Bayelsa State: The Poor Rich State

Feature Article Governor Seriake Henry Dickson, Bayelsa State, Nigeria
JUL 24, 2019 LISTEN
Governor Seriake Henry Dickson, Bayelsa State, Nigeria

The population of my home state, Bayelsa is two million and we all live in single digit Local Government Areas of 8. Two million people are not too many people.

Eight Local Government Areas are the fewest Local Government Areas in any state in Nigeria. How difficult can it be to administer two million citizens living in a paltry 8 Local Government Areas, compared with Lagos and Kano with 44 Local Government Areas etc?

It is the case that, population issues are political in the most toxic sense for a majority of the states, populations are inflated for political purposes. It is therefore even doubtful that Bayelsa State actually has two million citizens, with a voters register reportage of 923,000. Bayelsa is not however alone in this population engineering magic!

Manifestoes are similar to the promotional materials for political parties and persons, acting as candidate, or who seek political office.

A manifesto is the platform and predicate advertisement which gives insights to the voters as to what political parties and candidates for elective office, are promising to do or not do, upon being elected.

The governorship elections in my home and corner of Nigeria, Bayelsa State are just a few months away and none of the registered political parties in Nigeria, all 91 of them, have offered manifestoes or written promises of what their political parties and their candidates would do and refrain from doing, upon being victorious at the polls!

Instead, what the world has seen and observed so far, is merely the braggadocios of poor rich parties and poor rich men, who have, in the midst of abject, extreme poverty, unemployment, dearth of public infrastructure, neglected and abandoned projects which have been abandoned outright, the two major parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and their swaggering candidates who have paid up twenty-two million Naira each; monies from their vigorous and prodigious personal hard earned money over the years, profits, dividends, savings and all, paid with ease and without qualms!

Upon paying this outrageous price for this indication of interest nomination forms, the candidates of the APC and PDP, the major contending political parties in Bayelsa State, my state, which is full of squandered promises and yet, full of potentials, the candidates are not telling us or even pretending to be telling us, or promising us, what the aforementioned political parties and their candidates might do, if elected.

But instead, all we are being taunted with, is why West and Not East, East and not South, or Nembe and not Sagbama or Amassoma and not Sabagria must be elected. These geographies are no testament of a can-do and will do, attitude which delivers so called dividends of democracy to our people.

After all, our state, Bayelsa, is the same state which has proven wrong, the wrongheaded belief that if your local government produces a governor or president, that singular fact would assure, guarantee and make certain social, economic and infrastructural development.

The former President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was the political umpire and referee for six years, and yet, there is no potable water in Otuoke, despite federal expenditure of billions of Naira on Otuoke Water Works, which did not yield water after all the hoopla of commissioning.

Furthermore, all the roads to Otuoke and all of Ogbia Local Government Areas are terribly bad and impassable 366 days of the year, whether through the Agbura-Otuokpoti - Onuegbum axis or through the Otuasegha-Okarki axis or the Emeya-Elebele Bayelsa Palm axis and Kolo-Ogbia Town axis. Ogbia Town is the Local Government Area headquarters!

There are uncountable projects which have been abandoned by our state government over the years. These neglected projects abound and among them are, the 500 bed hospital on Imgbi Road in Yenagoa, which laid fallow for several years, before 2012 until 2018 when the premises was re-launched by the governor, Mr. Seriake Henry Dickson with the help of Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo, both men behaving as if these buildings and premises never existed for a day, before February 14, 2018.

Subsequently, the premises was summarily declared Bayelsa State Medical University, and everyone shouted Hooray!

The strangest thing about all of these, is the dramatic truth, which is the fact that most print media in Yenagoa are located on the same Imgbi Road, where this 500 bed hospital had laid fallow and in limbo for over ten years, when these premises were now suddenly being launched and commissioned as if they were brand new!

Everyone would have reasonably expected the journalists from these print media, to have noticed or stumbled on this phantasmagoria of miraculous buildings morphing into existence as brand new and pristine buildings, even though these buildings had always existed from the Alamieseigha-Sylva era projects.

