Preye Maclean posits that given the ethnic demography of Bayelsa State, someone from the state capital,Yenagoa should be given a chance this time around
There have been arguments, especially in political circles on which of the three senatorial districts should produce the next Governor of Bayelsa State. These arguments, some in the media, others in informal political gatherings, started long before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released the time-table for the governorship elections for Bayelsa and Kogi States recently.
A critical overview of the individual opinions as they affect this critical topic shows that each may be right to some extent. For instance, politicians from the West Senatorial District where the out-going governor, Henry Seriake Dickson comes from are arguing that the governorship of the state has gone round the three districts with the West District having the last shot and that for the next round, it should start from their own Senatorial District.
The people of the Central Senatorial District that produced the first elected governor, the late Chief D.S.P. Alamieyeseigha, in their argument, have cleverly posited that as the district that is hosting the capital, they have been criminally excluded from the core of state governance for too long and they believe this is responsible for the slow pace of development, especially Yenagoa, the capital city. Their opinion also draws strength from the fact that the first governor did not complete his tenure owing to some unfortunate political developments.
On the other hand, stakeholders in Bayelsa East Senatorial District have submitted that they have occupied the highly sought-after seat only seven years since the return of democracy in 1999. According to them, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was governor between December, 2005 and May 2007 while Chief Timipre Sylva held sway from May, 2007 to December, 2011. Timipre Sylva never minces words to say he’s being owed one tenure because he was forced out of power against democratic norms.
These have remained the arguments that have been flying in the democratic space since Henry Dickson’s re-election over three years ago.
In analyzing politicians and political activities, especially in Nigeria, some apolitical people have concluded that there is a behavioral pattern that runs through Nigerian politicians and that is the fact that the virtue of justice is lacking in them. In the Bayelsa scenario, justice really demands that the central Senatorial District should produce the next governor and that specifically, it should be Yenagoa Local Government Area.
The reasons for this argument are neither distant nor lacking proof. Yenagoa assumed the “capitalship” of a state about twenty-three years ago. Before its status changed from a mere local government headquarters to a state capital, Yenagoa was one rustic, pre-historic settlement in one of the farthest, remote places of the old Rivers State. It had only one road, the Yenagoa-Mbiama Road, which was quite impassable, especially during the rainy season.
Twenty-three years on, one fundamental question on the lips of lovers of democracy is, “has anything changed in its general outlook?” So many people are of the view that Yenagoa has lost it all as it has failed to go beyond its rustic nature to a level where visitors will go back to their places with its aesthetics engraved in their sub-conscious state.
To be fair to successive administrations, one would say there has been some infrastructural change but that change can best be described as marginal. For example, Alamieyeseigha upgraded the Yenagoa-Mbiama Road; constructed the main secretariat; the Lambert Eradiri Road; Treasury Building; Government House Banquet Hall; a few structures in Government House including a new governor’s lodge that has been converted to a hotel; the old Commissioners’ Quarters; the Old Legislative Quarters; Two housing estates and a few other structures.
Dr. Goodluck Jonathan stayed in office for just about one year and six months within which period he set the ball rolling for the construction of two housing estates; the Tower Hotel which still stands as a tower of disgrace as successive administrations have refused to complete it. He also built the Governor’s Lodge.
Timipre Sylva’s four and a half years reign is easily remembered for the construction of over forty internal roads which have hardly been attended to afterwards in spite of the high level of deterioration. He also constructed the Peace Park.
The out-going administration of Henry Dickson has, to its credit, some beautiful structures befitting a state capital. The new Governor’s Office; Secretariat Annexes; upgrading the Traditional Rulers Secretariat and some other structures in that vicinity; the Ox-bow Lake Pavillion; dualisation of Isaac Boro Expressway and a few other roads in Yenagoa.
For someone who hasn’t been to Yenagoa but is privileged to read this material will likely be led astray to believe that with the above structures in place, Yenagoa is looking like an El Dorado of sort. The truth, however, is that no one has had the required degree of passion for the development of the state capital.
Yenagoa, which is supposed to be a well-planned modern state capital lacks the wherewithal that could qualify it as such. There hasn’t been any plan to make it look beautiful apart from the Government House to the Hospital Junction area. Private developers have seized the initiative as they construct their houses and roads (where possible) and the result of this is haphazard development that we are seeing.
One major challenge of development Yenagoa faces is environmental, especially during the rains. When it rains, Yenagoa, a 21st century state capital is completely submerged and reduced to an uninhabitable village. Why would the state government fail to construct major drainages along major roads like the Yenagoa-Mbiama and Isaac Boro Expressway?
Like Yenagoa, other communities in the LGA have suffered the same fate as government’s presence can hardly be felt. They may just have been handed some minor projects such as renovation of school buildings, and a few other projects that may not be too meaningful to the people.
How do we correct these anomalies? Without necessarily clamouring for the development of a one-city state (this writer is averse to this idea), there should be well coordinated plan to develop Yenagoa and its environs to be at par with other state capitals. It’s somebody from Yenagoa LGA, not just anybody, but he who is driven by passion that can do this.
Incidentally, some persons from the area have declared their intention to contest for the coveted office. Keniebi Okoko, Reuben Okoya and Senator Paulker Emmanuel are reported to be interested in the job.
Indications however show that Okoko who has carved a niche for himself in the private sector has the best chance, given his pedigree. Okoko, a business man is the founder and Group Chief Executive of KDI Group, which is a diversified strategic investor in key sectors of the country’s economy including oil and gas, power, infrastructure and agriculture. His philanthropy is limitless as he has so many indigent students under his scholarship. In the height of the 2018 flood which brought tears and sorrow to the people due to its large-scale destruction, he was reported to have doled out hundreds of millions of naira to get relief materials for communities that were devastated across the state.
Okoko is an economics graduate of the University of Port Harcourt and holds another degree in Political Science from the Carlton University. In 2014, he got a post-graduate from the University of Pennsylvania on Strategic Thinking. He also wears a Harvard lapel having participated in the Harvard Business School High Potentials Leadership Programme. In 2015, Keniebi Okoko participated in the Harvard Business School Finance for Senior Executives programme. He also attended 3-year programme in Harvard Business School called OPM 51.
Drawing from his success in business which is a culmination of his capacity to manage both human and material resources, he is largely seen as a great achiever. It is believed that if given the opportunity to govern the state, he will bring to bear his goal-getting experience as he is reported to have said severally that the development of the state will never be compromised under him.
Okoko is son of Emeritus Professor Kimse Okoko who devoted everything to serve and protect the rights and dignity of the Ijaw man in the Nigerian Project, especially when he was the President of the Ijaw National Congress (INC).
Okoko is an illustrious son of Yenagoa LGA. It will be great disservice to look elsewhere for the governorship of the state, more so that the area boosts of the highest voting strength in the state.