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Diri: Steering Bayelsa to path of prosperity

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On February 14th 2022, set aside to celebrate Valentine’s Day, Bayelsa State was agog when the Ijaw traditional soundbites rent the air to celebrate two years of the administration of Governor Douye Diri.

The occasion was auspicious as it provided yet another opportunity of bringing Bayelsans together for stock taking on the journey so far, which vast majority of the people have described as eventful, life-touching and shining testimony of an impactful leadership.

It provided an opportunity for the people to recall the joy, which heralded the inauguration of the Diri administration on 14th February, 2020, based on the celestial manner it came on board to the surprise of many across the country.

Those who were familiar with Diri’s profile of service to the Ijaw nation, Bayelsa and the nation in general, believe the state would not remain the same when he leaves office.

The governor who had served as Commissioner for Youth and Sports Development, Director-General of the Centre for Youths and Sports Development and a founding member of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) had long proved his mettle in public service and would not do anything less than success.

Having spent barely two years in office, even ardent critics of the government are overwhelmed with the positive impact of his transformational leadership in the state.

He had already carved a place in the sands of time in the execution of people-oriented infrastructure, being widely applauded as a good student of the policy of continuity, by embarking on and completing projects he inherited from his predecessors.

This is borne out of the conviction that abandoning projects inherited from past governments would amount to disservice to the state, waste of scarce resources and marginalisation of communities where such projects are sited. He believes in the time-tested philosophy that government is a continuum. This is the new spirit of development he has brought to bear in steering the ship of the state.

In earnest, he has mobilised contractors to site for the completion of the New Glory Land Drive which runs from the gateway at Igbogene through Onopa to Government House. The project was initiated by former Governor Timipre Sylva. The project which is critical to opening up that axis of the Yenagoa metropolis will avert the one trunk road syndrome in the state capital.

Another key project which was inherited from former Governor Henry Seriake Dickson is the ring-road connecting Opolo-Elebele to the Igbogene gateway. Work is already in progress which will go a long way to reduce traffic problems and enhance the socio-economic lives of Bayelsans.

Besides completing the age long bridge linking the ancient towns of Bassambiri-Nembe and Ogbolomabiri-Nembe, popularly called “Unity Bridge” which construction stopped years ago; he has also completed the construction of the Elebele Bridge which collapsed over two years ago. The bridge serves as a major link connecting several communities in the Ogbia area and indeed the entire Bayelsa East Senatorial District.

In addition to that, the government has contracted Setraco Nig. Limited, a construction giant to commence the construction of the all important Nembe-Brass road.

In the Southern Ijaw area, there are smiles on the faces of people. The Yenagoa-Oporoma road which had been on the drawing board has reached an advance stage in construction. The Dickson administration started work on it after being abandoned years back.

When eventually completed, these roads will enhance the socio-economic lives of riverine area in a state which is seventy five percent marine, as several communities will be linked to the state capital by road, rather than by river craft and boats, while the problems of sea piracy and rural-urban drift will be curtailed.

Also heartwarming is the news of the completion and take-off of the Bayelsa International Cargo Airport which was initiated by the Dickson administration. The airport which has been commissioned by Diri is fully operational with daily flight schedules.

Besides the economic benefits which come with it, the airport has positively placed Bayelsa on the world map of flight operations. Diri aptly said: “This airport will take Bayelsa to the world and the world to Bayelsa”. This is in addition to the construction of a major highway from the airport to Igbedi Community which until now was accessible only by river.

Moreover, the State Executive Council early this year approved the award of contract to construct twenty more internal roads in the state capital Yenagoa. It also approved the canalisation of the Ogbogoro River to save the community from the devastating erosion affecting the community.

Work on the completion of Aguobiri Bridge, in Sagbama Local Government Area is also going on, which will link up many riverine communities like Angiama by road.

The government further took a bold step in rehabilitation of internal roads in the state capital in what is described as “Operation no Pothole”. In most cases, Diri who rolls up his sleeves, believing in close supervision of projects, goes the whole hog to personally inspect on-going projects to see things for himself without waiting for the fairy tales of second hand reports.

There is no doubt the new spirit of development has become visible as a new Bayelsa is emerging under the direct supervision of Diri. Little wonder, the government enjoys the appellation of “government of prosperity”.

In the area of education, the Diri administration has endeared itself to the education-conscious people of the state by its huge investment in the sector.

Apart from the massive rehabilitation, construction of new schools across the state; the huge investment in the infrastructure concerns of higher institutions have yielded positive result with the accreditation of 71 courses at a stretch, at the premier state-owned Niger Delta University, while the state-owned College of Education, School of Nursing and Midwifery are not left out in this regard. These developments are trickling in when many state governments are merely surviving and contending with problems of paucity of fund.

The massive investment in education is borne out of the premium government places on human capital development by using educational advancement as a veritable tool. In addition to that, the prosperity government of Diri which believes in training and retaining of teachers, for the first time in the history of Bayelsa, engaged the service of Microsoft in training 12,000 teachers to update and equip them fully with contemporary skills in the emerging world of information technology (ICT).

Besides the introduction of the teaching of indigenous Ijaw language to promote the Ijaw identity and cultural heritage as the fourth largest ethnic group in the multilingual Nigerian configuration, government also built technical colleges of one in each of the eight local government areas that make up the state.

This is essentially to place emphasis on practical acquisition of skills to promote self-reliance and entrepreneurial driven economy as well as a tool to combat the problem of unemployment among youths by creating the necessary enabling environment for practical acquisition of skills by youths for self reliance.

Happily, Bayelsans have reasons to celebrate the miraculous emergence of Diri and his over two years in the saddle, characterised by purposeful leadership, all inclusive culture of governance with a very deep sense of human face and milk of kindness.

Besides that, there is a paradigm shift in the entire gamut, driven by a new spirit of redefining development in practical terms for the sustainable growth of the state. While one should advise the governor not to let up the fine spirit he has cultivated in the development process of Bayelsa, he should not be distracted by praise singers and arm-twisting critics.

Rather, he should remain focused on driving the ship of state to a safe anchor. There is no doubt he has etched his name in the annals of the history of Bayelsa by changing the development narratives of the state. History will certainly reward the prosperity governor in a kind manner beyond any human imagination.

  • JOE, a public affairs commentator wrote in this piece from Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.

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