Politics, they say, is all about interest and largely so in many cases where friends and relations as close as brothers and sisters slug it out in contest to serve their people. That is the story of the incumbent Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Douye Diri, and former Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission, Chief Ndutimi Alaibe.
Unknown to many, especially political gladiators, Governor Diri and Chief Alaibe’s friendship has spanned many decades. Aside that, they are both from the same Local Government Area, Kolokuma/Opokuma. They have been political allies since early 2000 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 Alaibe for Governor. He was unapologetic about the aspiration of a brother and friend
Diri, who later became Commissioner for Youths and Sports in 2005, never looked back and never jumped ship even when juicy appointments were thrown at him to dump the Alaibe project. In 2007, Alaibe was back in the race and as expected, Diri, alongside others, filed behind the man, popularly known in political circle as: “Principal.” This journey became a collective aspiration and Diri owned the project and apparently surrendered his political fortunes to Alaibe. That is politics of “our interest”.
Diri, who was a key member of the Alaibe’s strategic team, held tenaciously to the “principal’s” aspiration even until 2011 when they briefly moved into the Labour Party to actualise the dream as the Peoples Democratic Party structure was firmly in the hands of incumbent Governor at that time, Chief Timipre Sylva. Reports had it that former President Goodluck Jonathan was instrumental to the return of Chief Alaibe to the PDP in 2011 to run for governorship. But the PDP ticket was eventually handed to Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson, who later became Governor in 2012. In 2015, the political alliances and ideologies of Alaibe and Diri changed when the former NDDC boss joined the All Progressives Congress.
In their political journey together, 2003 and 2007 were the most tortuous because the Alaibe political blocs were up against the incumbent each time. And at this defining moment to make a decision of who to support, Diri stood firmly in his belief despite the political turbulence. He was the symbolic Rock of Gibraltar and a man of faith aptly described by the English writer and poet, John Tolkien, in his famous quote when he said: “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.” It is a statement of fact that rough race is never for the lily-livered and men of little faith.
What a man of honour Diri is? A man with deep conviction; a man with genuine belief in the aspiration of others, including Chief Alaibe, whom he diligently served politically for over 10 years. Diri has paid his dues to the Alaibe political family and should not be vilified for his own political ambition because he has never been overambitious. The ascendancy to the governorship seat is divine and dare say a fulfilment of prophesy. In retrospect, Alaibe’s political dexterity and sagacity over the years failed to land him in Creek Haven, the seat of Government of Bayelsa State. Yes, yesterday, it was Alaibe’s time as the leader, but today, it is divinely Diri. That is fate and destiny. The election victory of Governor Diri is beyond human comprehension and little wonder he described himself a Miracle Governor.
To many of the Alaibe’s promoters, the governorship ambition back then was a movement and Diri in his characteristic manner put up 100 per cent commitment and loyalty to that course. He displayed rare friendship for that long political journey. Yes, there is very big question on the lips of many Bayelsans. Between Alaibe and Diri, who has even paid the greater sacrifices and loyalty in this friendship? Posterity no doubt is a recorder of events and actions.
It was American media celebrity, Ann Landers, who said: “Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weakness.” Diri is exemplary in nurturing friendship and that much he has done with Alaibe over the past years.
That is why political associates and key watchers are still in shock over the court case instituted by Chief Alaibe to challenge the outcome of the September 3, 2019 governorship primaries of the PDP. It is more surprising to note that this case was long after Alaibe had embraced Diri, when he was declared winner of the PDP primaries at the Gabriel Okara Cultural Centre, Yenagoa.
Governor Diri has even won the first two stages of the suit at the Federal High Court and Court of Appeal all in Owerri, Imo State, where the petition was thrown out for lacking in merits.
On March 10, Justice Tijjani Ringim of the Federal High Court, in his judgment, dismissed the suit and held that “evidence available to me indicates that the process leading to the emergence of Diri as the candidate of the PDP in the September 3 governorship primaries in Bayelsa was legitimate” . The Court of Appeal has further upheld this judgment.
Feathers have been ruffled and truly it is now time to change gear and join the train which left the rail station since February 14, 2020, when Diri assumed office. If truly loyalty is the strength to putting others first and sticking with them in good and bad times, then Diri does not deserve this political backlash from Alaibe because he has proven and shown loyalty to his friend by being honest, trustworthy, supportive and generous for over a decade.
Yes, Chief Alaibe listens to certain persons and leaders. This is the time to prevail on him to discontinue with the court case as a mark of respect and honour to true friendship and a deserving compensation for total commitment and loyalty of Diri over time.
No doubt, it is within his fundamental rights to pursue his case to logical end. Alaibe truly needs to understand that the case is clearly an unnecessary distraction to the Governor, who is beginning to win the confidence of the people with his leadership style and approach. The new spirit of unity, peace and reconciliation has endeared him more to the people, including the opposition.
He has even extended hands of fellowship to Chief Alaibe to join him in the service to the state. The governor noted that the former NDDC boss cannot be termed as a political push-over in the Bayelsa political scene, hence his desire to work with him.
Diri said: “I received today’s judgment of the Federal High Court as yet another affirmation of the will of God. It is victory for the people of Bayelsa, and indeed, the Ijaw nation. So, there is no victor nor vanquished. In the spirit of our unity and the love we share, I again extend the olive branch to all Bayelsans, including my dear brother, Chief Ndutimi Alaibe, to join hands with me to develop and move our state forward. My resolve is that together with all Bayelsans of goodwill, we can make our state greater.”
When two brothers fight, the resolution is usually right inside the family house and that is why the task is now before the chiefs, leaders of thoughts in Kolokuma/Opokuma and entire Bayelsa State to rise to the occasion and broker the needed peace between these two worthy Ijaw sons and brothers from the same Local Government Area.
To Alaibe, he should be very proud of Diri as a long standing political ally, a member of the kitchen cabinet of New Vision 2003, 2007 and 2011 political movement, and a man he trusted for over 10 years. In his closet as a man of vision, this likely seems the reality that confronts him!
Diri, in the last three months has shown capacity and displayed rare passion for the development of Bayelsa State and what he needs now is certainly not distractions but support of all men of goodwill to meet the collective aspiration of the founding fathers for a greater Bayelsa State.
. Igoni, a political analyst, writes from Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.