The victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in last year’s governorship election in Bayelsa State was historic. The people are full of expectations about the new dawn. MIKE ODIEGWU examines the challenges before the Governor-elect, Chief David Lyon, who would be sworn-in next month
THE Bayelsa State Governor-elect, Chief David Lyon, will be sworn in on February 14. It is a historic transition for the Sourthsouth state.
For the first time since the return to civil rule in 1999, another party other than the Peoples Democratic Party (APC) will take over the administration of the state.
The All Progressives Congress (APC), whose candidate, Lyon, led the electoral revolution that terminated the reign of the PDP, will succeed Governor Seriake Dickson.
Observers say the governor-elect has a herculean task on his hands. Expectations are high and to meet most of them requires judicious management of resources.
Though the outgoing governor, Seriake Dickson, has done his part, there are huge voids yet to be filled in the areas of economy, infrastructures, security, environment, health, education, public service and Ijaw unity.
A public affairs analyst, Alagoa Morris, said the expectations of the people are high. He said: “Except one who is not a keen observer, it is very obvious that the expectations of the people on the incoming administration of David Lyon are very high.
However, for some of us who have been advocating for positive change in the form of delivery of dividends of democracy; we cannot afford to go to sleep until our communities and people experience service delivery.
“For some Bayelsans, the mere fact that their preferred candidate has won is enough for them; they will go to sleep.
There is yet another set of Bayelsans who would relax after getting political appointments and they wouldn’t bother whether the dividends of democracy are delivered to the communities and people or not. These are nothing, but selfish individuals, and they are in the majority”.
Morris said security should be the first priority for the incoming governor, lamenting that insecurity had left the economy of the state in comatose.
He said sea pirates, robbers and kidnappers were terrorising fisher folks, travelers and investors. “Armed robbery in the state capital and environs and the rising cases of cult-related violence all combined to give a negative image to the state.
“I am aware that the governor-elect is not new on security matters; being engaged in providing security services to the Nigerian Agip Oil Company and doing fantastic job.
So, his administration should take a more holistic approach by consulting critical stakeholders, including communities, with a view to effectively bringing the security threat to as low as possible.
“We need to ply the creeks without fear of attacks; same on the roads and on the streets of Yenagoa. In dealing with this, there should be no nepotism; all should be treated equally according to the law. If possible, there should be Coast Guards, to monitor and patrol the waterways and shorelines”, he said.
A commentator, Wisdom Ikuli, corroborated the submission of Morris on security. He said the new government must confront insecurity in the state head-on. “Investors cannot come to invest in a state where their lives and investments are not safe”, he said.
Morris advised Lyon to focus attention on infrastructural development. He observed that the outgoing government would abandon many uncompleted projects. He said Lyon should focus on completing some of the projects.
He mentioned some of the projects that Dickson would leave uncompleted as Modern Motor Park at Igbogene, Igbogene-Bayelsa Palm Ring Road, Opolo-Elebele Road, Glory Drive from East/West Road to Onopa, Isaac Boro Road/Fly Over, Imiringi Bridge, Tower Hotel, 500 Bed Hospital among others.
“There is the need to take up these projects as state resources would allow and complete them, just as President Buhari is continuing with projects started by the Jonathan administration at the national level.
The almost 100 per cent completed headquarters of the Local Content Office in Yenagoa is commendable. The project was started by Goodluck Jonathan, but was completed by the Buhari administration. That is what is meant by a continuum in government.
“Besides these identified projects, the incoming administration should give special attention to the Southern Ijaw Road and that of Ekeremor; as this would open up the state and ease movement and reduce the cost of doing so.
“Any other abandoned people-oriented projects should be given attention; like the bridge, which ought to cross the Taylor Creek at Polaku and link Yenagoa and Kolokuma/Opokuma local government areas. This would serve as alternative routes into and out of the state capital from the East/West Road”.
Ikuli recommended that roads linking communities in the same Island should be constructed to reduce marine routes and make fishing in the creeks safer and more lucrative. “Shoreline protection and sand filling of communities to check coastal erosion and flooding also falls within this sphere. Everything should be done to ensure shoreline protection for communities suffering coastal erosion”, he said.
Also, the Minority Whip of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Agala-Omubo Timi, urged Lyon to complete the AIT-Igbogene road abandoned by Dickson, the Gloryland Drive, which former Governor Timipre Sylva started, but was discontinued by Dickson. He should also consider building a flyover at Tombia roundabout.
The Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) Worldwide said following the assumption of office, Lyon should jettison politics and coordinate the infrastructural development of Bayelsa. President of IYC, Eric Omare outlined key projects that the coming government should drive their completion.
Omare said: “As a stakeholder in the Ijaw nation, I expect the incoming governor of Bayelsa State, Chief David Lyon, upon assumption of office, to set politics aside and face the business of service delivery by providing the basic necessities of life, which Bayelsans lack in the midst of plenty.
“In this regard, I expect the incoming governor to address the infrastructural deficits in roads, housing/reclamation, health, education and to a limited extent, power. In the area of roads, I expect Chief David Lyon to concentrate on the completion of the roads that are referred to as three Senatorial Roads.
“These roads are the road from Ogbia to Brass, which is already at Nembe town now through the effort of the NDDC. I expect the incoming governor to strengthen this collaboration and extend the road to Brass to take advantage of the huge economic opportunities, especially tourist attractions that abound in that area.
”Then, the Yenagoa to Oporomor to Kolo-Ama road in Bayelsa Central should be given attention. This road would link the hinterland to the sea and oil-rich Kolo-Ama community with great economic potential.
Finally, the Bayelsa West road from Sagbama to the seaport town of Agge deserves all the attention. This road would bring the Agge seaport to live and dramatically change the economy of Bayelsa State.
“I must make the point that these road projects would require the active collaboration of the Federal Government, especially the NDDC.
I expect Governor Lyon, who is of the APC, to take advantage of his party links to constructively engage the Federal Government and its agencies.
As far as I am concerned, these roads are the most important projects for Bayelsans and if I were the governor of Bayelsa State, I would not embark on an airport project that gulps 70 billion-plus without these basic roads”.
Morris, who is also an environmental activist, said the incoming administration should seek ways to curb deforestation caused by excesses of lumberjacks who engage in indiscriminate felling of trees.
He recommended the establishment of Forest Guards; issuance of licenses to loggers and enactment of laws to control the menace.
He said the Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria [ERA/FoEN] once suggested the establishment of a flood and erosion commission to tackle the ecological problems facing the state, including perennial flooding.
He listed the communities suffering from coastal erosion threats as Abobiri, Ayama and lately Otiokpoti , Koluama, Odioama, Okpoama, Twon-Brass, Sangana, Peremabiri, Olugbobiri, Okpotuwari, Lasukgbene, Oyeregbene, Famgbe, Obogoro, Polaku, Koroama, Odi, Kaiama [Northern part], Okoloba, Anibeze among others and appeal to Lyon to tackle the issue.
He said Lyon should explore the establishment of a flood and erosion commission or agency that would be properly funded to collaborate with Federal Government Interventionist agencies and other International Development partners to tackle ecological threats frontally.
“Only a chief executive who feels concerned about the plight of our communities and determined to end or minimise the same can take this positive stance. And, I hope the incoming administration will give deserved consideration”, he said.
He added: “While working effectively with the local governments, all incidents of environmentally sensitive matters should be properly documented, especially oil industry-induced pollution and related conflicts or crises.
It would be a disservice to the state, if it turns out to be that the oil companies see the incoming administration as theirs because of David Lyon’s engagement with the them, especially Agip; if what is due our people and communities are denied.
Not only should Oil spills be promptly addressed, contained, mopped up, cleaned and impacted area remediated, victims should be compensated where the the case requires it”.
Omare said the IYC would expect the incoming governor to address the problem of housing and reclamation. “I deliberately used the conjunctive, ‘housing and reclamation’ because many communities in Bayelsa State suffer from flooding during the raining season.
Therefore, there is a need for dredging and reclamation of the communities and the provision of houses for people to live on.
“Many Bayelsans live in abject poverty in the midst of plenty and as a result, cannot build decent houses for themselves. Hence, I expect the incoming governor to concentrate on housing.
This would partly address the problem of primary and secondary school teachers not going to the riverine communities to teach”, he said.
Omare noted that Bayelsa was still fraught with educational challenges and urged Lyon to seek ways of addressing them. He said the governor should make education from primary to secondary schools free as well as making the tertiary level affordable.
But Morris said: “The most important thing to consider in the education sector is the availability of qualified teachers to teach all subjects at the primary and secondary schools.
