Marking the third anniversary of the Restoration Government in Bayelsa State is simply an amazing moment in state’s history. In a way, it evokes a deep sense of accomplishment because of how this part of history was made. We are face-to-face with our past, present and the future, interacting still, to define in perspectives, our mission especially on why government exists and what difference good governance could make in the life of a people. Thus as we further take stock, reflecting on the journey and possibilities ahead, we can humbly report that the vista of restoration in Bayelsa State has really widened in the last three years, delivering prosperity. All things considered, the Restoration government has been a huge success. Still, the inspiration lives on.
In some very important ways, peeping into the period under review as a factor of some good judgement suggest that Governor Seriake Dickson should lead the story, a story many are already familiar with but with its changing narrative in some specific dimensions to demonstrate the higher ground being covered by the government in
fulfilment of its covenant with the good people of Bayelsa State.
It is clear that the factor of leadership has clearly been the most salient issue in driving the state to this level of development, which is public knowledge. Yet it is instructive to put this leadership value in context: for beyond the talent, dynamic oratory, intellectual gift and the rest, the real defining factor of the Governor is his character. Character is the basis for credibility in leadership; without this, the best leadership and its potentials for greatness could be in danger. This is the story of the new Bayelsa State where Governor Seriake Dickson’s character has shown through major policies and programmes and the overall essence of the governance.
Of course the vision document was ready early enough in the life of this administration, having regard to the Restoration Agenda. In retrospect however, it was the governor as the leader who gave breath into it by virtue of the first steps he took, which have remained permanent in the preceding years except that the government just kept fine-tuning and perfecting them. This includes the vision and its implementation to cover more people to fulfil their life aspirations. He understands very well that leadership is all about problem solving and service to the people.
In this regard, we must acknowledge the determination and commitment of the leader just as we note his careful selection of the Restoration Team, a team made up of purposefully driven men and women who in their varied background and enterprise also understood the challenge at hand and have contributed so well to rekindle hope. Governor Seriake Dickson has thus led with a distinctive acumen in the last three years. But as we pointed out in the beginning, his has been a different kind of leadership because the character element has indeed defined his place in history.
The government came up with the Restoration Agenda, a strategic vision document and road map which took into consideration the development challenges facing the state, including all those delimiting human factors that had held our dear state hostage over the years and in the process, made nonsense of what government and governance should be and why and how it can really get better. We remember that many of these development issues were witnessed and observed first hand during the governor’s electioneering campaign and in line with his devotion to duty and the people, their yearnings and aspirations, were reflected in the working document which is the Restoration vision being implemented till date with remarkable landmarks.
Though not a few are surprised by the level of socio-economic activities in the state right now but this is basically about the man and his convictions on what is possible when the human mind is put to it, determined to leave a lasting legacy. It is important that governance and the leadership propelling it must be above board in the service of the people with whom the leader has a covenant. It is also about integrity, doing what you promised you would do which itself is at the heart of democracy and the trust of the people in government.
And for all who took notice, who listened; the Governor was quite frank and explicit on his mission during his inaugural address when he stated that: “We shall undertake fundamental reform of the governance culture to emphasise transparency, accountability, due process and value re-orientation by all institutions and functionaries of government, beginning with my humble self. For emphasis, there shall be zero tolerance for corruption under my administration. The days of enrichment without labour and funding the greed and avarice of a few at the expense of development of our people is over. I will work hard to plug all leakages and sources of corruption, which have been the bane of our development. I will rather use our common wealth to fund the construction of good roads, education, promote tourism, generate wealth and develop agriculture than fund corruption and greed.” These are now testimonials on his stewardship, on the Restoration Government. The specific words in this quote have all been translated into concrete action, which are major attractions across the state.
Starting with security overhaul which made it possible for other achievements to take place, this government has demonstrated, without doubt, that it is one imbued with sense of service, a genuine leadership which has impacted greatly on the lives of our people. We can’t forget in a hurry that prior to this era, the security situation in Bayelsa State was actually a very dire one which virtually destroyed socio-economic life and created a negative image for the state. But all that are now in the past as Bayelsa has been returned to peace and tranquillity. Business and economic activities are now peaking, social life regained and the land is largely healed of its vices. The effectiveness of Operation Doo-akpo has been exceedingly outstanding here, which firmly has the full support of the government.
The New Economy: Agriculture & Tourism
Like most of the critical items in the Restoration Agenda, the Bayelsa economy is running its charted course of diversification, the results are encouraging and the future is promising. It took a deep thinking to come up with the idea which was a creative response to building an economy which will rely less and less on oil but doing more in creating businesses not only to employ the multitude of young jobless people but also making money to have a pool of resources to expand the economy itself and funding other development initiatives. As we all now know, the idea to invest in agriculture and tourism was informed by the comparative advantage prevalent in the state. With arable land, good weather and government’s support, agriculture now employs a lot of people, feed the state and leading to massive export. In the reckoning of the government, so much is being done in this regard. The cultivation of cassava and rice in particular on commercial scale, which now enjoys foreign participation, is a pointer to the possibility. Aquaculture is equally enjoying similar boost as more is being done to improve the capacity of this sector. Other related steps by government to boost business is the development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) thereby opening up opportunities for the people to be engaged in business and change their lives for the better.
