•On Life As Sen. DUOYE DIRI’s Wife
If truth be told, there aren’t too many wives of Nigerian governors who come as brilliant and as articulate as Barrister Patience Ama Zuofa Diri, wife of the governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Duoye Diri. You couldn’t possibly spend a few minutes with her and not be impressed with her level of intellect and remarkable brilliance. She is a trained lawyer and a practicing one at that, but those who know her closely will tell you there is still a whole lot inside her that the people of Bayelsa are yet to see. In this interview with City People, she speaks so eloquently about her husband the governor, the many things people don’t know about him and also a bit about the things that she holds so passionately to her heart. Enjoy!
How do you really feel celebrating your birthday as a Governor’s wife?
My birthday is my birthday, it has nothing to do with the office or the title, I’m one person who likes sharing personal moments with friends and family so it is not unusual, I always do that.
Who will Barr. (Mrs.) Patience Ama Zuofa Douye Diri had been without the position of the wife of the Governor, celebrating her birthday?
When I got married to his Excellency I was already a lawyer so although I don’t believe in gender inequality, I would say I was already standing tall, as a lawyer, as an entrepreneur, as a woman in my own right.
Flashing back looking at your past, is there anything you would like to correct, as you celebrate your birthday?
Yes, I wouldn’t wish to say I would like to correct because the good and bad experiences make you be who you are today. If we take just the good, what happens to the bad? Even in biblical reading, you see that the people God used are the people that the people had condemned because they were sinners and all that, for me it’s not about correcting but it is about learning from those things. If there is one thing I would like to wish for, it’s that I have more money to invite more people to celebrate with.
This is a new year for you, a new beginning so what is next for Barr. (Mrs.) Patience Zoufa Douye Diri?
I’ve pondered on this too, like people say at the beginning of the year they have resolutions. I have seen that most of the time the resolutions are even broken before they start. I’m one person that likes to take up challenges, I am one person that is open to learning, I’m one person who is also open to correction. A new age for what God has instilled for me, not just for me as a person but for my purpose in life because as a human being if you don’t know your purpose you are lost already. I believe I was created to touch lives, it has nothing to do with the office or being married to His Excellency, it has to do with more of my own conviction. I pray and I wish to touch lives and not just about monetary gifts but touch lives more on human capital developments and on women empowerment. I am one woman who doesn’t believe that our women should tie wrappers, attend functions and be given stipends. Every woman should be independent, self-reliant. The average Ijaw woman I grew up to know is hardworking, I want to see those qualities again in our women. I want to see those women going to the farm and be proud to be farmers, those women who are proud to be fishers, raising families and creating impact. I want to see myself in this new age speaking to youths to discover their potentials and most importantly be their role model, and not just to the girl child but to women in Bayelsa state.
What is your take on rape?
I have always been an advocate for gender violence. When I talk about gender violence am talking about both male and female. When we talk about rape we streamline it to just the female folks, but I don’t believe that. I am a lawyer and an Assistant Director in the ministry of Justice and I have always been a prosecutor. Rape does not just affect the female folks, rape affects even the male youths. It is a sad reality that steers us in the face every day. I won’t say it has not been there in the past but I keep asking myself and at one point it became like the new norm. I also will say that parents have also not helped in the issue of rape. I grew up within a period where I must be at home within a certain time. I dare not find myself outside in a period that I should be at home. My parents knew the company I keep. It is not like society is better now than it was before, everybody keeps an eye. Now rape is even committed within the home by parents themselves, so the perpetrator is sick but I think society is molding us to see more parents attacking vulnerable children. Let me give an example, you are married, you have children and they are all boys, you leave them in the home and you go to work, sometimes parents wake up in the morning not even attending to the child you are rushing out for work and you tell your maid to take care of your child, no supervision. The maid takes the child to the bathroom and begins to play with the male child, it takes one step to the other, it gets to the point where they begin to show them pornographic videos to watch and they begin to teach them how to play with their sexual parts. You bring people to your home and you are not watchful. You are too busy to watch how your children are molested. We leave in an environment that is hostile. So, as a parent, you should be on the lookout. It is a sad reality and I pray that the government will take a more stringent approach to it because I have found out that we pay more lip service to everything. Why I say that I have had many cases even on the issue of rape where parents had to come out to testify but they are more willing to do monetary settlement than to persecute the offender. It is sad, I have also watched people who were supposed to protect children take advantage of them, even lawyers and we come out to speak about rape. , is happening in our homes and we cover it, even female lawyers, husbands are molesting their wives and they know but they hide it inside and they come out and we are all shouting outside. So when we talk about rape it is the responsibility of everybody, when I say everybody I mean everybody.
