BAYELSA ON TIMI ALAIBE’S MIND

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Timi Alaibe

Monday comment2

Perelayefa Ebiketon pays tribute to Timi Alaibe, former managing director of NDDC, at age 57

As he turns 57 years old today, Chief Ndutimi Alaibe has several reasons to thank God: good health, sound mind, successful career, thriving businesses, accomplished children, legion of loyal and distinguished friends and associates and a litany of success stories.

However, other than prayer sessions to God Almighty, it is not likely that Alaibe would be hosting a wild party to celebrate today. He hardly does, anyway.

These are incredibly sober and reflective period for Alaibe who is seeking to contest for the governorship of his beloved home State of Bayelsa, in the election already earmarked for November this year by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). He also faces the hurdle of emerging tops in the primaries of his political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), slated for August this year.

Even when the overarching sentiment in Bayelsa State is that ‘Timi Alaibe is better placed to continue from where his party man, the current Governor, Seriake Dickson, would eventually stop in February next year, Alaibe is not unaware that the days ahead would be daunting and would test his legendary dexterity and organizational acumen. As he receives friends, associates, family members and teeming admirers, who as usual, would be visiting his home today to rejoice with him on the occasion of his 57th birthday, Alaibe’s reflections and discussions would most certainly be drifting to the forthcoming PDP primaries.

As the gubernatorial primaries draw close, Alaibe has been quietly consulting and reaching out to critical stakeholders, especially chieftains of his party and potential delegates. In his consultations, Alaibe’s strongest message, as learnt, has been his unflinching desire to speedily deploy his wealth of experience, exposure and managerial skills to actualise the urgent task of bringing sustainable development to the door steps of Bayelsans.

Indeed, not a few persons in the state believe that given the remarkable job that Dickson has done in the last seven and half years, there is the compelling need to have a seasoned hand to succeed him so as to deepen the gains made so far and eventually place Bayelsa in that ultimate position of the most economically viable states in the country. Alaibe, they contend, possesses the requisite grassroots experience, exposure, managerial, institutional and educational qualifications to launch the state into a greater era.

In an earlier article I wrote on Alaibe, I had averred that this boardroom guru is intensely irked by the fact that Bayelsans continue to lack basic necessities of life in spite of the rare privilege of occupying one of the most endowed spaces on the face of the earth. The state is naturally positioned by God to be the most economically viable in Nigeria but regrettably series of unfortunate factors have connived to rob it of its rightful place as the state with the best human capital index in Nigeria – with huge investments in people, health, education, social protection programmes, physical security, food security as well as women and youths’ empowerment schemes.  

With the longest coastline in Nigeria, stretching to about 203 kilometres, Bayelsa is traversed and crisscrossed by a large number of rivers, rivulets, streams, canals and creeks. Its forest resources encompass Mangrove Timber, Iroko, Mahogany, and Abura, while agricultural resources boast of such cash crops as oil palms and coco-nut and such food crops as cassava, rice, plantain, banana, sugarcane, vegetables and fruits. The state is endowed with marine and freshwater fisheries resources, extensive brackish water lagoons, creeks, rivers and lakes. The icing on the cake is the fact that Bayelsa State harbours about 23.4% of Nigeria’s crude oil resources, representing 9.8% of the nation’s economy and fourth largest state economy in the country.

In spite of its natural endowments, 93% of the Gross State Product of Bayelsa is from the oil & gas sector and a paltry 7% from non-oil sectors.

Alaibe has frequently identified a number of factors that have over the years weighed against its attainment of its full potential, chief among these, he insists, is the skewed federal structure of governance in Nigeria. The country tilts much more to the unitary rather than the fierce federal structure as envisaged by the founding fathers of the country. Under the current arrangement, Bayelsa, like all the other oil-producing states in Nigeria, yields its natural endowments to the federation and gets pittance in return. Alaibe is also of the view that the peculiar terrain of the state makes it extremely difficult to sustain development without the requisite funding. He tenaciously holds on to the fact that Bayelsa’s fortunes would be much more enhanced if the federal government could avail it of much more of the income that is being generated from the state.

In the contest for the governorship, Alaibe would be drawing strength and inspiration from his legendarily deep knowledge of the developmental needs of communities in the Niger Delta. An accomplished banker who rose through the ranks to the top of his profession, Alaibe was in 2001 appointed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to serve in an executive capacity in the then newly established Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). While he served as the Executive Director (Finance and Administration) and later Managing Director of the commission, Alaibe doggedly pursued and achieved the opening up of previously inaccessible communities, villages and towns in the state. The shore protection efforts he championed saved hundreds of communities from being washed off by the ocean; on his watch, NDDC initiated and efficaciously completed hundreds of roads and other critical infrastructure in several communities in Bayelsa.

Following the approval of President Obasanjo, the NDDC under Alaibe’s leadership painstakingly designed a master plan that was deliberately sculpted to bring massive development to the Niger Delta. Had it been implemented by successive governments as designed, the Niger Delta Master Plan, would have delivered new towns, bridges, coastal roads, coastal rail lines, several petrochemical industries, clean environment, millions of jobs and sustainable development to the Niger Delta, especially Bayelsa.

Even after his exit from the NDDC in 2009, Alaibe never relented in his avowed resolve to continue to give Bayelsa and the entire Niger Delta not just his best but his all. As the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Alaibe put his life at risk to lead the team that crisscrossed communities and creeks in the Niger Delta to extract peace commitment and eventually disarmed and demobilized thousands of militant agitators in the region who accepted the federal government’s offer of amnesty.

He eventually superintended over the Presidential Amnesty Programme for about two years. It remains an incontrovertible fact that the amnesty programme under Alaibe speedily aided the stabilization of the security conditions in the entire Niger Delta and the Gulf of Guinea. The programme also facilitated the training of several youths in the region in either formal education or vocational skills. Even more important, the programme, under Alaibe saved Nigeria from tipping off the fiscal cliff. With the peace, safety and security the programme engendered in the Niger Delta, oil exploration and exploitation peeked and moved Nigeria’s oil export from less than one million barrel per day in 2007 to over two million barrels per day in 2011.

In spite of his quest for the number one political office in Bayelsa, Alaibe insists that the effort would not be worth his while if the elections to the office at all levels were not credible or fraught with violence and bloodletting.

At a recent event, Alaibe underscored the fact that Bayelsa yearns for credible leadership and agreed with Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery’s definition of credible leadership as “the capacity and the will to rally men and women under a common purpose, and must possess the character which inspires confidence. In other words, a leader must inspire confidence. A leader must be trustworthy. A leader must have the capacity to persuasively generate support without the use of force or coercion. A leader must be peaceful. A leader must have a history of leadership without violence. A leader must have that charisma that convinces his followers and must be able to use the weapon of love to disarm hatred.” As Ndutimi Alaibe clocks 57 years old today, not a few persons believe that he has these qualities and much more.

Ebiketon wrote from Yenagoa, Bayelsa State