It is barely a week since the celebration of the first anniversary since Douye Diri, a longtime advocate of the self-determination of the Ijaw people, took over as the governor of Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta.
Many editorial comments have analysed the event but none was more symbolic and revealing than the coverage accorded in the Sunday Telegraph of the 14th day of February in which two full blown features scrutinised the performance of the Diri Administration.
On page 8 of the popular newspaper there appeared a full length and comprehensive assessment of the development schedule of the state government over the past year written by one Pauline Onyinbe and on page 22 of the very same paper there was a shorter but no less comprehensive and succinct review of the Diri Administration’s record authored by Thomas Peretu who is one of the most experienced indigenous, and independent, practitioners of journalism in the state.
Ms, Onyinbe’s observations were contained in an article entitled DIRI’S ONE YEAR OF SLOW, STEADY DEVELOPMENT, and it was a classic display of situational reporting and timely consideration of projects and policies.
The piece is replete with quotations from the governor’s statements during the commissioning of landmark projects as well as reflections on the real motivation behind specific policies of his government.
In recollecting promises made on the campaign trail,, when Diri was a candidate rather than a successful aspirant, Ms Onyinbe puts his relevance as a leader to the test and by the time that the reader concludes the article she makes a case in favour of the value and relevance of the Diri administration in spite of it having experienced a most difficult year.
However, Thomas Peretu’s article, entitled AS GOVERNOR DIRI CLOCKS ONE TODAY, was another kettle of fish completely as he set out to remind his readers of the unusual and virtually incredible circumstances that led to Diri’s emergence as victor.
He reminds them that whereas INEC had announced that the APC candidate David Lyon had won the election the Supreme Court of Nigeria had overturned that verdict and awarded the governorship to Diri.
Peretu’s assumption is that the circumstance under which Governor Diri assumed leadership has remained an iconic aspect of the popular evaluation of his role as leader in the state and that the general attitude of the state’s people towards his legitimacy is influenced by this.
According to the Peretu feature Diri’s publicists appear to be ignoring the realities on the ground in large measure because according to him they are engaged in reacting to the fall-out from the unique circumstance of his assumption of power.
He therefore recommends that the governor should embark on a Public Relations drive of his own to enlighten the public on his initiatives for public service but as Pauline Onyinbe’s article seemed to suggest Diri prefers to commission genuine projects rather than embark on what might very well be considered to be a program of self-promotion.
If there is one thing that the first year of Diri’s administration has proven it is that when compared to previous leaders of the state he is a much more modest and reticent promoter of his own image.
The truth of the matter, which many observers in the media have discovered from a close study of the first year of Diri’s leadership is that while the circumstance of his assumption of office was indeed unusual he assumed leadership from a position of strength because the co-called victory of the opposition was tainted by unassailable evidence of electoral irregularities.
As a consequence, Diri’s major commitment must be to restore the PDP’s credibility in the state not only as a successor to the Governments of his predecessors, all of whom held power on the ticket of the party but also as a representative of the wishes of the local Ijaw communities.
Renewing his links with communities which had been the core of his role in the movement for several decades as a conciliator and adviser to the leadership of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) is apparently at the forefront of his agenda for development of the state.
As a result, his most visible and so far successful initiatives in the first year of his tenure has been symbolised by the most comprehensive commissioning of new roads and the repair of damaged thoroughfares and bridges ever carried out by a new governor in the first months of his tenure.
Pauline Onyinbe’s article caught this initiative dramatically, and using real time reporting showed that Governor Diri is providing hands-on leadership for proper development in spite of the political dysfunction that surrounded his assumption of power one year ago.
Barret writes from Abuja