BY INETSOL EYAL ORU
Dear Governor Douye Diri,
This isn’t my first letter to you, and like the others, I hope this meets your eyes. In my first letter, the one I wrote to “the incoming occupant” of creek haven, some thirty three weeks ago, was a careful expose on my thoughts about you; the incoming occupant. Frankly speaking, when I was putting the words together, I was unsure if you were going to become the next “occupant of creek haven”. You must understand why I felt so, by association, you were an enemy of the state, a pariah image, and it was like you had a streak of bad luck following you, just by being on the same team as the “former Governor of Bayelsa state, Henry Seriake Dickson”.
Honestly, it wasn’t a personal feeling, it was a concerted and agreed upon choice by what appeared like a majority of Bayelsans. A choice that wasn’t hard to make, because your successor had made it almost impossible for you to be sold on equal terms, in the open market, without a stint of prejudice. Who cared about a “Kolga-born” who was making talks about making Bayelsa great? The rhetoric could easily be answered but it was the other question that begged for answers. Who cared about any candidate being fielded by the immediate past Governor? YES, Everyone. Everyone was concerned about what exactly his intentions were after what seemed like a tyrannical administration that popularized itself on suppressing the will of the people.
It was in fact your campaign mantra and hashtag that tainted your image, “hashtag Prosperity”. It wasn’t as though you were saying you wanted to make Bayelsa great again, because then, it would have been slightly acceptable, because it meant you knew how much of it was/is in rot, and were willing to make it better. You were preaching “Prosperity”, which meant, that whatever redundant and uncivil policies introduced by your successor would not only be upheld, it would be the soul of your administration, and that was unacceptable. That alone, made you unpopular coupled with the fact that, there were rumors that went deep, talks about you being a self-centered public servant. Or better put, a parsimonious politician who cared little about whether or not the people he represented fared well. Your opponents capitalized on this and amplified the lifestyle and goodwill of your strongest contender, a philanthropist who had been seen lifting bags of rice for the widowed and elderly. A Southern Ijaw, billionaire oil contractor who maintained a pay role of over 1000, I had heard.
The fact that you were unpopular had made it seem like the choice had already been made. But a lot of rumors went round, this election would not be determined by the people, I had heard, it will be determined by might, either state or federal might, and most importantly who is able to pay and influence more votes.
Your Excellency sir, while this isn’t a letter on the events that led to your ascension on the throne, you understand why it must be told, we owe a carefully documented history to our children, we owe it to them to talk about the barbarism that took place in Nembe. Crimes committed on you and your party’s behalf, as well as your opposition’s behalf, while carefully painted and reported for the media as nothing but just an escalation of tensions. Oh, your Excellency are you surprised that I am boldly and indirectly calling you and all of the major political actors who watched while and how our sons and daughters went six feet, murderers or accessories to the fact. Let me make this clear, if my brothers and sisters have to be gutted open and fed to vultures just so you or any other person ascends on the Creek Haven throne, then you or anyone that is a party to that barbarism really does not have it in you to commandeer this ship. Let us assume we have forgotten about the corpse of that man that lay with reckless abandon on the streets of facebook. Let us assume, that the man had no loved ones. Let us assume that his family did not lay curses on his killers. Let us assume, for once that they are at peace.
Dear Governor Diri, as is custom let me congratulate you warmly for emerging as the 5th democratically elected Governor of Bayelsa state. Some 100 days ago, it was a different story because the Southern Ijaw oil contractor had been victorious at the polls, and was a few hours to sitting comfortably on the big chair that you now occupy. Your Excellency, I must ask, is the chair as comfortable as they say it is. Have the banana peels on it become too slippery or did you go in with enough gloves to withstand the stench of the banana peels.
Your Excellency, I hear that few hours into the overturn of the Supreme Court ruling, you adopted a title the ‘’Miracle Governor” because even you had no idea what was awaiting you when you went to Abuja to dust off the dirt at your Senatorial office. I heard your speech after you had been sworn in, you had said that Bayelsa belonged to everyone and that you were not a governor for your family or party but for Bayelsans.
I laughed because like the Southern Ijaw Oil Contractor, you didn’t need a crash course in political oratory. You had experience, which may have been the difference between you and the Southern Ijaw oil contractor, you had held offices and had played around the rot of the system to have an idea of how to work it. I saw how even your predecessor acted like a newly circumcised human, he was calm, he too was echoing words in the same line of thought as yours.
