“No problem is insurmountable. With a little courage, teamwork and determination a person can overcome anything.” B. Dodge.
In the course of his campaigns prior to the elections that brought him into office, he had traversed the length and breadth of the state promising change and the restoration of the lost glory of the state. Having won the elections decisively, the inauguration ceremony was more or less a symbolic event which accorded him an opportunity to appreciate the people for their support and the mandate they had freely given to him to serve. He also used the opportunity elaborate on the cardinal points of his manifesto christened the ‘Restoration Agenda’.
In the two years of his assumption of office, the Dickson administration has addressed head on the litanny of problems it inherited. As a result of his far-reaching programmes and policies, which have endeared him to the people, he now goes by several appellations such as ‘contriman governor’, ‘restoration governor’, ‘talknado governor’ and the like. Hon. Dickson has come to be regarded widely as the architect of the new era and has without doubt established a paradigm shift in the culture of governance and with great emphasis on transformation and sacrifice. He stepped into the seat of Government in Creek Haven with a determined zeal, creative ingenuity and a courage to dare.
He has by dint of hard work and strength of character led by example, affirming his credibility as a visionary leader. He has succeeded in proving doubting Thomas’s wrong, giving hope to the people of Bayelsa State that tomorrow will certainly be better.
The march towards restoration as severally emphasized by Governor Henry Seriake Dickson, is no doubt one that can only be achieved by uncommon imagination and commitment. Drawing on the exertion of the state’s founding fathers and some of his predecessors, Governor Dickson has thrust the state into the frontlines of national development and remarkable events.
First and foremost he has been able to successfully promote a new ethos of governance where transparency and accountability has been assured by open governance as exemplified with the publication of the state’s income and expenditure profile on a monthly basis. The practice has been made statutory through the Bayelsa Income and Transparency Bill 2012. Unlike the locust years, savings have been made mandatory through the multi-billion Naira Bayelsa Strategic Reserve and Savings Account. These initiatives, products of visionary leadership will serve to protect the interest of the people now and in the future.
In realization of the fact that there can be no meaningful development without security and given the precarious security situation his administration met on ground, Governor Dickson a former law enforcement officer and one time Attorney General, fully appreciated the challenges and immediately set out to put counter measures in place. These include the constitution of a security team with an exceptional track record and ability to run the security apparatus in the state. From their efforts emerged the Bayelsa State Integrated Security Strategy (BISS), a formidable strategy which sought to engineer security by emphasizingintelligence based policing with massive community participation and large scale infusion of modern security technology.
Having set the stage for the people to truly reap the dividends of democracy, Governor Dickson proceeded swiftly to deliver on his promises to the people.
The state has become, in what is now popular parlance, a huge construction site, fielding reputable international contractors that have all been engaged in the construction of major road projects which have further opened up the state to further growth and development.
Education has long been recognized as a central element of development. The Dickson Administration in line with this accorded the sector premium attention in the new scheme of state building by declaring a state of emergency during his swearing in ceremony.
Hon Henry Seriake Dickson, has reduced the economic burden of child education in Bayelsa State, while ushering thousands of youths onto new vista of self-development and empowerment. Education at primary and post primary school levels is now free and compulsory and Model Secondary Schools are being constructed in all local government areas in the state.
Governor Dickson has succeeded in positioning education as a major tool for development in the state through massive investments in education, which is destined to transform the state in a few years time.
By its conscious provision of health infrastructure across the state, the Dickson Administration has indeed given further coloration to its restoration drive. The state government has constructed and is still building modern referral health institutions in all local government areas of the state.
On assumption of duty, the present administration was confronted with transportation problems in the state capital especially the menace of Okada riders leading to avoidable deaths and degree of injuries due to the serious effects of accidents they were exposed to on the roads. With a clear idea of the situation and what was needed to restore order,safety and decency in the state capital, the state government decided to modernize commercial transportation in Yenagoa. Effectively, government banned the operation of motorcycles commonly known as Okada and launched the state transport scheme with the provision of 200 Taxi Cabs and 12 Restoration Buses as well. A driving school was also established with driving stimulators and to be manned by ten engineers trained in the USA.
The promotion of tourism in Bayelsa State is based on the premise that when fully developed, tourism which is the world’s fastest growing industry, has the potential of providing jobs for thousands of Bayelsans.
For Bayelsa State therefore, tourism is the future. With the establishment of the Bayelsa State Tourism Board (BSTB) and the Bayelsa State Institute of Tourism, Catering and Hotel Management, the Dickson Administration is well on its way to fulfilling its promise of providing alternative income for the state beyond oil.
