March 13, 2020

Changing the narrative in Bayelsa

By Enovwor Meyiwa

IT’S no longer news that Douye Diri has, according to the dictates of destiny, emerged in dramatic circumstances as the Governor of Bayelsa State. But what most people want to know now is how the new governor is going to change the narrative in the state. Though it is too early to examine and draw conclusions on his performance, but a popular saying has it that the end of any journey is usually determined from the beginning, at least by way of keeping hope alive and shaping the perspective of expectations.

That much is currently obvious because at his inauguration and swearing-in ceremony Douye had said: “We bring the message of hope to Bayelsa State; we bring the message of prosperity to Bayelsa State. Therefore, let us eschew bitterness and acrimony and learn to love ourselves, whether of the same party or of different parties. Primarily, we are brothers and sisters from Bayelsa State. And our creed today is to serve you”. He added that he has come to consolidate on the existing legacies of the restoration government and as well initiate sound policies and programmes that will change the story of Bayelsa State.

According to Allison Abanum, a seasoned journalist who is keenly monitoring activities in the state, the governor had been busy reconciling all blocs and heavily consolidating on good legacies and positioning the state to fulfill his campaign promises. He pointed at the recent free and fair congress of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state which attracted new membership into the party’s fold as an indication of the governor’s leadership quality and sincerity of purpose in reconciling all Bayelsans for the development of the state.

Particularly noteworthy is Diri’s expressed desire to formulate a well-defined and achievable energy policy to ensure the provision of stable, reliable and affordable electricity supply for the state in conjunction with other electricity supply MDAs/ establishments.  This is while not forgetting the refurbishing of the state gas turbine that will make the state not only a consumer, but also marketer of electricity.

Douye also believes industrialisation is one of the solutions to tackle unemployment, insecurity and other social vices in Bayelsa. He explained that he is committed towards reviving the Bayelsa plastic industry; he believes that the land of Bayelsa is suitable for the production of cassava, oil palm, plantain, banana, amongst others. He said he will identify and harness the manpower potentials of the state with regards to agriculture and organise training programmes for indigenes of the state in order to ensure the involvement of more people in the sector for increased and sufficient food production. It is understood that talks with investors are ongoing to actualise the vision.

Located entirely below sea level with a network of meandering creeks and mangrove swamps, Bayelsa State offers a panoramic and scenic view of the Atlantic ocean and such other attractions as Kaima market, Nigeria first oil well at Oloibri, Mungo Park’s residence, Akassa slave transit camp and tunnel, Akassa wildlife forest and Apoi creek forest.

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Developing these attractions is expected to be realised under the one local government-one industry initiative which encapsulates part of Diri’s vision of optimising security, sanitising and also beautifying the Bayelsa natural landmarks. Indeed, his desire is to see Bayelsa State on the world tourism map, while hoping to accomplish this through series of meetings taking place in Creek Haven, Yenagoa since he took over the affairs of the state.

The purpose of his one local government area-one industry mission is to build on the restoration government momentum towards sustainable growth, fill key gaps in planning and set the stage for a more promising future for Bayelsa State and her people. These also include a robust plan of diversifying the Bayelsa economy away from oil. On attracting private investors, Diri said he will provide the enabling environment where they(investors) can engage in their daily activities and reduce cost of doing business. Improving and building structures such as good road networks, recreational centres for relaxation, lighting up the whole city to encourage nightlife has, therefore, become imperative.

Boosting aquaculture is fully part of Diri Douye’s vision for Bayelsa State. Creating the enabling framework to attract more private investment into the aquaculture sector in Bayelsa state is his plan. For Abanum, the governor has the pedigree and capacity to deliver on his mandate. It is a sentiment shared by many others who have tracked Diri’s political career. He said Diri has shown determination to take Ijaw land to greater heights. He is basing his conviction in this regard on the enviable career in public service of the governor.

Diri, it will be recalled, was a Member House of Representatives representing Yenagoa/Kolokuma/Opokuma Federal Constituency (2015-2019); Principal Executive Secretary to the Governor of (2013-2014); Deputy Chief of Staff (2012); Council Board member University of Maiduguri (2008-2012); Commissioner for Youth and (2005-2006); Executive Secretary Youth Development Centre (2000-2003), amongst others.

Preparatory to the election, Diri and his party, the PDP, fleshed out a document that represents his seven-point agenda. With a clear understanding of politics and the development reality of Bayelsa State, he had come up with a development agenda as part of the social contract he would enter into with the people when elected. Paramount on the seven-point agenda is the plan  to provide adequate social infrastructure to promote development and security. This entails embarking on the rehabilitation of all internal roads within the state/local government authorities headquarters; liaise with federal agencies and appropriate oil companies to complete roads in three senatorial roads; build two – three bridges across the Ikolo creek to link Yenagoa main town or build a bridge to link with the road network.

The plan also included building an overhead bridge at the Okutukutu- Amassoma Road/Imiringi road junction and rehabilitating and building new cottage hospitals/health centres. Other interventions included the provision of sustainable water supply to all parts of the state, provision of adequate electric power, introduction of canalisation policy to enhance communication among rural communities, completion of the gateway road from Igbogene through to Yenagoa main town and the reconstruction of the Okutukutu-Amassoma road and Igbogene-Polaku road to make them two lanes in lieu of the  Azikel refinery, Bayelsa Airport and the gas gathering plant in that area.

The building of an industrial park/estate with an independent electric power supply is very dear to the Diri administration which also plans to encourage locals to go into large scale fish, mushroom, snail and poultry farming at a time the development of rice production zones/fields in Peremabiri,  Ampou and Kolo will be pursued with vigour. Diri’s government will embark on the review of the state tax policy to encourage the inflow of investments, facilitate the establishment of industries such as glass, soap/detergent and alcoholic beverages as well as a new model of micro-credit agency patterned along the types run by women in the state.

Housing, urban renewal and environmental protection are other areas the new administration is expected to deliver on through the renewal of the face of Yenagoa and provide safe and clean environment, provide a central drainage system for Yenagoa, improve on the sewage disposal system, including providing numbers for houses as well as designate bus/taxi stops.

To accomplish all these, the administration recognises the importance of peace and security; hence it’s going to ensure that Bayelsa State becomes the most peaceful/secure state in the country. To this end, the government will ensure there is food security via agricultural productivity and flood control/prevention, provision of conducive environment for job creation, provision of access to tertiary education by reducing fees in state-owned institutions, re-introduce bursary, strengthening the student loan scheme and scholarships as well as work with the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, to control drug abuse, get youths out of violent and armed gangs such as cultists and militia groups; re-orientate and rehabilitate them through value change, skills and entrepreneurship training. The government will also revisit the laws governing traditional institutions, coordinate and regulate oil company- community relations as well as resolve chieftaincy disputes.

For many, all these are achievable, and with the current consultations in getting the best hands to work with, working on the tourism master plan of the state by speaking with foreign investors in the sector, Diri who had made success of previous appointments will certainly not disappoint.

Meyiwa, a public policy analyst, wrote from Yenagoa, Bayelsa State