Bayelsa: The Making of the Jerusalem of The Ijaw Nation

By Editor on 24/07/2017

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Gowon, commissioning the Governor's office

A government without a clear vision and purpose, will not only be directionless, but end up substantially worthless, if not totally worthless. Such a vision and purpose, is often the creation of just one man, a leader, who most times, is inspired by a certain dream. Talk about Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, Mahathir bin Mohamad of Malaysia, or Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum of Dubai, whose singular dreams transformed individual countries from backwater status into economic wonders of the world.

For some, such dreams die like the biblical seed that falls on the side of the road and are eaten up by birds, while others only pursue the dreams halfway, like the seeds that fall on the rocky soil, because of the absence of the supporting elements. Others are lucky to have their dreams fall on a loamy soil and the seed easily sprout, grow and bear fruits, in a hundred and thousand folds.

Such lucky ones are those, who in their dreams, are not only able to draw up the architecture of an idea, but are also endowed with the capacity – power, skill, energy and synergy to see it through. Having drawn the architecture, they must then find the competent hands to procure the planks, which must be nailed together to build the platform for the foundation, lay the blockwork and then the finishing that eventually lead to the manifestation of the vision for the dream to be actualised.

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Gowon commissioning the Ijaw National Academy

Bayelsa State Governor, Henry Seriake Dickson, tried to give impetus to this reality, recently when he outlined the raison d’etre of his government to the outside world. For three days, between Wednesday, July 12 and Friday, July 14, when he took time to beam the klieg lights in the state and got the cameras to pan towards its activities, he tended to underscore the inevitable relationship between ideas and vision, capacity and growth, as the mandatory elements to building a virile and thriving societal entity.

It was a period in which he unfolded to the entire world his singular dream of making the tiny, but richly endowed enclave a robust, virile and flourishing entity, which would not only be the pride of the Ijaw people all over the Nigeria, but take its pride of place on the world map.

In achieving this dream, he exposited a single, holdall-basket package, in which the state would serve as one-stop shop for all modern activities in Nigeria and beyond, concomitantly emplacing a symbiotic relationship where it would provide for all forms of human needs in return for a healthy, bustling and happy polity.

A student of INA speaking during Soyinka's interaction with the stuedents 

Part of the package include the development of one of the biggest airports in Nigeria with a runway measuring 3.5kilometres; construction of the governor’s office housing all the departments and parastatals within the office of the governor; construction of a network of roads for ease of movement within the state; construction world-class medical institutions, including a diagnostic centre boasting the latest equipment in medical examination and diagnosis; a drug-testing centre and hospitals, to cater for the health of the citizens in the state and beyond; some breath-taking tourist places for sightseeing, relaxation and enjoyment.

But in the long list, none of the items, comes close, in the governor’s rating to his educational programme. He said so, himself at the launch of the Ijaw National Academy (INA), an ambitious and novel idea meant to harvest the minds of the young Ijaw sons and daughters all over Nigeria.

In the project 1,000 young boys and girls of Ijaw origin from Bayelsa and across the six other states that have Ijaw indigenes in Nigeria are brought together under one enclosed environment for the optimal development of their minds, as the foundation for the take-off of the dream Jerusalem of the Ijaw nation, which the governor wants to create in Nigeria.

Here’s how Dickson captured the premium he places on the INA: “Not even the very wonderful edifice, known as the governor’s office, one of the best in the country, which we commissioned yesterday, is as important as this. I know that my government, as has been severally acknowledged, has built roads and hospitals; hospitals that were not there before, are now standing in every local government area of the state. A diagnostic centre that is one of the best in this country is there. With the wonderful healthcare facilities, we now have, no Bayelsan, no Nigerian, needs travel out of Yanogoa to receive healthcare anymore. We have also introduced a compulsory health insurance scheme, which is funded with a five per cent of the state IGR, the same that is also dedicated to funding the state educational development trust fund.

