In the heat of the tension making the rounds in the state about a directive issued to the Caretaker Chairmen of the 8 LGAs in the state to drop LGA workers employed from 2004, the immediate past Caretaker Chairman of Southern Ijaw Local Government and a Governorship aspirant in the state Hon. Joshua Maciver has come out to advice the Caretaker Chairmen to be careful else they’ll create a bad image for themselves in trying to follow orders from the state government. Hon. Joshua Maciver who made the advice known through a press statement issued on Monday 4th November, 2017 said, he also made the same mistake and still regretting that singular action. Hon. Joshua went on to say that though Caretaker Chairmen don’t have such authority of theirs but any decision they are directed to take has adverse effect on them either positively or negatively. He said “I was trying to follow orders and in doing so, it caused serious disaffection among those affected and their families”. He further said “I’ll not want the same stigma to follow these set of Caretaker Chairmen”. In his statement, he reiterated that Bayelsa State for now is not an industrial hub for business therefore 95% of Bayelsans depend on government either directly or indirectly therefore any decision to drop workers always leave grave consequences on the populace. He enjoined all Bayelsans to rally round a candidate that will put the interest of the people first in the forthcoming Governorship Election in 2019. He said if Elected, he’ll put Bayelsans first as according to him, the welfare of the people is more paramount than any form of infrastructural development.
Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson, speaks on burning issues in his state as well as those on the national scene in this interview with select newsmen across the country. Osaro Akindele Okhomina was there.
How has the six years of your administration been in Bayelsa?
Let me use this opportunity to welcome you all home. We say all good people are from Bayelsa State. Let me thank you for the efforts you have been making in the past few days; going around our state to have a real feel of the developments on ground. You saw and felt the silent revolution that has been going on in Bayelsa. Now you are in a position to compare with some of the stories and propaganda and rumour and blackmail that have tended to suffuse the atmosphere everywhere.
With regards to sustainability, there is no doubt that the work I and my team have been doing for the past six years has changed the state. That was what I promised the people on the first day of inauguration because I came into this job with a clear idea of what I wanted to do. I had made up my mind on these issues. I knew the challenges and I had my blue print right from when I was campaigning. I knew that education, health care, infrastructure development, expanding agriculture, promoting industrialisation and investing in peace, law and order and security will all be a priority and I laid all these out in my inaugural address. There is nothing I have done that is not contained in my inaugural speech. In any case, I am a politician of conviction so everything I had in mind to do is what I am doing.
But what happens when you are no longer in office?
I have more than two years left to do more and further consolidate on what we have started. We have also introduced a number of policies and legislations, for example, in the education and health care sectors. After building the schools and the hospitals, I have come up with the compulsory health insurance scheme in this state, created by law and a fund into which deductions from civil servants and others who subscribe to it are paid. The state government also supports it by putting up to five per cent of the state monthly internally generated revenue, IGR. With a board of very competent professionals, managing that fund and with the hospitals built and equipped and the law backing it, this is sustainable.
In education, we have built schools in every local government. There are 13 model compulsory boarding schools spread across the state, plus 25 constituency secondary schools which are equipped. We have selected good students and put them there. We spend almost N120,000,000 every month feeding these students. This is besides the fully equipped laboratories and library, the classrooms; the money used in buying books, provision of uniforms. After doing all of these, we have created the educational development trust fund by law and I have also appointed a board with Prof. Isoun to serve as chairman. With the law and the funding mechanism that I have put in place, I believe that to a large extent if these institutions are supported (and the good thing is that I still have over two years to nurture them), there is no fear as to sustainability. I, of course, want more support and encouragement. Already, I have formally announced the Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka as the Honorary Educational Ambassador to the state. He has graciously offered to help me and my government and the state in this big, robust, ambitious educational intervention. He has given me the permission to go on with that and we are pleased to have him on board. I will make more of such appeals so that I can tell the Bayelsa story beyond the shores of Bayelsa. We have international organizations that can help us, the corporate players that have been drilling oil for 61 years here who do not even pay tax here or have offices here. They need to support this endeavor because they are all beneficiaries of the effect of this intervention because with the 5,000 to 10,000 graduates trained in this specially equipped schools, it means that we have fewer militants or disgruntled elements to deal with and that is why we are making all of these investments and I believe that these programmes are largely sustainable. I always say nothing human is perfect or absolute but largely with the measures we have taken, the policies would be sustained.
The enormity of projects and policies you put in place are unprecedented and one gets worried about their execution in the face of dwindling revenue?
