By William Bozimo
Being a governor of Bayelsa State is a herculean task. And when Governor Dickson took over the baton of leadership in 2012, he did not find his assignment a pleasant experience.
Coping with militancy in the riverine state was a major headache. And coupled with the fight for Resource Control in the Niger Delta which broadened the theatre of war; and for the core militants, it was always good news to be recruited for such patriotic flares.
When Seriake Dickson campaigned for the second term, it was literally endorsed by the Alamsco, who swore that with the fall of President Jonathan from Aso Villa in May 2015, he decreed; the Northerners would not be allowed to take over CREEK HAVEN, Bayelsa Government House.
And so, it came to pass.
In a three page newspaper interview with the INDEPENDENT newspaper, February 20, 2017, to commemorate the first anniversary of his second term in office, her answered questioned ranging from his offer to give Cow herdsmen a permanent place to graze their cows in Bayelsa state, civil service reforms and the appalling state of absenteeism from duty posts by workers, problem of delayed salaries payment across the board and the establishment of another tertiary institution called University of Africa in Toru Orua, the Governor’s home community.
And the seemingly controversial issue, amongst others, was the rationale for providing grazing space in a largely aquatic Bayelsa state where land is scarce and gold. I took time to read through the interview and I came away with a feeling of commonsense in what the Governor said.
On the trending issue of providing herdsmen with a space to graze their Cows, Governor Dickson, a Lawyer cum former Legislator, preferred to stay on the right side of the law and the Constitution of the land which guarantees freedom of movement for all Nigerians.
Apart from that, he has set up a Committee to monitor the activities of the herdsmen who will be quartered in Bayelsa Palms, a government agricultural company.
In order to maintain peace in the state, the committee, made up of youths and security operatives in the state, would ensure that the cows do not stray outside their confined zone except they are being led to the slaughter house for sale to the public.
One is also mindful of the fact that being nomadic species, it will be practically impossible to limit their nomadism.
The main topic of civil service reforms in Bayelsa is a herculean task for the Dickson administration where civil and public office holders, paid on high remunerations, are scarcely found in their duty posts. This has become rather endemic from one administration to another. Absenteeism has become a way of life in Bayelsa state as most civil servants find their ways into creeks and rivulets with their fishing gadget nets and hooks ready for the next night’s catch to supplement what the delayed salaries had caused them.
On the herdsmen, Governor Dickson spoke thus ‘We condemn the criminal elements who have been parading as herdsmen that had been ransacking communities. I also know that we are in a country where you cannot stop the freedom of movement within Nigeria by anybody. But those who are not running government and those who want to be popular claim that herdsmen should not come to Bayelsa’.
After all, the Niger DELTA University, NDU, was established by Alamsco on his father’s soil in Ammasuaomo.
One cannot easily fault what Governor Dickson has done for Toru Orua by expanding more educational facilities to his people.
I felt pity for Governor Dickson when he lamented aloud that the Bayelsa Transport Corporation does not boast of a single vehicle and one may ask what happened to the fleet of buses the company had?
In a situation where there is blatant overstaffing of Ministries and Parastatals by all kinds of ill- equipped persons and many ghost workers into the bargain, how does the state cope with these monstrosities and challenges of governance?
Governor Dickson should remain focused and take care of the little things that make his workers to stay alive; payment of salaries as at when due.
Giant projects like linking Bayelsa state with all the riverine parts of the state from Ekeremor to Agge are landmark projects; but they should not be done at the expense of monthly stipends.
Becoming a governor of a deprived state like Bayelsa is not funny as there are no industries anywhere for youth and unemployed persons to secure jobs.
Getting employment in government is seen as a right for every Bayelsan. Hence, the bloated salary bill, almost seven billion monthly, is not a joking affair.
For the critics who are always sitting on their armchairs, there is a world of difference between being in power and being on the sidelines spewing out criticisms most of which are either emotional outbursts or self- serving narrow-minded outbursts for cheap popularity.
The monstrosities being outlined by Governor Henry Seriake Dickson can be seen from the hereditary absenteeism by civil servants, who in the absence of companies and industrial houses that could absorb workers see the civil service as their birthright and no amount of reforms can shut them out of being called civil servants at the state and local government levels.
An over-bloated service and bloated salaries for non performing civil servants are issues that will continue to confront any Chief Executive of the state, nilly- willy.
From my hindsight, one can understand Governor Dickson’s soft spot for the nomadic herdsmen to whom most Bayelsans seemed poised for a fight to finish. When one remembers that it was General Sani Abacha of blessed memory, and a Northerner who created the Bayelsa state some twenty plus years ago, we should not behave like awkward hosts to Abacha’s siblings who created the state in the first place. We should not have short memories for the temporary convenience of the present.
The past and the present should shape our collective future because they are interlinked and relevant for all time