Who Succeeds Seriake Dickson?

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Saturday POLITY

By Daniel Iworiso-Markson

At a recent church service in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State Governor, Henry Seriake Dickson, made it clear that God would determine his successor when his tenure ends in 2020. According to Dickson, such a leader would be one with a heart for the people, who will pilot the affairs of the state and build on the legacy of development established by his administration.

 This is certainly a good response to the many questions over who could possibly take over from the active governor in due course. Of course, the pressure is already on the governor as expected, who clearly have been experiencing a wide range of lobbying especially among the professional politicians either directly or through proxy to influence the leadership succession in Bayelsa State. And we must add here that such actions are quite legitimate but to the extent that they are in tandem with some basic values vis-à-vis continuity and in relationship with the essentials of the Restoration administration on the key issues of good governance and overall development of the state.

 I think this is the first phase of the narrative in evaluating the road to succession in Bayelsa State post-Dickson era. The governor popularly referred to as the “Contriman Governor” for his unusual leadership characteristics of demystifying the whole apparatus of the elevated position as we know it in Nigeria, we must concede, has been phenomenal in leadership, making a huge success in governance of the oil rich state and would arguably be leaving behind a worthy legacy. He is certainly an emerging political leader in Nigeria with respect to his administration’s exploits in vital areas of development like education, health, agriculture, infrastructure, empowerment and good governance. Already not a few believe he is likely to play some very active roles in national politics when he leaves the Government House in Yenagoa in 2020 and justifiably so. 

However, Dickson’s challenge is picking a worthy successor who will maintain and dutifully build on his gigantic legacy in the aforementioned areas of development and more, bearing in mind the notorious nature of some successors in recent history across the country, who once in office, turn around to fight their predecessors and in the process jettisoning the very foundations of the inherited policies and programmes instituted as a corporate governance philosophy and dear to the preceding leadership. Needless to state that this is one issue which Dickson and his core advisers must look into critically in choosing his successor and thus ensuring that the basic tenets of Restoration as the foundation of his notable achievements in government is well protected and preserved when he eventually leaves office. But this can only be realized by picking a trusted and loyal ambassador of Restoration as a governance philosophy. 

 Expectedly the process won’t be without the usual contestation of opinions coming from strategic political circles and caucuses of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Bayelsa State and even from outside the party. But the clear understanding everyone must have is to allow reason to prevail at the end of the day rather than the selfish interest of anyone mainly to be in power. The entire leaders and members of the party must be sober in their reflections to come to terms with the state in which Dickson met Bayelsa in 2002 and the efforts and determination which went into the governance structure that produced what the entire nation is celebrating today as the Dickson legacy. This legacy must, therefore, be protected at all cost via a judicious leadership succession that can guarantee continuity and entrenchment of Dickson’s leadership vibrancy and continued all round development in Bayelsa State.Anything short of this is tantamount to annihilation of the legacy which would also be a disservice to democracy and the good people of the state who, incidentally, have had a regrettable past in bad leadership until Dickson came on board. He has since restructured and renewed governance to truly serve the common good in a most remarkable manner. We must allow this to continue in a seamless manner through a worthy successor.

 The onus is on the governor and the key stakeholders to see to it that Dickson’s successor is picked based on the Bayelsa corporate enlightened interest devoid of any political sentiment but on merit and in consonance with the sole aim and agenda of entrenching Restoration as a political and governing philosophy in the state. By so doing, then the people can be sure of getting the dividends of democracy and never reverting to the past nor deviating from on-going policies and programmes being implemented in the state. 

 Essentially Bayelsa needs consolidation on the current development initiatives and such life changing reforms Instituted by the Dickson administration. We must emphasize that Bayelsa does not need  the conventional run of the mill politicians whose leadership and development perspectives could be so limited and possibly run contrary to what the Restoration philosophy has now established, thereby reversing the hand of the clock in development terms. The state needs a self-motivating leadership, one who is highly driven, hands-on, charismatic, pragmatic and a change agent, who truly embodies both the doggedness and vibrancy in vision and capacity to transform the bright ideas in government into reality. It is my humble submission that such a successor must be one who is a Restoration Ambassador and understands the culture, philosophy and underpinnings of the Dickson administration.   

Lest we forget that the transitional phase post-Dickson is a crucial period for clear-headed supervision and focus as well as maturation of most of the on-going development activities in the state which requires a suitable successor who can pragmatically husband the entire process and achieving the objectives of the current government and also build on them. The transition then becomes so strategic that the state leadership must be careful not to make any mistake either by pandering to political whims or a sentimental judgement which could jeopardize the great efforts so far devoted to growing the development trajectory in the state by the Restoration Government.

 Importantly, the state cannot afford a situation whereby the new leadership after Governor Dickson would begin amassing political empire once in office and dismantling the very structures of development inherited and possibly changing the laid down programmes of development and all other far-reaching projects the Restoration administration has labored to build since 2012.

The totality of my concern here is to ensure Bayelsa State continues to deliver on the lofty development programmes and projects already in good shape as designed by the Dickson administration especially in education, health, infrastructure and empowerment without disruption by a reckless successor.

–––Iworiso-Markson, is the Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information