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Gowon, Dickson, and their wives arriving for the commissioning of INA

“But let me put it this way, the roads and bridges that we have built and continue to build, are not as important as the minds that we are all here to jointly incubate, build and develop. Yesterday, we commissioned an iconic structure, but today, we are all here to commission minds and to commission souls. We are all here to work together to develop the foundation, the most reliable foundation anyone can build to deliver and ensure that we have a stable and progressive society. And that is why this government embarked on this revolutionary approach to education, starting with the declaration of a state of emergency on education.”

Stressing his perspectives further, he added: “The reason our people are marginalised, the reason our people are not as involved as they would like to be involved, is because, maybe, we too have not developed the critical mass of educated, competent and skilled professionals. It is more competitive now. So, we have a duty to prepare the young minds for a more competitive society and more competitive workforce that awaits them. That’s why we started by building schools. There is no school like this in this country. I’m not aware of any.

“Actually, the carrying capacity of this school is about 2,000 in boarding. And this is not a tertiary institution. This is only a secondary school. In Sagbama Local Government, you have three of them. This one, the Ijaw National Academy, which is our elite institution, for the training of future leadership of this state and our country. You also have the sports academy at Asowama, and also the Kiama Grammar School, has been designated a boarding compulsory model school with boarding capacity. And that is in only one local government – the Kolokuma/Opokuma. For the first time, a boarding school in Ekeremo, has started, with between with between 300 to 500 students, boys and girls. The one in Ogbia is set to take off, the one in Brass is set to take off, the one in Southern Ijaw, Oporoma, has already started and because of the challenges of literacy in that local government and the size, we have already completed another one at Okubo with a capacity for 300 to 500 students. And I have also directed that another one be built in Okpuama area. All these are secondary schools, but if you enter them, you will think that you are in a tertiary institution.

“Our message today is that the development of future of our state must be anchored on the development the human capacity. That is the most enduring investment anyone in a position of authority can make.”

Of course, Dickson, while counselling the students to make the best use of the opportunity provided them, reasoned that they would be too young now to appreciate the sacrifices the state was making even in the face of the current plummeting economy and recession, until they became adults. But he stressed the import all the same adding that for students who enjoyed everything free from school uniforms, free quality meals and well-equipped classrooms and educational facilities, they must grab the chance, which millions of their contemporaries, past and present never had.

“That is why I was so proud, when I walked into the physics laboratory the other day and I saw young Bayelsans demonstrating practical physics lessons. That’s the future of our state. Yes, whereas the roads and the bridges are important, in vain do we do all of these, if we do not first invest in human minds. That’s the most important resource we have and this government is bent on developing that potential to the fullest.

To add further push to his ideas of achieving his dream, Dickson had to go beyond the shores of the state to select some key Nigerian figures to add to what the Ijaw nation already has as ambassadors, two of whom were former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon and world acclaimed scholar, playwright and Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka.

Both have already taken parentage and ownership of the governor’s ideas by accepting the roles assigned to them. Gowon, who now qualifies to sit in council of the traditional institution of the state after receiving the traditional title of Se Ebidaubo (Benevolent Father of Our nation), is not only going to perform the duties required of the highly exalted position, in giving wise counsel and acting as the father of the state, but would use his influence as a former Head of State to attract goodwill to the state and the government.   

On his own, Soyinka accepted to lead the way in actualising Dickson’s dream in achieving a sound education base for the state by becoming its goodwill education ambassador.

While delivering a letter to this effect, Dickson, praised Soyinka’s exceptional accomplishments in the field of literature and his irrepressible spirit in espousing the right values of socio-political theory and ethical standards, adding that these placed him in a good position to fly the Bayelsa State flag in the fight against ignorance and poverty of the mind.

While calling for support from all people of goodwill within and outside the country, Dickson, appealed to the Nobel Laureate to use his clout to canvass support for the programme and assured prospective donors that any funds realized would be put to judicious use.


Dickson helps Soyinka to cut his 83rd birthday cake during the event

Dickson said: “Let me also appreciate you for your long years of commitment and dedication to the issues and causes affecting our people. And, you are still going on championing the cause for restructuring and bringing about a just and equitable world, Nigeria and the Niger Delta.