With regards to the Brass LNG, the Brass Fertilizer, and all the big tickets investment that have not really taken off in this state, we are very sad that that is the case and you are right because if those projects had taken off, the IGR base of the state would largely have been expanded and today we would have had more money by way of IGR to put into these investments. But having said that, we are working with the partners concerned and in the next couple of weeks I would be handing over formally the certificate of occupancy of the Brass Fertilizer to the company. Our teams are working, I am also in regular touch with the Brass LNG group and we are working to see how we can provide support. I have been making the case that it is unfortunate, in fact, one of the greatest misfortunes that befell this state in recent couple of years has been the inability to conclude this key investment initiative. But we are almost concluding Brass fertilizer aspect. The state had to take an equity of 10 per cent to fast track it and to create confidence. We are also talking to the investors in LNG. Unfortunately even though the money was there for a number of years, there wasn’t sufficient will and attention so the investors have more or less diverted and gone to Mozambique and some other countries but there is a renewed zeal, especially driven by us in this state. We are creating industrial areas, power hubs, just to enable us attract industries, manufacturers and corporate players to our state so that the IGR base can go up. I do not know if you found time to visit the airport, it is almost completed. The whole idea is not for luxury, but for cargo, for business men to use it as a hub so that the IGR base can go up. Right now, Bayelsa is cut off from the rest of the world. No sea port, no airport. So even when the revenue is going down, because of the enormity of the challenges, I am here to address challenges. So we are not scared of challenges. When I started all these projects, about five years back, everybody was saying “he is doing too much”. They never said I am not doing enough. What is helping us is focus and prudence and that is why with this investment, little by little a lot of projects are being completed.
What is your take on all manners of agitations that can lead to a breakup of the country?
Well for me, having a large nation like Nigeria is an advantage. Large population in size and enormous resources that are really embedded in each and every state in this country. Look at the farming belt, everywhere is green. So between one state and another you can actually have massive mechanized farms. This country has no reason to be poor. It is a blessed country. I am not even talking about what is under the soil, and our rich human resource base and I have always made this case even to my people in spite of the anger, the sense of marginalization that they justly feel. I have continued to make a case, as I do to our youths, that there is an advantage in staying in a large and diverse family. Quite frankly, the greatness of Nigeria does not only derive from oil and mineral resources. The greatness of our country is a combination of all of it including its diversity and complexity. But we must create a stable and fair country. Nigeria must be founded on fairness and justice and equity. We must build a nation of compassion and a nation of love and truth, not a nation of oppression or deceit. Right now the foundation of this country is fraudulent and we should not run away from saying it as it is. Really it does not do anybody any good to perpetuate this unworkable structure.
Therefore, those of us who are in support of restructuring are making the case for a sustainable and stable and fair Nigeria that can endure for the next 400 years and going forward. Few years from now, we will be one of the most populous countries in the world and only God knows what is possible if only we can have a stable Nigeria where citizens are not at each other’s throat for the right or wrong reasons. In this state or region, anybody who says that the existence of Nigeria is not negotiable is not telling you the truth. But as I keep saying, the existence of a big and strong diverse nation called Nigeria is desirable. But like anything human, its terms and conditions cannot be absolute and cannot be perfect. Therefore, nation building is a work in progress and so we must continually examine the basis upon which we are going to have this big beautiful nation but with a mindset to making it more perfect.
I want fairness for everybody; for my people and myself. I do not see why this state will have eight local government areas when it takes me three days to go round a local government area and you make the number of local governments a basis for distributing the wealth that I produce; you take away the resources by legislations using military decrees to which our people never made input.
What is your reaction to the Supreme Court judgment on the PDP crisis?
First of all it is unfortunate that the dispute lasted for as long as it did. Secondly, it is also unfortunate that it had to take a judicial intervention, which is the decision of the Supreme Court for us to know who our chairman and other officers of our party are. Again I consider that as a failure of politics; not really blaming one side or the other. It’s not just about PDP but the other parties. To that extent, it is very sad. Now the Supreme Court has decided. One of the reasons I did not think the judicial option was the best is that after judicial interventions- judges do not reconcile they adjudicate – you are back to square one, back to the court of reconciliation. I have read the statement of Sen. Makarfi. He is a very stable man and I agree with that approach, that we have to go back to reconciliation. That is where I have always stood. Reconciliation is key not litigation. Now we have to come back to square one to promote internal reconciliation and then to move for a convention which was what I proposed we should have done. So we are still back to holding an acceptable unity convention. So good luck to our party. I will join hands with other leaders of our party to ensure that this key objective is achieved, that is, reconciliation of the party with a view to having all-inclusive unity, an acceptable convention
Bayelsa State Governor, Henry Seriake Dickson has described the late Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro as a symbol of the Ijaw struggle, whose agitation and activism for a better life for his people can never be forgotten.
According to him, the late Boro even though he had passed on remains in the heart of many because of the sacrifices and contributions he made and added that he will forever be honored as a true Ijaw hero.
Speaking at an event to mark the 2017 Isaac Boro Day in Yenagoa, the governor noted that the late activist was a brave man who was very passionate to end the oppression and subjugation of Ijaw people.
