The ThisDay Newspaper (11.29.06) is reporting that the “Bayelsa State Government is set to become the first state in the country to own a satellite orbiting space.” The state governor, Dr. Jonathan Goodluck, was quoted as saying “the execution of the project would attract enormous benefits to the state and engenders development not only in Bayelsa and Niger Delta States but the country as a whole.” It was also reported that the governor promised that “next year’s budget would accommodate the construction of a befitting office complex which would serve as a permanent secretariat for UNITAR.”
What do you make of a proposed Bayelsa State government satellite orbiting space? This is difficult to fathom especially in a state where the vast majority of the people find it difficult to move from one village to another, a state where a journey that ordinarily should take 25 minutes takes 5 hours. Why would a state that is lacking in human and infrastructural development want to finance a satellite project? What is the purpose, and where is the need for a satellite in a state where the vast majority of the people have no access to potable water, medical care, quality education, good roads, and assured and nutritious meal?
In the face of all these deficiencies and imbalances, the government wants to spend billions of naira on a white-elephant project. What nonsense!
There are no libraries, no emergency medical centers, no disaster safe houses, no reliable transportation, no parks and other amenities that add to ones quality of life; yet, the government is about to embark on a satellite project? The state cannot boast of colleges of education, polytechnics, and well-equipped secondary schools yet she is about to waste billions and billions of the state allocation on such futuristic project? There is something wrong here, folks.
Bayelsa State cannot boast of a functional university. What goes for a university in the state is no more than a collection of 18-century looking huts, poorly staffed, poorly equipped, and poorly managed. Without a pool of well-trained and qualified university graduates, who is going to staff and run such a “befitting office complex” and project? The so-called expatriates? Bayelsans will end up being the messengers and chauffeurs and cleaners of garbage and human waste. What is the matter with Ijaw leaders? What goes on in their minds? Why would any right thinking and well trained governor waste resources on projects that have no immediate and obvious benefit to the people? Why?
Is imprudence a common currency among Ijaw political leaders? What is the purpose of a satellite project in a state where most people are uneducated? What is the point spending all that money in a state where poverty and hopelessness abound? The state government can not even supply electricity to the vast majority of the people. The poorest state in the nation wants a satellite? What nonsense!
Bayelsa State, under Mr. Alamieyeseigha and now under Mr. Jonathan Goodluck, is synonymous with poverty, poor governance, misplaced priority, ineffectual leadership and shortage of common sense. In the midst of such unconscionable poverty and fetid conditions, the governor is yearning and itching to waste the people’s money. What we have going in Bayelsa State under Jonathan Goodluck is a clear case of “poverty of leadership,” abuse of executive power manifested in mismanagement of public trust and public fund, and demonstration of bad judgment and shadiness by a governor who has clearly lost his focus and scruples.
The citizens of Bayelsa State don’t want the satellite project. What for? Considering our peculiar history, place and experience within the Nigerian state, what we need at this point in time are programs, policies and services that will elevate our current condition: from poverty to surplus and human development, from illiteracy to literacy, from despair to a life of hope and so on and so forth. We want our people properly fed; our people need access to quality education and modern medical services; our fathers and mothers want a bright and engaging future for their children and grandchildren.
We want a state where every man and woman and child is free from want and destitution; and positioned to achieve his or her heart’s desire. We want a state that gives our boys and girls the ability to compete with their contemporaries both in Nigeria and abroad. We want a state and a government that genuinely cares about the quality of life of the aged, the poor and the poor in health. We the Ijaws and the entire citizens of Bayelsa State do not, at this point in time, want nor need a satellite orbiting the globe or the heavens.
How will this supposed satellite benefit Agbere and Odi? How will this satellite improve the lives of my people in Epie, Diebu, Tabuama and Brass? Would this satellite improve the living condition of our people in Eniwari, Ekpetiama and in Otuoke in Ogbia local government area? No, no, no, we do not need a satellite orbiting space.
Most of Governor Jonathan Goodluck’s recent acts and pronouncements points to a man who seems not to understand what leadership and people-centered governance is about. And this satelitegate is a clear indication of his misplaced priority and poor governance. Bayelsa State is in its infancy. At this stage therefore, we the people DO NOT want a satellite; we want basic human needs along with transparent government.
We all remember the days of Chief Alamieyeseigha when he was traveling all over the world, spending the state’s money as if it was his personal account. We remember him commissioning one feasibility study after another as a way to pilfer the state’s treasury. We remember him setting up and sponsoring meaningless and useless projects — all the while the state had nothing to show save for scant projects here and there. In the end, he was consumed by his greed, carelessness and hubris.
Jonathan is today traveling the same path as his predecessor. If he doesn’t know, we must tell him: we must tell him that the state and the state’s money do not belong to him. He is merely a custodian of the people’s money and power — all of which can be taken away from him at anytime. If he doubts this simple fact, he should ask Alamieyeseigha and all those who have fallen by the way side. History and posterity is not a respecter of careless, unproductive and irresponsible men. The satellite project, in my opinion, is irresponsible. It is not too late for the governor to change course, and change course I would advise.