I understood the need to flaunt those words, have them popularized by the media, even you had been shocked at the mayhem that was unleashed on the streets. It was a surprise when I saw the terror that was unleashed. People had gone on the streets for what I heard was civil disobedience. Civil disobedience that turned men and women into thugs and thieves, and led them to burn, destroy and vandalize private and public properties, that included the Azaiki Public Library and Musuem, Radio Bayelsa, your party building, the Judiciary complex and your successors private residence. A lot of persons stressed that your predecessor had not done much of consolidation and so they couldn’t witness again his replacement become the exact same thing as what they had on November 16th 2019, gotten rid of. Another percentage feared that they were the direct subject of witch hunts, and a greater percentage danced in their houses because it meant that the Supreme Court ruling had saved their livelihoods, and which was all they cared about.
I would not attempt to go into the details of the basis of disqualification of the Lyon/Degi Eriemienyo ticket, I am sure that enormous lessons have been drawn from an individual bearing disparing names, and the lesson has been well learnt.
I would rather x-ray the activities that have featured in your 100 days in office. Activities that have either established the fact of whether or not the stench of the banana peels had already started affecting you.
So, Your Excellency, in three months, you applied for and secured a loan for cars for your administration, an act that got people talking and in all indications revealed the vile and greedy creatures that work with you, creatures that were willing to profiteer from and maintain a lifestyle even at the expense of the welfare of the state and most certainly at a time when rumours rented the air that the state was bankrupt. Certainly the billions acquired couldn’t have been put into good use, perhaps invested wisely.
In three months, you have instructed that salaries, pensions and gratuities be paid promptly. Your words of instruction which people have hailed as commendable, and as an act of unrivaled leadership. Let me be clear, again on this, payment of salaries is a natural phenomenon, it should be as natural as saying “good morning”. In any case, to your predecessor, all natural things were abnormal and abominable things. So, I can understand why it is that you are being hailed.
Now, I agree that it is sad that your administration has to be tainted by the abominable acts of your predecessor, but believe me, without any opposition throwing shade and sponsoring any propaganda, your predecessor has provided you with enough negative counter measures to last you a lifetime, but it is good because, it means you have a lot of trust and goodwill to earn and by so doing are developing Bayelsa and popularizing yourself. However, it is even more disheartening that prompt payment of salaries and gratuities have become the talking points of your administration or by those you’ve mandated to keep your public image.
Honestly, your Excellency, sometimes it is better for you to come directly to the people and do the talking by yourself, because those whom you’ve mandated to do so do a terrible job. For example, over the months they have popularized talks of how different you were from your predecessor just by you merely paying salaries, but then you yourself have come out to say and I quote, “I don’t consider the prompt payment of salaries, pensions, and gratuities as can achievement, but as a responsibility.
Your Excellency, you may well have just won the hearts of Bayelsans by saying that and living up to it.
I must add that, prompt payment of salaries are nowhere near the requirements for a viable Bayelsa. Bayelsa needs more than prompt payment of salaries to thrive and I am sure that this is a fact that you are aware of. The problem now is you possess no real plan to achieve that because you were more invested in other things pre – election. Now, three months after, it appears that you are still scrambling to find your feet. A majority are saying you should be cut some slack because, a month after your inauguration, the country and the world plunged into a global pandemic. A lot of persons are saying we cannot measure your 100 days in office because you have spent most of that time trying to survive a pandemic.
You have although made utterances about transforming Yenagoa through the Yenagoa Glory Drive and championing some capital projects, of which I expect you would not have a hard time effecting because even if you haven’t done anything you have showed that you are the kind of Governor who likes speaking for himself and keeping to his words. I hope you keep this up. And added to this is the restructuring of the ministries which were cut down to 21, something that was welcomed by all.
Your Excellency sir, a title I would never call you is “the miracle governor” not because I do not believe in miracles but because we need more than miracles to transform Bayelsa state. It will require for you to actively get on the pedal and make things work. Like the Urban Renewal Project that saw you championing the demolition of illegal structures at our major markets; it may appear like you are getting a hang of it, I hope it is exactly so.
Your Excellency sir, before I drop my pen, I will make you a promise to always write to you. I would add, that you can always count on me to tell you the truth, which is more than most people will do throughout your entire reign. I hear that in no distant time you will be appointing commissioners, a team that will, together with you commandeer creek Haven for the rest of your administration. I wish you well and on my good days, I will even be praying for you.
INETSOL EYAL ORU; writer, social critic and literary blogger.