As the Bayelsa State governor, Senator Douye Diri marks four months in office today, some stakeholders and citizens of the state have expressed worries over the governor’s inability to form his cabinet for smooth governance in the state.
Governor Diri was sworn-in on February 14, 2020 as the fifth governor of the state following a Supreme Court’s judgment which invalidated the victory of the earlier winner, Chief David Lyon of the APC over his running mate’s certificate scandal.
Since then, the governor has been running his government as ‘one man show’ having failed to constitute his cabinet.
Diri has come under criticisms by some citizens of the state following the development.
It was gathered that the governor takes briefing on daily basis from permanent secretaries; a job that was supposed to be done by commissioners and special advisers.
Pundits said the functioning of the various ministries in the state has not been effective due to non-availability of commissioners to manage their affairs.
For instance, most responsibilities in the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare are now being handled by the office of the First Lady. During the last Children’s Day celebration, it was the wife of the governor, Mrs Gloria Diri that handled the low keyed celebration.
Equally in March during the Women’s Day celebration, it was the First Lady that handled.
Though, Diri assumed power amidst the COVID-19 crisis, many Bayelsans believe that it was not an excuse for the governor not to form his cabinet after four months in the saddle.
According to them, Diri’s inability to constitute his cabinet was indication of unpreparedness for governance on the part of the governor. The 1999 Constitution empowers a governor of the state to appoint commissioners into various ministries for the smooth running of the government.
At the moment, most of the works that could have been done by commissioners as political heads of the ministries are now left in the hands of permanent secretaries, while others have been shifted to the principal officers of the government, such as Secretary to the State Government, Chief of Staff to the governor and the deputy governor.
As a way of managing the situation, the governor has delegated functions to those he called ‘Technical Assistants’. For example, right from the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and some directors in the ministry that have been at the forefront of the fight.
Another strategy adopted by the governor was to use some of the appointees that served in the cabinet of the immediate past Governor Seriake Dickson to man some of the offices under different nomenclatures.
For instance, Dickson’s Commissioner for Finance, Mr Maxwell Ebibai is still serving in the ministry with new nomenclature as Technical Assistant to the governor on finance. In the same vein, Dickson’s Special Adviser on Security, Mr Buma Sparow-Jack is also still functioning in his office with new nomenclature as Technical Assistant on Security, amongst others.
Notwithstanding Diri’s inability to announce the names of commissioners and special advisers, he has appointed some principal officers in his government. The appointees include Secretary to the State Government, Friday Konbowei Benson; the Chief of Staff, Government House, Chief Benson Agadaga; Deputy Chief of Staff, Dr Peter Akpe; Acting Chief Press Secretary, Daniel Alabrah; Coordinator, New Media Office, Samuel Kolawole Oredipe and few other personal aides.
It was also reported that the delay in constituting cabinet in the state may not be unconnected with skimming and intrigues by political stakeholders to have their interests represented in government.
A source in the seat of power said that Governor Diri cannot take the decision of appointing people into his cabinet alone, adding that he has to consult widely, especially with key stakeholders such as former President Goodluck Jonathan, immediate past Governor Seriake Dickson and host of others before making his list public.
“You know Governor Diri is running a unity government in the state; he has to consult with former President Jonathan who is the father of the state and he has to consult with Chief Seriake Dickson, his benefactor and other PDP stakeholders.
“So, I believe once that is done, the governor will now come out with a very formidable team that will help in the governance of Bayelsa and deliver the promised prosperity to the people”, the source said.
But a civil rights activist, Comrade David West, maintained that the inability of Governor Diri to form cabinet four months after assuming office was slowing down the running of the government. He cited the current fight against COVID-19 where there is no Commissioner for Health to lead the fight, adding that Permanent Secretaries are just technocrats who were not supposed to be used as political heads in their various ministries.
“I think the governor’s inability to form his cabinet has slowed down governance in Bayelsa State, because as we speak, he has sent budget to the State House of Assembly and they have passed it; now, the question is who prepared and defended the budget? Permanent Secretaries do not appear in the house to defend the budget.
“If you look at this COVID-19 period, if we have Commissioner for Health in the state, I think he would have been in the best position to handle the issue but as we speak, it is the Permanent Secretary that has been handling all these and the state is at the receiving end.
“The same thing is applicable to the Ministry for Information; there is no commissioner and Permanent Secretary has been the one speaking on this coronavirus issue. I think it is necessary for the governor to as a matter of urgency begin to form his cabinet.
“When President Muhammadu Buhari in his first tenure delayed in forming his cabinet, the present governor was among those who were calling him ‘Baba Go Slow’. Now, he is the governor of Bayelsa State and four months down the line, he has not been able to kick off fully.
“We expect the governor form his cabinet immediately, so that Bayelsans will not think that he was not prepared for governance. How do you run a government without an Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice? How do you run a government without Commissioner for Finance? It gives us cause to worry”, he said.
An APC chieftain in the state, Comrade Wilfred Frank Ogbotobo, said Diri was not prepared for governance, saying “he is battling with his conscience for taking another person’s mandate”.
“In the first place, Diri wasn’t prepared for the office of governor.
“He knew, from day one, that he wouldn’t win the election, and he ended up losing it. He never expected that the Supreme Court would hand over David Lyon’s electoral victory to him on the platter of gold.
“Hence, he doesn’t have any discernible plan of action to attest otherwise.
“Moreover, he has this shadow of illegitimacy tormenting him in the light of the fact that Bayelsans overwhelmingly yearned for a break from Seriaki Dickson and the PDP, and this clearly reflected in the figures given by the result of the election.
“I believe he is Godly, and a proud Ijaw man who has a sense of justice living within his conscience; so the injustice is pressing on his conscience”, he said.
Reacting, the Acting Chief Press Secretary to Governor Diri, Daniel Alabrah, said the list of commissioners and special advisers’ nominees would soon be announced by the governor.
He denied knowledge if the delay in forming cabinet could be caused by the ravaging coronavirus, saying “the names will be forward to the state House of Assembly in no distant time”.
“You know the governor has been out of town; he just came in yesterday (Tuesday) but I expect the list will be announced anytime soon”, he said.
Also, Alabrah during a radio programme recently said: “The governor himself knows that he needs a cabinet to support him govern the state. He has been doing a lot of things alone, that if commissioners were in place, they would have been able help him,” he said.