By Kola Oredipe
The joy that followed the announcement of the creation of Bayelsa State on October 1st, 1996, was no doubt ecstatic. The eventual creation came after years of collective struggles and hard work by the passionate founding fathers. Bayelsa, as a state no doubt was a dream come through to satisfy the yearnings of all Ijaw people, arguably the fourth largest ethnic group in Nigeria.
The story of the creation of the homogenous Ijaw state remains very inspiring and emotional, which has given the people a more defining identity in the Nigerian State. The young, women and men participated actively in the long processes that led to the birth of Bayelsa State by the instrumentality of the authority of the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha.
The efforts of the heroes and heroines of the creation will continually be acknowledged in the annals of history of Bayelsa State. Indeed, sacrifices were made by some founding fathers who made huge contributions in one way or the other in achieving the Bayelsa project and they include Late Chief N.A. Frank- Opigo, Chief Francis Doukpola, Chief Joshua Fumudoh, Dr. Amba Ambaowei, Late Chief Melford Okilo, Chief Dan Etete, Senator Amaitari Zuofa, Chief Gordon Bozimo and Chief Thompson Okorotie, who eventually coined the name “Bayelsa” from the names of then three Local Government Areas of Brass, Yenagoa and Sagbama at the time.
Others were King Alfred Diette-Spiff, former Governor of old Rivers State, Professor Ebiegberi Alagoa, Dr. Gabriel Okara, Professor Turner Isoun, Professor Kimse Okoko, Senator John Brambaifa, Retired Rear Admiral Festus Porbeni, Chief Lambert Eradiri, late first civilian Governor of the state, Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha, Dr. Felix Tuodolor and such patriots who played active role to safeguard the noble Ijaw interest that eventually excised Bayelsa State from the old Rivers State.
History is always kind to the efforts of the Nigerian Civil War hero and Kaiama-born late Major Isaac Adaka Boro, for his bravery to demand for equity and self-determination by the Niger Delta, a revolution that set the stage for call for a homogenous Ijaw State of Bayelsa.
Twenty-four years down the lane, this day presents a momentous occasion to reflect on the growth and development of the state and its political journey. Indeed, Bayelsa State has moved on to share a great story and success under successive administration from 1996. What you have in Bayelsa State today is a real sign of development to any discerning mind after 24 years. This is a fact! The level of infrastructure notwithstanding the high expectations of the people could never be compared to an era preceding the creation.
Interestingly, four military administrators and five civilian governors had presided over the affairs of the state and each had made his own valued contributions. Current Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has taken up the mantle but must be noted that the first civilian governor, the late Chief Diepreye Alamieyesiegha, former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Chief Timipre Sylva, and the immediate past Governor, Seriake Dickson, performed to the best of their abilities.
Looking at the level of development in the State, the pace of transformation of Yenagoa city as the capital of Bayelsa State is better imagined by those living in the area before state creation, where Yenagoa was merely a local government headquarter.
Twenty four years after, former footaths have paved ways for dual carriages, modern buildings now dot the state capital, and many other new infrastructure all over.
Certainly, the trajectory of development of the state has surpassed the expectations of many people coupled with the political journey which threw up Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, as the first minority from the South South to become Vice President and subsequently the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. A political win for the South South who had complained of political neglect and injustice.
There was a marked and steady growth in the state since 2012 when the Restoration Government of Governor Seriake Dickson, came on board. Dickson, the first Governor to serve full term of eight years, made his marks with some signature projects including many roads, improvement in education and health facilities and the new airport. Truly, government is a continuum, Dickson, has left the stage for the current Prosperity Government of Senator Douye Diri.
Since February 14th, 2020, Governor Diri, has left no one in doubt as to his capacity to steer the ship of the state in the right direction. He is pursuing the urban renewal programme to build a befitting state capital, provision of affordable housing schemes, health care, improved power, education and sports development. The civil service is already feeling the impact of the Prosperity Government since February with timely and regular payment of salaries and pensions. The gradual payment of backlog of arrears of gratuities and pension to retirees has endeared him more to the people.
Clearly, there is a new direction and focus. Governor Diri, is a practical leader and is desirous of building an economy away from crude oil. He has told Bayelsans that the signature project of the current government is agriculture and small and medium scale businesses to create wealth among the people and stir the local economy for jobs opportunities and improved internally generated revenue.
A lot is already unfolding in the agriculture sector as only recently the Bayelsa State Government signed a memorandum of understanding with CSS Integrated Farms, Nassarawa State for the training of interested young Bayelsans who want to go into farming in the four areas of rice, cassava, plantain production and fisheries.
A new Bayelsa beckons under Diri. He has shown passion to the Ijaw course and great commitment to building a new culture of industry among the people of Bayelsa State. He is starting the real journey of industrialisation with all the potential in Agriculture. A leader who is more concerned about the well-being of his people. He has shown real capacity to translate vision into reality.
With his vast experience and network, Gov. Diri, wants to make a difference and the signs are everywhere. It is of fact that the people desire and yearn for greater development in various sectors of the state economy, sustenance of hope for a greater tomorrow is more assuring and important for the young State.
Twenty four years gone past, there can only be a better future and instead of groaning over years of under-development, the prosperity administration has picked up the gauntlets to chart a new course of steady progression to cover up the lost years and strive to meet up the vision of the founding fathers of the state with the support of the majority.
This great disposition of Governor Diri, as a leader has found meaning in one of the quotes by American business magnate, Bill Gates, when he said, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others. The quote aptly describes the governor who is already investing in the people, particularly the young ones to build a virile Bayelsa to a state of economic prosperity and move away from being just a civil service state.
He has also shown that he is a good manager of the lean resources under him since he came on board in February.
The ship of state is sailing on the positive direction no doubt and clearly so, with a well thought- out development model for the Prosperity government to succeed.
The governor received wide applaud with the constitution of his cabinet when professionals and experienced administrators were inaugurated as Commissioners. Yes, he got it right.
The people of Bayelsa are surely in safe hands in a journey to build a new Bayelsa where peace, unity and love will prevail.
At twenty-four, it is time to celebrate going forward at least for having a leader who has demonstrated prudency in management of resources and has shown a good course to building sense of unity among the Ijaws to open up Bayelsa for rapid development.
Oredipe, is Director/Co-ordinator, New Media to Governor of Bayelsa State