As the All Progressive Congress (APC) prepares to take over the helms in Bayelsa State, all eyes are on the oil-rich enclave to see how the promised change shall begin to manifest. For a state that has had its own fair share of socio-political decadence and infrastructural decay orchestrated by bad leadership, Bayelsa is about to become the personification of the proverbial “silver lining”.
The Cambridge online dictionary defines silver lining as “a sign of hope in an unfortunate or gloomy situation”.
On Saturday, November 16, 2019, Bayelsans in their God-given wisdom, decided to halt the 20-year-reign of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, and open a new vista to political equity and socio-economic security. As one of the founding members of the APC in Bayelsa, starting right from the days of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), I am convinced that we have a grip on the real situation in the state, and are ready to make a fundamental difference.
However, the ascendance of the APC and the new political trajectory did not happen in a vacuum. It took the hard work and political savvy of some key individuals to become a reality. Globally, in any movement there is always an arrow head. The set man that God used to give us this victory is the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and leader of APC in Bayelsa State, Chief Timipre Sylva.
Many may not understand the crucial role that Sylva played for victory to come, until they call to mind that this is a man who is a privileged party leader and could decide to ride roughshod over others, as many politicians are wont to do in our clime. But he did not allow his position and influence to becloud his loyalty to his native land and to this party.
Even after growing the party from scratch to become a winning machine in the tortuous political terrain of the Niger Delta, Sylva yet found the finesse and wisdom to feel the pulse of the people and then sail with their wish. He then put his immense weight behind a seeming political feather weight, having the full philosophical consciousness that true democracy lies with the supremacy of the masses’ yearnings.
This is how history was made, and His Excellency, Governor-elect David Lyon, a beloved of the downtrodden and darling of the ordinary man, was chosen to lead our blessed state. To many, it was a shocking end to the ruling party, which had held sway unchallenged for close to two decades in a state that has always been of interest to Nigeria’s central government, because of its abundant oil and gas resources. The more reason why we shall count our blessings, bearing in mind that APC is also the party at the centre.
Therefore, now that we are triumphant, how would Bayelsans begin to see the silver lining in the horizon? First of all, I must state that everybody has a part to play. For the people, we must all deliberately wean ourselves of all the toxic modus vivendi of the outgoing government of the PDP, gathered and internalized in the past two decades. We must decide to look towards the future with hope, patriotism and equanimity. This is critical, because governance is a two-way road.
On the part of the political leaders and the incoming APC, they must embark on a deliberate reorientation to prepare for governance. Importantly, they must be ready to manage the expectations of the people that voted them. They cannot afford to take them for granted; there is so much at stake.
And for the privileged party leaders who have the influence to chart the course of progress, there is urgent need to understand the inherent greed of the elite. It is also germane to point out that the ordinary man in the street is now very politically aware, and their loyalty is volatile; this is basically how the recently concluded governorship election was won and lost. The actions and inactions of greedy elites is a crucial factor that could quickly erode the trust the incoming APC administration enjoys today. So, all efforts must be made to ensure that things are done differently to avoid the mistakes of past leaders. Secondly, God has blessed our state with so much natural resources that it would require just little effort on the part of the incoming government to clean the flakes off the silver lining, and allow the people see their time of glory. This is why Governor-elect Lyon and his team need to live above the temptations of power. They should endeavor to avoid being dictated to by the appurtenances of office, which are transient, and listen only to the voice of the people that they are already used to. The truth is that it is actually easier to sustain the trust of the people – who genuinely voted for them – than to maintain the trappings of office – which is a stranger to them. Lyon’s new mantra should be, “no victor, no vanquished; Bayelsa first!”
Thirdly, the new APC government should concentrate on the economy, which is the livewire of good governance. We should deliberate on the areas where the state has a comparative advantage, that is agriculture and hydrocarbons. The state is littered with potential fishing hubs, with attendant characteristics and resources that can easily create robust agricultural value chain. What is needed is a holistic and people-focused development plan with a business model.
Similarly, in the area of hydrocarbon, the past administration neglected the transformation of the industry in preference for mainstreaming rent-seeking ideology. But we should do things differently, as hydrocarbon production has potential to ignite the development of a science and technology park in Bayelsa, bringing in international players and expertise. In this way, plastic, chemical and agro-allied products research and production will find an ecosystem to bloom, not only in the Niger Delta, but in the country in general.
Thankfully, the incoming government would have the ears of the federal government as our party is also the one in Abuja. A vertical development effort driven by Lyon and Buhari shall become a definite game-changer for Bayelsa and will catapult the young state into international limelight. This is the more reason why I suggest that President Muhammadu Buhari declare a state of emergency on Bayelsa Development. Moreover, it is also high time that the National Assembly also revisited the eight local governments of the state, and enlarge their number. In my view, the state was formed with less than the minimum required number of LGAs.
Finally, the incoming new administration must take advantage of the Brass liquefied natural gas. And, as the Senator representing Brass has already initiated in the National Assembly, it should be reassessed and action taken to utilize its every potential. This will create a lot of jobs and lift many people out of poverty, while assuaging the yearnings of restive Niger Delta youths.
In all, the APC led administration should adopt Bayelsa as its Niger Delta baby and adorn us with “coat of many colours” which will ignite the jealousy of non-APC states in southern Nigeria. It is our time to shine. And with our marine ecosystem, we are about to become the symbol of “resource blessing” and the Aberdeen of Nigeria.
•Ogbotobo, the DG of Timipre-Sylva Support Organisation (TSO), writes from Abuja.