By Benjamin Forge
There is definitely time and season for everything; a time to wine and dine together and a time when political ideologies of main actors are no longer in alignment. And perfectly, that would be the right and best time to move on and open a new chapter of life. This no doubt amounts to political liberation and time for deep reflection and introspection on the next political calculation. That exactly is the story you find in the political journey and relationship between incumbent Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Douye Diri, and former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Ndutimi Alaibe.
Unknown to many that the friendship between the Governor Diri and Chief Alaibe has spanned many years, Senator Diri, has been playing partisan politics long before Alaibe. Aside that they are from the same Local Government Area, Kolokuma/Opokuma, they have been political allies since 2002, when Chief Alaibe, decided to challenge the second term ambition of the first civilian Governor of the state, Late Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, in the build up to the 2003 general election. Since that first attempt at Governorship by the young Alaibe at the time, Diri, became a very loud apostle of Timi Alaibe’s Governorship project. He was unapologetic about the aspiration of a brother and friend. He was not just an ordinary member of the Alaibe’s New Vision Team but a power house from where Alaibe himself drew inspiration, knowledge and support. He was a master strategist in the Alaibe’s team since 2002 when he chose to support him against late DSP Alamieyeseigha. What a commitment to the personal ambition of a brother? He was in the Alaibe’s political family in the general interest of the state. In 2007, Alaibe was in the race for the gubernatorial ticket of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) against incumbent Governor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who had taken over from Alamieyeseigha late in 2005.
Alaibe had everything going well for him including holding firm to the party’s structure but he was pressured to withdraw from the primaries ahead of the 2007 election against Jonathan. By providence, Jonathan, later became the Vice President of Nigeria and the development created a void for the Governorship seat until former Governor, Timipre Sylva, current minister of state Petroleum, who came a distant second in the primaries ‘maneuvered’ himself into the coveted seat.
For Douye Diri, it was ‘loyalty’ to a course when as a sitting Commissioner (Youths and Sports) under then Governor Jonathan, he stood with Alaibe, against the Governor. A political risk indeed for another man. Again, in 2011, Sen. Diri, alongside other allies such as Rt. Hon. Talford Ongolo, and Senator Inatimi Spiff, supported Alaibe’s ambition when he moved into Labour Party, because incumbent Timipre Sylva, was having a strong hold on the party structure. Chief Alaibe, later returned to the PDP with his allies to vie for the governorship ticket against Hon. Seriake Dickson but was disqualified as he was not granted a waiver. Alaibe, then played key role in the election of Dickson, and inauguration on February 14th, 2012.
Yes, ambitions are personal but insightful strategies must be on the card for great political engagements to unseat an incumbent. Again in 2015, Alaibe, left the PDP to join APC to contest governorship. He saw ‘hell’ in the hands of Chief Sylva and his foot soldiers including Chief Tiwei Orunimighe, then APC State Chairman, who insisted the party’s ticket was not for a new entrant. That was the fourth attempt by Alaibe. Orunimighe, by 2019 had left APC back to PDP and became a strong backer of Alaibe.
Regrettably, it was in the build up to the 2015 Governorship election that Alaibe and Diri, parted ways politically when the man they call ‘Principal’ defected to the APC, to realise his ambition. What a level of political inconsistency, harlotry and impatience displayed by Alaibe? Diri, who had been his staunch supporter for over ten years had served under then Governor Seriake Dickson, as Principal Executive Secretary. At this time in 2015, political ideology of Diri was no longer in alignment with Alaibe. Incidentally, Diri, had been elected member of the House of Representatives for Yenagoa/Kolokuma/Opokuma Federal Constituency under the PDP and it would have amounted to a political suicide to join Alaibe in the APC. So, the duo went their separate ways politically until years later when Alaibe, returned to his original party, PDP.
By 2015, Diri, had fully aligned with Dickson and had cut all political ties with Alaibe, his former leader. A new and free man he was to redirect his own political fortunes. According to a popular quote from an American writer, Mark Twain, “I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” Diri, now knows better drawing experiences from his political journey since early 2000 with Alaibe. After all, politics they say, is a game of interest. For Douye Diri, the interest has changed and it was time to move on. This critical decision was in line with a common saying that, “there comes a day when turning the page is the best decision for you because you realise there’s so much more to the book than the page you were stuck on”.
Since the political ideologies of the two personalities changed in 2015 when Alaibe left the PDP to join APC for his fourth Governorship contest, Diri, remained consistent and worked hard for the victory of the PDP and reelection of Governor Seriake Dickson. He really had moved on! Diri, in 2019 while Alaibe was still in the APC won election to represent Bayelsa Central in the Nigerian Senate. This singular political success was a pointer to the next big news for Diri, whom many believed had won the confidence of the outgoing Governor Dickson. And yes, they were right.
And the hours have come; the great political season for horse-trading was here and all those who had been inactive within the PDP for over four years were back with one mission to stop Seriake Dickson, from influencing who takes over from him in the build-up to the 2019 Governorship election. And truly they had gathered but Dickson, as a political ‘caterpillar’, was up to the task and played a fast one to narrow the seat to only interested aspirants from the Bayelsa Central Senatorial District. And that was the thinking of many Bayelsans too but who was the most qualified aspirant within the senatorial district?
