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BAYELSA AND THE IMPERATIVE FOR CHANGE

By Daupreye Adu

It is a global platitude that change is the only permanent thing in life, and that there is nothing else that has the capacity to remain unchanged. It is the plan of the Creator. In politics this has played out time and again across the world including Nigeria.

What this implies is that no matter how adorable a political leader might be, a time will come when he will vacate the office either because of the vagaries of life or its inexorable vicissitudes. Ditto for political parties.

For instance, in Nigeria, before the 2015 general election, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had held sway since 1999 and the most widely held belief in political circles was that it would be an exercise in futility for any party to attempt to “overthrow” the PDP. Today that party is in the opposition and it will be difficult for anyone to predict how long it will remain consigned to that inglorious position.

Bayelsa, a state known as the stronghold of the PDP is slipping off the fingers of the PDP. For about 20 years now, Bayelsa had remained in the firm grip of the umbrella party and apart from the governorship elections of 2015 which saw some genuine  opposition, the PDP always had its way easily. Facts on the ground now show unmistakably, however, that in a free contest on November 16, PDP will be the loser.

There are so many things that count against the victory of the PDP and chief among these is the inglorious administration of the outgoing government under Henry Dickson. Truth is that Bayelsans have come to realize that they have not had it so bad before now. This fact is known even by Dickson and his key players in the Restoration government as some of them have had cause to complain of the ills of the government in hushed tones.

The civil service, civil servants and pensioners are the worst hit in Dickson’s display of inhuman character traits. He has often lambasted the civil service of not being productive enough but the truth is that avarice did not allow him to create the enabling environment for the civil service, known generally as the engine room of government, to be productive. He just does not give approvals to MDAs to do what they are expected to do. The result is that Dickson has killed the service and anyone succeeding him will go through hell to resuscitate it.

Closely following this is the cruelty with which he treats civil servants and pensioners. As things stand, it will be difficult for anyone under either of these two categories that will cast a vote for the PDP. From the inception of the Restoration government in 2012 till date, these people have been subjected painfully to endless verification exercises just as they have also had their salaries slashed by half for some of them and a quarter for others. This was done through one committee headed by a former Head of Service, Dr Mrs Josephine Igodo. Aside that, promotions have been withheld and the combination of these issues have kept the state’s work force in an unfortunate quandary.

Due to unpaid pension and gratuity, sometime 2018, pensioners protested to the gate of Creek Haven, the seat of power in Yenagoa demanding for what rightly belongs to them, their only source of livelihood. It’s sad that so many of them are no more alive to recount the experience they had in the hands of thugs invited by Henry Dickson to dispatch those elder statesmen. Some of the elders were stabbed with broken bottles. Interestingly, the leader of the thugs that attacked the pensioners who was then a local government chairman is one of the twenty four wise men in the State House of Assembly.

Dickson is a hero when it comes to the art of deceit. In 2012, a state of emergency was declared on the education sector and the thought people had following that pronouncement was that he would give proprietors of private schools a run for their money by carrying out a total overhaul of the school system and by so doing, make public schools more attractive. The people discovered that the so-called talk na do governor’s pronouncement was stuck in the realm of rhetorics as there are some public schools, even in the State capital and environs, where pupils sit on the bare floor to learn.

In the case of bursary payment to students of tertiary institutions to reduce the financial stress they undergo in their quest for a better future, the PDP government of Henry Dickson looked the other way. To him and his PDP, that was a waste of resources. Since 2012, bursary payment which is taken for granted in all other States, including those that do not have the 13% derivation component in their monthly allocations, Dickson’s Restoration government did not give it any thought. He rather increased school fees at the State owned Niger Delta University far above the reach of the ordinary Bayelsan. The result of this is that countless indigent students have dropped out of school and this is believed to be one of the major causes of the high level of insecurity in the State.

Yenagoa, and by extension Bayelsa State, is seen as the poverty capital of the world. All the parameters used to measure the levels of poverty are visible in Yenagoa. The truth is that Bayelsa remains a civil service State which then means that any policy of government that negatively affects the salaries of workers inexorably increases the poverty rate. Truly speaking, none of his predecessors had anything to do with workers’ salaries. The result of Dickson’s policies is excruciating poverty in the state to a level where workers can’t fend for their families, pay rents and other utilities. Some have even borrowed off their salaries just to meet up with the immediate demands of the family. Between 2016 and now, so many businesses have folded up while others, such as supermarkets have relocated to better places in neighboring states. Dickson has laid a formidable foundation for poverty to thrive. It will take the heart of a “Lyon” to dismantle and uproot that evil foundation.

In terms of infrastructure, Dickson claims to have done more than all his predecessors. For almost 8 years, the Isaac Boro Express way, unarguably one of the two major roads in Yenagoa, a 7 kilometer road, has been undergoing little expansion. This road is said told have gulped close to 50 Billion Naira (Government source) and is still several miles from being completed.

Yenagoa is in darkness and Dickson does not care. He pulled out the streets light that existed before the birth of his administration and nothing has been done to replace them. It is a scary exercise to drive along the streets, even the major ones of Yenagoa as a result of the manifest physical darkness. Only Dickson and his Restoration Government members know what the derivables are from the darkness they have enthroned in the State.

Now, these are just tips of the iceberg and this is what has caused the “mass movement” going on in Bayelsa. The masses say they are tired of rhetorics which Dickson has been known for. They believed (and they know) that Dickson is a garrulous governor who lacks the capacity to walk the earth, wherein lies his failure and the failure of his party (PDP).

With all these negative factors which have blighted Dickson’s nearly eight years in office, Bayelsans are truly aggrieved that Dickson has single handedly picked the flag bearer of the PDP, Douye Diri in the November 16th 2019 governorship election in the State. This grievance is underscored by the fact that all available indices shows that Douye Diri is committed to continue the painful misdeeds of Dickson. As Douye Diri’s campaign is hinged principally on continuity and consolidation of the restoration Agenda.

Bayelsans are clamoring for change, real change, a change that will usher in development and also drive away the poverty the Dickson and his PDP have entrenched in Bayelsa in the past 8 years. This clamour is from the heart of the people. They believe that the standard bearer of the All Progressives congress for the November 16 governorship polls, David Lyon, is imbued with what it takes to bring that desired change.

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The wide acceptance of David Lyon is amazing, especially as it cuts across party divides.

As things stand now, if the PDP wins on November 16, it will be a stolen mandate. The ordinary man on the street also holds this view sacrosanct.

Daupreye Adu, is a Journalist and a Public Affairs commentator, he lives in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.

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