Posted by News Express | 15 February 2017 | 2,696 times
Since 2012 when Henry Seriake Dickson was sworn in as the Executive Governor of Bayelsa State, February 14 has been a special day for the people of the State. Being the day he took the oath of office during which he promised to rule Bayelsa State with honesty, love and care, people often look forward to the day, to celebrate his achievements and Valentine’s day.
This year’s celebration is unique and different for several reasons. First, it is coming after the afterglow of the governor’s well-deserved victory both at the polls and at the Supreme Court. Secondly, this anniversary marks the end of his fifth year in office as the Governor of Bayelsa State, just as it marks the anniversary of his first year in office for his second tenure. Also, this year’s celebration is remarkable for the number of projects listed for commissioning. Planned to last for six days, according to the Governor’s Special Adviser on Media Relations, Francis Agbo, the commissioning will cover projects in various sectors including health, education, roads and bridges. The projects are so many that they would have to be commissioned in batches.
The foundation for the phenomenal successes recorded by the Dickson administration was laid early in 2012. The Valentine Governor, as he fondly called by his political associates, had promised to regularly render account of monies accruing to the State from the Federation account. He followed it up with an executive Bill, which was passed into law by the Bayesla State House of Assembly. The law stipulates that the Governor of Bayelsa State must always render account of all monies accruing to the State, including the Federation account, to the people of the State. Governor Dickson is the only State Chief executive who chose, through an Act of Parliament, to compulsorily render account of monies accruing to the State.
Governor Dickson was also desirous of creating an enabling environment for his development programmes by ensuring that politicians whether in the ruling party or in the opposition, are given room to operate without hindrance. He believed that only a turmoil-free political landscape could guarantee the speedy growth and development of Bayelsa State. He therefore liberalised the political space by allowing opposition politicians the freedom to thrive. Even when members of the opposition party criticised him, he simply laughed over it. That was how he virtually eliminated political violence, which was the rule in the state before he came to power. The height of that political tolerance was seen in the build up to the 2015 general elections when he made available to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state and President Muhammdu Buhari, the state owned Samson Siasia Stadium for their campaign at great cost to his political career!
Thereafter, Governor Dickson embarked on what are now fondly referred to as the legacy projects, in education, health, roads construction, the hospitality industry, religion and industrialisation. Education was his first port of call. Having witnessed at close quarters how difficult it was for Bayelsans to access education, he introduced free and compulsory education at the primary and secondary school levels. According to his Media department, the governor also spent about N40 billion on education to build over 30 first ever model boarding secondary schools in the 24 state constituencies, as well as 400 primary schools with headmaster/staff quarters in many parts of the state. In addition, government gave primary school pupils and secondary school students free textbooks, uniforms, sandals, bags, and writing materials. Government also picked the bills for students registering for WAEC, NECO, and JAMB examinations. Part of the N40 billion was spent on scholarships to enable Bayelsans and other Ijo-speaking peoples study for graduate and post-graduate degrees in some of the best of universities in Nigeria and the world.
Governor Dickson also tackled teacher education, which had been neglected for many years due to inconsistent government policies. The absence of training schools for teachers, he learnt, was responsible for the fall in the standard of education in the country. To change the situation, he established a Teachers’ Training Institute and equipped it with modern teaching facilities for the training and re-training of teachers. The deliberate efforts to reposition education in the State have been so phenomenal that by 2014, Bayelsa State became the fourth best- performing state with a pass rate of 52.83 per cent as 34, 242 students scored five credits and above, including Mathematics and English in the West African Examinations Council results.
Governor Dickson also made dramatic changes in the health sector, introducing health institutions that were thought impossible for the State. His desire, as he often said, is to enable every Bayelsan have direct access to quality health facilities. It was in line with that resolution that he built a referral hospital in the headquarters of each local government area. He also built a Diagnostic Center in Yenagoa, which has been acclaimed as world-class and one of the best in the country. Apart from a modern clinic that is attached to Government House in Yenagoa, Governor Dickson also built a drug mart, conceived to flush out fake drugs from the market!