Most schools lack teachers in the state, especially in rural areas. The primary school is the foundation and most of our schools don’t have teachers.
“This is same at the Secondary school. And, we expect our children to compete with students from other places in external examinations and at the tertiary levels? The teaching and learning environment should be made more conducive for teachers and students/pupils.
Fees at the tertiary level should be considered and made in such a way that depicts education as provision of social service to society and, hence the fees should be in that light”.
Former chairman of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Bayelsa State, Benjamin Perewari appealed to the incoming government to declare a true state of emergency in education.
He said: “Lyon should as a matter of urgency declare a state of emergency in educational sector, revisit the subvention policy, reduce increased school fees in all tertiary institutions and also look into the African University which Seriake Dickson claimed is for Partnership with private individuals which is misleading as Lyon should convert it into our state-owned university.”
Morris further asked Lyon to take a proper inventory of available health facilities in the state. He observed that the pilot companies built and furnished some health facilities but complained that they had yet to be activated and put into use.
He said: “Communities like Ezetu, Ikarama, and Ondewari are among such communities. Others which have been activated but not functioning well include those at Koluama 1 and Koluama 2, Diebu, Ikebiri, Korokorosei, Otuabagi, Okoroba, among others.
“There is need to resuscitate abandoned General Hospitals like that of Okilo’s community, Emakalakala and also upgrade others to the status of General Hospital of Comprehensive Health Centre and Cottage Hospital. Provision of needed health equipment and qualified personnel remains a major desire to be met.
“David Lyon should bridge the lacuna. This will assist our people in the Creeks, especially as they rush serious cases to Yenagoa or Warri in Delta State.
However, while doing this, wastage and sharp practices to discredit the efforts of the government should be checked by a well-designed mechanism”.
Omare also regretted that lack of health facilities led to the death of many people in the riverine areas. He said: “People die on a daily basis because of the absence of basic primary health facilities.
So I expect the incoming Governor to pay attention to the provision of primary health facilities.”
The IYC boss is also worried about the status of Bayelsa as a civil servant state. He said: “The incoming Governor must move Bayelsa from a civil service state to a private sector-driven state economy.
This, in my view, can be achieved through industrialization in active collaboration with the private sector”.
Ikuli outlined areas Lyon should focus on to industrialise the state. He said: “Bayelsa State has no reason whatsoever to be classified as a Civil Service State.
Beside our abundant oil and gas resources, we need to bring in experts from Malaysia to harness the enormous potentials in the Bayelsa Palm.
With adequate management, we can make Billions of Naira from that Bayelsa Palm. Palm oil is more expensive than diesel, fuel and other crude oil byproducts.
It is also needed and consumed in every household. Bayelsa State Government can develop the Bayelsa Palm to the level that we shall supply other states and even export to neighbouring African countries.
“The government also needs to give attention to our oceans and sea bodies. We can bring in fishing merchants and experts from Scandinavian countries like Norway, Netherlands and others to come and fish on our high seas.
They will build fish factories where they will freeze, dry and even can our fishes and other seafood and export to other places”.
The Minority Whip of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Agala-Omubo Timi said it was regrettable that the state had no potable water and appealed to the incoming government to ensure water reticulation.
He said the provision of electricity remained a priority to encourage small and medium scale businesses in the state.
Morris on his part said it was most unfortunate that since the year 2000, the state government promised to make portable water and electricity available to all communities in the state but had not fulfilled that promise.
He said: “It is no longer news that most of our communities lack portable water. Without the sachet water, which is beyond the reach of many in the rural areas; the people resort to the only means available and that is fetching and drinking from the creeks and Rivers impacted by oil industry induced pollution.
There is a need to apply resources on the best technologies to provide portable water; from the Rivers and Creeks.
“It is worse for communities in saltwater environment; as they depend on shallow wells around for drinking water and other domestic uses.
While the State Government may be disposed to bridging this needs gap; the Local Governments should be properly monitored to ensure service delivery in same regards; provision of basic social amenities and facility maintenance. For maintenance, community folks should be engaged and trained to take care of the facilities.
“Communities where oil companies have provided water facilities, but not functional, the incoming administration should see how these utility projects serve the communities. If possible, the local government should also play some roles to ensure the success of such facilities.
