Bayelsa: Progress in Face of Adversity

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Douye Diri 

It was at the Tafawa Balewa Square, formerly known as the Race Course, on Saturday, October 1, 1960 that Nigerians gathered with high hopes, expectations, and enraptured with the feeling of self-rule. This was all they needed to be squarely positioned on the long table of the comity of sovereign nations, to fulfill longing aspirations, to fly the flag of the most populous black nation. With the huge natural and human resources, it was almost a given that the country in no distant time will be transformed and adequately positioned to compete with leading sovereign nations in terms of economic boom and infrastructure. Similarly, 36 years later, precisely, on Tuesday, October 1, 1996, the demand for a homogenous state for the Ijaws saw the light, after decades of consultations and agitations. Central to the agitations for the creation of an Izon state is the hope that it will put all vagaries of marginalization to an end, and development would better be expedited for the Izon people by the Izon people. However, they are barrels of responsibilities and challenges of meeting lofty expectations.

Over these years, several leaders have piloted the affairs of the state, with each making remarkable strides in the development of the oil rich region. Since creation till date, the collective efforts of these leaders from past to present have yielded evident results. They have worked tirelessly to ensure no Ijaw child is left behind according to the dreams of the founding fathers. The state has embarked on several programmes in the area of human capital development, initiating several skill acquisition programmes and also offering scholarship to Bayelsans in order to have access to world class education.

In like manner, the Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Douye Diri, since inception, has continually assured Bayelsans that his administration will not relent to make more investment in every sector of the state to steer it towards development. Governor Diri who also played a part in the creation of the state, describes the opportunity to lead as a chance to help actualize his vision to create a place where every izon child will grow to achieve their dreams. This is also in line with the struggle of late Isaac Jasper Boro and other founding fathers of the Izon nation. Due to the background of the governor as a pioneering member of INC, he has the knowledge of the plight, pains and difficulties faced by the Izon people.

However, in spite of the achievements in Bayelsa, we must note that there is still room for improvement. In recent time, there have been several initiatives by Senator Douye Diri on diversification of the economy and one of such is through agriculture. This is to avoid over-reliance on crude oil to cushion the effect of the constraints posed by the dwindling revenue caused by Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Diri, citizens’ participation is crucial to Bayelsa budget process. He said his administration would actualize its prosperity agenda for people of the state through their involvement in strategic government policies. He has emphasized that his government will be all inclusive and void of party sentiments. This was confirmed in how he handled the situation of lockdown of the state during the COVID-19 pandemic. Initiatives were taken to ensure no Bayelsan contract the dreaded virus, palliatives were distributed across party lines to cushion the effect.

Seven months after inauguration, Diri signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a private agricultural company to train Bayelsa youths in the area of agriculture. In his word: “I have been waiting for this day. We have tagged our government prosperity administration. Bayelsa is rich in oil and gas and other natural resources. We also have a lot of land areas for agriculture. Our comparative advantage is in rice, plantain, fisheries and cassava. The MoU is to train the unemployed youths and then become employers of labour and create wealth in the land.” Being able to engage in meaningful activities that will generate income will enable the younger generation earn their livelihood and also contribute to the growth of the economy. Hence, issues relating to cultism, militancy, drug abuse will be eradicated leading to a crime- free environment.

Robinson Agaga, Yenagoa