The construction and rehabilitation of roads and bridges also received the attention of the governor. It will be recalled that prior to his emergence as Governor, Bayelsa was derisively described as a one-road State. With his resolution to change the face of roads and bridges in the State, it did not take long before Governor Dickson turned Bayelsa State into a construction site with the construction of roads in various parts of the State. Among the outstanding road projects are the ring road, which allows the Yenagoa-bound visitor from Port Harcourt to go through Igbogene, thus avoiding the hassles of traffic gridlock in the capital city; construction of the first-ever flyover in Yenagoa, which was named Restoration Flyover; dualisation of the Isaac Adaka Boro Express Way in Yenagoa into three lanes; construction of the Ogobiri/Toru Ebeni bridge, which is the longest in the state, connecting Sagbama with the Southern Ijo local governments; and the construction of one major road in each of the three Senatorial Districts in the State. Also outstanding was the boost the restoration government gave to the construction of the Ogbia-Nembe road in Bayelsa East Senatorial District. The construction of that road has given the residents of Nembe the first opportunity of driving their cars from Yenagoa to their various homes.
In the tourism sector, Governor Dickson realised quite early that it required the expertise of trained hands to make any serious impact globally. To attain that goal, he established the School of Tourism and Catering, the School of Music and the School of Languages to train people who could either man the tourism industry in the State, start their own businesses or seek relevant employment in other parts of the world. It was to also tap into the tourism industry that Governor Dickson established a Museum in Yenagoa. An Entertainment and Tourist centre is presently under construction at the Oxbow Lake area of Yenagoa, just as an 18-hole international Golf Course/Estate and a world-class Polo Ground and Club are at various stages of construction. The Governor also ordered the rehabilitation of tourist and recreational sites across the state, including the Whiteman’s Grave at Akassa in Brass Local Government Area.
The Countryman Governor also built four state secretariat annexes, a permanent Secretariat for members of the Bayelsa Traditional Council and a special court for Alternative Dispute Resolution, which has drastically reduced the volume of litigations in regular courts. He also built a Police Officers Mess, Deputy Governor’s residence, a Driving School, Transparency Plaza and Government Guest Houses. Other major achievements of Government Dickson include the establishment of a Football Academy in Sagbama, the NYSC Orientation Camp and Youth Development Centre, Kaiama and the Sports Academy, both in Kolokuma Okpokuma Local Government Area, construction of a stadium in Nembe City, as well as the building of an Ecumenical Centre and an ultra-modern new Governor/Deputy Governor’s office, all in Yenagoa.
To shore up the agricultural base and the industrial sector, Governor Dickson established a commercial Cassava Starch Processing Factory in Ebidebri, in Sagbama, which would create 30, 000 jobs when fully operational. The government also built 500 fish ponds, which will engage about 700 youths. An airport on the Wilberforce Island, Amassoma meant to open up the state and make it a player in the Gulf of Guinea is under construction. Governor Dickson promoted private sector participation in real estate by setting up the Bayelsa Geographic Information System to simplify the issuance of Certificates of Occupancy for land titles within 60 days of application.
Governor Dickson often described Bayelsa as ‘‘the world’s best kept secret.’’ The world appears to have discovered the State as it now attracts major national and global events. The most memorable events that have taken place in Yenagoa are the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria contest, Miss Century contest, the annual Nigeria Editors Conference, the annual Fashion Festival, the African Movie Academy Awards, and the Global Jazz Festival. Notable international figures, including Jesse Jackson, have been to Yenagoa to savor its new flavor. So far, the Valentine Governor has lived his vision of bringing the world to Bayelsa, and taking Bayelsa to the world and he can only get better if he remains focused on the job!
•Agbo is a veteran journalist based in Lagos and wrote in via email@example.com
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