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Bayelsa: Why The Restoration Agenda Has Gained Acceptance (1)

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For the past 24 months, a wide spectrum of stakeholders in Bayelsa State has expressed the desire for change of leadership in Bayelsa State. Most people have voted with their voices and view that the Sylva led administration has lost the confidence of

 the people. Both the political class and the Civil Society Organizations have expressed grave concerns about the spate of insecurity, executive highhandedness and widespread corruption in Bayelsa State. Some people argue that since the introduction of Presidential Amnesty Program, the State has earned substantial sums of money to complete lots of on-going projects, but this has never been the case because of the mindless diversion of public funds.

The reality on ground is that the Sylva administration has always shifted the goal post in terms timelines for the completion of projects. Critics of the administration now regard Governor Timipre Sylva as a serial breaker of electoral promises. The proposed phased implementation of projects since last year has failed, as government can hardly account for the resources accruing to the state. It is now obvious that disaster has loomed large in the State.

The Human Right Commission of Nigeria and Amnesty International also allege that Sylva administration has committed heinous acts of torture, killings and other forms of human rights violation. According to informed sources, heinous atrocities were perpetrated under the instrumentality of the notorious killer squad nicknamed Operation Famou-Tangbei, OFT, which took directives from Governor Timipre Sylva, his Special Adviser on Security Chief Richard Kpodoh and other overzealous government functionaries. Already some of the families of the victims of OFT appear to have proceeded to the law court to seek redress.

As long as the OFT lasted, cult-related wars were rife in Yenagoa - the State Capital and its environment. Independent investigations by the Civil Liberties Organization unraveled the death of three persons namely; Karina Frank-Oputu, Freddie Philp Ockiya and ThankGod Michael. These youths are believed to have been murdered by OFT without trial or due process of law. The spate of killings and cult- related violence are believed to have been linked with top government functionaries, which has aggravated the security.  

Another nightmare is the corrupt enrichment of principal personnel of the Sylva administration. Investigations revealed that monies earmarked for development are often diverted to fund private businesses while the development projects of the State have been on-going for three years. For example, in the 2011 budget, Governor Timipre Sylva earmarked the completion and commissioning of the following projects in April: 13 Water Schemes; the Plastic Industry; clearing of Transformers; Professor, Diete-Koki Memorial Hospital, the Oloibiri Regional Water Scheme; Glory land drive Nembe Regional Water Scheme and the Ewoama Housing. The same budget promised to commission another set of projects in October and these include: Chief Melford Okilo Memorial Hospital; the three Senatorial District Model Schools, the Nembe Unity Bridge the 500 Houses for Civil Servants; Youth Civic Centre in Yenagoa and the Transparency Plaza among others.

This is in spite of huge revenue inflows accruing to the State from the federation account. What is in vogue now is for Governor Timipre Sylva and his Commissioners to convert the State's resources into their personal accounts. It is not surprising that so many principal officers of the Sylva administration not only engage in a looting spree but operate foreign accounts contrary to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC Act and the Code of Conduct Bureau. Sadly, the EFCC under Mrs. Farida Waziri was not able to tackle some of these acute cases of corruption to justice. The public has blamed the plea bargain saga for the shoddy manner in which high profile corruption cases were handled. The poor handling of very serious graft cases and the politicization of corruption cases might have contributed to the sack of the former EFCC Chairperson. Expectations are now high that the new helmsman would quickly swing into action and Mr. Ibrahim Lamode immediately and get cracking with the sundry cases of corruption.

The Sylva administration also adopted a half-hearted approach to job creation. Apart from poor budgetary allocations to education, agriculture, government has not done much in terms of harnessing the agricultural potentials of Bayelsa State. In the 2011 budget for instance, whereas over N7billion was budgeted for Information and Communication Technology, only a paltry N504 million was allocated to education. Any serious minded administration should be able to leverage on the enormous agricultural potentials.

The Bayelsa Plastic Industry is functional but it is not operating at installed capacity. When all the machinery are procured, the industry is capable of employing more than 450 workers of all categories. Government has not paid sufficient attention to the reactivation of Bayelsa Palm Limited, but the next administration should be poised to employ experts and technocrats for the effective management of the Industry. The Company alone is capable of employing 400 youths with huge spill-over benefits.

If the micro-credit scheme is efficiently run, it is capable of jump-starting Small and Medium Scale Businesses (SMEs). When loans are made available the ordinary farmer, fisherman, small scale business man and woman, traders and artisans, the fortunes of the economy especially in the informal economy will be turned around.

Most people believe that Hon. Seriake Dickson, the PDP flag-bearer in the February Governorship race holds the magic to the transformation of Bayelsa State. He stated this much in his acceptance Speech after winning a landslide victory at the PDP Primary elections in Yenagoa. In his acceptance speech the Hon. Seriake Dickson promised to build a new Bayelsa where nobody would be excluded nor discriminated against. He commended his supporters for their resilience and his fellow aspirants for their participation, adding that he was still extending a hand of fellowship to those who are aggrieved. With a great sense of responsibility, I accept your nomination as the flag bearer of our great Party. In the last couple of days, I have come to appreciate the inconveniencies you have all gone through for the sake of building democracy and erecting the pillars of good governance, he said!

Before the PDP primaries, Hon Dickson made a pledge to promote sustainable development through the provision of free, quality education, basic healthcare, rapid industrial growth, adequate housing, full employment and the improvement of infrastructure and basic services. Hon. Seriake Dickson said "When voted into power in February 2012, his administration would introduce modern techniques of management of resource while giving efficient delivery of social services priority attention'.  Bayelsans are getting surer by the day that a Dickson led administration can make a difference and that explains why the restoration agenda is fast gaining acceptance among principal stakeholders in Bayelsa State.

 Ebikebina Kingsley, wrote from Yenagoa