Gov. Dickson: Setting The Tone For A Purpose-Driven Second Tenure
On February 14th, 2016, Governor Seriake Dickson and his Deputy Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah Rtd. took the oath of office thereby heralding the beginning of their second term in office. The crowd was unprecedented and this bespeaks the significance of the event.
The election was a battle where the Ijaw nation was on trial but, the Ijaws, with unwavering equanimity, voted for continuity, good governance, social progress and economic prosperity. The integrity and pride of the Ijaw nation was saved against the forces of evil, which orchestrated maiming, terror, killing and inflicted clandestine injury on the psyche of the people. Governor Dickson takes social accountability as an article of faith in service delivery.
As the contours of a new social contract emerge Bayelsans are seeking a relationship with their government based on transparency, accountability, and participation. Of course, citizen engagement has been a priority of the Restoration Administration.
The inaugural speech pointed to three main issues; gratitude to the people of Bayelsa State for voting for truth, transparency and good governance in spite of the violent antics of the opposition Party. The speech emphasized government’s desire to take development to the communities where, as it were the poverty and underdevelopment index is very high.
More importantly, Governor Seriake Dickson reaffirmed that because of the lean economy occasioned by the crash in price of crude oil, the second tenure will be a period of completing old projects and the initiation of very few new projects. This makes economic sense because during the first tenure, a myriad of development projects were initiated and so many are at various stages of completion.
During the first Tenure, Government only worked effectively for two year because the adversity of low allocation set in. The poor allocation also affected the third-tier of government, leaving some LGAs in salary arears of more than 6months.
To set the tone for the Second tenure, few but strategic political appointments have been made. There had been complains that the vouchers had not been thoroughly cleaned up, and government has to constitute another verification Panel to scrutinize the papers to ensure that only genuine workers are paid salaries. So far, this exercise has been on for three weeks running. While some polluted minds interpreted it to mean partisan witch-hunt, it is crystal clear that it is the right thing to do for a government that started with a very high degree of transparency and accountability. This tempo must be sustained throughout the second tenure.
Keynesian economics agree that in recessions, the aggregate demand of economies falls. Thus businesses and people tighten belts and spend less money because low spending results in demand falling further and a vicious circle ensures job losses and further falls in spending. The Keynesian solution is for government to borrow money to boost demand by pushing the money into the economy. Once the economy recovered and was expanding, government should pay back the loan.
Sadly, in Bayelsa State, more than 1/5th of the financial resources accruing to the State are used in defraying debts inherited from the predecessor administration, and till date the same trend continues. The second tenure of Restoration will see an aggressive drive for Internally Generated Revenue, IGR to cushion the effect of dwindling Federal Allocations.
The truism is that Restoration will operate a lean government and emphasize industrialization. This will entail making some hard decisions. To pursue efficiency in the delivery of essential services, some MDAs need to be collapsed. For example the Ministries of Sports and Youth Development may be merged, while that of Ijaw national Affairs, Tourism and the Tourism Board may form one entity so government does not fund layers of inefficiency. The Board may just be a profit and investment hunting unit of the Ministry. Others performing parallel functions may also be merged to reduce the running cost of the MDAs.
The centrality of implementing existing MOUs need no emphasis as this will catalyze development. Some of the MoUs include but not limited to the following:
1. Lagray chemicals, USA for the development of Pharmaceutical Products
2. DST Petroleum Ltd for the establishment of a fertilizer plant in Brass
3. Octopol Energy Ltd for Gas Conversion
4. Goshen Treasures Ltd: for the Development of Bayelsa Plastic Industry;
5. KABLETECH Nigeria Limited: for manufacturing of Electricity cable.
6. Ugboduma and sons Ltd: for the Development of Tourism city.
7. Alyn Global services Ltd: for building of Aquarium Facility.
8. Clinotech Tunkey Management, Canada for the production of quarry and other concrete works.
9. Siven Design to develop world-class computerized system to run its Geographic information system (BGIS) with complementary service including Aerial Mapping, among others.
The concessioning of Bayelsa Palm Limited should also be made a priority, because if the industry operates at installed capacity, it is capable of employing more than 2,000 youths. This should go simultaneously with the Bayelsa Plastic Industry, which should be in private hands. Neoliberalism posits that Government has no business being in business. Therefore to drive these industries to the threshold of profitability, they must be in the hands of private investors.
These MoUs signed on PPP basis were facilitated by the Ministry, Agriculture, education, health and the training units of some Departments. The dividends of these myriad MoUs will be yielded before the run the second tenure half way. Again, government is sensitizing all MDA’s to mainstream youths development as an important component of policy formulation, implementation and service delivery. The same thing should apply to Tourism and Sustainable Development Goals.
Henceforth, 50% of Corps members posted to the State should be deployed to the Agricultural sector because “man must eat to think straight” while the remaining 50% should be deployed to the Secondary Schools. Most Corps Members posted to the State are not fully engaged and we should not make the mistake of posting them to political institutions except on professional grounds. Agriculture is the future of Bayelsa State. As we diversify the economy, agriculture will constitute a major plank in the economic growth of the State. All the persons trained in Songhai Farms in the Republic of Benin should be engaged in the rice fields of Sampou, Peremabiri and Burma.
The International Institute of Tourism should be made to work; it’s a money spinner if the Institute is properly managed. The Restoration Administration should revitalize the tourist sites (Thank God we still have the likes of Emeritus Professor E.J. Alagoa) who have passion for historical, heritage and cultural tourism in the Niger Delta. Tourism and Agriculture are two areas Bayelsa State can excel. These areas will add value to the IGR of the State.
From Governor Seriake Dickson’s track-record during his first tenure, it leaves no one in doubt that the second tenure, though starting a very harsh economic circumstances, will be more prudent, focused and result-oriented. After all, Bayelsans now know that Governor Dickson does not play politics with the development of Bayelsa State. This is a well-established fact since the beginning of Restoration sojourning in 2012. The contest is done and partisan interests have been jettisoned and it’s time to hit the ground running.
Governor Seriake Dickson appears to have re-echoed the aphorism of Nick Saban who said “When you invest your time, you make a goal and a decision of something that you want to accomplish. Whether it's make good grades in school, be a good athlete, be a good person, go down and do some community service and help somebody who's in need, whatever it is you choose to do, you're investing your time in that. Ultimately, human capital development remains the solar plexus of the Restoration Administration.
Director, New Media –Bayelsa State