Diri on quest for New Bayelsa

[From Chris Eze, Yenagoa]

At his inaugural State Executive Council meeting recently, Governor Douye Diri marshalled out the policy thrust of his Prosperity Administration and said his focus would be on developing agriculture and Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, (SMEs).

While observers would want to adopt a wait- and- see attitude for this to come to fruition, it does appear that the Governor has perfectly diagnosed the malady that has afflicted the state over the years and come up with an elixir to fix the problem.

Indeed agriculture and SMEs would remain the superstructure on which the economy of a state like Bayelsa with very low internally generated revenue should be built.

With this, it would be much easier to free the state from the shackles of poverty and consequently reduce crime since the twin prospect of agriculture and SMEs remain the highest employers of labor that have the potentials of scooping the army of jobless youths from the streets into productive ventures.

Diri’s sublime initiative should be applauded as breaking away from the morbid norm of folding hands and waiting for the monthly windfall from Abuja before anything could be done which previous administrations in the state did.  

A situation whereby everything in the state will appear as collapsing if federal allocation is delayed a little from the centre is an anathema. This is simply because previous administrations in the state failed to look inwards and exploit to the full, the areas the state has comparative advantage, particularly in agriculture and aquaculture to boost its internally generated revenue.

 Now that Gov. Diri appears to have rediscovered the state’s lost compass to economic renaissance, everything should be done to encourage him to transform the vision into prosperity for Bayelsans. The potentials are already there; all he needs is the will to make the difference.

The immediate past administration of Henry Seriake Dickson made a singsong of transforming Bayelsa to a world exporter of fish and starch, taking advantage of the natural endowments in the state, but the proposal only ended up in his stomach. It was never birthed.

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Why would the state Aquaculture farm at Yenegwe in Yenagoa Local Government of the state where millions of naira, nay dollars had been invested be abandoned to reptiles and rodents? With 500 earthen ponds and other facilities in place, the government was aiming at engaging hundreds of youths of the state in fishing, an occupation that is second nature to all riverine people who needed no further expertise to excel in the trade.

Governor Diri would do well to revisit the fish farm and strive to realize the dream of truly making Bayelsa the world exporter of smoked fish, and other variants.

Bayelsa used to have fishing trawlers, but some strange stories are now being weaved around the whereabouts of the trawlers. At some time it was said that government was looking for partners or buyers to sell off the trawlers. The picture has remained hazy! But such are the things serious governments use to generate huge resources if deployed to good use. It would be apposite if the Governor looks deep to find out the true story surrounding the trawlers with a view to using it to buoy up the state economy.

Some observers have also wondered why Bayelsa does not have a plantain processing factory with the abundance of the food crop in the state. At every corner of the street in the state are women dealing on roasted plantain and fish (bolle) and they source the product locally from farmers who grow the plantains in the hinterlands. There is hardly any other state in Nigeria where plantain grows like in Bayelsa! Diri could also factor this in his comprehensive agricultural revolution for the state.

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The Governor must also be ready for the miscreants in the state who terrorize the streets even in broad day light. He must be clear with a youth program to re-orientate the youths and save their lives from illicit drugs. There is no gainsaying the fact that many youths of Bayelsa are patently lazy and fixated with entitlement mentality. In summary, he must wage a frontal war against crime and nip cultism in the bud. With headline news from Bayelsa always talking about kidnappings, killings, and other sundry crimes, investors can hardly have interest to stake their money in such a volatile environment.

Above all, Governor Diri must look above his shoulders to see the strides other states created the same time with Bayelsa are making in several areas. The lie or claim that Bayelsa is below sea level, thus making development difficult should be discarded. There is no reason for the current status of Yenagoa, the state capital after more than 20 years of the state creation. Compared to other state capitals like Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital created the same day with Bayelsa, Yenagoa is a slum! But Bayelsa has received far more allocation than Ebonyi that anyone can imagine.

There is a ‘Monument of Disgrace’ standing tall and defacing the Central Business District area in Yenagoa. This ‘Monument of Disgrace’ refers to the 18 storey Tower Hotel project initiated by the first civilian governor of the state, Late DSP Alamieyeseigha. Till date, the project is uncompleted.

It was former President Goodluck Jonathan who described the project as a ‘Monument of Disgrace’ while bemoaning the level of under performance by the then Governor Timipre Sylva in the state.

The project had remained a piece of pie for successive administrations in the state as each of them from Late Alamieyeseigha who initiated the project to the last administration of Seriake Dickson invested huge sums of money in it without any being able to deliver the project envisioned to position Bayelsa as one of the tourist destinations in Nigeria.

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Even Dickson who used to boast in most of his public outings that he had a vision to make Bayelsa the “tourist destination in Nigeria and the Dubai of Africa” was a bigger flop in the failure to complete the project. 

At a certain time in 2013 at a ceremony in the Banquet Hall, Government House, Yenagoa, Dickson had announced that he had awarded contract for the completion of the Tower Hotel. He said that the contract had been taken away from the original contractors, Gitto Construction Company and re-awarded to Sedogi Nig. Ltd, announcing 18 months as the completion period. He also presented a draft in billions of naira covering the amount it would take to complete the project and further announced that a reputable company from South Africa had been engaged for the furnishing of the 18 floor hotel on completion.

It was then celebrated that the ‘Monument of Disgrace’ would soon turn to a Monument of Honour.  Sadly, the 18 floor hotel project still stands abandoned in a disheveled state in the heart of the Central Business District of the state capital.

Diri would be expected to resolve all the fabled legal bottlenecks allegedly hampering completion of the five star hotel and write his name boldly in gold.

One can imagine the level of enhancement the hotel would bring to the aesthetics of the Central Business District area of Yenagoa when it is completed and standing adjacent to the recently commissioned 17 storey towers of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, (NCDMB), also situated within the Central Business District of Yenagoa.

A New Bayelsa is possible. Governor Diri and the team he recently assembled as commissioners can, indeed, make the quest for a New Bayelsa realizable.

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