BAYELSA: WHAT MANNER OF ASSEMBLY?
Democracy is held to be the most advanced and judicious form of governance developed by man. It gives people a say in how their affairs are ordered and to choose those to superintendent over their affairs. Therein lies its beauty.
But it is also a system that accommodates the ugly, the malcontent and even those working to subvert its tenets. The flaws in the system have become worryingly visible, essentially because of the character of politicians and their do or die notion of politics. Many practitioners of the art in our clime see political enterprise solely within the prism of capturing power and deploying the most Machiavellian methods and tactics to realize their ambition. The endpoint of this conception of politics is largely prebendal: crude acquisition of power for primitive accumulation in furtherance of a selfish, hedonistic lifestyle as opposed to work in the service of the people.
This mindset undoubtedly undergirds the unfolding political macabre dance in Bayelsa State by a fractious elite formation masquerading as the new conscience of the people but which infact is united by the pursuit of greed. Their kind is all too familiar and their motive clear: acquire political power by means more foul than fair and then set upon the public treasury with reckless abandon. As late Professor Claude Ake noted, the problem with development in Africa is not so much that development has failed but that it was never really on the agenda of the rulers in the first place. It is the politics of prebendalism as popularly analysed by Professor Richard Joseph. What seems to matter to this set of politicians is never the germane question of the utility of political power in relation to the interest of the people.
The undiscerning would hardly equate the foregoing mindset with the recent advertorial published in The Nation newspaper by the self-styled Bayelsa Peoples Consultative Assembly. There is a pretended public spiritedness as the motivation but it was so much high falutin nonsense.The publication, among other things, raised posers on alleged high-handedness by the state government in running its affairs, claimed that successive governments in the state had not met the expectations of the people in terms of development and wondered “whether or not the strategic interest of our dear state can still be served through the PDP which has become the opposition party at the federal level and in many states of the country”. Accordingly, the purported assembly declared in the 4th of its 5-point resolutions:”As a result of this state of affairs in governance and in the PDP, the Bayelsa Peoples Consultative Assembly resolves to align ourselves with the APC to effect a new direction in the governance of the state”. Now, are they leaving the PDP because it lost election at the centre and thus lost the power to award them unmerited favour? And are they now seeking power elsewhere perhaps to continue to enjoy privileges attached to power which they are in danger of losing or are they out to serve the people? What is their objective in politics?
To be sure everyone is entitled to exercise their freedom of association and to change political parties as they deem expedient. What they are not entitled to do unchallenged is to clothe their selfish motivation with the robe of principled conviction and highminded politics. A cursory look at the names on the attendance list as published and then discerning their hidden promoters indicate that they were all until recently members of the PDP, who at one point or the other, also occupied important positions in government both at the state and federal levels. Now with Presidenf Goodluck Jonathan no longer in power they have suddenly found everything wrong with the PDP and with the state government whose largesse they had hitherto enjoyed.
What is in fact playing out is an offshoot of the governor’s long running battle with this class of politicians and philistines on the proper utilisation of state resources. Are these resources to be used to serve the people or are they to be cornered to serve the greed of a few?The selfish conception of the purpose of politics and power is what retarded development in the state since the era of the late statesman, Chief Milford Okilo. Now however Bayelsans can never exchange the present peace and tranquility in the state as well as the unprecedented level of development for the chaos and unmitigated rent culture of the past.
To the unsuspecting public, the so-called consultative assembly sounded public-spirited but it is all a charade: the driving force of the members is to return the state to the status quo ante where the resources were shared among a few greedy lot at the expense of state development and the welfare of the people. These are the same set of people who since 1999 have benefited in state and federal appointments which came with huge influence and privileges. But what did they do with such power and influence? What has been their vision and achievements in the economic development of the state and empowerment of Bayelsans? These people have no record of distinction in personal enterprise, they never set up or run any business neither are they noted for empowering the people beyond meagre handouts. Their business was profiteering in politics pure and simple. Their modus operandi which is repeated ad nauseum is to gang up against the government of the day to press for unreasonable demands and when such is resisted, they resort to threats, blackmail and promote instability. These same people have promoted a culture of impunity in governance over time resulting in wanton looting .
All they want is free access to money which will enable them to live big at the expense of quality education for the people, at the expense of good medicare, infrastructure and employment generation. Academic to them are visions of economic diversification to change Bayelsa State from being a civil service state to a productive economy that can create good jobs and ensure long term, solid development. These are the dividing lines between the new found voices in the Consultative Assembly and the Restoration Government headed by Governor Seriake Dickson in Bayelsa State.
Without question, the incumbent Restoration Government has in the last three years made its presence felt in major areas of development: from free, compulsory and qualitative education to health, landmark infrastructure and economic empowerment. And for the first time there is an articulated, overarching vision of development and rooted in good governance. Resetting the apparatus of government has led to greater efficiency and the remarkable progress so far is well known to all except the power mongers. The creed of transparency and accountability has paid off, leading to blockage of leakages and is the reason the inherited huge wage bill of N6 billion came down to N4 billion monthly and why the state government is among those that can still pay salaries regularly till date in spite of the suffocating economic situation in the country.
It all boils down to prudent management of state resources. In summation, the issue in the state is not the orchestrated discontent we see in the media but the fact that the era of special interests is gone for good. The profiteers from the misery of our people, like all vested interests who benefit from such ungodly enterprise are not happy.
Thus joining the opposition by anybody is not the issue. What is their motivation? Although it is now much harder for them to prevail, no matter how they try in a free and fair election, judging by what is on the ground in the state, Bayelsans and the general public should ask those in the so-called assembly about their antecedents and what roles they have played in development of the state since they had all along been part and parcel of the past governments they are now discrediting? In which case, they are guilty as well. So how can they represent any part of the future of Bayelsa State?
These are yesterday’s men seeking yet again to confiscate Bayelsa’s future. This time our people will not allow them.
*** Daniel Iworiso-Markson, Chief Press Secretary to the Bayelsa State Governor, sent this piece from Yenagoa.