Dickson stated that Boro alongside his comrades left the comfort of their lives to fight for others, an attribute which he said is rare and urged people to emulate them as that which they fought for still exists.
He said ” Isaac Boro and his fellow comrades believed in the wellbeing and welfare of their people and not themselves. They stood trial, were convicted and sentenced to death before they were later pardoned. They fought for our liberation to prevent another colonialism”.
The governor who used the occasion to announce the commencement of a special allowance for the wife of the late Boro also told the gathering that his government is building the capacity of youths in the state in various fields to take over from the departed heros who were equally committed to education.
” As a people we need to have a clear sense of direction, a clear sense of strategy. If you don’t know, let me inform you that you belong to an ethnic group that is the most oppressed and deprived on the face of the earth”.
” That is why we are working hard to lay the foundation for a new Bayelsa and a new Ijaw nation. We are raising a new generation of Isaac Boro to give intellectual bite to the Niger Delta struggle because the battles are not over but the territories, terrains and story must change. I have therefore directed that henceforth “Boro Day” should be celebrated in all our schools to under the importance of the life and times of the late Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro and the ideals for which he stood, fought and died for, which is an important part of our history”
Gov. Dickson also used the event to berate some privileged Bayelsans who are occupying sensitive positions but have refused to attract any meaningful development to the state because of politics.
In their goodwill messages, the Amayanabo of Twon Brass, Alfred Diete-Spiff and the chairman of the Bayelsa Elders Forum, Chief Francis Doukpola said Boro lived and died for what he believed in.
On their part, the Ebidaowei of Kolokuma, King Mosi Agara and the first daughter of the late Boro, Esther praised Dickson for keeping the name of their departed hero alive.
The highligt of the event was the laying of wreath at the graveside of Boro by the governor, his deputy and other dignitaries.
Bayelsa State Governor, Henry Seriake Dickson has described the 21 students on state government scholarship to the prestigious Lincoln University in the United States as worthy Ambassadors and pride to the state and their families.
The applause was contained in a congratulatory message by Dickson, sent to the students, who all graduated on Saturday May 12 2017, for making the Bayelsa State proud, having successfully concluded their studies in flying colours.
Dickson expressed delight over one of the students, Perewari Victor Pere, who graduated with First Class Honours and the 20 others for their academic excellence.
According to him, they have by their accomplishments, carved a niche for themselves and placed the name of Bayelsa State in the global map of states with exceptional and unique academic endowments.
Dickson also used the opportunity to express his deepest appreciation to the management of Lincoln University for their understanding and cooperation, despite the state’s inability to remit the needed school fees of the students, as at when they were due.
He, however, assured them that, with $500, 000 US dollars already released to them, concerted efforts were being made to pay up the balance within the shortest possible time.
The governor stressed that, the government and the people of Bayelsa State would remain eternally grateful to the authorities of Lincoln University.
Wife of the Bayelsa State Governor, Dr Rachel Dickson on Thursday called for concerted efforts in tackling obstacles that impede the educational development of the Ijaw girl-child.
Dr Dickson made the call while declaring open a 2-day Bayelsa Women Summit with the theme “Ijaw Women Walking Tall” at the Dr. Gabriel Okara Cultural Center, Yenagoa.
She called on parents, particularly mothers to work assiduously in supporting the girl-child, towards realizing her full potential in any profession, to enable her contribute to the development of society.
Dr Dickson, who encouraged parents never to give up on their children, stressed the need for Ijaw women to take their rightful position in the scheme of things through commitment, hardwork and passion for excellence.
She also called on Ijaw women to jettison all divisive tendencies and support one another in the pursuit of their goals, noting that, mistakes in life should not be seen as stumbling blocks, but rather as formidable platforms to excel.
The 4th Bayelsa Women Summit featured lectures on different career development such as essential security tips, women in politics, academics, business, legal profession and journalism.
Mrs Nene Adala of Otuedu Community in Ogbia Local Government Area and Madam Ebimotimi Justice from Southern Ijaw were among several women that testified to the benevolence of the Restoration Government, which they noted, had empowered their families.
Also speaking, the three female members in the state House of Assembly, Hon. Gold Ingo-Iwowari, Hon. Ebiuwou Koku-Obiyai and Hon. Kate Owoko lauded the Dickson-led administration for its gender friendly posture that has earned Bayelsa international recognition.
In her lecture on Women in Politics, the Managing Director of Bayelsa Trading Company Limited and former state Women Leader of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mrs Faith Opene urged the Ijaw women to develop themselves educationally and shun blackmail and ‘pull her down syndrome’.
Goodwill messages were delivered at the summit by state representatives of various organizations, including National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), International Federation of Female Lawyers (FIDA), National Council for Women Societies (NCWS) and the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA).