Bayelsa State Governor Henry Seriake Dickson is doing something refreshingly different. Dickson tells the people of the state every month what comes in by way of revenue and how the money is spent up to the last kobo.
The initiative is called Transparency Briefing. The first transparency briefing for this year coincided with the one-year anniversary of the governor held on February 14. Dickson was inaugurated on February 14, 2012, Valentine’s Day, which is why some call him the Valentine Governor. During the one year anniversary and as part of the transparency process, the governor awarded contracts for the construction of two fly-over bridges in the state, the first of its kind. He paid the contractors upfront.
I was pleasantly surprised when I watched him openly distributing cheques to the contractors at the Government House Banquet Hall, Yenagoa. Before awarding the contracts, the governor had inaugurated the Bayelsa Development and Investment Corporation (BDIC) Fiduciary and Advisory Councils, both of which comprised prominent traditional rulers, former top business executives and some government functionaries, to give the profile of the state a lift and work towards getting investors to come and invest in Bayelsa. Governor Dickson calls his regime the restoration government. He seems to be working in tandem with that realisation given the fact he is in a hurry to develop the state.
The signs are everywhere; Dickson has turned Bayelsa into a huge construction yard and the Contriman governor seems determined in his resolve to restore Bayelsa’s glory - that is if the state ever had any glory before now - from Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, through Goodluck Jonathan to Timipre Sylvia. But as good as it appears, my problem with the transparency briefing is about sustainability. How sustainable can it be? For how long will Governor Dickson keep on assembling people on a monthly basis at the Banquet Hall to tell them how much the state makes and how the fund is being spent.
He will get tired sooner than later, I think. However, the governor’s aides tell me he is bound to continue doing so, as there is a law backing transparency briefing. Under the law if the governor fails to do it for three consecutive times, he could be impeached by the state House of Assembly. You might wonder: Which assembly?
Centenary Celebration, What Manner of Celebration?
I have no problem with the decision to celebrate Nigeria’s centenary if that would massage the ego of some and enrich some government functionaries. However, I often ask myself what is there to celebrate about the 1914 decision to foist a rich wife on a poor husband in a wedlock that is bound to generate the kind of strain and stress that the union is at present generating. But if what I hear about arrangements for the celebration is anything to go by, then the rationale for the entire thing is clear enough. President Jonathan had set the ball rolling for the celebration with a centenary dinner at the State House, Abuja, on February 4. The colourful ceremony, attended by five former Nigerian leaders among others, witnessed songs and documentary on the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates to become one Nigeria.
Yes, the celebration is being driven by the private sector and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation Senator Anyim Pius Anyim had set up a committee of private sector players to drive the celebration. Yes, it’s private sector-driven. But is the secretariat not in a government facility? Are they not using government office? Why are the bureaucrats in the office like the permanent secretary, the directors not involved? Why the secrecy around the programme? Why is the entire arrangement known only by and powered by a close coterie of political aides around Anyim? Why is the programme being discussed in hushed tones? If anxious to find answers to these questions, ask how many of those working in the SGF’s office were at the Aso Rock dinner.
Adieu Oluwo of Iwoland
The Oluwo of Iwoland, Oba Ashiru Olatunbosun Tadese, Ariwajoye 1, who joined his ancestors last Sunday night at the age of 80, was not just the traditional ruler of my hometown; he was also a father figure to me. He was my father’s bosom friend; they were both teachers and pioneer members of Iwo elite club called Iwo Club 20. He was also chairman of Iwo Local Government between 1979 and 1982. Anytime I went home and called at the palace, particularly after my father’s death in 2006, he would draw me close and remind me he considered me his son. Within hours of his demise, words had reached me that our revered traditional ruler had gone to join his ancestors.
I was not really taken by surprise, as Kabiyesi had been in a prolonged sickness in the last five years or so, and this illness particularly became serious in the last two years during which he stopped attending public functions. After a ten-year protracted struggle for the Oluwo throne, which became vacant with the death of Oba S.O. Abimbola around 1982, Oba Tadese eventually ascended the throne of his forefathers in 1992 during the regime of former Governor Isiaka Adeleke. It was a bitter kingship battle for the Oluwo throne, but in the end he triumphed.
Oba Tadese’s reign brought peace and development to Iwoland no doubt. We need more concrete development in a town that is a major community in Osun State and a bastion of progressive politics, but without much to show for it in terms of development. Some of the combatants in that 10-year struggle for the Oluwo throne are still around, I only hope it won’t take another 10 years for the vacant stool to be filled. I hope and pray that the new process throws up a monarch from the right lineage, whose tenure will truly unite the people and bring peace and more development. Adieu Oba Tadese, Sun re o.