It is no secret that the difficult terrain in Bayesa remains a challenge to its development. But the state governor, Seriake Dickson has found a solution that works, writes Shola Oyeyipo
On his inauguration, Bayelsa State governor Seriake Dickson promised to turn the state into a construction site, six years down the lane; this is a promised kept with faith.
Dickson has always believed that charity should begin at home. After all, as the adage goes, if you give a hoe to a man, he will always hoe towards himself. This is what has propelled his undertakings since he became the govenor. That he would always be measured by the level of his achievements as governor of Bayelsa state; even if he becomes the president of Nigeria or whatever position he occupies in the future.
So it was with this in mind that he rolled out the drums to celebrate the development strides of his government in the last six years with the commissioning of various projects. To a lot of people who witnessed the event, indeed, Dickson has reasons to celebrate.
Last year, former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon and Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, were in the state to inaugurate some key projects, including the new governor’s office and the Ijaw National Academy. They were impressed with the works the governor has done and they said so.
Again, as part of activities designed to commemorate the six years of Dickson’s leadership in the oil-rich state, new sets of projects were again commissioned to the admiration of visitors and residents.
Activities for the sixth year anniversary had commenced with three former Ministers of Information – Prof. Jerry Gana, Labaran Maku and John Odeh – commissioning the multi-purpose Bayelsa Information House in Yenagoa. They commended the government for attaching importance to developing the state, including information dissemination which they insisted were essential for communication between the government and the people.
Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was also part of the funfare as he commissioned the Bayelsa State Specialist Hospital, the Bayelsa State Drug Distribution Centre, an idea of the late former Director-General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Minister for Information, Prof. Dora Akunyili, who had suggested that every state should have one as part of the effort to combat the menace of fake drugs in the country; and a world class diagnostics centre.
Dickson also ensured that the former president visited one of the biggest achievements of his administration, what he described as “flagship centre of learning,” the Ijaw National Academy situated at Kaiama in Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area.
The Ijaw National Academy is a model educational institution built to the standard of a university to effectively cater for the education of Ijaw children. The visit to the school afforded Obasanjo the opportunity to have a one-on-one interactive session with the students who were drawn from across the state. At the event tagged “A Day with Olusegun Obasanjo,” the former president responded to questions from students on a wide range of national issues.
The session was moderated by the 2017 best graduating student of the Lincoln University, USA, and Bayelsa state scholarship beneficiary, Pere Perewari.
At the end of his three day visit and unveiling of several projects completed by the administration, Obasanjo gave Dickson pass marks for judicious use of resources and accruable to the state. He was particularly appreciative of the efforts by the state government to radically develop the state.
Obasanjo commended the “countriman” governor, and expressed support for the policies and programmes targeted at improving the standard of living of the people of the state.
The former president said: “I must tell you, the people of Bayelsa State are lucky to have a performing governor in the saddle. He has done well in infrastructures, agriculture, education and health. What you need to do is to give him the support and co-operation to enable him do more in the years ahead”.
He also enjoined the governor to relax and to always justify his conscience and God in the formulation and execution of his administration policies and programmes: “In every step you take, justify your conscience and the almighty God. Do your work as a governor in such a way that when 10 Bayelsans gather, not less than 6 of them will say, you have done well.
“To me, 60 percent is a pass mark. This is because you cannot satisfy everybody. Concentrate on legacy projects that will stand the test of time”.
To his people his quest to develop the youths is unparalleled in the history of Bayelsa politics. Convinced that youths hold the key to tomorrow and that society only grow when youths deploy their energies into productive use, this is more so as about 65.7 percent of Bayelsa population are youthful; Dickson has done all in his efforts to ensure that they are adequately engaged.
In his inaugural speech as governor in 2012, Dickson had assured the people that: “We will invest in the development of other aspects of human capacity for our teeming youths, such that they will be able to unleash their creative capacities as well as enhance their drive for entrepreneurship”.
