In this interview the Commissioner for Information in Bayelsa State, Daniel Markson, attempts to place on record the achievements of the out-going Governor, Seriake Dickson. He spoke with Adedayo Adejobi
The governorship election has come and gone. Are you disappointed by the outcome?
Well, to the extent that the election was marred by irregularities, I am very disappointed. Political parties win and lose election at intervals but that should be within the ethical standard of conducting elections,where the rules are followed and winners and losers emerged based on the wishes of the people. But in a situation where election did not take place only for results to be merely awarded in a crude fashion imposed by the military and allied security agencies, then there is a collective regret.
You know, it is not much for losing election but for the moral degeneration in our nation and implication for what becomes of our institutions and the future of democracy in Nigeria. My views were published in an article shortly after the charade called election for reference. I am really worried and every patriot should be worried that we no longer have any decent election in the country but a military democracy where winners emerge at gun point. It is a serious issue and the future looks bleak for democracy.
But there is the school of thought that the people were fed up with Governor Dickson over choice of candidates and indeed his policies? That they were all out for a change?
That is the wrong perception being sold to confuse and justify the charade. I have said it elsewhere and I am repeating it now that no matter who was chosen as the candidate at that election, the outcome would not have been different. The point has to be made that the APC-led federal government was determined to take over Bayelsa State and that was it. You could see it from the deployment of soldiers and security agents all over the place with the sole objective of taking over the state. You saw how PDP leaders and members were arrested in Ogbia, Southern Ijaw, Nembe and lawlessness became the order of the day and INEC colluded with the APC and the security agencies to manipulate the process and figures were arbitrarily written and declared by INEC. It was that bad. In Nembe, a particular APC leader was seen on video stamping and thumb-printing a whole booklet all alone and the adhoc staff were helpless but this heist was accepted by INEC and all sorts of criminalities. So no one is deceived by such misrepresentations about choice of candidate or policy. It was premeditated and now burning our national conscience and consciousness if democracy will survive in the country.
Now come to think of it, how can any reasonable individual fault the laudable policies of the Restoration Government ably headed by Governor SeriakeDickson? From education to infrastructure, roads and bridges, public buildings and projects, security, civil service reform, empowerment and general redefinition of governance structure and performance, the Restoration Administration stood the test of time. And the results were all over and the fact remains that Governor Dickson’s record will be difficult to beat in the foreseeable years. You have to appreciate the depth of thinking and positive impact which shaped such policies and programmes. That’s important because there was a great vision for a new order in the state after years of lethargy and stagnation in major socio-economic index.
The question you should ask is how are the students doing in WAEC and NECO in recent years as per national reckoning in performance? What’s the situation in our educational development now compared with the situation eight years ago? Are we better or not with over fifteen boarding schools and general overhauling of the whole system? Of course, you very well know that there is no development without education. Little wonder the Ijaw National Academy was established along with thirteen other model boarding schools for grooming future leaders in the state.
All the boarding schools are run as free education institutions covering tuition, lockers and beds, uniform, sandals, and feeding. There are also free public non-boarding but qualitative secondary schools throughout the state. As at the last count, there are over 15,000 young boys and girls receiving quality education in our model schools across the state as government scholars. You should also take a look at the level of infrastructure across the state and do your rating.
Is the state now better linked and opened up compared with the past? Are the various senatorial roads and bridges changing the lives of the people? Will the cargo airport in Amassoma change the economic narrative of the state in due course? Any strategic advantage for the people and the state in general? And what about the various public buildings and major projects in the state? The provision of office accommodation for the teeming number of public servants in the State who before now were sheltered in rented offices. This move has earned the government thumbs-up for putting world-class infrastructures in place, to drive the socio-economic development process of the state, despite its financial and environmental challenges.
And what about the area healthcare? Meeting the healthcare needs of all Bayelsans is central to the policy thrust of the state government in the health sector. That is why a number of medical infrastructures are put in place, while the State Health Insurance Scheme is providing opportunities for families that may not have financial muscle to procure medical services when they are sick.
