Blessing Kingdom is a lawyer, security consultant, politician, and a critical stakeholder in the development of Bayelsa State. He once contested for a house of assembly seat in the state under the Accord Party, after PDP denied him a ticket.
He spoke with EDITH CHUKU on the one year administration of the current governor, Senator Douye Diri.
You have not been in public view after you contested for the state house of assembly seat in Bayelsa. What have you been doing?
You can’t give what you don’t have, so I spent time building capacity, networking and doing my personal private business and also contributing to society where the need arises. I may not have been in the public glare, it’s my personal decision, but I am a keen watcher of development across the Niger Delta and Bayelsa State in particular.
What would you have done in the house of assembly that you are not seeing from those who are there now?
I doubt if I would have been able to do so much because the state house of assembly is, or the assembly generally, the law making process is a collective responsibility of a team of people elected from various constituencies, therefore the saying that goes a tree cannot make a forest would have come to play especially where we have unpatriotic characters in the assembly who had come just with the intention of creating a credential for themselves rather than representing the people that voted for them to be there. So, in as much as I would have strived to do my best, I doubt if I would have made so much difference because of the lack of independence in the tiers of government.
The Douye Diri government is a year old. Let’s do some assessment of his government. How do you rate him?
Before I delve into rating him, I want to say congratulations to him and his deputy governor to have been privileged to be among the few leaders that have mounted the saddle of responsibility in governing Bayelsa State. That is history made. It’s exactly one year today they took responsibility to govern the state and manage the common wealth of the people. If I am to assess their administration, they have grossly underperformed, disappointingly so. They have not shown the character of good governance as expected. I perceive that they are being too careful and may want to please their benefactor and everyone within their enclave, rather than looking at pleasing the citizenry. So far, they have nothing to tell us in terms of governance. They have nothing to show for these 12 calendar months they’ve run the affairs of Bayelsa State.
But considering the litigations, isn’t it rather unfair to say they have grossly underperformed, knowing that the governor just got off the hook of court cases?
As a leader who have contemplated to sit on the seat he is sitting today, he must be prepared from the look of things, he is only getting prepared while on the seat, he wasn’t prepared to govern, if he was prepared to govern, there wouldn’t be any excuse. Llet me give you a typical example. In 1991, we had a military president, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida was the military president of Nigeria, and he brought in a semi-democratic process and we had one Chief Rufus Ada George as the governor of old Rivers State and his deputy was Dr. Peter Odili. Exactly about one year, they were thrown out of office, but the legacy of that short administration still speaks for itself today. I take you a step further. As recent as 2007, Celestine Omehia was sworn in on the 29th of May 2007 and by October he was thrown out of office, I can show you few projects he carried out within that short period. That is governance, he had a critical case in court that consumed his administration barely five months. The oil mile flyover that you have, Eleme round about, that’s his legacy, and a few others here and there. His Excellency Senator Douye Diri does not have one project to his name today, save the Imiringi bridge that a local government chairman that has got his axe together will construct within six months, or is it the Edepie popularly known as Tombia roundabout that is manually being constructed or redesigned that has taken one year. Is that what you want to point out as his legacy? The best of which I can point out is his thanksgiving, his numerous thanksgiving he has had over the years. For every court victory he has a thanksgiving and as recent as yesterday(last Saturday), he had a thanksgiving. Bayelsa State is lagging behind, the administration of his benefactor which he was part of was a total failure. We expected a radical departure from the statues quo; we are not saying he should get there yet, but if anyone is on a race and he is going to make impact in that race you will know from the takeoff, fortunately for him, we have to critique him now because he has enough time, he still has at least 36 months if I am not mistaken, to put things right. He should better wake up from his slumber. He needs to put his hands on the plough, he needs to go dirty to work, except there is something they are not telling us. But I want to say that enough is enough. We will no longer keep quiet and watch the common wealth of the people plunged into what we can’t see and it can’t be accounted for.
Let’s look at the state capital, Yenagoa, it is still like a glorified village. What do you think is responsible?
Lack of political will, lack of vision, lack of patriotism, absolute wickedness, that is all I can say, that is why the immediate past governor, the benefactor of Sen. Douye Diri could call Yenagoa a forest capital. He governed the forest capital for eight years and left the forest capital and now Douye has not seen a need to change the status quo, at least let us see a semblance of a town. I like the way you christened it, glorified village. It’s an urban slum, but let him at least carry out an urban renewal scheme and cluster development, create a semblance of a town where we can be proud of. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening anytime soon because the right template has not been set. I really don’t know what has bedevilled Bayelsa State, if you compare it to other states that were created alongside Bayelsa State in 1996, I think if General Abacha were to come back from the dead, he will regret creating Bayelsa State because I won’t say it’s lack of resources. It’s lack of vision, development is intentional, development is deliberate, it’s not accidental, development is a planned policy of government, development ought to be documented. The Bible says write the vision and make it plain, those that see it will run, we are not saying come and do everything, you can’t, no administration for four or eight years can deliver on development but government is continuum. Therefore once the right template is set, it becomes a continuation, but unfortunately no foundation has been laid as it concerns the development of Bayelsa State. So, the leadership that comes into office thinks from their head and the sad part and very painful at that is that when they manage the common wealth of the people they act as though they are being generous to the people, they are doing you a favour. No, they are not doing us a favour, they are rather being privileged to be done the favour of leading us, of governing our affairs and each time we place a trust on them, they fail us, they disappoint us, and that is why I said Sen. Douye Diri’s government so far has underperformed.