31 court cases filed against your husband’s election as governor, with a breakdown showing a total of 3 pre-election cases, 5 cases of review at the supreme court, 10 at the election tribunal, 7 at the Appeal and 6 at the Supreme court; As a lawyer, people say you are the first legal adviser to his Excellency and that explains why he wins every court case, how true is that?
I think I will allow His Excellency to answer that but I know that at some point of our discussions he will say please I know you are a lawyer but let us look at these things sometimes from the layman’s point of view. I will also say that I did a lot of research, I called a lot of senior legal practitioners especially in the private sector to ask a lot of questions because the law evolved and I always go back to tell him this is what I read, this is what is involved, this is what this person told me, can you tell your team not to forget this point, but I can’t take credit on it. But again, I can’t be a practicing lawyer and close my mouth when the matter is in my house.
Your husband is one year in office, do you think he has done well as a governor?
Yes, he has, my husband is one person who talks less and acts more. A lot of people misinterpret his quietness and take him as a weak person. My husband came in at a time when not only Bayelsa but Nigeria to date is experiencing an economic crunch. I know most people will say apart from salaries and paying pensioners what else has he done? There are states whose IGR is far far bigger, they are not paying salaries regularly, they are not paying pensioners and they are not developing, but here is a man that came at a time when we have COVID and after COVID we had a flood, the world economy was shut down and he was able to do the basics to keep everybody afloat. Hunger is the number one thing everybody was afraid of but he was able to pay salaries of civil servants, and you know Bayelsa is a civil service state and if a man is able to meet your basic needs by paying you salaries, looking at those who were able to work for the government and say your entitlements you are going to have it and he could have said I am just coming in, let me be putting this money into my pocket. People will only shout and after some time they will keep quiet but he decided by himself and said let’s bring back development to this state. So I will say he has done well. Doing well is not only relative to physical infrastructure, the environment but the conducive environment that will be able to attract investors. He has brought peace and security, reconciling warring communities. He could have been self-centered and not do certain projects and that will not be meaningful but rather he decided to prioritize the welfare of the people. For me that is what doing well is all about. He is building roads and everyone is already saying the state is a worksite. Bayelsans are experiencing amazing prosperity already.
The Governor is a man of few words like you rightly said, but who is Senator Douye Diri and where is his strength coming from?
Sen. Douye Diri is a man from a humble beginning, who has schooled himself through the hurdles of life to where he is today. Sen. Douye Diri is one man who has worked and made sacrifices for Bayelsa state. He served and God says he will lift the humble, he served in humility and God has lifted him today. Sen. Douye Diri is one man who fears God and reverences God, he wakes up with songs of praises every morning. Anybody who is close to him and doesn’t know that doesn’t know him. He speaks to his God, that moment he never takes it for granted. Sen. Douye Diri loves his family, he loves his people, he is strict when it comes to his children and above all he wants good for others, he sees good. He shares good and he wishes good for them all, that’s who Sen. Douye Diri is.
What motivates Senator Douye Diri?
If you follow his life and his calling, it has always been about the cause of the Ijaw nation and wanting to see a better Ijaw Nation where we enjoy our natural recourses and we are not deprived of what is truly ours.
Over the years, tell us about a time he has failed?
Like I said earlier you can’t take life out from the good and leave the bad. He has failed in politics but that doesn’t keep him down or make him lose hope. In politics when he failed it didn’t change him, it didn’t make him become bitter, he didn’t become violent. He has failed in Business and he has risen out of it also. When the stock market crashed he was affected but that didn’t make him became greedy, he is a man that is contented with whatever he has, and even in his contentment, he is still willing to go out to reach out to people. So like every human being he never fails to rise, he believes in God and that has made him get to where he is today.
What does success mean to him?
Success to him I can say replicates in hard work, diligence, service, and being a role model especially to the young ones who come close to him.
After one year, what do you hope to see him achieve?
Prayer is the most substantial thing in life, you don’t need to see it but you will see the results. There is nothing I can do other than to keep praying for him because once you fail in the area of prayer you have failed as a human been. I will keep giving my little advice and encourage him to be the man he is and not change.
What do you want Bayelsans to expect from Sen. Douye Diri after now?
A man who came during trying times and still changed the narratives of Bayelsa State in just one year. Bayelsans should expect amazing prosperity in years to come.
What is it about him that secures his peace and confidence?
It is his faith in God, that I know.
– Wale Lawal