By Francis Ottah Agbo:
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For Governor Henry Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, his words are his bonds. He is not just a keeper of promise, his promises are bankable!
But Promise keepers are hard to find on the country’s political landscape, especially when the promise to be kept has been made for 40 years on the trot. That length of time, naturally, makes the beneficiaries of the promise wonder if they are not jinxed.
That was the story of the people of Bayelsa West Senatorial Zone who had waited in vain for the construction of the Sagbama/Ekeremor/ Agge Road before Governor Dickson came to their rescue, 40 years, after the road was conceptualized.
The road was first listed in the budget of the old Rivers State in the second Republic under Governor Melford Okilo but didn’t see the light of the day. It was subsequently taken over by the Federal Government but remained a still born.
But that is now history! On Saturday, October 14, Bayelsans witnessed what could be described as the triumphant entry of Governor Dickson to Ayamasa and Aleibri communities, two major oil-bearing communities in Ekeremor Local Government Area. What perhaps made his entry unique was that vehicles were going to Ayamasa, Aleibiri and the interlocking communities for the first time ever.
He was accompanied by his Deputy, Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah, the Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Rt Hon kombowe Benson, Chief Judge of the state, Justice Kate Abiri, Senator representing Bayelsa West Senatorial District, Foster Ogola, Member representing Sagbama/Ekeremor Federal Constituency, Chief Fred Agbedi, top government functionaries and community leaders, who drove from Yenagoa, the state headquarters to Ayamasa and Aleibiri respectively for the first time.
The people of Ayamasa and Aleibiri were understandably happy. Many of them were seeing vehicles in their communities for the first time, in their life time. So, they all thronged to Aleibiri town, defying a heavy downpour, to welcome their governor who they describe as “Talk Na Do Governor,’’ which in this context means a redeemer of promise.
In the build up to his election in 2012, Dickson promised to construct the road and during his re-election in 2015, he reiterated his willingness to construct the road. Today, he is delivering on his promise as the road is almost 60 percent completed.
As the governor drove from Toru-Orua, his ancestral home through Angalabiri, Ofoni, Ayamasa to Aleibiri that fateful Saturday, he was simply reconnecting with his past too. The story of Governor Dickson is synonymous with the Ayamasa and Aleibiri, as he too never saw a vehicle until he joined a Canoe from Toru-Orua to Patani, Delta State. This was after his secondary education at age 18. The only difference is that while Government under Dickson’s watch is constructing road to Ayamasa and Aliebiri which now enables the people to sight vehicles in their communities, Dickson’s Toru-Orua community neither had a road nor saw a vehicle until he became Governor in 2012! In deed, the Governor only had the luxury of knowing how a vehicle looked like at Patani.
This ugly experience, coupled with his desire to rapidly develop the state, clearly fired him to take over what was originally a federal road at a time the nation’s economy was undergoing recession.
Governor Dickson knew there was no better way to attract development to the rural areas than linking all the communities. It was, therefore, not a surprise that the people of Angalabiri, Ofoni, Ayamasa and Aleibiri in Sagbama and Ekeremor local government areas came out in thei numbers to welcome him and his entourage.
The governor had stopped by in the four adjoining communities while on an inspection tour of the multi -billion naira road.
The project, which is expected to be fully completed in December 2018, was previously handled by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). But like what befell many other projects handled by the commission, no progress was made. This prompted the Governor to take over the project and awarded the contract at the cost of N30billion to Dantata & Sawoe and Setraco construction giants, a move that has understandably accelerated the construction of the road. The distance of the road from Toru-Orua where the Governor hails from to Aleibiri is about 90 kilometres.
In each of the communities, the people rejoiced, danced and praised the governor for his effort to construct the road which they say will bring modernity to the communities, fast track development and increase economic activities in their area.
They assured the Governor of their unalloyed support and expressed confidence that with what the governor is doing, their communities will not remain the same after his tenure.
Chief Suru Oyarede, Spokesman of the Aleibiri Federated Communities said the road was conceptualized in 1979, during the tenure of Chief Melford Okilo, Second Republic governor of old Rivers State, but added that no administration mustered the political will to execute the project.
“…It is in this context that, when in 2012 you came on board and announced the take-over of the project and your desire to go all out to construct the road, not many thought that it would ever see the light of the day.
“ Your Excellency sir, today you have shamed the doubting Thomases, the cynics, the political jobbers and all those who have over the years played politics with this critical road. We lack words to appreciate you for what you have done for us as a people. You have wiped away our tears, you have made us feel that we are part of this country,” he said.
An elated Governor Dickson thanked the people for the reception and show of love, saying what they were experiencing was the fulfilment of a promise made in 2012. The Governor said Sagbama/Ekeremor/Agge road is one of the three senatorial road projects he promised to deliver in order to open up the state from three flanks.
While stressing that the recession has slowed down his infrastructural revolution, the Governor assured them that by December, all manner of vehicles will travel along the road and directed the Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure to make that promise a reality. He indicated intention to visit the community again during the Yuletide season to assess the level of compliance.
The governor, who spoke mainly in Ijaw language, explained that the need to connect communities in the state to the capital, Yenagoa necessitated the vision to construct the road and the other two senatorial roads.
While assuring them of the commitment of his government to improve on their living conditions, the governor announced that the few communities around the area that are yet to be connected to the national grid will soon be linked up.
Former Deputy Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Murktar Shagari, who was also on the Governor’s entourage marvelled at the boldness of the governor to construct the Sagbama/Ekeremor/ Agge road on such a swampy and treacherous terrain. While acknowledging that the economic recession slowed down the pace of the work, Shagari said the governor must be commended for persisting with it against all odds.
When completed, the Sagbama/Ekeremor/ Agge Road, will be one of the legacy projects of the Dickson administration and facilitate access to far-flung communities in the Bayelsa West senatorial zone.
There are many Aleibiris in the Niger Delta and particularly in Bayelsa. The pathetic story of Aleibiri is a metaphor for the neglect of the entire region by the Federal Government. Many oil producing communities across the state including Brass which hosts one of the major oil terminals is not accessible by road. It is inconceivable that a people whose ancestral lands produce the mainstay of the country’s economy are cut off from civilization. The Federal Government must quickly wake up to its responsibility, by partnering with the state to construct the Yenagoa/ Oporoma/ Koluama road otherwise known as the Bayelsa Central Senatorial Road as well as take the Bayelsa East Senatorial Road from Nembe to Brass as quickly as possible. Until the three senatorial roads are fixed, Agge Deep Sea Port, the $20 billion Brass LNG and the airport are delivered, Bayelsa, the glory of all lands will continue to remain in the backwaters! Already Governor Dickson is delivering on the airport and the Bayelsa West Senatorial Road, what remains is for the Federal Government to also do its own bit.
•Agbo, Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Bayelsa State can be contacted through: email@example.com