HOW DICKSON SECURES BAYELSA STATE
The primary function of government is the security of life and property of those living within its jurisdiction. To achieve this objective, laws create a distinction between the law abiding and the lawbreakers. Armed with such laws enforcement becomes meaningful in sustaining the peace needed for productive endeavors of citizens. Insecurity is one of the biggest impediments to development of the Niger Delta region Bayelsa State inclusive. For instance the delayed completion of the vital access way, the East- West road is blamed on insecurity of construction personnel. Little wonder that security has become one of the top political considerations for the election of a governor. Governor Henry Seriake Dickson has taken the bull by the Horn here. His concept of governance which is strictly about discipline, sacrifice, consensus building and service delivery to the people has enabled his government in just seven months to restructure the security system and afford the citizenry the desired level of trust and confidence.
Governor Henry Seriake Dickson appears to have a high grasp of the workings of the law. He was once the Bayelsa State Attorney General, you remember. He started with edicts to outlaw graft and he said in was in line with zero tolerance of corruption. The idea is to create legal inhibitions where none existed before enforcement .His vision was to release and save sufficient funds for the massive infrastructural revolution he had promised. A corollary to this is his zero-tolerance for crime and criminality, as encapsulated in his Restoration agenda, the basis upon which Bayelsans massively elected him Governor on February 11. 2012. But how will he go about it. There was some skepticism. His early steps showed deep care for his people. In just 60 days in office, the difference between the two administrations was clearly encapsulated in a write up by his Senior Special Assistant on Social Media and Research Hon. John Idumange: “Governor Henry Seriake Dickson bought rice for Bayelsans to eat in the spirit of Easter. Sylva bought cocaine and other hard drugs for some youths to sniff to cause trouble. Sylva also introduced cultism and legalized it. Now, Bayelsans know the difference between a man who spent about 4 years deceiving Bayelsans and another who has shown demonstrable ability to solve their problems in 60 days. Governor Henry Seriake Dickson is well on his way to becoming one of the most revolutionary Governors in Nigeria”
Recounting some of the lapses in security of the last administration in the State, Idumange lamented that the ex-governor openly fraternized with known militants and criminals and empowered them to the tune of 100 million naira monthly. Militant leaders seemed to play important role.Yet extra judicial killings was rampant. Cult related wars were common and the Famoutangbe had become some terror to the opposition. The opposition found it difficult to campaign within the State. It took the intervention of the Federal Government with the disbandment of the notorious body for the PDP to hold its flag off campaign rally and enthrone the winner as its candidate thereby excluding the sitting governor. For the purposes of this campaign, a joint Army, Navy, Air force and Police worked assiduously to restore normalcy in Bayelsa State. A glimmer of hope came early in his regime when the Governor promised investors a better deal: “a new dawn beckons on both public and private investors as government is assuring them of an investment friendly climate”. He had besieged the Nigerian Army to assist Bayelsa State in security measures especially in Agge, a newly surveyed investment area considering the strategic importance of the coastal town with direct access to the Atlantic Ocean.
And if you are still wondering how all these could be possible remember that the Governor has maintained an enviable track record on security matters even before he became the governor of Bayelsa State. His training in law enforcement and his higher education as lawyer and later law maker in the National Assembly was eloquent testimony that the state could not possibly have a better candidate to tackle her perennial insecurity. Whether it was environmental degradation of the 80s or it was it Militancy of the 90s and beyond, insecurity had conspired to slow Bayelsa's aspiration to become a preferred tourist destination as well as an economic power commensurate with her oil resources and skilled manpower.
A cursory look at his background shows that Dickson joined The Nigeria Police Force now The Nigeria Police, 1986 and upon his graduation in 1993 was appointed a Cadet Assistant Superintended of Police in 1994 whereupon he proceeded to Nigerian Police Academy Kano for Officer Training. During the course of his training, he voluntarily withdrew his service after close to a decade as a Police Officer to practice the profession of law. His voluntary withdrawal was duly approved by both the Inspector-General of Police as well as the Commissioner of Police, Rivers State Command at the time.
As a Lawyer, he worked with SERENA DAVID DOKUBO & CO holding the position of Associate Solicitor from 1994 to 1995 and moved to ALUKO & OYEBODE, a prominent Law firm in Lagos also as an Associate Solicitor in 1995 to 1996 after which he founded the Law firm of SERIAKE DICKSON & CO in Port Harcourt and later Yenagoa and became its Managing Solicitor from 1996 to 2006. An unauthorized biographer, Francis Agbo traced his further activities: “Dickson is the first product of Ijaw activism ever to be Governor of the oil-rich state. Dickson was National Legal Adviser of the famous Ijaw National Council (INC). He lived and still lives the struggle, offers legal services, pro bono to the council and sacrificed his personal comfort for the region”.
With this kind of resume little wonder that the Governor has been able to turn Bayelsa State into one of the most secure and policed states in Nigeria within just seven months. The uneasy peace created by the post Amnesty for warring militants in the Niger Delta region brought forth a lot of loose arms and loitering reformed militants increasingly coming together in cults to terrorize the daylight and nights of Bayelsans. What to be done. Trust him. In just 100 days in office the Governor made laws outlawing cultism while imposing a 10 year jail term on offenders without option of fine. To enforce this law the Governor needed a specialized branch of the police force trained specially for peace building duty. To this end, he applied and helped to create and nurture the rapid response police branch in the State known as Doo Akpo, meaning “To Protect and serve” Today the response rate of reported cases and appearance of the law enforcement officers has sharply gone up from hours to as low as 5 minutes. These manned rapid response vehicles are strategically placed in street corners and their hotlines publicized in every neighborhood. Cultists so ubiquitous before this time are on the run. Why not? With a tight law in place (Prohibition of Cultism and other related matters) and a resolve to encourage hard work amongst the people, Governor Dickson is resolute: “You cannot be associated to any cult group or any criminal gang and be in the system with us; it is not possible, because I do not tolerate it.” Reason he adds, is that, he has “played politics and fought more political battles than this, yet I did not have a cult group!”
When his regime took off on gingerly steps there was skeptism and even derision from opposition elements who did not see him going the whole hug being so hampered by the refusal of the Timpre Sylva administration to hand over, coupled with mountainous debt and wage bills left by the government. He tackled it by slashing salaries of appointees and government house overheads. It was not altogether a popular decision but the governor stuck to his guns saving as much as N25 billion in seven months. But how fast things change is gleamed from the impact of his security policies on Bayelsa State as well as surrounding States where peace has returned. He was not just adjudicating for Bayelsa State alone. The influence of his work is felt all across the Niger Delta region having promised to make Bayelsa state the Jerusalem of Ijaw race: “As a product of the Ijaw movement, I am aware that I was not just a candidate of Bayelsa State but of the entire Ijaw nation. Let me therefore thank all the Ijaw people at home and in the Diasporas for their prayers and unflinching support. To all Ijaws wherever they may reside, let me reaffirm that Bayelsa will be continue to be your Jerusalem and I will be your Governor too…” And he has unveiled a flag, an anthem and a symbol for the state solidifying his unique approach to security and development of the State.
In sum, enhanced and unique approach in securing life and property adopted by Governor Dickson is likely to be adjudged one of the strongest achievements his administration in Bayelsa State.
*Mr Nworisara is chairman of the Coordinating Committee of the Bayelsa New Media Team (BNMT)