which has led to increase in crime rate in the state. Though the governor has said, in a recent statement, that some of his priorities include construction of the abandoned outer ring road and a flyover at Ede-Epie-Tombia roundabout as well as other internal roads in the state capital, action has to speak louder than words.
Furthermore, another daunting challenge that Diri needs a miracle to overcome is paucity of funds that may hit the state soonest if a special economic team is not set up to think outside the box on how to generate funds outside the mono-economy that totally relies on oil proceeds from the federal government monthly allocation to the state. Following the looming global economic crisis occasioned by the corona virus saga which has been declared as pandemic, there is bound to witness some level of financial crunch in the months ahead. Already, Nigerian crude oil laden vessels are lying stranded in the high sea as all attentions have been turned from the international market to fighting the deadly scourge otherwise referred to as Covid-19 which has claimed thousands of lives in China and some European countries.
That oil price at the international market has dropped to as low as 30 dollars per barrel is enough for the miracle governor of Bayelsa State to be worried knowing that oil is the mainstay of the state’s economy.
Yet another confrontation before the governor is how to bring down the inflated school fees at the state owned Niger Delta University which is one of the reasons Bayelsans, especially those whose children are schooling at the institution some of whom have withdrawn their children from NDU for being unable to afford the fees, were not happy with the restoration government of Seriake Dickson.
As insurmountable as the challenges may look, with proper planning and with a proper team work, and above all, with the fear of God, the miracle governor can overcome.

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