The glint in the eyes of the monarch betrayed some sort of joke. So did the quiver in his voice and the smiles that played across his lips. But not many missed the depth and essence of the comments of King Alfred Diete Spiff, as he tried to capture the core of the day’s event, in the life of the people as it relates to developments in the contemporary world.
The venue was beside the tarmac of the Bayelsa International Airport (BIA), at Amassoma in Bayelsa State, on February 15, 2019. The Amanyanabo of Tom-Brass in the Brass Kingdom, was actually trying to paint true picture of the transformation it could bring to their individual socio-economic lives.
They had gathered to witness the first official flight into the brand new airport, built and delivered to them by Governor Seriake Dickson. As chairman of the Bayelsa State Council of Chiefs, the former governor of the old Rivers State, had told his audience of how they could now make a fortune by exporting mushrooms, schooling them on how they could attract mega dollars if they could cultivate the crop and export to the world, where it is not only a major staple, but in high demand.
Definitely, many in his audience, were wont to have quipped in amusement as they digested his statement on that day – what’s with mushrooms? The answer, of course, is, plenty. Indeed it is true that the crop has high-earning value, especially in the international market and the Bayelsa topography is good for growing it.
But, that was not the only truth. It captured more how that airport has brought the world to the state and vice versa. Again, it does not end there.
It also captures the great vision and tenacity of purpose needed to conceive the idea of such a spectacular project and see it through.
Indeed, not all Dickson’s contemporaries, those before him or those that would come after actually grasp the fact that governance is actually finding solution to the needs of the people. The few who do, lack the fiscal discipline, resilience of tenacity to truly invest and realise projects that would support this position. Yes, by that project alone, Dickson solved a thousand problems. He practically dealt a blow to the heart of access – one of the most daunting and telling problems of the state.
I was actually on that Air Peace first flight into Bayelsa. But before then, I had been into Yenagoa on two previous occasions. And clearly the experience, was not funny. The first was in 2014, when I travelled with my boss. On the first leg of the trip, we had gone direct from Aba, Abia State, with a chopper. So, I hardly experienced the tough terrain that was the Port Harcourt-Yenogoa road. It was whilst connecting the Port Harcourt Airport the following day that I actually did.
The second was on another assignment three years after. My conclusion thereafter was anything that would bring me to the state, must be worth the risk of travelling on that road. Therein lies the import of that airport.
Certainly, there are many like me, who are terrified by the state of Nigerian roads and for whom any other sort of alternative means of transportation is vital and who, in spite of the alluring and seducing prospects of historic places, such as abound in the state, are willing to forgo them, because of the vicissitudes of the Nigerian land transport system.
Indeed, Dickson has never hidden his vision to make his state a one-stop-shop for all forms of modern human activities. He believes that you are either in the state to savour some of the world’s most enchanting tourist sites through the tourism farms he is opening up or you are on medical tourism to take advantage of some of the most developed medical facilities his government is putting in place or you are there to bury yourself in spiritual activities inside the massive ambience of the Bayelsa Ecumenical Centre, a magnificent 10,000-man sitting capacity edifice situated in the heart of Igbogene suburb of Yenagoa, the state capital. There are other support projects, along this line, from roads to markets. In fact, as at the last count, there are more than 300 different projects to his name in this regard. Of course, he has gone to a large extent to create this dream Bayelsa.
Yet, his opponents do not agree that the governor has done anything substantial to uplift the people. Some do not agree with his fantasy, while others accuse him of increasing the misery index in the state and pray that the state should never witness his specie as governor. But one only needs the before and after assessment to know which side is playing politics.
But that is the real challenge. How does the governor sustain the legacy if a Pharaoh, who does not know Joseph, takes over and abandons these high-profile projects or reverses them?
If the governor does not learn from a surfeit of other examples, that of Tinapa, the signature project of former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, just a walking distance might just be adequate to sustain his anxiety in this regard.
If such a project, which the former governor spent virtually all his eight years in office is greeted with such scant regard that today it could only pass for a sorry sight, in spite of the billions of Naira sunk in it, it shows that nothing is impossible.
So, when he takes more than a passing interest in who his successor should be, it is not out of place. It must not be interpreted as overreaching himself but an expected move to infuse more life into his legacy to sustain its longevity.
Like every good entrepreneur is expected to groom a successor, preferably with hands-on knowledge of the letters, spirit, and foundation to take over his business, a governor is expected to leave behind a successor that shares his vision. Whether he succeeds or fails is a different kettle of fish.
Having apparently found that successor in the person of Senator Douye Diri, the challenge since the candidate picked up the governorship ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has been how to smoothen the rough edges and sedate the bile that has built up in the run to the process of making that choice.
The ocean appears to have become too tempestuous even for the Ofirimapepe (Great white shark), as the missiles have continued to fly in from many quarters from those who believe that they hold a greater stake.
Yet, he must swim to safety, because the stake is too high otherwise. He must find a mechanism for wedging and calming the gale that is aggravating the tempest. Arrogance is fatal at this stage and must be withstood. The whips must be hung and the sword returned to the scabbard.
Indeed, there is no telling the fact that some people are genuinely hurting at this time. It is the job of the governor to make them see the larger picture, even where mistakes have been made.
On the one hand, they deserve to huff and puff, hit the table and shout. But, on the other and in the end, they must regain their senses, calm down and ask the vital question. What would be the benefit of setting your house on fire to satisfy your anger or avenge a wrong? A lady, who cuts her nose to spite her face, ends up looking uglier and undesirable and may find no suitor.
Some of those disenchanted, have vowed that Dickson’s would be the last PDP government in Bayelsa. Haba! Did Nigerians not hear the same statement over Goodluck Jonathan, in 2015? Ask those who made the same threat and went on to sell him for less than a kobo, how market today? To every Bayelsa man, the answer to this oft-asked question, is critical to shape their minds towards the November governorship election. They must realise that it is neither Dickson nor Diri. It is about them and their children.
Rage must be withstood!
•Igboanugo, a journalist, wrote from Abuja