By Ebiowei Lawal
Prince Uche Secondus flanked by the governor of Bayelsa State, Hon. Seriake Dickson (right) and his deputy, Gboribiogha John Jonah during the commissioning of the Ox-Bow lake pavilion
YENAGOA-According to current statistics, Henry Seriake Dickson is the sixth executive Governor of Bayelsa state and the first in the roll of state governors of the state since its creation in 1996 to serve two terms in office.
Furthermore before Dickson took over in 2012, Bayelsa with 8 local governments areas, is amongst the least populated state in Nigeria with high allocation from the federation account but backward in terms of human and capital development index.
Those who had piloted the affairs of the state for its 22 years of existence, both military and civilian, no doubt contributed immensely to make the state what it is today.
Progressive and inward looking as the state seemed before 2012, Bayelsa had never been on the speed lane of development as it has been in recent past.
Dickson from 2012 strives to transformed the state from a crude oil allocation dependent state into an agricultural dependent state and this why the state rolled out the drums to celebrate its success stories.
As the restoration administration led by Dickson celebrates its sixth year anniversary, the state has transformed from a state where people journey far to seek medical attention to a state people now visit for medical help.
It has also been observed that the rate of out of school children that was at an alarming rate has dropped progressively because of the massive investment in the educational sector in the past six years.
The celebration of the sixth anniversary of the restoration administration began with a grand rally in support of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), chaired by the National chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus.
At the event that took place at the Ox-Bow Lake Pavilion, Swali Yenagoa, the party received 33 stalwarts of the All Progressives Congress (APC) defected to the PDP before a mammoth crowd.
According to Secondus, all the rights and privileges of the decampees have been restored the moment they jumped ship, adding that they are free to contest elections.
“Let me on behalf of the National Working Committee receive our members who have deemed it necessary today to come back home from APC. To
“Let me say here that no state chapter should bar anybody from coming into our party. We have opened the doors; we are waiting starting from Bayelsa today. We are waiting for others.”
The event was followed by commissioning of various legacy projects to include the Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS Research Centre, Bayelsa Information House and Bayelsa Health Insurance Scheme Complex.
Leading a team of panelists to a public lecture titled “Managing Government Information in this Volatile New Media Age: A Matter of Theory or A Question of Practice?” shortly after commissioning exercise, Prof. Jerry Gana, commended Dickson for placing high premium on proper management of information.
Prof. Gana, who observed that, there is a nexus between good governance and effective dissemination of information, stressed that, information provides enlightenment that engenders participatory democracy.
Commenting on his administration’s health policies, Dickson said the Bayelsa Health Insurance Scheme, which has currently captured 66,000 public servants, was introduced to make health care more accessible and affordable.
The high point of the week long event was the three days working visit of former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR.
He began his visit with the commissioning of the Drug and Pharmaceutical Distribution Centre and the World Class Diagnostic Centre all situated in Yenagoa.
Afterwards he met with traditional ruler at the Traditional Rulers Council where he attributed the relative peace and stability being enjoyed in Bayelsa to their support to the restoration government.
Obasanjo however advised Dickson to at all time accept criticism as a sign he is doing well, satisfy his conscience and always ensure he gets 60% pass mark.
He said, “20 years ago I was here when I came to campaign. What I have seen today is different from what I saw 20 years ago. The difference is like what you have between day and night.”
But beyond the accolades, cheers and fanfares during the event development partners have opined that the best way to measure development is not the number of projects but to ascertain if such projects meet the indices used to measure the socio-economic growth of a people.
From available records, Dickson has performed far above per in terms of improving the wellbeing of the people of the state but awareness on how Bayelsans could tap into the opportunities created by the restoration government is however low.
The statistics are listed below as follows: foreign investment dwindled between 2001/2011 as a result of the alarming rate of kidnapping, killing and cultism but Improved since 2012 because of the introduction of the BDIC and huge investment on the Industrial park project.
In terms of Local Content Promotion, the state had no indigenous terminalling facility but today the state has a cargo airport that is 90% completed and the Agge seaport that is under construction. Today Bayelsa is ready to receive investor from all over the world.
Also Access to Raw Material, Investors and Market from 2007 to 2011 was poor because only 3 LGAs out of the 8 LGAs in the state could be accessed by road from Yenagoa, the state capital, thereby discouraging real investors and local production of goods.
