ONE YEAR OF GOVERNOR DICKSON: A REVOLUTION
“The beginning is the most important part of any work…for that is the time at which the character is formed”.
- Plato, The Republic
It is now almost a year since Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson took the oath of office to assume the mantle of leadership as the fourth elected Governor of Bayelsa State. But even as I write, it only seems like yesterday.
Yet, it gladdens the heart that within this short period, substantial achievements have been recorded, simply because the Dickson-led administration had been in a terrific pace to re-order things; actively reforming and transforming the apparatus of government and institutions to an acceptable standard and in fulfillment of the Restoration Agenda.
For Governor Dickson and his team, this past one year has been pretty challenging, no thanks to the messy scenario that was inherited where the vital structures of government and administration were largely abused and immersed in corruption and gross inefficiency. But thank God, things are now looking up, the leadership vision and sense of purpose realigned and reinvigorated.
However, it is relevant to look back and appreciate the fact that at the inception of this administration, Bayelsans had reached the limit of what they could cope with because government had virtually abdicated its responsibility to the people; indeed the basic essence of governance were almost gone. This was the reality. So we met a state literally begging for a new type of leadership and desperate for change.
Fortunately, by their collective action, the people got a leadership they deserve in a democratic fashion and now there is a glimmer of hope. Admittedly, the last one year has been mixed within the context of unforeseen natural disaster but it is assuring that the government has also been quite pro-active in managing the situation and delivering on its promises to the people. Of course, it has helped that the Dickson Administration had a clear agenda and understanding of what needed to be done to get the state out of the messy past. And with the right leadership and strategic thinking, the myriad of problems confronting the state are being tackled headlong and the people can now see visible results.
Essentially, the major difference has been innovative and altruistic leadership just as commitment by the state government has really advanced the welfare rights of Bayelsans so remarkably. Government has been forthcoming in promoting basic human rights while also creating and enforcing basic laws and implementing policies and programmes needed to deliver on its campaign promises. Quality services are now the rights of the people because government believes it is the peoples’ entitlement in a democracy.
Today in Bayelsa State, many people can attest to the fact that a new and rising paradigm has taken root in the state. Indeed, if there is anything this administration is known and appreciated for, it is that it is dreaming big dreams, sometimes far beyond what its resources can accommodate in the short run. For this noble objectives, some critics have accused the administration of taking on too many projects but the good thing here is that we are breaking new grounds with lasting footprints..
The huge strides undertaken by this administration in the last one year effectively strikes a chord with the essentials of Governor Dickson’s leadership vision: an ambitious template which would ensure an impressive stewardship that satisfies the basic, broad interests of the people of Bayelsa State, creating great economic opportunities as well as making a beautiful statement in infrastructural development.
Truth be told, when one takes a critical look at what has been achieved by this administration in its almost one year of being in the saddle, not minding the terrible hiccup and huge set back caused by the catastrophic flood, which rendered most of our people homeless and made complete mess of their livelihoods, it is worth applauding and commendable that this administration still managed to record such an impressive outing within one year.
The various policies and programmes now being implemented across the state are so instructive and they come with great benefits to the people who are equally thumping applauses in appreciation. Of note is this administration’s remarkable feat in the area of security. The dizzying pace with which this administration was able to turn around Bayelsa State from a haven of cultism and violence and criminality to a situation now where the state is clearly adjudged as one of the most peaceful and secured states in Nigeria is simply amazing to behold.
Even more salutary is this administration’s ability of ensuring that the ingredients of good governance are firmly in place - formidable institutions, transparency, accountability, popular participation and consensus-building.
It will be recalled that Governor Dickson spent the better part of his first 100 days in office laying the foundation for good governance. Now, we have in place some sets of policies which are products of courageous and progressive decisions that have further institutionalized the concept of good governance necessary to run an integrated agenda which truly works for the common good.
A critical offshoot of this concept of good governance is the need to be transparent, accountable and prudent.
Without failure in the last one year, every month, Governor Dickson has kept faith with his promise to engage the people of Bayelsa State to brief them on the income and expenditure of government in line with the law which makes it obligatory for all tiers of government to publicly declare all revenues that accrue to them as well as a summary of expenditures.
In appraising the performance index in the last one year, it is also pertinent to match Governor Dickson’s campaigning promises with current outcome when he said: “In the new Bayelsa we all sought to build, we will build new roads, create new investments and infrastructure and other critical infrastructure and create the enabling environment for improved investments. We must create a new Yenagoa worthy to be called the capital of the state”.
Today, it is interesting to note that almost one year after winning a landslide victory at the polls and assuming the mantle of leadership as Governor of Bayelsa State, the campaign promise has since turned out a reality.
It is on record that major construction firms such as Julius Berger, Setraco and Chinese Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC) have all been mobilized and are currently on site working round the clock to deliver the roads and bridges that will open up the state for improved investments.