“I therefore have the honour to appoint you as a Special Honorary Education Ambassador of Bayelsa State. This appointment is made not only on account of your exceptional global profile and reckoning as a Noble Laureate but also for your well-known love for our people and passion for the democratisation of knowledge worldwide.

“It is my considered opinion that your exceptional accomplishments in the field of literature as well as your irrepressible spirit of espousal of the right values of socio-political propriety and ethical correctness stands you in good stead to fly the Bayelsa flag to fight against ignorance and poverty of the mind. It is therefore, my fervent hope that in your new role, you will enlarge the coast of the restorative educational programmes of the state government.”

While accepting the conferment, Soyinka expressed appreciation for the honour done him and assured the state government that he would do his best in advancing the cause of education in the state.


To underscore Dickson’s knack for coming with a total package and tying all angles in his developmental plan, his idea of making the state a tourist centre for local and international visitors, came with the emplacing a brand-new institution for training hands-on and highly skilled professionals to cater for the need of the industry.

Named the International Institute of Tourism and Hospitality (IITH), Yenagoa, the centre is about to secure full accreditation from the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) for its National Diploma and Vocational programmes.

Rector of the Institute, Mr. Samuel Timi Johnson, told online reporters, who visited the facility during the events marking the governor’s unveiling of his programmes that the institution was going to train highly-skilled and competent professionals, who would not only cater for the domestic needs of the tourism industry in the state, but showcase its potentials to the outside world.

He said: “Basically, the idea of the formation of this institute, is in line with the programme of this government. Which has decided that apart from oil, the state government has established about three areas in which it wants to divest – tourism, agriculture and health. But tourism is a major component. For the state to tap the benefit and financial advantage, you need the manpower base that will drive the sector. Because one of the banes of the tourism sector in Nigeria in spite of the huge potentials in tourism, is because of the manpower challenge.

“The governor believes that before government begins to commit investments into the development of the destinations, you need people who would man those destinations, who would create activities that will attract tourists to the destinations and people who will manage those investments. And that’s why he felt the first thing to do is to train people, professionals, who will man the industry. And also considering that all over Nigeria, people in the sector are those with backgrounds in other fields of endeavour and not really tourism.

“For example, in the entire Bayelsa State Ministry of Tourism, there is no single tourism graduate. And those are the people expected to formulate and implement policies. What kind of policy are they going to formulate, when they have no knowledge or background in that sector? Go to our hospitality sector – hotels, eateries and all that. The managers in charge of all that have no background in tourism. It’s all trial and error. That is why many of the investors there are not maximising profit.

“So, this institute was basically set up to serve as a centre of excellence for training, teaching, research, publications in the tourism industry, hospitality and other related areas, such as culture, entertainment and all that.”

For Dickson, not even the current recession plaguing the country would be enough for him to abandon his dream. He made it clear at the commissioning of the ultra-modern governor’s office.

Here was how he put it: “We are not deterred even by the recession. More and more schools are being built, more and more hospitals are being built, more and more agricultural programmes are being introduced and they will be all completed. As I said, Bayelsa’s phase of quiet revolution is now giving way to the proper unveiling of our state to make it the centre of investment, the centre of education, the centre of excellence in terms of medical facilities.

“This state is poised to be the number one in agriculture, a state that is poised to be the number one in tourism, a state that is therefore ready for life beyond oil and gas.”

No doubt, one of the biggest challenges for him is those, who like the biblical farmer, had his enemies invade his farm in the middle of the night to plant weeds. He must now weigh the implications of trying to uproot the weeds without damaging the crops or a means of feeding the crops and allowing them grow with the weeds until the day of harvest.

Perhaps, his traducers, might listen to the wise counsel of Pa Edwin Clark, who continuously reminded the people during the event that Bayelsa was a backward state and only unity of purpose could wrestle it from its current state and put it on a pedestal of galloping development, such as the governor dreams of.

Surely that is the faster means of building Bayelsa as the Jerusalem of the Ijaw nation.   





Posted on July, 24 2017

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