Where is The Bayelsa State Governor?

In terms of population, the Ijaw ethnic group is the fourth largest in Nigeria. But in terms of natural resources, they are the wealthiest in that their land and watercourse house more than 70% of the nation’s proven oil and gas reserve. Sadly, these two advantages do not translate into the material and human well-being of the people. The people are cheated by the Federal Government and are also exploited and abused by some of their own leaders and elites.

The majority of the Ijaw call Bayelsa State home; their brethrens are minorities in States like Ondo, Delta, Rivers and Lagos States. In recent years, there have been calls to house the Ijaw ethnic group in upward of four States. The call for Ijaw States predates Nigeria’s independence; but on Thursday April 22nd 1993, a group of Ijaw men, under the able chairmanship of Dr. Amba Ambaiowei and meeting in Senator Amatari Zuofa’s place of abode, convened to plot the establishment of two Ijaw States: Bayelsa and Toru Ibe States. To their glory and the glory of Ijaw land, Bayelsa State came to fruition in 1996.

Bayelsa State was carved out of the old Rivers State. Since then, the State has been ruled by eight men: four non-indigenous governors — Phillip Ayeni, Habu Daura, Omoniyi Olubolade, and Paul Obi. Collectively, they were governors for only three years. The four indigenous governors are DSP Alamieyeseigha, Goodluck Jonathan, Werinipre Seibarugo and Timipre Sylva. (Seibarugo was there in an acting capacity for about 6 weeks). The reign of the first four governors are beyond the scope of this essay.

In general, this essay is about the reign of three Governors, and specifically, it is about the reign of the current Governor, Chief Timipre Sam Sylva. Taken in totality, there has been no enduring growth and advancement in Bayelsa State since1999. What we have — what the people of the State have — are publicity stunts, illusion of progress, destructive imitations, and economic-abracadabra that are presented as economic and political gains by their Governors.

The fundamentals of development include, but are not limited to food security, affordable health care and quality education, provision of public infrastructures and economic and personal security, and constitutionalism. None of the aforementioned has been secured. But instead, what passes for progress is actually voodoo-development: nothing significant and nothing worthy of note in spite of the billions and billions of dollars in revenue.

When Alamieyeseigh and Jonathan assumed office in 1999, they were alarmed — or at least they pretended to be alarmed by the dire condition of things, saying “There is water everywhere, yet most of our citizens still drink untreated water direct from the Rivers and Creeks…Health and educational institutions in the State are either dilapidated or ill-equipped….several other infrastructure are in shamble…” The list was almost endless.

Feasibility Studies, costing millions and millions of naira were commissioned. Formal and informal Think Tanks costing millions and millions were either announced or put in place. All amounted to nothing! In their place, Governor Alamieyeseigha, his proxies and agents perfected ways to loot and mismanage. Immediate and extended family members also got in on the act. Through it all, the people suffered. They continue to suffer.

From all indications, there is no reprieve in sight for the people of Bayelsa State. As incompetent and roguish as Nigerian State Governors are, it will be a Herculean task finding a Governor as rudderless and as incompetent as Timipre Sylva. Above all else, he passionately enjoys certain things: endless partying, wasteful spending, and idling and lazing around. He is a master drifter with special penchant for foreign destinations.

In fifteen months, he has traveled to other federating states more than 45 times (with Abuja as his local destination of choice). In the same period, he has been out of the country the equivalent of four months. At this rate, he is likely to surpass all his predecessors combined. What’s more, since he was brought back to office, he has yet to appoint State Commissioners, and has yet to realize he has an economic and political system to govern.

Sadly, Governor Sylva can afford to be whatever he wants to be. He can afford to do or not to do. He can afford to listen or play deaf. Nobody seems able or willing to call him to order. He acts like a god who gives and takes. He has made Creek Haven (Government House Yenagoa) the center of a visionless government. And when he is out of Yenagoa, government businesses screech to a halt: the lights go out, the wind stops blowing, and the moon stop shining. Damn, who has the moral authority to call this man to order?

In Bayelsa State, too many people sold their vote, their voice and their conscience during the last election; but more than that, no one wants to risk his/her chances at government contracts or patronage or political appointment (either for themselves, family members or associates). The PDP, both at the state and national level, went the extra mile to badger, weaken or compromise real and perceived opponents. The result now is that no one — no one — seems to have the moral authority to question the Governor.

These injurious conditions must not be allowed to continue. This Governor must not be allowed to continue his shenanigans as though Bayelsa State is his private chiefdom. The people of Bayelsa, at home and abroad, must oppose and fight Timipre Sylva’s wasteful habit and insolence. They must keep him awake and alert at every moment of the day and night. And since he is not ready and able to govern, he should either be recalled or be impeached in a constitutional manner.

And in fact, the amount of theft and mismanagement he is involved in should be carefully investigated and brought before the EFCC and other competent legal bodies. Recently, the Governor told the media that he undertakes foreign travels because of the need for Foreign Direct Investments. Hogwash! Total lies and total nonsense! Let him prove to the people of the State how much FDI his constant foreign travels have brought to the state.

The money the Governor and his entourage has wasted in the last 15 months (on domestic and international travels) is more than enough to build, equip and staff one clinic each in each of the State’s local government headquarter. At the very least, the money could have been used to modernize all the Government primary and secondary schools in the State. The people of Bayelsa State need and deserve a competent stay-home Governor, not a snoozing Governor who is “here today and there tomorrow.”

By the way: do the people of Bayelsa State have to wait another 75 days for State Commissioners and other head of government agencies to be appointed?

Written by
Sabella Ogbobode Abidde
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