All these were carefully carried out and in a manner with lasting impact on the welfare of the people. The reform in the civil service will continue to be an important part of the innovation in the Restoration administration because of its significance in remodeling and enhancing performance in the government’s bureaucracy. Although some misunderstood the government’s intention but the utility of such major step in restructuring the civil service to function in tandem with contemporary realities and in relation to the pervading situation pre-reform will remain very relevant now and in the future.
So generally, the Restoration Government came into office well prepared with set objectives of not only delivering on Governor Dickson’s campaign promises but also to create a modern governance structure with the right frame to make life more abundant to the good people of Bayelsa State. And to a large extent, that earnest concern was realized though some other issues of interest to the governor could not be attained due to factors beyond his control.
Are you suggesting posterity will be fair to Dickson?
Sure, posterity will be very fair and kind to him. You see the issue is how posterity will judge him and his leadership, what he meant to the Bayelsa people and of course the entire Ijaw nation. He has done his bit and in a beautiful narrative not only in raising our consciousness that we can do better as a people by recognizing our potentials and pursuing it especially through aggressive educational programme and reevaluating societal values but also letting us all realize the challenges we face in the course of navigating the route to our eldorado especially within the context of our national political economy.
All of these will have to be properly conducted through a pragmatic leadership with the right mind set and acumen to propel the people to realize such challenges and why and how we need to come together as a people with same destiny to pull through the course of development. This can only be possible when we have an unselfish leader who is more concerned and committed to the common good, common interest rather than an individual interest as we have had in the past. This is a major leadership difference we could always find in Governor Seriake Dickson and a major part of his legacy. Yes, that legacy is preserved because government invested heavily in the people particularly the youths who ,I am sure, will bear him out in due time as cornerstone of that imperishable legacy. Dickson’s legacy will be told and retold, he made a difference.
Well, I also think we have to reckon with the politics of the state especially in the last election cycle, even, in looking critically at your question regarding the outcome of the election. What was obvious was the inherent elite concert of interest to subvert the popular will and in such a situation any situation which allows such perversion of rules and regulations will be supported. So far as the elite interest is guaranteed. So it was not strange to see some of these elite formations struggling to support the worst of anti-democratic practices all in the name of crushing Dickson but it’s only God who can give power to anybody. So let’s wait and see the end of this course, this macabre dance on the altar of democratic coup in Bayelsa State.
Even with your high marks for Governor Dickson, the recent statement credited to Governor NyesomWike that Dickson tried to join the APC ahead of the last election has further led to confusion on what actually transpired. What’s your view?
You see, ordinarily I would not want to comment on whatever Governor Nyesom Wike said. Mind you Wike is a governor and a leader who should ordinarily command respect and to that extent I hold him in high esteem. But a Governor should respect boundaries especially as it concerns making certain utterances against a fellow brother governor. Governors are supposed to be role models both in words and deeds. Making reckless, unguarded statements in public is a big minus for anybody who occupies very sensitive public office such as the office of the governor of a state. Governor Wike with all due respect disappointed many Nigerians by such outlandish comments that lacked basis, without any iota of truth just for the purpose of scoring cheap political points. It was so bad in taste and however you look at it, it’s condemnable.
Of course, I don’t want to comment about some of the issues raised but suffice to say that it was inconceivable and outrightly unthinkable that Governor Seriake Dickson would be contemplating of joining APC in a major election he wanted his party to win and having gone the extra length to field candidates that would for the sake of continuity carry on with some of the very laudable programmes and policies of his government for the greater benefit of the Bayelsa people.
Of course, the Restoration Government was founded on transparency and accountability and as such I do not think there is anything to fear to warrant Governor Wike’s conspiracy theory on Dickson’s stewardship. It’s all hogwash to many right thinking persons. It’s so bad in taste, so sad from an otherwise respected leader in our party. For the avoidance of doubt, let the whole world know that Governor Seriake Dickson remains a staunch member of the PDP and will continue to contribute his quota to development of the party as a reliable and dependable believer in its values. It’s definitely not in his character to do otherwise; he’s a politician of conviction.