THE POLITICAL PLAY THAT SLOWED DOWN BAYELSA STATE DEVELOPMENT
Political office holders seeking renewal of their mandate must lay bare their record of performance scrutiny for all to see and judge them by the votes they will cast during the elections .It was in the course of such a research that one stumbles into so much evidence to buttress the fact that Bayelsa State was kept down in the development index because of power play amongst contending leaders of this oil rich state. At a glance one is tempted to pass through the escapist route of passing the bulk to the governor in power or to his predecessors. It is easy to do away with facts in an environment where facts are not universally accepted owing to dearth of objective research, but in the case of Bayelsa State, one does not have to verify more than observable evidence will proffer. Had Bayelsa State fully utilized her oil earnings from its creation in 1976,she would have become truly the glory of all lands.
The greatest problem of Bayelsa seems to be that of image. The State is really misunderstood by the outside world. There is always the dark perception about how money flows in the streets but the leaders make away with it while the people suffer in dilapidated surroundings. We always take it for granted that the people are angry and they show it in the streets. The militants, the oil bunkerers, the pirates, the kidnappers are in the creeks, everybody takes that much away. We would attempt in this article to trace the reason for this image considering that evidence on ground appear to suggest the opposite. We shall examine how Bayelsa’s unique brand of politics has contributed to building and sustaining this image in time.
It has been a polity of very sharp contrasts going by pronouncements of political gladiators in the state. Official spokesman for the government Mr Nathan Egba spoke of this situation in a recent interview. According to him, “The story of Bayelsa is very ironic because if you are out there and have never experienced Bayelsa, you are told that perhaps this is the most dangerous place you can find yourself, be it day or night. But when you come in here, you will be the first to admit that perhaps this is the most peaceful and safest place in Nigeria. And I say this with all sense of responsibility. It is one place where you hardly hear of thefts. In fact, robbery cases are practically nil. Even all these bomb blasts that we hear, we often get to hear about them on the radio or the television and perhaps the newspapers.”
On the allegation that so much propaganda has been foisted on the state by some of her sons and daughters who live outside the state, most of whom has been victims of injured vanity arising from unfulfilled ambition. For him it is isolated cases that remained fixed in public perception thereby driving down revenue accruable to the sate. Here him:
“There are isolated incidents that are orchestrated by people who actually want Bayelsa State to live with that image, having labeled us as violent but discovered that in actual fact the place is peaceful. All they now do is anything that will make the image of violence stick. Otherwise, the place is a very peaceful place that you instantly fall in love with when you come into this place. Take for instance the case of youth corps members. Once they come, they don’t want to leave, either because they find some businesses to do or jobs and the fact that the environment is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of other major cities in the country.”
I got interested in unraveling the root cause of this negative perception index and why it stays sustained. It all points to the unbalanced political system begging for restructuring. In the first place candidates who lose elections do not feel subdued while those win do not feel a triumph. It continues to recycle candidates in the polity because ambition does not become fulfilled or unfulfilled. The bad news is that battles never wane but recycles each year with nobody ever accepted as true victor. The negative effect on the population is the perpetuation of propaganda beyond electioneering period thereby permanently rubbishing the image of the sitting government before the world. To accentuate this viscous circle which sometimes lead to violence are party practices of rotation of offices and promises that one candidate should await his turn while another is duly anointed. Most times owing to changes of events and times these promises are never kept. At other times the one awaiting his turn is given a powerful position where he waits out the period trying to prove that the situation that gave him the promissory note cannot or has not changed because then he is irrelevant. Were the overriding issue at the opted time insecurity and militancy, the, opposition in exile who presides over adequate funding uses it to sustain the status quo perception outside the state. This is done by becoming defacto spokesman of your state.
Since the State is also dependent on the upper superstructure such as funding, goodwill and support of the federal government, such an appointee can constitute a permanent block in the flow of both materials and goodwill to his state. If he is very strong, he can hold his state down until it atrophies to death. Power is always distributed in many dimensions. These dimensions are appropriated by each struggler so that it does not work in harmony for common good. The remedy would have been better education for responsible leadership which brings about humility, harmony and working together. No one can lead in exclusion. If humility exists, then one will reach out to the other to work together instead of the two winning only pyrrhic victory. But not in this political system of death- do- you- part configurations.
If it were those who taught us democracy, they would listen to each other rather than ignoring the other because our brand of democracy sustains dialogue of the deaf. What talks here is not the mouth but money. There are no real issues because no one takes Issues seriously. Even debates are waved when money is dialoguing. Money is all the issue there is because it helps you establish political structures. So the man who is quietly working has his enemy as public relation officer. Since he sees himself a government in waiting he is always in opposition of the most destructive kind, always trying to monitor his opponent and giving a rejoinder. His joy is the downfall of the opponent even if it will destroy his state and therefore the power institution because he thinks he knows that all is in itself delusion.
I remember when I was part of the recruitment examination into NDDC in 2003.So much of what we were told would help us was our proximity to the man at the helm. At this time Onyema Ugochukwu still held sway and we hoped our family relationship would speak for us, but alas, before the result was out we heard people had been taken. Later they said we should wait for another batch that the federal character prevailed and the best gave way to the worst from elsewhere. Soon enough he was removed. Things went from bad to worse in NDDC for it became so politicized that the commission had rather pay redundant workers for peace than recruit good people. Consultants did everything including minuting in files. The staff had one election coming or the other and openly campaigned through their offices. NDDC was now a ground used to groom politicians.
How then can such an agency perform creditably? How then can you expect its leadership to give hope to the Niger Delta region? It has all always been a tall order. I am told it is not any different, at the national levels. Here inPort Harcourt there is the dichotomy between the Abuja politicians and the local boys. These Abujaboys are always awaiting signs of weakness in the States to capitalize on. Their rumor mongering stance does enough damage already but they await the time of kill when they claim they are on rescue mission. Is it any coincidence that they use the same slogan whether in Owerri or Yenagoa? If you look at all the evidence of ‘unpopularity’ of their incumbent governors in these states, you would decipher that their truth are spread just prior to the election period. The stone throwing, the accusation of” massive debt” all come as after thought. You would all this while when things were going were going wrong?.It only goes to prove right our earlier assumption that the Bayelsa woes are man made for the reason of sustaining the unfavorable image that Bayelsa State is insecure, unstable and volatile so that those who milk her fattens will continue to speak for her people in the Diaspora and collect grants from the outsider who needs help to do business there, while awaiting the next employment during each coming elections.
They hold a dubious power without responsibility always misusing it at the slightest provocation, yet they seek to rule over people. Bayelsa State needs dedicated and decent hardworking people elected into office in the April elections. I am sure she does not want to gamble with her future again if she does not want to risk being closed down as a state. Because I am involved like other Nigerians, knowing the strategic role played by the State in terms of crude oil export, I have written this article to put things right. The New Nigeria in which we work for our children to enjoy will have no such absurdities because we are going to introduce a restructuring into balanced political system through as constitution review. Then there will be nothing like State of origin and only the best for a state will prevail. At that time people like Governor Timipre Sylva would be remembered while the others have disappeared from the slippery face of history.
Mr. Nworisara writes from Port Harcourt, Rivers State.