As at now, the Dickson-led administration, given its commitment to delivery and action in all matters, has contracted out the construction of over 275 km of roads across the state, in addition to 18 bridges and two fly overs - all under construction in its first year in office.
More road contracts were also recently awarded and the contractors duly mobilized to begin work in earnest. Recently awarded to CCEC with due mobilization is the road from Yenagoa to Oporoma that was abandoned several years ago, the work is on-going.. The contract has also been awarded for the construction of Sagbama-Ekeremor road and clearing of that road is in progress.
This administration within the last one year also took the decision to review the road from Nembe to Brass. As a result of the flood disaster, government decided, with the advice of very competent technical team, to raise the height of roads in the state to 7 metres. With a difficult terrain such as ours, the cost of construction is about 4 times of what you will ordinarily get in most states outside of the Niger Delta, yet this government is wholly committed to keeping to its promise and the mandate of restoration.
Conceivably, the airport project clearly stands out as a notable developmental stride undertaken by this administration within this one year of is existence in office.
The Dickson-led administration is seriously partnering and working with the Federal Government to construct an airport in Yenagoa and as we speak, site clearing of the airport is going on and the construction will commence once the clearing of the site is completed.
While working in partnership with the Federal Government to deliver an airport of international standard in Yenagoa within the next two to three years, the Bayelsa State Government under the able leadership of Governor Seriake Dickson took the initiative to award Dantata & Sawoe, the contract to construct an airstrip that would be ready for use within a year pending when the bigger airport will be ready.
Governor Dickson while presenting the cheque to Dantata & Sawoe, publicly extracted from the company a commitment to assure Bayelsans that the airstrip project will be ready within specified period.
Clearly, it goes beyond platitude to remark that this administration has done so much so fast within so short a time, creating history of its own in comparative terms, a development that has inspired hope amongst a vast majority of our people. The ‘Contriman’ Governor has delivered impressively on the restoration agenda he promised Bayelsans on February 14, 2012, when he took the oath of office. This is the hallmark of a purposeful leadership.
Governor Dickson surely in the last one year has left no one in doubt that he is fully in charge. His distinctive leadership style is rare but common only amongst great leaders.
His energy and passion for service is addictive. Governor Dickson is noted for fiscal discipline and holds the view that government budget should dwell more on capital expenditure and less on recurrent. Little wonder he is constantly working hard to reduce the recurrent cost of governance, which according to him, is the reason why our development as a state has been held down for this long.
His approach has always been to adopt a stern and unremitting administrative policy of living within our means and income. This was one of the reasons which informed his decision to launch a stringent regime of fiscal policy as well as the need to institutionalize a savings culture.
This ultimately led to the opening of two separate strategic bank accounts. The first is the Bayelsa State Strategic Development Account, which today has a balance of N24.5billion. This account has since been put to use to fund strategic investments in infrastructural development, agriculture, tourism, education, health and security ---all for the benefit of the people.
The built up reserves of the Strategic Development Account placed the state in a vantage position to award various road contracts as stated earlier and it is in compliance with the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which requires that contractual commitments by government should have adequate funding provided. Even with the payments issued to contractors for all the roads, schools, hotels, airport, hospitals and other public infrastructure currently under construction, the credit balance left in this account stands at N17.5 billion to date. This administration must be commended for its prudence and foresight to operate an account of this nature that guarantees constant liquidity to fund critical developmental projects without recourse to borrowing from the bank or through other means. This is a positive revolution with strategic economic advantage for the state.
The second account is the Bayelsa State Strategic Reserve & Savings Account. It is an interest yielding account dedicated to providing savings for the rainy day. This account readily became handy during the flood disaster, as the sum of N1.5b was immediately approved by the State House of Assembly which was released to the State Emergency Flood Relief Committee to address the immediate challenges posed by the flood. It is to the credit of the Dickson-led administration, for its ingenuity in creating this account to serve as a form of stabilization for the state’s economy in the event of unforeseen shock as was the case with the flood.
In the last one year of such people-oriented government in the state, especially with the crisis of the devastating flood that wrecked havoc on the entire state and with most of our communities submerged; in addition to the untold hardship and misery that the flood brought upon our people, we saw the exhibition of raw courage and outstanding leadership by Governor Dickson, as he rose to the occasion, and in the process inspiring confidence in all of us even at such moments when all hopes seemed lost.
Indeed, in the last one year, we saw Governor Dickson rising up boldly to square up with the various challenges associated with governance, especially in managing very complex and sensitive crisis situations.
As we turn a new page to usher in another year of purposeful and focused leadership to Bayelsans, having formed the desired character of providing service, it is pertinent to call on all to rally round this administration for consolidation and betterment of all.
Written By Daniel Iworiso-Markson