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In Southern Ijaw, Dickson Assures  on More Dividends Of Restoration  

By Daniel Iworiso-Markson

BALTIMORE, MD (AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Democracy is all about the people. During campaigns and at the election proper, the people exercise their power of preference in determining the choices they want as their leaders. Although the new leaders so elected consequently exercise powers through the institutions of government, power still resides with the people in the final analysis. The people are the custodians of power whose critical consent can only bestow that power on any aspiring leader in a genuine democracy, a great beauty which has made democracy arguably the best form of government.

This much was demonstrated last week when for three days, Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson and his campaign team were literally living on water in Southern Ijaw, feeling the pulse of the people in continuation of the  “Community-to-Community meet the people tour”. Southern Ijaw is the largest local government in Bayelsa State and exclusively riverine. The headquarters is Oporoma.

As a practical politician of a different hue, Dickson would prove to be an ardent campaigner, who in a gusty manner dared the blazing wave to reach out to the people in far-flung communities, engaging the locals on his re-election agenda and spreading the message and convictions of restoration as he wished can only be delivered by his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

It was sheer delight to watch at every community: the razzmatazz, huge excitement, political punches, undying traditions, socializing with the people in their own natural elements and of course the challenge of navigating such an expanse of water in a race of about twenty five boats of different sizes disturbing the peace of the creeks in attempt to make an important political point. Democracy was simply in action. The people still count in a democracy and it is a good thing for them to feel their significant relevance as demonstrated by Governor Dickson and his campaign team. It has a symbolic narrative in the estimation of that vital element of democracy and thereby strengthening the political system.

The tour was an eye opener, better experienced than told, perhaps revealing the impact of leadership and expression of appreciation of the people which suggests that in spite of the shift of power at the national level, the Peoples Democratic Party is still the choice of the people in Bayelsa State.  They did not betray this fact in their ecstatic demonstration of support for Dickson and the PDP in all the communities visited. It was a rousing reception all the way.

In all, fourteen communities were visited including Olugbobiri, Koluama (1 and 2), Foropa, Gbaroun, Korokorosei, Azuazuama, Opuama and Ukubie. Others are Igbomotoru, Peremabiri, Ekeu,  Opuama, Egebiri and Oporoma.

At each of the communities, Dickson’s message was the same: the necessity for the people to vote PDP in theDecember 5 governorship election and the inherent benefits in furtherance of his administration’s restoration agenda which would continue to ensure provision of socio-economic developments in the state. The flip side of a wrong decision was also made clear as an unmitigated disaster, bearing in mind the locust years of recent memory in the state. In which case, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is an evil well known as represented in the forces driving it in the state, Dickson told the people in unmistakable terms.

“When you do your part, you can be rest assured that your talk na do governor will do his part. Since we came on board, you have all seen what the restoration government has done in all sectors of the state economy. This is what I want to continue for our people and there is no doubt that the PDP as your party will continue to deliver. We will do much more for the benefit of our people and the Ijaw nation”, the governor told an ecstatic crowd at Ogboinbiri.

Even with their long list of requests for government to do more to better the lot of their communities, the people, through their leaders, also expressed appreciation for what the government had done. Each session usually ended with endorsement for what they regard as the governor’s performance in his first term now winding down.

For instance, while the paramount ruler of Olugbobiri, retired Rtd. Wing Commander Roland Mangiri said the community had always voted PDP since 1999 and will be repeated in the forthcoming election, that of Oporoma, HRM Okoku Stample, vowed to lead his subjects to vote 100 per cent for the governor’s party in the crucial election. Such assurances dominated speeches and remarks by all the rulers, influential leaders and other politicians of reckoning in these communities. “PDP is Oporoma, Oporoma is PDP” was how the ruler phrased his convictions.

Interestingly, one could see some significant development in some of the settlements which were all located along the waterways, even modern buildings with notable architecture. This was observed at Olugbobiri, Ekeu (where a Federal Polytechnic is located) as well as Oporoma. The people’s individual economic enterprise was noticeable.

The rich Ijaw culture was also on display. Colorful can only be the apt word for such rigorous, waist-twisting Owigiri dance as rendered by Women of Excellence, the United Ladies Club of Koluama, the scintillating dance steps by those remarkable women at Korokorosei, the five different women groups in their fitting uniforms at Oporoma, the PDP brand ambassadors who wore complete white designer dress emblazoned with PDP colors and messages and who graced all the events carrying umbrellas rain or shine as symbolic of their political preference  as well as the various supporters’ groups totaling sixteen. Entertainment flowed seamlessly at the various campaign venues.