If you were to meet Sen. Diri one on one, what would you tell him so that the state can make some progress in terms of development?
I have met him, I met him last year one on one, and I told him ‘you are now the governor, take charge and take responsibility, if anything goes wrong, we will hold you responsible, there is no excuse for failure.’
First of all, he got it wrong by staying so long before appointing his commissioners and at the end of the day, I can beat my chest and say the cabinet structure is a failure, because most of his appointees cannot look at him in the face and tell him the bitter truth. They only come to massage his ego for what they can get, those that will tell truth to power, I’ve not seen anyone, and unfortunately, 90 per cent of his cabinet are made up of nominees from the former governor. So their allegiance is not to Bayelsa State, is not to Douye Diri is for the former governor. So he is trapped, his hands are strapped backward, but having sat on that seat for one year, the time has come and he needs to assert himself because as I am calling names now, I am not calling Sen. Seriake Dickson, I am calling Sen. Douye Diri because the buck stops on his desk, and I told him that when I met him, I am pained. As I am granting this interview, before I came to grant this interview I thought through it. Douye Diri is a fine gentle man, very competent to govern, so something must be wrong somewhere, and whatever is wrong he needs to take steps to correct it. If he has to fight it, if he needs to fight, he has to fight, if it’s that, like we hear, if it’s true that Dickson is still overbearing on him, then he needs to rescue himself. If I were him, I will plan to govern for one term, I will work for the people and if they so think it wise to give me a second term as God has so benevolently bestowed on him, so be it. History will judge him harshly if he does not take advantage of this opportunity today, just like history will continue to judge Sen. Dickson harshly to have deceived Bayelsans with all the white elephant projects he brought to the state and squandered our money. When I granted an interview on Channels during the election, I said the restoration government is a scam, I think the special adviser on media at the time is now the chief press secretary to Douye Diri was on the other side and he said what I was saying was not true, I challenge him today as the chief press secretary of Douye Diri to tell Bayelsans where the development of the previous administration lies and where the development of this administration is today. I can assure you, there is nothing to show, one year after Sen. Dickson left office the airport is still not in use, where is the sea plane he promised us? Even the health sector, we had one of the diagnostic centers in the country, we were proud of it, it turned out to be a scam, it left Bayelsa State with Dickson’s administration. It therefore means that the people are not patriotic, they are not objective in governance, they are not people minded, they are egocentric, and for someone like me, I am not ready to massage someone’s ego. I will tell truth to power, I am too old to bootlick anybody.
I don’t need anything from them, I just need good governance, I am not a PDP member mind you, I belong to the APC stock. Proudly so. It has its own challenges in terms of government at the federal level no doubt, but we are talking about governance at the state level. I am so proud of my friend, Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, he is a PDP governor but I am so proud of him. For a governor that is going on his second term to work as though he has something at stake, he wants to run for a third term, I doubt in this country if anyone is working as much as he is as a second term governor, even the first term governors are not doing as much as he is doing, but he is a PDP governor. Let me tell you something, when Wike came into office as governor of Rivers State, his first move was to take a loan of N30billion and he started infrastructure immediately, he just started immediately with projects, at the end of the day, he has a nickname, Mr. Projects. Whether you hate him or you like him, you must give that to him, that is what I expected my brother and friend Sen. Douye Diri to do in Bayelsa State. I am not saying share money to people, deploy the money to the development of the state, let people see infrastructural development going on and every other person that wants to criticize you will bury his head in shame. But today, I am not sure any of his spokespersons, his commissioner for information, his commissioner for health, his commissioner for education , I doubt if any of them can stand on any platform and engage as it concerns the performance of this administration, I doubt and unfortunately so. Let me shock you. In December, the state got a refund of N38billion by the books, I know how government works, he may not have gotten more than 25/ 27 billion but my dear, N10billion naira deployed to Bayelsa State, the state will transform, the state will see that money has entered this town. So what is wrong with us? But do they think we don’t know? What did Douye Diri do in his first three months in office? He went to the state assembly, got approval, took a loan of N2billion to buy vehicles. Is that what the state needs? Let me tell you something, government is an enabler. You must create the enabling environment deliberately, for a state like Bayelsa that is an end in itself, it’s not a transit point, Yenagoa is a destination. So if you are coming to Yenagoa either you missed your way into Yenagoa or you are coming purposely to Yenagoa that’s how disadvantaged the state is economically, but we are blessed, we are so endowed with natural resources, we have the human capacity to transform that state, I can bet you, a patriotic, objective, purposeful person sits on that seat in 24 months, you will not believe it’s Yenagoa you came to.