“The supply of electricity should be accorded top priority by the incoming administration. It cannot be strange to David Lyon and his team, that the Imiringi Gas Turbine supplied electricity to almost all communities in the Creeks; especially in Southern Ijaw, Yenagoa and Ogbia local government areas or present-day Bayelsa.
“There is need to take advantage of that gesture by the Chief Melford Okilo administration of Old Rivers State and do more. Bayelsans shouldn’t be shortchanged by the Federal Government’s national grid arrangement.
Bayelsans are not against payment of electricity, but they are against paying for darkness and so; this should be addressed”.
On tourism and transport, the activist said Bayelsa has enough potential to attract tourists. “If the Creeks are safe enough, mere cruising in the Creeks between Yenagoa and communities along the Atlantic Coastline and returning could be really fun. Some persons may be interested in visiting former environments used as militant camps too.
“Tourist’s sites could be properly documented. The Oloibiri Oilfield and the Kugbo Loading Bay, where crude oil was first shipped out of West Africa, could be prepared as destinations for Tourists.
The Varnish Island at the mouth of St. Nicholas and Atlantic Ocean at Odiaoama presents another very important Tourist destination”.
He said that the state was in dire need of functional transport companies and functional modern motor parks. He added: “Being mostly riverine, the Marine transport should also be encouraged, if possible, the Mariner started by the past administration should be taken to logical conclusion; where government marine crafts would take off from Yenagoa and land.”
But Timi highlighted the importance of paying attention to the welfare of civil servants. He appealed to the incoming government to implement promotions, pay a backlog of retirees’ salaries and gratuities. Morris further asked the incoming government not to neglect sports.
He said sporting events such as boxing, wrestling, long-distance running, football, canoeing, volleyball, among others including music and comedy should be encouraged.
He said: “People are making ends meet with these all over the world. The state government can encourage some and make them discover themselves.
There are some coaches who have retired in some of these sports. They can be engaged to provide skills in different areas of interest. Instead of getting involved in cultism, some youths might embrace sports and shine.
“The Ox-bow Lake pavilion, for instance, can be a terminal point where canoe racers or water bikers can terminate.
They may start from the Nun River and Ekole River junction and terminate at OX-Bow Lake or from Igbogene. This can be really fun and attract viewers.
“State Government may do well to introduce the Bayelsa State Annual Sports Festival. Some Youths might be taken out of boredom and become useful to themselves and make the state proud”.
But other commentators urged the incoming governor to unite the Ijaw nation. They said the Ijaw had been divided along core-Ijaw and non-core Ijaw by the outgoing government for political convenience.
They regretted that the main Ijaw groups such as the Ijaw Youths Council and the Ijaw National Congress (ANC) were kept in disarray and in crisis by the outgoing government. They asked the incoming Lyon to promote unity among the Ijaw groups.
Pitfalls to avoid
Omare appealed to the incoming governor to avoid some pitfalls especially politics of patronage. “By this I mean, it doesn’t mean that everybody that has work for him or party members must be appointed into government and almost the entire state resources used to service politicians at the expense of development of the state.
“A bigger part of the resources should be used for the development of the state and not to service politicians. I also expect the incoming Governor to carefully appoint honest people who can honestly advise him and not sycophants.
He must learn from the experience of the outgoing Governor who had a lot of sycophants as advisers. In this respect, he must do away with anybody who is a blackmailer. This is one of the industries that thrive in Bayelsa State.
Anybody that is a blackmailer should not find any space in his government. I also expect the incoming Governor to maintain his humility and take advise from honest people and talk less, unlike outgoing Governor Dickson who claims to know all and doesn’t listen to the views of others.. And most important to me, incoming Governor Lyon should take the unity of the Ijaw nation very serious.
“One of the greatest failures of the Dickson’s administration is his inability to unite the Ijaw nation instead he embarked on a deliberate mission to divide the Ijaw nation despite the fact that he is a product of the Ijaw struggle.
As Governor of Bayelsa State and political leader of Ijaw people, he must regard all Ijaw people as one and his people unlike Governor Dickson who regarded some people as his enemies and some as his friends.
”This contributed greatly to the failure of the Dickson’s administration and Governor Lyon must avoid it. He must prioritize the unity of the Ijaw nation struggle platforms that is the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) and Ijaw National Congress (INC) and not to support any divisive action like Governor Dickson”.