Similarly, during activities to mark the 16th year anniversary of the creation of Bayelsa State, Dickson had stated that: ”Government will use the resources of this state to fund critical projects such as the construction of good roads, education, health facilities, promote tourism, general wealth and develop agriculture, rather than use it to fund the corruption and greed of a few.”
In the bid to fulfil these promises, some calculated steps were taken by the ‘Restoration Administration,’ by creating a separate Ministry of Youth Development at the beginning of his administration to cater for the need of youths and improve their wellbeing in terms of job creation, wealth creation, skills acquisition and poverty alleviation
The administration ceated a database that provides opportunities for government to identify training needs; manpower gaps and how to fill such gaps to build the capacity of youths for gainful employment or self-employment.
The Ministry of Youth Development has organised several capacity building programmes in technical and vocational skills in computer technology; welding; auto mechanics; electrical works; Plumbing and fitting; Hairdressing and baking among others. By the end of these training programmes, some starter packs were given to participants.
In the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, hundreds of youths have been sent to the Songhai farms in the Republic of Benin on training in mechanised agriculture. The aim of this exercise is to create jobs through agriculture.
These trainees work in the agricultural enterprises established by the state government in cassava cultivation, aquaculture, and tailoring and computer science.
There has been expansion of the state’s scholarship scheme at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels as a way to assist youths to acquire education at the tertiary level and to build up a formidable stock of human capital in critical areas of the economy. About 789 persons benefited from the scheme in the 2012/13 academic year and payments have been made up till date. This is apart from students offered scholarships in the University of Pennsylvania, United States.
To entrench peace, security and as well as increase manpower in the state, youths involved in secret cult were encouraged by government to renounce it and instead, engage in more productive ventures. No fewer than 11,000 youths who were cultists have benefited so far from the government’s hand of fellowship so far.
For Dickson, one of the ways to gainfully engage the youths is to recruit them into the the oil and gas committee, which was designed to provide protection for travellers on the waterways and to curb pipeline vandalism, curb activities of the operators of illegal refineries, and sea piracy. As a result, these vices have been drastically reduced and this has contributed significantly to the increased production of crude oil in the state.
As mark of his commitment to making youths leaders today and not at a later time, he appointed a of 33 years old as a commissioner. More than half of the Special Assistants and Senior Special Assistants to the governor are youths while majority of local government chairmen are also youths.
Many youths have been drafted into the Environmental Sanitation Authority, some are in the revenue collection sector, government owned establishments such as the Cassava Industry at Ebedebiri, the Bayelsa Palm at Elebele and the 500 fish farm at Igbogene.
While some jobs opportunities have been created in the Ministry of Justice where some people were employed as magistrates, chairmen of customary courts and counsel in the mainstream judiciary, some have been employed in the broadcasting sector, while a good number of people have been absorbed in the education sector.
About 1,000 youths benefit from the Industrial Training Fund, 250 youths were sent to the King Amachere Royal Academy to learn skills and capacities, over 500 youths have been engaged in the Izon-Ibe Volunteers and there is the possibility that it could be increased to 3000.
This and many more deliberately planned policies have continued to engender the administration to the people of the state and going by Dickson’s avowed commitment, those developmental strides are expected to continue as a leadership legacy in the state.
Apart from the Bayelsa Specialist Hospital; the Diagnostic Centre and the Bayelsa State Drug Distribution Centre, other projects commissioned last week included secretariat annexes, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo Drive, Aqua Culture Village, Restoration flyover, Doctors Quarters for the diagnostic centre, Sagbame- Ekeremor road and Yenagoa- Oporoma road.
Others are Ogbia- Nembe road, Cassava plantation, Ebedebiri, the University of Africa, Toru Orua, College of Education, Sagbama and constituencies free boarding school.
On his inauguration, Dickson promised to turn the state into a construction site, six years down the lane; this is a promised kept with faith