Emmanuel Addeh writes that the newly completed governor’s office, which houses the major officials and departments that control the machinery of state in Bayelsa, is truly an edifice to behold
Sitting in a relatively large expanse of land, the Bayelsa Government House, popularly called the Creek Haven, is situated in Onopa, Yenagoa, capital of the state.
It serves as the centre where major issues of state are deliberated upon and far-reaching decisions are taken, which in the main, either improve the lot of the people or impinge negatively on their well-being.
And like in other parts of the world, many have argued, the physical structure housing this engine room of state can be quite symbolic of the quality of decisions churned out from them.
So, in the last few years, the Bayelsa State Government has embarked upon, not the building of a new Government House from scratch, but the construction and relocation of the office housing the governor, his deputy and core staff.
Before now, the governor’s office situated in the left wing of the Government House, say those who have had business to do therein, could hardly take a handful of staff and visiting leaders who, sometimes, come with large official delegations.
Aside that, it has been argued that the seat of power in Bayelsa is really run like a community palace where people of all classes and creeds, including youths, women, and elders troop into with little inhibitions to see their leaders and get their problems solved.
It, therefore became important to build a befitting office literally owned by the “people” as it were, given that access to the place is mostly unrestricted, except for the routine security screenings.
Painted all white, Bayelsa’s newest edifice on entry, comprises three major blocks, housing the governor’s office, the deputy governor’s office and a third one, which is mainly the administrative hub of the Government House.
Adorned with state-of-the-art security gadgets, fire-fighting equipment and modern information facilities, the three block, three floor building has an Information Technology room from where security is monitored real-time including the control centre for security cameras, close circuit televisions, among others.
It also has sound proof walls to ward off unnecessary noise, a central electricity generating plant, water treatment plants, a restaurant in the admin building and two penthouses for both the number one and two citizens of the state.
Aside the aforementioned, while the governor would occupy the left wing of the building with his core aides, including his Chief of Staff, the deputy will stay in the right wing with his most important employees.
In the three-floor administrative floor, are essentially the finance team, the accounts department and the second floor occupied by the media team, chief of which are the Chief Press Secretary and the Special Adviser on media, supported by their branch subordinates, including the Special Assistants on Print Media, Electronic Media, the New Media team among others.
Standing on the rooftop, gives a vivid picture of the beautiful surrounding of the massive building. It shows the waters surrounding the house, and not far away, the polo club and the golf course which Governor Seriake Dickson, says would soon begin to draw tourists to the state.
Away from the admin block, there are the governor’s “waiting room”, several conference rooms, which can comfortably sit a couple hundreds of people, the oval-shaped and the reflective-roof main Exco Hall, where State Executive meetings take place.
Added to that are over a hundred offices, which would shelter those who do the day-to-day running of the affairs of the state, powered by four elevators, with one VIP lift for the governor.
At the entrance of the building which will be officially launched on February 14, specifically on St. Valentine’s Day, when the administration would have completed the first year of its second term, one is also welcomed by the several water fountains just in front of the edifice, with a massive parking space for dignitaries.
But before tomorrow’s official launching, the Founder and General Superintendent of the Deeper Life Bible Church, Pastor William Kumuyi had earlier visited the state to dedicate the building to God.
During the event, he encouraged public office holders to dedicate their lives to God in the course of their service in office, noting that such spiritual exercise will help them in making good decisions and serve the people better.
Explaining that “without God no individual or group can succeed in any task,” Kumuyi who was accompanied by his wife admonished that aside dedicating the structure, occupants of the building must equally give their whole being to the creator.
The cleric had also lauded the governor for “making God the centre of the government,” stressing that with the dedication of the edifice, there shall be showers of blessings in the state.
In his remarks, Dickson also thanked God for enabling him to build a befitting house that the future leaders of the state would be proud of.
”Twenty years of the creation of Bayelsa State, no governor thought about building a befitting governor’s office. I give God glory and thank all Bayelsans and members of the cabinet for their support and encouragement. It takes only God to give the wisdom to erect such a structure,” the governor said.
Due to the difficult building terrain of the state, the building did not come without its own challenges, it was learnt.
First, it was massively sand-filled to almost two metres from the ground and despite that, water was still threatening the area.
It was learnt that the contractor had to do a concrete reinforcement of about three to five metres away from the building towards the river side before it was certified okay to build on.
But what is the essence of a new Governor’s Office, when there are still several other challenges faced by the state?
The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson, says since the creation of the state over 20 years ago, this would be the first time it would have an office space purposely built and befitting enough to be so called.
“Before now, the structure housing the Governor’s office was nothing but a makeshift building hurriedly put together to serve that purpose.
“It wasn’t a fit and proper place to administer governance especially in the light of the new order, a paradigm shift, capable of rubbing off brightly on our socio-economic progress as a people.”
He continued, “For those armchair critics who never see anything good in our government and may want to run their mouths or argue whether building a befitting office like this should be a priority, they should know that having a befitting work space is not a luxury, it is an absolute necessity.”
Governance is a serious business, he maintains, adding that “some of the policies we now see as solid achievements are products of serious thinking.”
According to him, “they were informed by strategic thinking, resulting in concrete actions to make Bayelsa one massive construction site, as it were, leading to the greater interconnectedness we now have in the state, which is good for economic development.”
Toeing the same line of reasoning, the Commissioner of Information and Orientation, Mr. Jonathan Obuebite, who gave the breakdown of the new edifice said that the new building now has a fully kitted recording studio where the governor can make state-wide live broadcasts without having to leave the Government House.
He also disclosed that there was now a purpose-made area where photos are taken, no matter the number of visitors to the governor’s office and an inbuilt car park for the governor and his deputy.
He put the cost of the building at almost N5 billion, explaining that the difficult terrain the building is situated and the rising inflation was responsible for the minor difference between the initial cost and the N4 billion plus-N5 billion, including the furnishing it finally gulped.
On the challenges, Obuebite said, “You know what happens here. What you will spend on that kind of building in Lagos, here you will spend times three of it. And that is because of the environment.
“We did a lot of earthwork. It’s a fact that everybody knows. Then, the cost of materials. You can’t buy the same thing you bought for N100 yesterday. It wasn’t easy.”
Following in the same line of argument, he said that for two decades, the governor did not have an office, but just a makeshift arrangement which was meant to be temporary.
“If you had come here before now, you would pity the governor and his aides. That place we called an office, was the former deputy governor’s office and it was very inconvenient.
“By the way, this building is basically for the future. In the next 50 years, no governor will be thinking of building a new office. As I have said, it is the best in this country, given the quality of work and the aesthetic that was put into it,” he maintained.”
But as the machinery of state moves from the old building to a new one within the same Government House, the people of Bayelsa can only concur with a prayer now etched into a mantel in the State Dining room of the White House, the seat of power in the United States of America.
On Saturday, November 1, 1800, John Adams, who became the first U.S. President to take residence in the building, during his second day in the house, wrote to his wife Abigail, containing a prayer for the new edifice.
In it he wrote, “I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this House, and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”
Now and in the future, Bayelsa residents, on whose behalf power will be wielded from the new official mansion would hope that this short prayer holds for all time.