A Bridge fell in Iminringi in October 2012, as one of the consequences of the disastrous floods of that year. This bridge in Imiringi Community of Ogbia Local Government Area is still not reconstructed or repaired. Astonishingly, none of the current governorship candidates have mentioned this abandoned bridge and what each of them might do about the bridge, were they to be elected or become successful at the elections scheduled for November of this year.

There is no form of Government funded Public Transportation within the state capital Yenagoa or the environs of Yenagoa metropolitan areas. Imagine, if you will, if there were a scheduled bus transportation service from Nembe to Yenagoa, Sagbama to Yenagoa, or Amassoma to Yenagoa and Polaku to Yenagoa etc. This will make intrastate travel easier, more convenient and affordable.

A good network of state transportation would make it possible for persons who work in Yenagoa, to be able to live outside or on the outskirts of Yenagoa. This will reduce the congestion in Yenagoa, and make the overpriced housing issue solvable.

Additionally, food will become cheaper, fish, farm produce and other farm produce will be easily transported to Yenagoa from the hinterlands of the creeks and uplands, cheaper and fresher for all consumers, but, currently, it is quite expensive and inconvenient to undertake any of these, due to the unavailability of a moderately priced state transport service.

A Bridge across the river to Sabagria was abandoned approximately a decade ago. When I go to Sabagria from Yenagoa, I have to go East to go West, as a result of the neglect by government to complete this abandoned bridge.

The alternative for me and all others going to Sabagria is to first go to Polaku, past Okolobiri and Obunagh, leave your vehicle at Polaku waterside, get on a canoe ride across the river, then mount a commercial motorbike, or Okada, through a footpath to Sabagria ! It is so narrow a footpath and so uneven and inconvenient! How did this happen and how could this be allowed to happen to Sabagria?

A Five Star Hotel has been neglected and abandoned, left uncompleted, after so much money, in billions of Naira have been sunk into what is now known, in local parlance, as “ The monument of embarrassment “!

Imagine if this strategically positioned and located hotel was completed, it will be a major landmark, a major edifice and a major employer of labor for those in the hotel and hospitality subsectors! It would have been a source of pride for all of us, it would have been the destination hotel, and a point of reference.

Such that, after the Hotel Ala Bayelsa, you make a left turn to Bayelsa Palm and the Abattoir, when you make a right turn, you will be heading to Onopa, Creek Haven to Government House and FMC or to Gabriel Okara Cultural Center and the High Courts or Judiciary Buildings, near Peace Park, and Bayelsa State Siasia Stadium.

And from Tombia, going straight and pass the flyover bridge, you will be heading towards Ox Bow Lake, on the same major road where Central Bank of Nigeria is situated, in addition to Bayelsa State Waterways Transportation hub, and an FM Radio Station on the same strips.

None of the aforesaid and aforementioned APC and PDP or other political parties and their gubernatorial candidates have deemed it important to discuss or have a manifesto, which references education as a game changer, and priority for Bayelsa State. This is happening, despite the fact that Bayelsa State, remains educationally disadvantaged, along with a few other Nigerian states!

Education is a catalyst for development, therefore, any potentate governor or aspirant to that exulted office of governor in our educationally disadvantaged, or to put it harshly, an educationally backward state, needs to see educational development as critical and crucial. But, here we are, a few months to a pivotal election of a would be chief executive and there are no mentions of education with a clear vision!

What we have instead, is a cascade of universities in Bayelsa State, all at once! When Governor Alamieseigha was alive, I criticized him severally and very harshly and most severely!

I thought that he could have done more, as those to whom much is given, much is expected. I also thought and wished that he was not associated with corruption, and garrulity! BUT, he is redeemed in hindsight, and in my books, he is , and remains the best governor which our state has ever had!

It was Governor Alamieseigha who established Niger Delta University (NDU) in Amassoma. NDU is the main reason that our state is able to produce lawyers, doctors, engineers, nurses, Information technology professionals, to mention just a few! NDU is one of the few Nigerian universities with a dedicated faculty exclusively to the profession of nursing!

During Mr. Seriake Henry Dickons government, particularly during the preceding eighteen months, NDU was shut down for more than six months, ostensibly, due to lack of funds according to the state government.

