|HON HENRY SERIAKE DICKSON, GOVERNOR OF BAYELSA STATE|
When Hon. Seriake Dickson emerged as the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and got elected as the Governor of Bayelsa State on February 14, 2012, to engineer the turn-around of the wobbling state, the task before him seemed insurmountable.
Indeed, many people did not give him a chance because his party, the PDP, had ruled for over 13 years and was weighed down with the burden of non-performance, fraud and under-development. To many, the PDP had only succeeded in giving the people, a destroyed society where violence and suspicion reigned among brothers from the same state.
For 13 years, the people of the state were only left with the tattered curtain of a political drama of impeachment, mind-boggling accounts of fraud, governors and acting governors, destroyed and dilapidated infrastructure, stagnation, empty treasury, high debt profile, unemployment and despondent people.
But in a dramatic turn of events, the Seriake Dickson-led administration has backed talks with actions. The Dickson team, known as ‘Restoration’, have within a short period of a year, engineered a complete transformation of the state returning it to the path of infrastructural development activities, thereby making the state attractive for investments from within and outside the country.
Within 12 months, the administration has turned around the fortunes of the state and started work on over 41 roads and infrastructural projects in the various local government areas as well as huge investments in security and education.
At the media session held by the state government and addressed by the Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral John Jonah (rtd) and a project tour conducted by the State Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Barr. Lawrence Erudjakpor, showed that the members of the Dickson team were anxious to work and turn around the state.
In his submission, Jonah opined that the governor and his team had promised a total restoration of the state, saying; “By the grace of God, we have been able to record a modest achievement commensurate with resources and time spent particularly in some critical sectors of our economy. We inherited a state begging for development with the moral and confidence level at the lowest ebb.
“Let me tell you the areas we have impacted and those we are still impacting on. On security, it is common in democratic society for democrats to say that expenditure on security are better be spent on development and social security, but they readily forget that the most important social service a government can provide for his people is that of security. When we came life meant nothing to Bayelsans. Cult related activities and fights had destroyed the fabrics of living. And there was hardly any night you would not hear gun shots in Yenagoa and dead bodies the following morning.
“We decided from onset that if we must have the confidence of our people, we must attract development into this area and tackle security head-on. A lot of investments have been made, investments on technology and on the people. Investment on physical infrastructure to ensure that our state is at the point we are today.
“Project completion in the state is not just about physical infrastructure. That is why I started with security. These are intangible things that can hit you. If you don’t know a completed project in the security sector, you can feel it. A lot of money has been spent on it and we have a four year mandate. We are not dancing to the gallery. We are determined and focussed. Towards the end of our mandate, you will know what we are worth.
“We also had dislocation from the flood. A lot of primary school buildings would have been completed but the floods came and destroyed what was left. They had to bring new surveys because we don’t want to build houses now and be submerged again. As a state, I sympathise with those whose expectations have not been met properly but we can assure you that it was not deliberate. It is not because of incompetence. We are following a plan and we will get there.”
Barrister Erudjakpor, the Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, told LEADERSHIP during a tour of the project sites, that Dickson’s restoration team has succeeded in shutting the mouth of the fragment of an opposition group existing outside the state with over 41 projects in various parts of the state.
Erudjakpor who spoke as an engineer, declared that the projects undertaken by the administration started in June 2011 while the gestation periods were fixed at nine months. In his explanations on why the present administration embarked on massive construction work in most parts of the state, the works commissioner said officials of the state government had faced shameful ratings among the comity of states due to the deplorable conditions of infrastructure before they assumed office.
According to him; “On some many occasions, I have refused to introduced myself as Commissioner of Works. I came back and reported to the governor and he said we will hit the road by June and our target is to make Bayelsa, the Dubai of Nigeria. Right now, we are opening discussions with partners in the United Kingdom, Dubai, and South Africa. We have been left behind and we want to catch up with the states in the South-South zone.
“Secondly, we are out to prove that governance in Bayelsa can work. The impression people have had is that nothing can work in Bayelsa State. All we want to say is that we inherited a nearly bankrupt state and we have roles over N17 billion. Before now, over draft were taken to pay salaries but it has changed. The people have gained confidence and the issue of our confidence goes beyond construction.”
On the criticisms over the alleged exorbitant cost of projects embarked upon by the present administration, Erudjakpor pointed out that the award of contract in the state is guided by a price regime and is scrutinized by the Due Process Office.
He said; “When you give projects out, the project is sent to the Due Process Office. They will look at it and calculate the cubic meter per cubic meter per sand. For example, in per cubic meter of sand, it depends on the areas you are getting it. In some areas N4, 000 and some areas, it is N4, 500.