By Lawson Hayford
SIX years ago, exactly on February 14, 2012, Chief Henry Seriake Dickson was sworn in as governor of Bayelsa State. Dickson’s ascension came at a time that the state was enmeshed in self-abnegation, a construct that almost pushed it to the brim of anarchy.
Riding on the populist’s agenda of restoration, Dickson sought to restore the dignity and self-esteem that has been the hallmark of Bayelsans; by instituting accountability and transparency in governance. In this, the monthly accountability briefings have set a standard which has been replicated across states in Nigeria. At these briefings, Bayelsans are kept abreast of how their government is being run.
It can be said that in the six years of Dickson’s administration, the signature of his government has been transparency and accountability. This sign post has seen the state’s local government system streamlined, the payroll system sanitised and the structure of the civil service modernised to enforce basic ethics in governance, best practices and the delivery of dividends of democracy to the people. The restoration planks also revived the culture of dignity and patriotism among Bayelsans, with the high point being the launching of Bayelsa State’s emblems, upon which all look up to for inspiration.
Perhaps the midpoint of the restoration agenda is in the educational sector which forms the fulcrum of Dickson’s performance rating in the six years he has been in office. Prior to his coming on board, the educational sector was almost at a standstill.
Infrastructure were decaying; human resources need in a questionable state, human capital allocation poorly distributed and most school children stayed out of school. Dickson’s arrival changed the narrative. His government introduced a comprehensive free education policy across board in the state with a declaration of a state of emergency in the sector.
The yield has been in the provision of remarkable infrastructure, quality education which has seen schools upgraded and with the reintroduction of the culture of boarding schools in all senatorial districts in the state.
A further yield from the priority given to education by the Dickson administration was on the heels of the state’s high ranking performance in the annual West African School Certificate Examination, WASCE, where the state has consistently remained among the six best states in the country, since 2013. This major turning point is a success for the restoration administration six years going. Much of this, is that the Governor and indeed the administration, has remained resolute in the implementation of all its policies in the education sector, taking into account the massive decay of infrastructure and the disadvantaged position of the state.
Since 2012, over 500 infrastructure have either been developed or renovated with massive increase in public primary and secondary schools intake; the iconic Ijaw National Academy, Kaiama and the others, spread across the eight local government council areas in the state have also raised the bar for education in the state and are seen as special centres of excellence.
Dickson’s government has moved Bayelsa State and the Ijaw Nation to the very top of Nigeria’s educational chart, as well as setting the bar that would position future generations of Bayelsans to be competent and competitive with their contemporaries in other parts of the world.
There are other narratives in the Dickson six years administration. These are in the building of roads and bridges with the focus of opening up the state for rapid socio-economic development. Bayelsa State is recognised as a civil service state.
There is therefore, the need for accelerated economic diversification of the state so that it would join the comity of economic centres in the country. In this, Dickson is encouraging private sector participation in oil and gas, building power-generating companies and investing in the long proposed LNG in Brass, urea fertilizer production plant and free trade Agge deep seaport.