John Idumange: The veritable starting point is to take a scriptural reference from the Bible. In Joel 2: 25 -26. The good book says thus on Restoration “ I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. ‘You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. The Bible further says “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you”.
Restoration implies recovering what has been lost and improving upon what has been recovered. This requires bidding farewell to the way things were done in the past and re-inventing the way and manner things are to be properly done. It connotes reconfiguring the architecture of how things are done and introduce the element of excellence. Restoration means restructuring and learning to do common things in an uncommon way.
When Governor Henry Seriake Dickson assumed office, about 20 months ago, he was confronted with three main problems namely: an empty treasury, a bloated wage bill and an inexplicable debt burden. Perhaps the worst challenge was the chaotic atmosphere characterized by insecurity, crime and criminality and gangland wars. The streets of Yenagoa were theatres of cult battles. That scary situation boded-ill for investors, tourists, and investment security and even disrupted the development of physical infrastructure. Militants and criminals found very convenient havens in Government House under official cover. It was a free reign of terror.
Recognizing the fact that security is the solid rock on which any development stands, Governor Seriake Dickson reconfigured the security infrastructure and after brainstorming with experts, he got a crack team of experienced people to constitute what has become known as DOO AKPOR – the security outfit that has brought about sustainable peace and security. Today, Bayelsa State is the centre of gravity of all national and international events. The State has so far hosted the African Movie Academy Award, AMAA; the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria, MDGN; the National Festival of Arts and Culture, NAFEST, the International World Tourism Day among others. There is no gainsaying that in Nigeria, Bayelsa State is the only State where such massive events can take place peacefully. Today, his award as the best security Governor in West Africa did not come as a fluke. It is a function of hard work, strategizing and massive investment in security. Congratulations our Governor!
Governor Dickson has not minced words in placing premium on Human capital development. Government has adopted a three-pronged approach in this enterprise. Firstly, Government awarded 789 scholarships 137 PhDs; 260 Masters Degrees, 142 undergraduates and 250 post-primary scholarships. Secondly, Government went into massive building and comprehensive renovation of schools and teachers quarters. At the last count.
Now, Bayelsa scholarship recipients are scattered all over the 31 countries of the world. This has made coordination of the programme difficult and haphazard. Government is thinking of a one-short solution to that problem. The strategy Government wants to adopt is to select a few prestigious universities in the UK, the USA and Asia where Bayelsa Students will acquire quality education with minimal challenges of coordination. This will facilitate the operations of the scheme in terms of coordination, remittances and monitoring progress – all to facilitate the acquisition of quality education for Bayelsa students.
Knowing that unemployment is one of the challenges facing Bayelsa State, Governor Henry Seriake Dickson is working assiduously to ensure that an investment-friendly environment is created for Bayelsa to benefit from Foreign Direct Investment. One strategy the Restoration Government is trying to adopt is to ensure the State partners world class institutions and sign MoU’s to facilitate industrialization. Within the past months, the Restoration Administration has signed several MoUs with local and international development with a view to creating jobs and reducing poverty. Some of them include:
1. Lagray Chemicals, USA for the development of Pharmaceutical Products.
2. DST Petroleum Ltd for the establishment of a fertilizer plant in Brass.
3. Octopol Energy Ltd for Gas Conversion.
4. Goshen Treasures Ltd: for the Development of Bayelsa Plastic Industry.
5. KABLETECH Nigeria Limited: For manufacturing of Electricity Cable.
6. Ugboduma and Sons Ltd for the Development of Tourism city.
7. Alyn Global Services Ltd: for building of Aquarium Facility.
8. Clinotech Tunkey Management, Canada for the Production of quarry and other concrete works.
9. Sivan Design to develop a world-class Computerized System to run its Geographic Information System (BGIS) with Complementary Service including Aerial Mapping.
10. An MOU with the prestigious Polish Maritime Academy to establish the Bayelsa Maritime Academy
11. A memorandum of Understanding with Lincoln University in the area of human capital development
MoUs also exist in the hospitality industry, Agriculture, education, health and training. The dividends of these MoUs will yield dividend sooner than later. With the implementation of these MoUs, the scourge of unemployment will be mitigated. The aim of government provide for the well-being of the people.
Already, the Restoration Government has employed of over 300 science Teachers to boost the teaching of Sciences in our Secondary schools. Similarly, some magistrates Chairmen of Customary Courts have been employed. As more schools and health centers are built, more people will be employed. Some teachers are undergoing specialized training in Ijaw Language. This is part of efforts of the Restoration Administration to encourage the teaching and learning of Ijaw language, culture and traditions. It is a kind of cultural Risorgimento for the Ijaw ethnic nationality.
The Restoration Administration is a people-oriented government. Apart from providing physical infrastructure, the State Government through the office of the SSA Civil Society, gathered about 10,000 youths who voluntary renounced cultism and criminality, promising that they will be given a new lease of life. Now, government has started to evolve capacity building programmes that will impart skills, capacities and competences and abilities that will enable them manipulate economic processes and be gainfully employed. Whereas past administrations created and funded cultism, gangland wars and spread terror, Governor Seriake Dickson has integrated these youths into society as indispensable members of the civil society.
