Development Strategy for Bayelsa State

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

In the learned findings of James Weaver, Michael Rock, and Kenneth Kusterer, “the overriding goal of development is to improve human well-being and to enable human beings to achieve their potential. In order to achieve this broad goal, four subgoals must be pursued: (1) a healthy, growing economy undergoing structural transformation; (2) an economy in which the benefits are widely distributed; (3) a political system that provides for human rights and freedoms, effective governance; and (4) a political economy that is consistent with preservation of the environment.” Development, then, is all encompassing and with multiple dimensions, including economic, political, social, psychosomatic, and cultural.

In addition, development has different meanings, i.e. “increases in production, income, standards of living, quality and accessible education,” the “development of the economic wealth of a nation for the benefit of the people;” or a set of “economic, social, political and government policies that seeks to improve the lives of the people.” Whichever manner one choose to explain development; it seeks improvements in literacy rates, life expectancy, reduction in poverty, and the provision of adequate political goods and services. With that in mind, the main goal of development therefore is improvement in human well-being: high standard of living, expanding choices, guaranteeing people’s freedom, increasing their economic security, and the provision of an enabling environment to allow people attain their private and public aspirations.

Development, for quite a number of years, was mostly about increases in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and a favorable climb in the Gross National Product (GNP). What’s more, some scholars equated development with the construction of shopping centers and movie houses, high-rise buildings, hotels and motels, soccer stadiums and the likes. But with the passing of time and evolved thinking, there has been a shift in paradigm, so much so development is now people-centered, with a humanitarian angle. The new understanding of development (within the international community) is akin to the new understanding of national security, where for a very long time, national security was mostly about power prominence, the ability to dominate and control the global estate, and military projection.

Within the last three decades, the shift has been towards human security (basic needs): global health, a thriving environment, corporate social responsibility, the wellbeing of the people, and other variables. In Nigeria for example, some people are wealthy, but the vast majorities are miserably poor and live below the “a dollar a day” recommendation and are unable to afford most of their basic needs. In Bayelsa State, things are, for the most part, stagnant. Billions and billions of dollars since 1999 under two administrations, one cannot point to noteworthy progress in the state. Whatever development there is is mostly limited to the state capital, Yenagoa. If you didn’t know, you would think Yenagoa is Bayelsa and Bayelsa is Yenagoa. The State Capital is littered with half-hearted projects, inflated contracts, and dubious undertakings. There is no method to the pandemonium.

The administration of Chief Alamieyeseigha and that of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan bear most of the responsibility for the commotion and chaos. The current chief of state, Governor Timipre Sylva, may be excused for now; for he finds himself riding on a roaring and rudderless train. He is new in office and still trying to find his balance. Even so, it is in his place and within his power to change course: change direction and bring about meaningful growth and development. That’s part of leadership. But he needs help. He needs candid opinion. And so I offer some suggestions, as abbreviated as they might be. The suggestions are not in any exacting order.

First, the security situation of the state needs to be improved. Stability, predictability, and continuity in governance are essential to local and foreign direct investments;

Second, the Governor, in concert with the State Assembly, needs to write or rewrite laws that encourage and promote private enterprise;

Third, intelligent investment in primary and secondary school education: good education policy, well-built, well-equipped and well-staffed schools with competitive salaries;

Fourth, the Niger Delta University should be comprehensively upgraded, and used as a center of research and with which to anchor the state’s development;

Fifth, invest in such projects as refuse collection/disposal facilities, and water and sewage treatment plants. Have two hospitals to be complemented by clinics and dispensaries;

Sixth, electricity, transportation (water and inland), shopping malls and markets, hotels and motels and airports and the likes should be left in the hands of the private sector;

Seventh, in concert with banks and other financial institutions, government should establish a Small Business Center to help with private loans and private businesses;

Eighth, “encourage” the federal government, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations to have considerable presence in the state;

Ninth, the need for a true separation of power between the three arms of government; and the need to follow the rule of law. Personalization of law is inimical to development;

Tenth, special attention should be paid to those in their formative years (6 to 18 years old), especially the girls. Greater benefits accrue to societies that pay attention to girls;

Eleventh, White Elephant projects are tempting, but they serve no real purpose; they do not add value to the overall wellbeing of the people;

Twelfth, subsistence agriculture is derisory. Individuals or corporations should be encouraged to engage in commercial agriculture and animal husbandry.

In the end though, this or any government should consider itself a building-block, paving the way for subsequent administrations to build upon its progress. It must pave the way for others to achieve greater heights. No government — no matter how rich, transparent and forthright — can do it all; it must build alliances and cooperate, collaborate and coordinate its efforts with local, regional and international concerns. But in doing so, it must realize that whether it fails or succeeds, it alone will be accountable to history and to posterity. Still, it is better to have failed than not to have tried or be mediocre in its efforts.

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