In 2013 alone, the state successfully hosted the Most Beautiful Girl Pageant in Yenagoa, the United Nations Conference on Under Water Cultural Heritage and Imaging, the Caribbean African American Music Awards, an International Jazz Festival, the Centenary Pageant and the Africa Movie Academy Awards all of which captured global attention.
In expanding the scope of tourism in the state, the Dickson Administration has commenced work on the proposed Yenagoa Tourism Island; an international Golf course and estate, which will feature luxury hotels, a polo club and other recreational facilities. To support the growing tourism industry a School of Tourism , Catering and Hospitality Management has been set up for the development of necessary manpower to make the sector thrive.
There is no doubt that Bayelsa State is gradually emerging as a vibrant entertainment spot for the convergence of global stars, which is a deliberate action of government aimed at ultimately making the state a preferred destination for investors and tourists in the nearest future.
The Dickson Administration has exhibited great concern over the state of electricity supply that was inherited from the previous administration; in spite of the billions of naira that was invested in the sector by the previous administration, electricity supply dwindled with an adverse effect on productivity in the state across board.
To achieve better power supply and engender the growth of industrialization in the state, the Dickson-led Restoration Government has signed a memorandum of understanding with the IPP Energy Limited, leasing partners, for the development of 100 megawatts gas turbine power station for the state. This is coming on the heels of the overhauling of the existing gas turbine plant by its manufacturers in order to make it functional again.
Bayelsa lies in a riverine environment with mangrove and tropical rain forest climates that support round the year farming of both aquaculture and agricultural products.
Governor Dickson has consistently indicated his desire to provide an enabling platform for Bayelsa State’s continued growth even without its present economic mainstay – oil.
To the Governor, agriculture has the potential to provide thousands of jobs, feed the population and ultimately create opportunities for export. With this in mind he has keenly pursued an agenda, which will transform agriculture from its present rudimentary level to one, which is fully mechanized. This is the basis for training five hundred youths in modern agricultural practices and methods at Songhai farms in Benin Republic.
This and other such worthy initiatives centered on the agricultural sector will undoubtedly develop the sector and earn the state impressive revenue in the nearest future.
Women and youth development is an aspect of interest in Bayelsa State which Governor Dickson has held close to his heart. Only recently, a total of about five hundred million naira was disbursed to various women cooperative groups across the state as a first phase in the administration’s women empowerment programme. The aim here is to ensure that women, especially those at the grassroots are sufficiently empowered to meet their personal needs.
In the same vein, some two hundred and fifty youth have benefited from the Dickson administration’s large heartedness by obtaining state sponsorship for vocational training in automobile technology, cinematography, photography, fashion designing and information and communication technology at the King Amachree Academy in Benin Republic.
Furthermore over 10,000 youths recently denounced cultism and have registered in a biometric registration process in preparation for youth empowerment scheme designed to train and equip young male and female Bayelsans with life skills.
These lofty initiatives are clear indications of the fact that the Restoration Government has a human face and is one that is poised to ensure that the dividends of democracy trickle down to even the most vulnerable groups in society.
For an independent judiciary in the state, Governor Dickson had the Bayelsa State Financial Autonomy Bill introduced in the State House of Assembly and passed into law in October 2012. It was a first in the legislative history of Nigeria and bore testimony to the Governor’s unwavering commitment to good governance.
The Government of Bayelsa State is diversifying the economic base of the state so that other sectors can contribute to the GDP of the state. Steps have been taken to ensure the success of diversification by establishing enabling laws and appropriate bodies such as the Bayelsa Development and Investment Corporation (BDIC), Bayelsa Investments Promotion Agency (BIPA), to drive the diversification and deliver on the mandate. The agriculture, tourism, infrastructure, power and marine sectors will be the central focus in this drive to ensure that Bayelsa State continues to be relevant nationally and globally even without oil.
In view of the overwhelming activities of the Dickson Administration in just two years, there is no denying the fact the foundation for a new Bayelsa State has been laid.
The years 2012 to 2014 have been remarkable in many ways hitherto unknown in the political history of the state. At the seat of power is a leader who has continued to prove his mettle as a visionary and rare breed politician. He brought with him a new philosophy of governance and a passion that is assuredly redemptive. Indeed he had the courage to dare.
The citizen-centered policies of Governor Henry Seriake Dickson have ushered in an era of hope and progress in Bayelsa State. In the two years left in his first tenure, there is no doubt that Bayelsans will witness more of the Dickson magic to warrant a second tenure for the contriman governor as he strives to turn the glory of all lands into the ‘Dubai of Africa”.
Onoriode Akpe, is the Senior Special Assistant to the Bayelsa State Governor on Electronic Media and Head Media, Bayelsa House, Abuja.