Biometrics has been concluded some months ago. Now, identity Cards are being printed and after the process, a huge number of the youths will be employed as traffic warders; some will be absorbed into the security surveillance system, others will be trained in mechanized agriculture while others will be engaged in craft works. These plans have been laid out to empower youths in Bayelsa State.
As a demonstration of the prevailing peace and security in the State, Yenagoa has played host to the African Movie Academy Award, AMAA; the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria, MBGN, the Nigerian Festival of Arts and Culture, NAFEST, the International World Tourism Day among others. This has made Yenagoa the Tourism Centre of Nigeria. As the Tourism Ministry and the Bayelsa State Museums and Monuments Board work in synergy to rejuvenate tourist sites in Bayelsa State, it is obvious that the Restoration Administration is now looking beyond crude oil as a means of sustenance survival and fast-tracking development.
The Ministry of Science, Technology and Manpower Development and the Youth Development are intensifying efforts to roll out youth empowerment capacity programmes. Already, so many youths have benefited and it is an on-going process and many more will benefit. The Restoration Transport Scheme is working effectively, kudos to the Commissioner who has worked out a mechanism to monitor their operations and to track progress.
In the court of public opinion, what appears to be the greatest achievement of the Restoration government is the reconfiguration of governance architecture. The hitherto laissez faire ways in which the affairs of the State were managed have given way for a well thought-out, properly organized and well-planned modus operandi of executing government programmes. What stands tall in this endeavour is the teaching of attitudinal change, the sprouting of the seeds of transparency and the exponential expansion of accountability as pillars of government across the State. Even the ardent critics of Restoration will lavishly concede that Governor Dickson’s efforts are worthy of commendation. As an achiever with a sense of mission, the CONTRIMAN Governor stands tall among his contemporaries. It is just 20 months and we have come thus far. The vision is clear, the mission is achievable and the strategy is effective. The road ahead is clear and blissful.
What is very clear is that all departments of government are working in synch with one another. The office of the Millennium Development Goals is delivering its mandate. All around the LGAs, there are solar powered water projects, supply of laboratory equipment to schools; building. Comrade Apere Embeleakpo, the Senior Special Assistant to the Bayelsa State Governor on MDGs presented his score card, reiterated that funds for the MDGs are tied to specific projects on yearly basis and that his administration have completed the projects of 2011 which were hitherto, uncompleted because of the promotion of Chief Ogbe Remember Ogbe as Chairman of Southern/Ijaw. To further consolidate on the achievements so far recorded, his office has intensified the buildings of Health Centres and provision of drugs and equipment for the 2012 as follows:
Eleven health centres and three health posts;
Provision of Health Facilities (11 Staff quarters) for 2012.
Construction of two classroom blocks
Provision of 28 motorized boreholes
Provision of 19 Solar power projects
Provision of VIP toilets for schools
Distribution of Ambulances and Referral boats to communities
Distribution of health equipment to 48 health centres across the state
Provision of 16,000 desks for school pupils
Distribution of 960 hybrid banana suckers to farmers
Provision of grants to cooperatives
The MDG boss stated that, his office has procured of 2,500 pieces of phones for distribution to the poorest of Bayelsans. The office has also concluded plans to pay such persons monthly stipends of Five Thousand Naira as a measure of empowerment. Already, Governor Dickson has been implementing this empowerment strategy statewide for those who are 75 years and above – a gesture that gives succour to the elderly. Governor Henry Seriake Dickson promptly released, the 2012 counterpart funding which has earned him the title of the MDG compliant Governor. I think he is also the most prudent and transparent Governor and if you doubt me, please attend just one monthly Transparency Briefing and you will be convinced how prudently resources are being allocated.
The Ministry of Education and the State Universal Basic Education, SUBEB, are working round the clock to turn around the fortunes of education in the State. During the Great Flood of 2012, more than 80% of the schools were devastated along with their furniture, laboratories and libraries. Presently, about 400 schools have been rebuilt, comprehensively renovated and furnished and refurbished, teachers quarters inclusive. The wooden furniture are being replaced with plastic furniture to forestall that experience. This is in line with the priority attention given to human capacity development in the Restoration Government. Recognizing the urgency of the need for implementing the free education programme, school uniforms are now being made in Nigeria. In fact every local government has a responsibility to produce the free school uniforms for the students in the LGA. The obvious challenge in the way of free education in our clime is dearth of funds, especially in an era of dwindling allocations accruing to the States. (No thanks to the oil thieves)
With the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure furiously turning the State into a massive construction site, Bayelsa State is ready to welcome investors. The Restoration administration is well on her way to fulfilling the three macroeconomic objectives of poverty reduction, employment generation and wealth creation. With the planned refurbishing of the Bayelsa Plastic Industry and the Bayelsa Palm Limited, youth employment will be reduced to the barest minimum.
With prudence, transparency and accountability as hallmarks of the administration, Bayelsa State stands on a very strong pedestal to be a leader in tourism, education, works and infrastructure and other indices of development. With the administrative style of the helmsman, the momentum can only be sustained. The only way to appreciate good governance in the landscape is to nurture the spirit of genuine Restoration across all governmental boundaries and political hierarchies. This can be achieved through a conscientious and well-articulated attitudinal change in the geography of the glory of all lands.
John Idumange, writes from Yenagoa.