WHEN Bayelsa State was created 16 years ago, carved out of the previous Rivers State, it became obvious from inception that the fledgling state will face great challenges on the path of attaining the growth and development that autonomy had bestowed on her.
Those who reason that states creation should be guided by certain existing and potential economic indices for sustaining the existence of that state, including the unhindered possibilities of benefitting from internally generated revenue, IGR, to complement that from the federation account, will find out that the Bayelsa State example has survived against all odds.
It needs no repeating that over the years, Bayelsa State has experienced growth and development of monumental proportions which of recent within the last 12 months, with Seriake Dickson on the driving seat, has been accelerated to embrace some promising economic initiatives that show that the Bayelsa of tomorrow is now beyond being just a dream.
The reality of this dawned on the very august gathering of Bayelsa’s best brains, great and eminent sons and daughters of this great state, when at the inaugural board retreat that held in The Castle , Government House, Yenagoa from April 22-27, 2013, Governor Dickson, in a keynote address, opined that indeed Bayelsa had the world’s best economists and investment gurus ever assembled by any one state in Nigeria, brainstorming on the economic future of a state with a vision to create for our future generations an economic miracle based on diversification beyond the ebbing oil wealth of today.
To this extent, the Governor, as he has always done at similar occasions, drew the attention of this eminent audience to the Oloibiri oil well experience, Nigeria’s first crude oil exploration location, which today has dried up and no longer gushing out oil. He emphasised that there is now, than ever before, an urgent need, in this regard, to diversify the economy of Bayelsa beyond oil.
Speaker after speaker identified the potentials of non-oil activity in the economy of Bayelsa State if the government maintains the tempo of the current enthusiasm to increase the opportunities inherent in self-development and enterprise in the state. Most of the papers presented pointedly addressed attention towards citizen participation with the government and, in that respect, the dedicated contribution, collaboration in synergy with government’s efforts to stimulate the economic environment for the good and wellbeing of the people of Bayelsa State.
In identifying areas of citizen participation and collaboration with government and in addressing the challenge of poverty and youth unemployment, it was noted that much attention is needed to be focused on and agro-allied activity in the communities and other interest like the aqua tourism and related investment by government which will alleviate poverty and the pressure on job creation and youth engagement in the state.
The seriousness, with which Governor Dickson viewed the organisation of the inaugural board retreat of the Bayelsa Development and Investment Corporation, was clearly demonstrated by his practical involvement in the deliberations and cross- cutting discussions he engaged with the members. Prior to the keynote address he presented, and the interactive session, he went further to conduct, during the retreat, a novel approach in good corporate governance, every member of the BDIC, who sat through all the sessions with His Excellency, experienced the passion burning within the man, as he showed vividly his determination to leave behind a legacy as one of the builders of the new and modern Bayelsa State; a clear vision, a mission now embedded in the mandate of the BDIC which is vested with the task of becoming the strategic enabler of economic prosperity in the new and emerging Bayelsa State.
Even in the content of the keynote address of the Governor, every Bayelsan could see in him the drive, the energy with which he wanted to use the BDIC to create the enabling environment for inflow of investments and creating a haven for investors to thrive in the planned industrialisation of the state.
According to His Excellency: “The new Bayelsa that we all crave for, the new Bayelsa that we actually deserve, that new Bayelsa can only be founded on prosperity and security. Government is building roads and bridges, schools and so on, but in vain do we do all of this, if these activities do not translate to economic prosperity and opportunities for our people”.
The presentations and comments ranged from those made by seasoned consultants and by members of the Advisory Council and board, who gave their all in the contents of the papers, with which every listener was inspired to envision the dream of Bayelsa, and indeed that of an emerging oil-rich state, preparing to confront the future with a diversified economy well beyond its oil wealth.
It turned out that the banking community are also determined to partner with Bayelsa State as was succinctly expressed by the articulate Group Managing Director/CEO of a prominent bank Mr Kehinde Durosinmi-Etti, who said that much in his paper, as he gave an in-depth analysis of the advantages and serial benefits of Public-Private Partnership initiatives which are capable of stimulating growth and development in Bayelsa State.
The comparative analysis by Mr Joseph Tegbe of KPMG dwelt copiously on practical case studies of publicly run organisations some which succeeded and some which failed, examining also the pitfalls and the lessons to be drawn from those instances.
It was a good thing to hear and learn so that the future can be thus guided from repeating those mistakes in the planning by government for opening up the economic space and creating the enabling environment for enterprise to succeed in Bayelsa State. While the programme lasted, the ventilation of ideas and the contribution from very successful Bayelsa born entrepreneurs like Ben Murray Bruce of the famed Silverbird Group, esteemed speakers like Mr Iheanachor of the Lagos Business School and the group of eminent members of the board, constituting the likes of Mrs Diezani-Alison-Madueken (CON) ;HRM King Alfred Papapriye Diete-Spiff(OFR,JP);HRM King Dr Edmund Maduuabebe Daukoru (ARSM,FIC,CON); HRM King Ebitimi Banigo (OFR) among many other prominent names coupled with the enduring presence of other well-articulated members of the Nigerian corporate and business community.
Mr. ONORIODE AKPE is SSA on Electronic Media to Governor Dickson of Bayelsa State.