Shutting down the only tertiary institution which is owned by Bayelsa State, a notoriously educationally disadvantaged state, was just egregiously a misplacement of priorities! Anyone, any political leader who wishes development for our state, cannot, and should not neglect education, particularly, higher education!

What is worse than that is the fact that the public fell asleep, when this extended NDU shutdown persisted!

Mr. Seriake Henry Dickson, as if under a spell, in a seeming desire to overcompensate for the atrocious act of closing down NDU for several months, decided to establish two universities, almost simultaneously!

First was the founding, or establishment, almost overnight, the University of Africa, and then,the Bayelsa State University of Medicine!

But, how can this be the most judicious use of scarce resources? How can a man who is unable to feed a wife and children, suddenly jump to marry two additional wives and children, just like that? Soon after the same man notoriously, and infamously advertised his inability to feed, house and clothe a wife and a child?

It is the case, that Mr. Seriake Henry Dickson accomplished these sorts of magic, and in short order, and magically, all the members of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly went along, and there was no tongue wagging, or cacophonies of voices of dissension reminding Mr. Dickson of the above realities already referenced!

The APC and PDP candidates should be shouting their plans, plans to counter Mr. Dickson's management of the Bayelsa State Education Sector, through plans for consolidating Universities owned wholly or in part by our state.

NDU should be the Bayelsa State university, with a well funded College of Medicine which replaces Bayelsa State Medical University so-called. Then, University of Africa, as beautiful as the name is, should be merged with Niger Delta University.Toru Orua will henceforth have NDU, Toru Orua Campus, the College of Education in Sagbama will become the site of an NDU Campus, administered by education experts from NDU Faculty of Education, alongside other related education Course and programs in the NDU Sagbama Campus!

All of our 8 Local Government Areas could, and can have individual campuses of the Niger Delta University.

NDU Nembe Campus, NDU Ogbia Campus, NDU SILGA Campus, I am sure that we all get the point, which is that a Bayelsa State University with multiple campuses in our 8 Local Government Areas would streamline this critical education sector for Bayelsa State.

This will be more cost-efficient and administratively more manageable. One Vice Chancellor and Senate and Governing Council, instead of, and in place of multiple Vice Chancellors, Multiple Senates, Multiple Management Teams, Multiple Governing Councils!

How can a governor who regaled us with austerity measures, arguing closure of NDU for several months, and shutting down Imiringi Turbine Power Station, be the same person who now has inflicted these plethora of overhead costs, burdening our state and generations to come?

Bayelsa State and Akwa Ibom are peer states. They have identical birth dates. Since the implementation of the Derivation Principle, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa States have received more than a majority of the other 36 States of the Nigerian federation and received more revenue allocated to it from the Federal Revenues.

Akwa Ibom has a functioning Airport, Akwa Ibom has outstanding and solid drainage systems, a great networks of roads, a modern stadium and much more! Comparatively, Bayelsa State has no drainage system in Yenagoa or elsewhere and no good network of roads.

Bayelsa State's Yenagoa International Airport was first planned approximately in 2007, to be at a location off East-West Road, then, a new location was off the road to Amassoma. The completion and commissioning was with pomp and pageantry, but, there are still no scheduled flights for once a week or even for once a month!

Yenagoa International Airport has its Control Towers still under construction, several months after the audacious landings of aircrafts which heralded the commissioning with all the hoopla!

How be it, that those posturing and aggrandizing themselves as potentate or would be governors of our very rich, but, poor state, neglect to mention these things? They have not stated their agreements or disagreements with these policies or how they might tinker with and tweak them for the benefits of all Bayelsa State citizens.

How come no governorship candidate is asking why it has taken 8 years, and Isaac Adaka Boro Expressway is still under start, stop and start fitful constructions? Why is Adaka Boro Express a bridge too far?

Bayelsa State is currently having a festival or carnival of political juggernauts with lots of money, but, without advertised policies and without even pretending to be policy wonks or have a modicum of ideas for our common good, or public good!

Written by Paul I. Adujie Esq.