With the construction of the three senatorial roads that have reached Nembe, Ekeremor and Ayama from Yenagoa, Bayelsa is now open to receive investors from the Atlantic ocean, as well as from the upper part of Nigeria.
Power Sector Road Map Conceived in the past but was abandoned. Only Yenagoa, the state capital was connected to the National grid. Today with the launching of Operation light-up Bayelsa project now Agbere, Amassoma and Atissa Kingdom have all been connected to the National grid. Ogbia and Nembe have been wired and would soon be connected.
Access To grant, subsidized fertilizers and seeds for farming in the past was limited, corruption-ridden and real farmers shut out. But today corruption in the scheme has been eliminated and Farmers now receive grant, subsidized fertilizers and seeds directly.
Rice Production Conceived in the past but didn’t yield fruit due to corruption and misappropriation of funds from Central bank. Now the state has embarked on massive rice production in various state-owned paddy fields. In Ogbia, a 20 hectare rice farm has been cultivated and harvested, and hundred 50kg bags have been threshed and processed.
Fish Production: The only fish pond project at Okaka estate was abandoned. Two fishing trawlers bought by the previous administration didn’t bring one fish from the sea. Grant for fish farmers from the federal government was diverted into private pocket.
However the story today is that 500 Bayelsans have been trained at Songhai farms in Republic of Benin. Epie upland fish farm sitting on 127 hectares of land, with capacity to produce 7000 fishes biannually have been conceived and completed. The farm also has the capacity to produce 8million fingerlings annually.
Massive production of Cassava project was Conceived but was not implemented. But in six years the state now have a Cassava multiplication project located in Ebedebiri in Sagbama LGA occupies 600 hectares, out of which 40 hectares have been cultivated with an improved variety of vitamin ‘A’ rich cassava from Micheal Okpara university of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia state to feed a proposed starch factory plant in the state.
In the past low attention was given to electronic data capturing of civil servants, unemployed youths and farmers. The restoration today is that data of the above mentioned category of persons have been captured to ensure easy service delivery. Online access to government policies, programs, projects, income and expenditure of the state have been provided.
In terms of Transparency and accountability, The Bayelsa State Expenditure and Income Transparency Initiative (BEITI) bill was lying dead in the Bayelsa state Assembly in the past. Expenditure and Income of the state was shrouded in secrecy.
But in 2012 the BEITI bill, now Bayelsa State Transparency and Acountability Law, was signed into law and the monthly transparency briefing initiative commenced. Today Bayelsans within and outside the country can now access records of the income and expenditure of the state on the internet.
In the area of entrepreneurs development, very low attention was given. But today Dickson introduced the Bayelsa Economic and Transformation (BEST) project and SME Mentorship Program. 1000 youths were sent to India, Malaysia, Benin Republic for ICT, Agriculture, Boat building and other relevant skills.
In the past the Bayelsa state adult literacy average rate was far below the National average of 64.2%. Today with the massive investment in the educational sector, the Bayelsa state adult literacy index has risen to 64.3%. Slightly above the National index.
Crude oil production and theft was a huge burden for statr and multinationals in the past. From 2009 to 2011, 136,409,573 barrels of crude oil was stolen from Cheveron, NAOC and SPDC due to sabotage and theft, amounting to about $11billion (N1.737trillion) lose.
Today, the figure has reduced drastically, due to improved security, clamp down on illegal bunkers and creation of jobs in the agricultural sector.
While life expectancy at birth stood at 47 years, today that figure has risen to 59 years. In the past patients had to travel 52 miles to see a Doctor and 1 in 5 children die before their fifth birthday. But today standard referral hospitals have been built in all the 8 LGAs across the state.
Teacher/Pupil ratio dropped from 74:1 in 2012 to 42:1. Before 2012 the state had a record of 3,482 bad classrooms out of 6,058 classrooms in primary schools and 328 bad classrooms out of 626 Junior Secondary Schools. But today all the bad schools have been renovated and more have been built by the restoration government.
In the recent past the state had 320,957 out of school children out of 363,595 children that are enrolled into schools every year but today that story has changed because government invested more in building schools than funding criminality and detention centers.
This is why Dickson have refused to give way to people that give the intent to play politics with the development of a state like Bayelsa and a sector that is as sensitive as education.
Just like Obasenjo rightly advised, government have refused to dwell on a war against its critiques but focused on building a people centered economy for the past six years.