Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Former Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Mr. Matthew Seiyefa, has bemoaned the uneven distribution of opportunities at the federal level in Nigeria.
The Bayelsa-born ex-Chief of the country’s secret police, who spoke in Yenagoa, during the launch of the state’s tertiary education loan scheme, noted that with the way things were in the country, anybody from the part of the country he (Seiyefa) hails from was already disadvantaged.
While recalling his ordeal in the last days before his retirement by the current administration, Seiyefa commended Prof. John Pepper Clark and Governor Seriake Dickson for standing solidly behind him when things got tough for him at the DSS.
Mr. Seiyefa was appointed by the then Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, who had earlier removed Mr. Lawal Daura over the invasion of the National Assembly in Abuja, was compulsorily retired by President Muhammadu Buhari on his return from his medical leave and replaced by Yusuf Magaji Bichi, current head of the agency.
He would have retired in July this year, but before his forced exit, there were reports that a ‘cabal’ at the presidency was uncomfortable with him as head of the powerful agency during the February/March general elections.
Now the Pro Chancellor of the Niger Delta University (NDU), Seiyefa attributed his survival in the years that he spent at the DSS to the sound education he got while growing up, noting that although his promotion was sometimes delayed because of the nature of the federation, he could not be ignored for too long by the powers that be.
He said: “I want to thank two people who encouraged me during that period (crisis in the leadership of DSS). Prof. JP Clark, who was in Lagos and constantly, encouraged me not to give in but to stay and His Excellency, our dear governor.
“In fact, on two different occasions, he offered to employ me if I should leave, but I stayed the course.
“When August 7 last year happened, I was told of the jubilation in Bayelsa State. That they heard that one of their own is the head of a federal agency. People went to beer parlours, they bought drinks and they were happy and that moment of shared stakeholding in the Nigerian nation is very important.
“That moment of celebration that we too belong here is very important. But people made it happen and His Excellency is one of them. I appreciate what we have been through as a people.
“Education, as has been said, is it. I particularly want to encourage the boarding schools, because in the years to come, as far as I am concerned, that will be the game changer.
“When I look back at my own story, the secondary school that I attended made all the difference. And for the young people, at the corporate and federal level, the years ahead will be very tough, competition will be very fierce and hard.
“At the moment, at the federal level, critical agencies are thinly spread, our presence is very little. At the corporate level, we are virtually nowhere, but those are opportunities for us because we cannot all be here struggling for crumbs, we need to be out there too.
“But how to be there and survive depend on education, the quality of education you have. I went through a lot of difficulties, but the education I had put me through.”
According to the former DSS DG, anybody from Bayelsa or its surrounding is already at a disadvantage at the centre.
He added: “Because you are from here, you are already disadvantaged. But if you are also poorly educated, then that is double jeopardy and you will be doubly endangered.
“As it is, we are poorly represented at the federal level. Since you are already disadvantaged coming from here, if you don’t have quality education, then you don’t stand the test of time.
“On occasions, during my career, I was denied promotion, not because of anything else, but because people were being positioned.
“That is the reality. But if you are good and have a point to make, they will look at you in the end because you don’t have any traditional ruler to run to, no religious leader to run to and that is the reality. Identity politics is a fact of life in our nation.”
Seiyefa maintained that education remained the key, insisting that anyone with a sound education can stand the test of time and perennial scrutiny.