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Dickson Preaches Peace At Bayelsa’s 4th Thanksgiving Day

By Daniel Iworiso-Markson

BALTIMORE, MD (AFRICAN EXAMINER) – The 4th edition of the Bayelsa State Thanksgiving Day held at the Gabriel Okara Cultural Centre in Yenagoa, the state capital, last Monday, 2nd November, was, no doubt, riveting. It was really packed with entertainment, spirituality and of course, coming barely a month to a crucial election, the political angle to it was obvious.

It is an annual event, which came into being through legislation, setting aside every 2nd day of November as a day to thank God in the life of the state and its people.

As early as 8am, the entire centre and adjoining vicinity had been filled up, bringing together a mixed congregation comprising government officials, traditional rulers, women, youths, politicians and their large supporters, civil society groups and a retinue of clergy men led by the acclaimed spiritual leader in the state, Dr. Uma Ukpai.

Dignitaries at the event include the state governor, Seriake Dickson, his wife, Dr. Rachael Dickson, deputy governor, Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Kobowei Benson, Chief Judge, Justice Kate Abiri, Chairman, Bayelsa State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Serena Dokubo-Spiff,  the Director-General of the Restoration Campaign Organisation, Hon. Fred Agbedi, commissioners and top government functionaries.

Among the clergy men were Rev (Dr.) Uma Ukpai, Dr. Paul Enenche of Dunamis International Gospel Centre, who was the guest speaker, Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Bayelsa State chapter, Arch. Bishop Jacob Akpiri, Rev. Yomi Isijola, Special Adviser to the Governor on Religious Affairs, Pastor Samuel John-Peters and other men of God.

The event which kicked off at about 12.15 pm witnessed rendition of hymns, praise and worship, ministration and exhortations reflecting the essence of the day and implication not only in the life of the state but also the people.

The sonorous voices of the United Bayelsa Mass Choir and the Restoration Choir among the other gospel artistes who took turn to sing praises electrified the congregation with dancing and jubilation.

Governor Seriake Dickson read the only lesson taken from the book of Exodus 14:1-14 which emphasized the need to have confidence in the Lord in times of adversity. The lesson ended with the remarkable exhortation to the people to be rest assured that “The Lord shall fight for you and ye shall hold your peace”.

In his address, Dickson, while noting that Bayelsa State was the only state in the country that set aside a day for thanksgiving, urged the people to see the day not as a symbolic one but which should be observed by everyone, every family, to pray to God for mercies, blessings and forgiveness in their various endeavours, including the various communities, saying “without God we cannot do anything”.

He thanked the congregation for their various contributions particularly in their prayers and other spiritual sacrifices heralding the thanksgiving just as he also called on Bayelsans to rededicate themselves to God and the inherent principle of his administration which, he said, was all about service to God and man.

“This is the new spirit in Bayelsa. In the new Bayelsa, we believe Bayelsa State is driven by God, in service to God and service to man”, he said.

He also noted the importance of this year’s Thanksgiving Day which, he said, was a crucial moment in the life of the state as Bayelsa State was also gearing towards a crucial election.

Accordingly, Governor Dickson addressed some important issues in the election, educating the people that the December 5 governorship election was one between light and darkness with regards to development and the future of the state.

He enjoined the people especially his supporters to go out and be peaceful in their campaign, refraining from any act of violence even as he observed that just as he was preaching peace and harmony, some elements in the state were doing otherwise by preaching hatred.

He said that such spirit of violence and hatred was not what election was all about and called on his political opponents to join him in the crusade for peace and non-violence before and during the elections.

“Elections are not period of war but a period for healthy discourse about how we can serve our people better. No political ambition, not even mine, is worth your blood. Anyone who loves you should send you to school, to be independent of your own and not to be dependent on government, and secure a better life for you”, he said, reflecting the philosophy of his administration anchored in the service of God and the people of the state in the last three and half years as governor.

The governor did not end his address without reiterating the affirmation that anyone whose intentions do not reflect the wishes of God for the state shall not ascend to the leadership of the Bayelsa State as he also pronounced good tidings for the state saying: “Bayelsa you’re blessed, Bayelsa you’re peaceful, Bayelsa you’re on an irrevocable course of development”.

As he rounded off, Dickson called out to join him at the podium his wife, Rachael, his deputy, John Jonah, Speaker, Konbowei Benson, Chief Judge, Justice Abiri, Fred Agbedi and the first military governor of old Rivers State, now a foremost traditional ruler, King Alfred Diete-Spiff, the Amanayanabo of Twon-Brass and asked them to sing a chosen praise each which they did to the wild excitement of the congregation, all praising God for His immense blessings to humanity.

Earlier in his address, the Guest Speaker and founder of Dunamis International Gospel Centre, Dr. Paul Enenche, had given a profound spiritual insight into the essence of life, noting that life is both a gift and privilege. Life, he also said, was a seed, game and a favour. In all of these, he reckoned that the measure of life is one that was well lived, underscoring the importance of thanksgiving.

In this respect, Enenche opined that like America, setting aside a day for thanksgiving by Bayelsa State was a major secret of success, adding that the most successful life was one tied to God.

“Success in life is success with God”, he said.

Enenche, whose speech drew intermittent shouts of appreciation from the congregation, harped on the need for the people to have quality relationship with others just as their impact on humanity was critical because as he said, “our impact must be noticed and felt by people while alive or dead”, which also measures the quality of life one has lived.

On his part, Rev. Uma Ukpai made several declarations to the effect that Bayelsa Stae shall be a leading light in the nation and that those negative forces against the state shall not prevail.

The Special Adviser to the Governor on Religious Affairs, Pastor Samuel John-Peters, in his opening speech had observed the necessity for thanking God in the state which he predicated on a lengthy list of achievements, he said, the Restoration Government on the watch of Governor Seriake Dicksion had brought to the state.

These he listed to include the airport at Amassoma, Agge deep seaport, the N25 billion diagnostic centre, educational development, massive investment in human capital development by spending about N6 billion on scholarship locally and abroad and the huge provision of infrastructure in roads and bridges across the state.

Coming at this period ahead of the December 5 governorship election, this year’s Thanksgiving Day could not have happened at a better time, auspicious as it were, because the political benefit to the incumbent government is real. Could it be why Governor Dickson, with a tambourine in hand, danced so excitedly singing about 5 different praises preceding his address? Perhaps. Pointedly, analysts are wont to see correlation between the array of inter-denominational presence at the event and politics, comprising critical clergy men, whose influence in the various churches might seal the election in favour of the governor.

Of course, in contemporary times, politics has inevitably mixed with the church, based on values and interest regarding who could possibly guarantee a leeway for the propagation of Christianity as well as the good of society. Even in America, the role of the Evangelicals in determining success or failure in elections has become an issue necessitating eagerness to court leaders of the churches. Governor Seriake Dickson may not have consciously and eagerly courted the churches in Bayelsa State but the open declaration of support for his leadership and achievements in office by the various powerful and influential clergymen at this year’s Thanksgiving Day may have, nonetheless, suggested an approval for his re-election.


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