Dickson, a strategist, knew exactly what he wanted and the personality of the man he would love to hand over to. Unknown to Douye Diri, Governor Dickson, has kept close eyes on him since 2012 when he was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff and later Principal Secretary to the Governor. Dickson, was apparently preparing Diri for the higher office, hence, he asked him to contest for House of Representatives in 2015. For more worldview and national networking, Douye Diri, in 2019 won election into the senate to represent the Bayelsa Central Senatorial District. By this time, Diri, was fully ahead of all other intending aspirants in the PDP. If only many could read the X-ray film of Dickson’s choice of candidate, even two years before the 2019 Governorship election, Douye Diri is it; a man of immense administrative capacity full of meekness and calmness. And while all these were happening, Alaibe was still in the APC.
And for fairness and political balancing, it was almost a consensus that the Governorship should go to the Central Senatorial district (Yenagoa, Kolokuma/Opokuma and Southern Ijaw Local Government Areas). A further micro zoning arrangement, ordinarily eliminated Southern Ijaw, having produced a governor before now in the person o late DSP Alamieyeseigha, leaving aspirants from Kolokuma/Opokuma and Yenagoa Local Government Areas to jostle for the PDP ticket. By this time, Diri, was in pole position for the seat being a very ranking politician from Kolokuma/Opokuma. Alaibe, of course was still in the APC, a strong signal that Diri, has moved on politically and by the time some forces mounted pressure on Alaibe to return to PDP to contest the guber ticket, the political leaders in the Restoration administration had shortlisted three leading aspirants from the Central Senatorial District.
The reality of the decision to move on was at play and many questions were being asked, will Douye Diri, contest the PDP ticket with his former leader, Alaibe, if he eventually returns. Yes, he returned and a powerful power blocs across Nigeria ensured Alaibe, was granted a waiver to enable him contest the primaries. This time, Alaibe, is up against his friend and political ally, Diri, a man who knew him so well, a man who has been part of his political journey for over a decade and a man who held tenaciously to Alaibe’s aspiration until 2011.
Instructively and lucidly, Douye Diri, had move on and Alaibe, was a known adversary in the build up to the September 3rd, 2019 primaries of the PDP. Sometime, they say it is very hard to move on, but once you move on, you then realise it was the best decision you have ever made. That is the story of Senator Douye Diri as he went ahead to defeat his former political ally in the primaries as expected because of the rock support from the outgoing Governor Dickson.
Bayelsa State has been in the news for different reasons since last November 16th Governorship election.
Political arithmetic have not particularly, ceased since the divine arrangement that brought Senator Douye Diri into the office as Governor of the state through the Supreme Court verdict of Thursday February 13th, 2020. And if there was anyone trying to unseat Governor Diri, it should certainly not be Chief Ndutimi Alaibe, who surreptitiously went to court to challenge the emergence of Diri, as PDP candidate. This appears to be the real betrayal of friendship when you look back at the huge political sacrifices Diri, had to make to support Alaibe’s governorship agenda.
What a man of honour Douye Diri is? A man with genuine belief in the aspiration of others including Chief Alaibe. Diri, is exemplary in nurturing friendship and that much he has done with Alaibe over the past years. Diri, paid his dues to the Alaibe’s political family and should not be vilified for his own political movement to serve the state. Unfortunately, the assumed political dexterity and sagacity of Alaibe, over the years has failed to land him in Creek Haven, the seat of Government of Bayelsa State. Yes, yesterday, it was Alaibe time as the political leader but today, it is divinely Douye Diri. That is fate and destiny.
The emergence of Governor Diri, is beyond human comprehension and no wonder he described himself a ‘Miracle Governor’. It is Alaibe, who is heavily indebted to Diri, golden fortunes and not litigation. Posterity no doubt is a recorder of events and actions.
Interestingly, all contentions attending the case instituted by Chief Ndutimi Alaibe, against Governor Diri, was officially brought to an end recently following the dismissal of the appeal by the Supreme Court. In his characteristic manner as a man of peace, Governor Diri, has called on Alaibe, to come join him in moving the state forward and that he would be Governor to all. That is leadership. What a man will become or achieve in life is not cast on stone as the heavens do not dictate ones destiny. It is up to an individual to create the life he or she wants to live.
This position was supported by an English playwright and poet, William Shakespeare, when he wrote, “it is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” Douye Diri, must have realised this great philosophical saying at the point he decided to disentangle himself from the former political family to move on.
That was a striking move that has divinely changed a lot of stories. Chief Ndutimi Alaibe, should rather be proud of Diri’s accomplishment as a brother and long term political ally. It is a new Douye; Governor of Bayelsa State. Wisdom, they say is profitable and Diri, as a man of deep conviction took a very sound and wise decision to officially dump the Alaibe’s political affiliation and moved on.
And truly, it is evidently clear that he has moved on and that is why Douye Diri, is the Governor of the oil-rich Bayelsa State today.
Benjamin Forge, a public commentator writes from Yenagoa