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Opinion: The Vindication of Seriake Dickson

By  Tekena Dokubo

BALTIMORE, MD (AFRICAN EXAMINER) – The defeat of President Goodluck Jonathan at the polls last April did not just represent  a personal humiliation it also marked a reversal of fortunes for the Niger Delta region which had had a golden opportunity not only  to permanently change its fortunes for the better but also to orchestrate a paradigm shift in the direction of the nation’s politics.

Sadly no one has yet begun this appraisal of the reasons for the failure so that appropriate lessons will be learnt should another opportunity arise in the future. Where any analysis has been made it did not go beyond lamentation and hand-wringing as to how the north had ‘betrayed’ its former(?) natural allies in the south south and how former Petroleum Minister Diezani is being persecuted,  how Alamieyeseigha was allegedly hounded to his death and how President Jonathan’s legacy is being deliberately rubbished.

While there may be some truth in some of the allegations, the more fundamental question is the injustice Niger Deltans particularly our leaders have done to the region.

President Jonathan was president for all of six years but did the fortunes of the region change one jot and in spite of the stupendous amount of resources that flowed to  it on account of high oil prices, derivation proceeds, the Ministry of the Niger Delta and NDDC? Hardly.

President Jonathan’s naivety while in power whereby he neglected his support base and those who truly worked for his election in 2011 and sought instead to cultivate and reward his enemies is only one dimension of this failure. It was expressed in his appointments and even in the  projects he paid attention to.  While the government of his home state of Bayelsa was grappling with the  high cost of infrastructural projects, including a much needed flyover for traffic control in Yenagoa and the absence of which was a damning indictment of all previous administrations in the state including Jonathan’s, he was on the eve of the presidential election commissioning a multi-billion naira Federal Government-financed flyover in Kano.There was a rather pathetic attempt to cultivate electoral support in Kano, a hotbed of opposition to him and which his political handlers, had they any modicum of political intelligence, would have known was an utterly futile effort.

Contrast Jonathan’s neglect of his home region such that the road to his house in Otuoke is a splurge of mud to President Buhari’s unabashed and unapologetic favouritism for his own kith and kin such that his is already being labelled a government of family and friends.

Do not get me wrong. I am by no means saying that Buhari’s approach is right. No. Infact so early in the day Buhari is already deeply alienating other parts of the country and especially those who staked their political capital on him. Rather my emphasis is that Jonathan did not ensure that his region enjoyed true transformation beyond the cultivation of a few warlords and former miscreants. Thus the NDDC  remained the boondoggle that it was – only worse. It fed the avaricious  appetite of those with connections, with multibillion naira sums handed out as payments for nonexistent contracts. The East-West road which could have transformed the fortunes of the region had it been given needed priority was under the superintendence of presidential acolyte Godsday Orubebe mired in inaction and corruption.

The larger issue however is not the failures of Jonathan but of the elite of the region. The prevailing mindset was that power in their hands conferred in them the prerogative to ‘chop’. Afterall the oil was their own. This indeed, to them  was the meaning of ‘resource control’. They should have unfettered access to the cash and spend it on fun and ribaldry and woe betide anyone who complained.

This was the mindset that Mr Henry Seriake Dickson of our neighbouring state of Bayelsa came up against when he upended Timipre Sylva nearly four years ago and became governor of Bayelsa. He found a culture where people believed in freebies,  did not want to pay tax and  depended on generous handouts from those with access to the commonwealth.

Stories,  by no means apocryphal,  were told of top government figures loading the boot of their cars with raw cash and handing them out to those with connections to them or who had control and influence in their communities. Of course, those who did the handing out would have helped themselves to their heart’s content.

With such a prevalent culture and which unfortunately had become deep grained over several decades, it is no surprise  the rough ride  the likes of Dickson have encountered in Bayelsa state with cynics rather than critiquing the level of development spout such questions as ” na road and bridges we go chop?” and “na dead body go waka for road?”

For the sake of the Niger Delta and its people who must be made aware that the age of oil is passing by with, for them, nothing to replace it, we must insist on leaders who will battle this mindset of lazy entitlement and drag our people kicking and screaming into a new era of political and economic consciousness and development.

DOKUBO writes from Port Harcourt.



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