Although the challenge of geographical location remains an issue in development reckoning, education is thriving in all the communities. Some of the communities have two or more secondary schools compared to their location and level of urbanization. What counts, however, are population and indeed the observed impact of the state government’s comprehensive free education policy. At Ukubie, a remote settlement, there were new school buildings at a community secondary school with observed modern furniture in the classrooms. Likewise, St Matthias School at Foropa, established in 1920 is wearing a new look as observed during the tour. At all the communities, primary school pupils and college students filed out in rows to welcome the governor in their white and blue checkers upon blue uniform provided by the government. They also wore similar sandals which indicated that they were given out free as part of the free education policy in the state.

Undoubtedly, this is a major index of development because pouring money into education is a wise investment which creates opportunities for the people to have a fair shot at life especially in a state like Bayelsa which before the advent of the Dickson administration lagged terribly behind in education standard among other states in the country. Current statistics from the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), however, shows a reversal of fortune as Bayelsa State is in the league of top four performing states.

Of course, this leadership inspiration is the linchpin to a brighter future especially among the youths. This is how Iwowari Erepaomo (14), a JSS 1 student at Community Secondary School, Foropa, could possibly realize his ambition of becoming a medical doctor. Iwowari, in a chat, said funding his education was an issue until the government’s intervention and would hopefully fulfill his ambition if he could also be lucky to enjoy university scholarship as others are already benefitting from such effort by the state government. It was a similar projection of fortune and aspiration by Bekefula Difference (13), a JSS1 student at St Stephen’s School in Opuroma, who said he would like to become a lawyer someday. Such progressive policy also speaks to a possible bright future for Rita Ekpetare (10) who was one of the students who filed to welcome their governor at Oporoma.

In spite of the progress in education, more schools were still demanded from the governor just as roads and bridges among other infrastructural facilities were requested to uplift their respective communities. While the Central Senatorial road now completed and in use was noticed and similar feats promised by Governor Dickson, the tour further revealed the challenge of infrastructure development in Bayelsa State on account of the cost in such an environment where water is all over.

On a larger note, it is sensible to state that what we saw during the tour is a clear invitation to a better management of the nation’s political economy of oil vis-à-vis development in the Niger Delta. State governments can hardly shoulder the exigent development needs of the people who brace all the odds to survive and why they need major help from the institutions of federal government in particular which should also inform policy decisions. Infrastructure is key in this part of the country to enhance socio-economic integration which Governor Dickson said had been the idea behind his government’s adroit efforts in spending so much on roads and bridges across the state.

But hope is rising as the governor pledged more development programmes in his second term when re-elected through the instrumentality of the people’s willpower and the clear essence of such force of action that can only be for the emancipation of the people in their various socio-economic narratives. And this in particular was the underlining reason for the governor’s insistent passionate message of continuity in order not to allow a relapse into the past where state resources served the interest of a few rather than the basic needs of the people as the essence of government.

In this wise, therefore, the observed unanimity of purpose seen among the people who thronged the campaign venues, be it among the youths, men and women, young and old and strategic stakeholders was basically informed by enlightened self- interest, after-all, realizing that Governor Dickson, having been tested can always deliver on his promises as a responsible leader with a definite mission in government which promises too to be a watershed in the annals of Bayelsa State. The record so far is a vindication of this reality.

At the grand finale of the tour in Oporoma, 28 members of the APC defected to the PDP, pledging their readiness to work for the governor’s re-election. It was a record of sort for the governor too as a local, Godbless Diriwari, informed that it had been a long time a governor visited those communities. Diriwari, a boat driver, who obviously was conversant with the history of these communities, noted, for instance, that former governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha was the last governor who visited Ukubie in 2011 not to campaign but to trouble-shoot in the faceoff between the locals and the oil major, Texaco, over the Egbesu saga. He also recollected that besides Dickson’s visit; only former governor Melford Okilo had taken the time to see the people of Foropa, located close to the Gulf of Guinea, whom he praised for creating channels of tributaries to connect the long winding waterways for accessibility.

 The perception by naysayers may be that we are in a political season, however, the community-to-community tour established the fact that Dickson’s popularity among the folks was not in doubt. The rapturous welcome at Koluama 2, Ogboibiri, Korokorosei, Opuama and Oporoma in particular were noteworthy.   What this sentimental attachment to the governor’s re-election reveals as backed by records is that the restoration government has been less elitist but pro-people in its various policies and programmes which will naturally elicit interest and support among the people. His appellations were ceaselessly on the lips of his admirers all over:  like talk na do governor, the countriman governor and Ofurumapepe (meaning the great white shark that braves the sea when the tide is fiercest) which strikes as a fitting metaphor for the likely outcome of the December 5 governorship election in Bayelsa State.


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