In the area of tourism, the Restoration Government will in the years ahead be remembered as a far-sighted administration which was ahead of its time by sheer appreciation of investment in such money spinning industry capable of changing the face of the state’s economy for good. Already so much resource has been sunk into it, developing the basic infrastructure and we can see the potential for achieving the objective of government. Along with vital institutions, the huge investments in the New Yenagoa City and the Tourism Island Project, the various golf courses and five star hotels will certainly boost our economy so much in the fullness of time and benefit the people in large measure. There will be plenty of jobs and income for the government. Even now, we have seen the possible impact of the tourism industry going by the various international concerts held in the state, aside the fact that Bayelsa has consistently hosted the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria pageant and the Africa Movie Academy Awards, attracting a global audience beneficial to our local economy. The future of tourism is fascinating to behold in Bayelsa State. More to come!
It is impossible to overlook the giant strides in the quest for industrialisation. The Restoration Government under Governor Strike Dickson has demonstrated courage and dedication in the pursuit of this important strip to a buoyant economy for Bayelsa State. Certainly, it won’t happen overnight but the serious efforts to make it happen are in motion. Setting up the Bayelsa Development and Investment Corporation (BDIC) was a strategic initiative to raise capital and build partnership for development in such big businesses as oil and gas, fertilizer, agriculture and its derivatives, shipping etc. Thinking ahead, it is interesting that the government has been following up the initiative by building relevant infrastructure to fully harness the gains of industrialisation. This is where the deep Seaport in Agge becomes key as an enable for wealth creation just as we further see the construction of several roads and bridges across the state. Besides the cargo and passenger airport at Wilberforce Island, the proposed rail project from Yenagoa to Ekeremor (110 km) up to Agge and the one from Yenagoa to Ogba, Nembe and Brass (105 km) are also of major economic importance. These would further facilitate the development of the LNG project and Brass Fertilizer investments at Brass worth about $3.3 billion. In economic terms, this is certainly significant for the progress of the state. Capital for expansion is also assured when it is realised that the investment vehicle, the BDIC, has an asset base In excess of N300 billion. Indeed, commerce and industry are gaining deserved momentum, generating income as we look forward to our anticipated maximum level of performance in the future.
Education as Highflyer
The performance in the other sectors particularly in education has also been a source of pride to our people because of the far-reaching reform in this all important sector. The inherited situation was so bad that government declared a state of emergency leading to drastic but well tailored measures to save education in the state. Today it is a new song, having overhauled the entire education system in Bayelsa State. Beginning with modern infrastructure such as classroom, furniture and laboratories, things are now normal as envisaged, designed and executed. Education is free, including books, bags and sandals for primary and secondary students; accommodation provided for teachers, education inspectors re-introduced and motivated. The Restoration Government is also concerned about the quality of education in the state and this partly informed the idea of establishing the various boarding schools in all the senatorial districts and of course, the introduction of scholarships to cater for different categories up to PhD level in top rated institutions both in Nigeria and abroad. Considering the vital position of education in development, what has been achieved in the sector in the last three years is commendable.
Other sectors like transportation, health, sports, environment, judiciary etc have also been given proper attention though in the scheme of government’s evaluation of challenging development concerns; it has been prioritising to affect the greatest number of people in the state. Thus every sector has got a fair share of attention but in relative terms.
Our evaluation of the Restoration Government in its third anniversary will, however, be incomplete without looking closely at the functionality of governance which tallies with the promise by Governor Dickson at the outset to reform the structure of government to make it work more effectively and enhance service delivery. This has been accomplished as we see in the zero tolerance of all forms of corruption, maintaining a diligent action on transparency as reflected in the monthly transparency briefing and of course in the modernisation of the civil service. Productivity is now higher as against the situation in the past, rubbing off on service delivery and optimising the overall objectives of the government.
Renewing the Mandate
This is the setting today as we grapple with the ever-increasing challenges of development in spite of the monumental achievements already recorded. Government is determined to do more; all hands must remain on deck even as funding constraint is obvious. But with the Restoration Government, there will always be that ingenious and creative way to further build on the legacy.
With abundant faith and established trust of the good people of Bayelsa State, the remainder of the government’s tenure will not be devoted exclusively to politics and political campaign but to work harder in fulfilment of the vision. Though it is never a misplaced position that many have been drumming up support for his re-election ahead of next year’s gubernatorial contest in the state, Governor Seriake Dickson is taking the whole thing in his stride. As they say, when we get to the bridge, we would cross it and that sums it up.
Yet the voice of the people is the voice of God as some would prefer to situate the Countryman governor’s re-election when it is due. God himself is one who bestows power to whom He wishes. The understanding of the rousing supporters however is understandable, hinged on the established democratic belief and tradition to reward performance in office with re-election. Therefore since we operate a federal system with renewable four-year tenure subject to the approval of the people in a competitive election, Governor Seriake Dickson eminently deserves re-election because in the court of public opinion, he has done so well to affect many lives in Bayelsa State, making history. Interestingly, other schools of thought, discerning as they are, contend very strongly on the imperative of consolidation on the varied, complex, technical and hard earned economic diversification which is a good thing. All things considered, a renewed mandate beckons.