Saturday 24th June, 2017
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From the Niger Delta, a rising star

From the Niger Delta, a rising star

There is the idealized notion of leadership which offers that prog­ress is change, and that no leader ever becomes great without overthrowing ex­tant rules and conventions in order to transform society. In other words and in true Fanonian fashion, those lead­ers who have real vision and are truly desirous of making enduring impact in the lives of their societies must shake up and if necessary over­throw the status quo.
Though this could come at a political price, some even with huge loss of political capital and, in revolutionary cases, lives, this is how serious leaders lead and how they en­trench enduring legacies.
In the recent history of governance in Bayelsa State, the dramatic shift in leader­ship style, vision and achieve­ments, speak eloquently of how incumbent Governor Henry Seriake Dickson came armed with a mission and was resolved never to betray it.
His resolve to question the status quo since 2012 when he first came into office is translating to a re-validation of the proper ethos of public service. Now in his second term, the first year of which will be marked on the 14th of February and would also come barely days after his 51st birthday anniversary, evokes the kind of extraor­dinary story genuine leaders can create in the development narrative of their people.
Specifically, the socio-economic and political re-engineering birthing such remarkable developments in the last five years of his leadership in Bayelsa State, underscore the fact that Gov­ernor Dickson is a driver of change, a reformer driven by big ideas. Not surprisingly he ran into spirited resistance by forces of the status quo who were comfortable with depressing indices of societal development so long as their own narrow interests were taken care of.
For us to properly ap­preciate the import of this reflection is to compare the situation the Restoration Government inherited in 2012 and what obtains today in the various sectors of the state economy which will show clearly the huge trans­formation that has taken place among our people and why the future beckons with such exciting possibilities. One does not have to look far for the evidence of the im­print Dickson has left on Bay­elsa landscape. The evidence is everywhere.
His leadership goals were founded upon a deep under­standing of the challenges he met and a realisation that he would literally have to drag much of the society kicking and screaming to attain noble goals of development and progress. The challenges were daunting indeed and could never have been confronted by the faint-hearted.
There was the high securi­ty challenge of 2012 as a result of wrongheaded militancy and when criminals of vari­ous stripes ruled the roost. He took on the challenge head on, employing modern crime fighting technics and technology to tame crime and criminality.
Then there was the chal­lenge of education. What has been achieved has been adjudged a revolution given the achievements in infra­structure and human devel­opment.
The declaration of emer­gency in the sector which made education totally free was the impetus which en­abled those who might have been unable to go to school due to financial constraints to now do so and with rare scholarships to boot in some of the best schools at home and abroad.
There is the re-introduc­tion of boarding schools in all the senatorial districts and with adequate classrooms and teachers provided. The nobility of the teaching pro­fession is now marked not only in words but in deed.
Teachers are accorded their pride of place in the scheme of things with emphasis now being placed on refresher courses and programmes.
In terms of visible impact no sector has received as much attention and reflected obvious progress as infra­structure.
Governor Dickson met an abysmal state of infrastruc­ture compounded no doubt by a forbidding terrain that gulps huge expenditure. Bay­elsa is largely riverine and linking the various towns and communities is a huge and expensive task.
This obviously has had consequence for trade and commercial activities. But today, the story is different as we have modern roads and bridges linking up the entire state in a strategic manner and properly designed to connect people and commu­nities to facilitate commerce and social relations.
From the first flyover bridge in the state capital, Yenagoa, to the various sena­torial roads and bridges to the fact that people can now drive straight to Nembe by road recently facilitated by the Governor Dickson-led Restoration administration, a project first mooted in the 1950s by Shell and later jointly executed by NDDC, we have seen true leadership, focused, determined and sin­cere, tackling the challenge of development and putting the welfare of the people first.
That the welfare of the people is the primary pur­pose of government has in­formed the attention to man­power development which has enabled many youths to be trained and empowered and to helping women en­trepreneurs get financial sup­port either through the Izon Microfinance bank or special grants facilitated by the gov­ernment.
Promoting economic in­dependence has seen the emphasis placed on modern agriculture which utilizes the geographical comparative advantage of the state to grow rice and cassava and to boost fisheries, a traditional occu­pation of our people but now developed not only for local consumption but for sale far­ther afield.
Far-sighted leadership is also evident in the massive investment on a the interna­tional airport at Amassoma, a strategic step which will fur­ther help to open up the state for major development as business entities in the south east and south -south region will prefer to land straight in Bayelsa and onward to their destinations or around the state. The project, now about 90 per cent ready, is bound to change how our people navigate to and from the state either in their travels or busi­ness relationships.
Thinking big and working doubly hard to actualize the dreams is indeed the Gover­nor Henry Seriake Dickson story. He has been animated by the goal of moving the state from over-dependence on oil and gas to becoming an industrialized entity. To him, nothing is impossible especially going by his under­standing of the Dubai story of sheer enterprise that has also catapulted a landlocked country to such a highly di­versified economy that has become a huge attraction to the whole world.
Hence the bold explora­tion of tourism potentials with five star hotels, golf links and all other infrastructure to develop the tourist attrac­tions which abound in the state in the pipeline. The fu­ture in this sector is foretold by the high end entertain­ment and other social func­tions that have been hosted by the state and which laid to rest myths about insecurity - myths which are a product of a bygone era.
A better tomorrow is also heralded by plans for a light industrial park in the state, the Agge Deep Seaport and the LNG project in Brass.
What is needed is just the support from the federal government not only be­cause of the constitutional/ legal structures of such com­plex establishments but also the huge capital involved. But what is not in doubt is the viability of these projects.

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