Governor Dickson: The road less travelled
THE fourth Chief Executive of Bayelsa State, Governor Henry Seriake Dickson, a seasoned lawyer, administrator and lawmaker par excellence is in a class of his own. It is amazing that even after becoming governor, Dickson still lives the spartan life that I know him for. He still wears his old cloths, uses his old MTN SIM card, picks his calls and keeps tab on his friends.
In the Creek Haven as Bayelsa State Government House is called, the man has demystified power with his ramrod simplicity. In contrast with the old regime, only very few vehicles are on his convoy.
The culture in many states is for a new governor to overhaul everything in government house, including furniture but the Governor would insist on trudging on with the existing interior at least, to cut cost of governance. His predecessor, Chief Timipre Sylva, used a whooping sum monthly to run government house. One of the first decisions the countryman-governor took was to reverse the trend, thereby saving over N1 billion for the hugely indebted state.
Just one month in government, the Governor has opened two strategic accounts: Bayelsa State Strategic Development Funds Account and Bayelsa State Strategic Savings Funds Account.
In the month of February, the state got the total sum of N15. 9billion as Federal allocation. After the payment of staff salary, overhead and other statutory deductions, the balance of N5 billion was transferred to the Bayelsa State Strategic Development Funds Account.
Monies in this account will be used to fund key development projects and policies of government like the free education programme.
Already N2 billion has been transferred to the Bayelsa Strategic Savings Funds Account which basically serves as a reserve for the rainy day. The onus is now on Bayelsans to put government on its toes in order to ensure strict implementation of its programmes. In the last 50 days, he has sponsored five executive bills which are receiving due consideration of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly.
Prominent among them are the Compulsory Savings Bill, Cultism/ Kidnapping Bill and the Transparency Bill which when passed into law will lay a solid legal foundation for the transformation of the state and the restoration agenda he had enunciated.
Unlike many power elites whose concept of politics is the mere preservation of privileges for the power brokers, Governor Dickson who appropriately calls himself countryman believes power should be appropriated for the maximum good of his countrymen. His concept of governance is strictly about discipline, sacrifice, consensus building and service delivery to the people.
The Governor knows that if he must deliver concrete developmental deliverables to the Ijaw nation, graft must be tamed to muster sufficient funds for the massive infrastructural revolution he has promised and hence his zero tolerance for corruption, crime and criminality as encapsulated in his restoration agenda, the basis upon which Bayelsans massively elected him governor on February 11 this year.
Before, during the campaigns and since February 14 when Governor Dickson was sworn in, he has been working the talk to the admiration of followers of the Dicksonian brand of politics and Ijaw activists in particular.
Little wonder that renowned Niger Delta activist, Alhaji Asari Dokubo at the official grand finale of Dickson’s campaign last month, described Dickson as a product of Ijaw struggle.
The fiery activist said for the first time, somebody who was in the trenches with him agitating for resource control, derivation and development of Niger Delta was aspiring to be governor. The implication of this is: Dickson is the first product of Ijaw activism ever to be governor of the oil-rich state.
Dickson was National Legal Adviser of the famous Ijaw National Council, INC. He lived and still lives the struggle, offers legal services, pro bono to the council and sacrificed his personal comfort for the region.
So, while many analysts see Dickson’s elevation to Creek Haven as reward for the unblemished service he rendered to the natives of whom he is one, those of us who know him like the back of our palms, believe the Countryman-Governor is also in power to put back the Humpty Dumpty which had fallen off the Bayelsa wall in the last four years.
It is, therefore, not out of place that the former police officer and lawmaker representing Sagbama / Ekeremor Federal Constituency is passionate about empowering his people and making Bayelsa State the Jerusalem of the Ijaw nation.
It is no longer news that public funds from Bayelsa State were laundered abroad in the past years. It is also no secret that the incumbent governor inherited a huge debt of over N67billion in bonds from his predecessor with no projects to justify collection of the money.
Bayelsans, especially critics of government in the last four years, slept with one eye closed as Sylva’s security outfit, Famou Tangbe made the fledgling state insecure.
It also beats the imagination of watchers of Bayelsa politics that the tiny and de-motivated bureaucracy and public service in the state have a monthly wage bill of N6billion, the highest in the country. Curiously, Bayelsa is the smallest state in the country in terms of population and land mass.
Preliminary reports indicate that a whopping sum was used to service political appointees, a small fraction went to the genuine civil servants as salaries and emoluments, while over 70 percent of it was gulped by ghost workers, ghost schools and high places. Again this governor has stopped it.
Mr. FRANCIS AGBO, a journalist, wrote from Yenogoa, Bayelsa State.