Douye Diri, a senator representing Bayelsa Central, is one of the 21 governorship aspirants of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Bayelsa State.
It is just two days to the PDP primary, and there are signs that Mr Diri is Governor Seriake Dickson’s preferred candidate.
The PDP primary holds this Tuesday, while the general election is on November 16.
The party’s governorship aspirants include the deputy governor of the state, Gboribiogha Jonah; the chief of staff to Governor Dickson, Talford Ongolo; and the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Kemela Okara.
A former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi Alaibe, is also in the race for the PDP ticket and looks very much like the candidate to beat in a free and fair contest.
Mr Dickson at the beginning acted as though he subscribed to a free and fair contest for all the aspirants. He even caused the state government to organise a prayer and fasting programme for the people of the state to seek God’s guidance in the search for the right man for the job.
However, the governor, later insisted his successor must come from a small clique of allies in a group called the Restoration Team, within the PDP, and went ahead to constrict the size of the aspirants, unofficially though, to three – the SSG, Mr Okara; the governor’s chief of staff, Mr Ongolo; and Mr Diri.
Last week, the number was scaled down to two, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
Mr Dickson’s plan of producing a successor has pitted him against Mr Alaibe, who is said to enjoy the backing of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
“They have failed this time around because no degree of intrigues, no amount of manipulation and propaganda can push me out of this race. Nothing will change my decision to lift the lot of our people through purposeful leadership. I am here to stay and together we will win.
“While winning to us is not a do or die affair, the process of choosing the party flag bearer should be made unquestionably transparent such that in the end, the outcome would be acceptable to all so that we could stand as one to face the real opponent,” Mr Alaibe had said, while protesting the conduct of the PDP ward congress in the state last week.
Governor Dickson had, however, accused Mr Alaibe of trying to blackmail him.
The governor said he has the right to support any of the aspirants.
“It is important to stress that the governor’s decision not to reward disloyalty with the candidacy of the party is an informed decision of conviction,” Mr Dickson said in a statement from his media aide, Fidelis Soriwei.
Governor Dickson’s team begins campaign for Diri
Besides the fact that Mr Diri’s name has been mentioned as one of the last two aspirants standing in Governor Dickson’s Restoration Team, the Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Tonye Isenah, over the weekend, led other PDP chieftains to endorse the senator as the “sole aspirant” in Kolokuma/Okpokuma Local Government Area.
Both Messrs Diri and Alaibe are from the local government area.
The significance of this development is that the speaker, Mr Isenah, heads the governorship campaign of Mr Dickson’s Restoration Team.
The campaign team, which is well-funded, has structures in all the wards in the state.
The chairman, Kolokuma/Okpokuma Local Government Area, Deinye Obaragu, and a former chairman of the council, Wisdom Fafi, who represents the area in the Bayelsa State House òf Assembly, were present at the event where Mr Diri was endorsed as the “sole candidate”.
The state ministry of information on its Facebook page celebrated the event as “a serious blow” to Mr Alaibe’s aspiration.
“That’s not PDP, so leave them on that story. We’ll go to the field,” Mr Alaibe shrugged off when PREMIUM TIMES contacted him Sunday morning.
All the other aspirants in the PDP have vowed to remain in the race for the PDP ticket irrespective of Mr Dickson’s endorsement of Mr Diri, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
Mr Diri, 60, before his election in 2019 as a senator, served as a member of the House of Representatives.
He had been a commissioner for youth and sports in the state, when the former president, Mr Jonathan, was governor of Bayelsa.
Apart from politics, Mr Diri has been a teacher and a businessman.
“Let me state clearly that I do not have any inordinate ambition. I was only motivated into joining the governorship race in order to build on the monumental achievements of Dickson.
“For me, it has been service all my life; service to the Ijaw ethnic nationality; service to my state; service to humanity,” the senator said while declaring his interest for the governorship of the state.
“Please let me put this very clear; I don’t know of anybody called a kingmaker in the state. PDP in the state is one under the leadership of the governor,” he said further.