Hon. Jonathan Obuebite is the Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information and Orientation. In this interview with Osa Okhomina in Yenagoa, he spoke about the vitriolic criticism that trails governor Dickson’s administration despite efforts to entrench solid developmental strides in the state.
In your view, how far has the state gone in terms of development from 1996 when it was created?
As a youth, when Bayelsa was created in 1996, we all took the creation with great hope and joy that a state has been created for us as people. For me as a person, I must say that for the creation many of us would not have been where we are today. I want to say the creation of Bayelsa made us to be what we are today.
And that is the reason, we can, as a people, is the best that has happened to Bayelsa State. It has brought governance closer to the people. Before now, most of our communities were nothing to write home about. Whatever you see that is community and individual efforts where people try to break up many homes and communities. In the past, people have that properties located in PH, Rivers State and have thought of coming home. Coming to Bayelsa in 1996, after creation, was an eye opener to do what we needed to do and correct mistakes our elders made when we were in old Rivers State.
When we came to Bayelsa State from Rivers, it was just a glorified local government. Bayelsa was having one narrow road from Mbiama to down Yenagoa. That is where all our people commuted to various local governments. Looking at where we coming from and now, we can all attest the fact that Bayelsa has changed. Today, we can boast of other roads created. Today we boast of capital city emerging from other parts of the State. Before and after Bayelsa was created, you can stand on Mbiama-Yenagoa road and count number of vehicles moving in and moving out. Most of the state work force have coming from Port Harcourt, Rivers State. For now, all that has changed. All state workers now reside here in Yenagoa. It is a reason to celebrate 20 years.
Today we can also be counted among the comity of states as a people. The creation of Bayelsa has given us better identity as a people. Today, we have an identity. That is why, when Governor Dickson introduced the coat of Arm and Flag, we all embraced it. When you hear the 4th largest tribe in Nigeria, it is the Ijaw nation. But there was no loyalty. The identity we had that was the Ijaw National Congress (INC), later The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) emerged. But today, wherever you go to and when you mention you are from Bayelsa State, they immediately affirm you are from Ijaw Land. Governor Seriake Dickson with the introduction of the Flag and Coat of Arms has given us a better identity in every modern society. If you want to be recognized, you must have an identity. That is why the Governor that we have today has done it for us. Lagos has their identity long ago with it being a local point for western region. Here, as Bayelsa, we are known for who we are. Bayelsa has become the rallying point for Ijaw people. Ijaws in Ondo, Edo and other parts see Bayelsa as ancestral home and state of origin. The creation of Bayelsa has, not only given identity, placed the Ijaw nation to have a proper sense of belonging in Nigeria. The creation has given us the strength to protect Bayelsa at any lost and has given us a position to bargain. When you go to the table to bargain, we are not seen as a minority tribe in another state but as a state to bargain.
But looking at Bayelsa, the growth has been faced with challenges. Can you highlight some?
Yes, as a 20 years old state, we have had our share of challenges. One of the saddest is the issue of the Odi, in Kolokuma/Opokuma local Government council area of the State, and that of Odioma, in Brass Local Government Area. Because of the carnage in Odi, it became a national issue. Of course, you are also aware of the era of militancy. We have had our fair share of problems and challenges. We can also talk about the Niger Delta struggle.
The struggle based on resource control. The struggle is that is embedded in self-autonomy. And if you look at it, it has a history with the Kaiama declaration. All these were done because of the identity that we were given. Now, ask the Bayelsa people, the greatest challenge is internal war to fight. According to the Governor, the greatest battle to be fought is that of Impeachment development. The battle will be to open our hinterland and linking up with coastal communities. And that is why if there is any project that is clear to Governor Dickson, it is the three senatorial roads that will take us to our creeks and coastal communities. And because of the position of Bayelsa and if you must develop Nigeria, as a nation, we must refocus our development and bring them close here. When you have a sea port in Bayelsa, ships of any size must barthe here. That is what we consider the Nigeria nation must do. They are saddled with the need to develop Bayelsa and bring it to the lane needed to contribute to the nation. And that is one thing this government is laying a strong foundation on.
But many said in spite of funds that accrued to Bayelsa since 1999, the state is still considered a glorious village and under developed what will you say?
Let me say this, Rome was not built in a day. Even the New York you see now was like a village before. It is good because the present administration is comparing the state with developed nation. And with the speed it is going, we will get there. In other states like the Yoruba Land, they have great grand fathers that were educated and with professorship degrees. And in Bayelsa, we can count how many of our fore fathers were educated early. But when you compare this with the western world, you will see where we are coming from. It is the same thing you can apply when it comes to development. You can see other places develop and you can say 20 years is not just yesterday. But first, when you talk about this 20 years compared with resource available and application, I want us to remove the past three years under military when the state was created. There ours was to stabilize the system. The first attempt to develop Bayelsa should be raced to DSP Alamieseigha. And that is why the Alamieseigha administration started the state Master Plan. Yes, we can ask ourselves that where the plan is. Yes, we can ask ourselves if we are following the Plan. Yes, we can ask if we can achieve the plan. Those are secondary issues. But as a state, it is obvious we started from somewhere. If we just suppose that with funds that have come in, we will realize that physical and infrastructural development alone is not development, especially for a people that have been neglected for all those years from independence. And let me ask you this, are you not surprise that the only land suitable for state capital for Bayelsa had only one road? It means when Nigeria will be 56 years by October 1st and Bayelsa, 20 years. It means 32 years after Nigeria, there was no development in Bayelsa. It means the Ijaw Nation was abandoned for 32 years. Now, how do you develop our people? You have to develop, not just the people, but develop the state. That is, why the state Governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson, always say that to him, the most important development is educational development.