By Constance Omo Ikosomi
Walking through the streets of Yenagoa today, those who knew how the capital city was when Bayelsa State was created 24 years ago will not but celebrate in their hearts about the level of transformation the state has witnessed over the years. Indeed, there is a lot to take pride in.
There are however still few people who do not share this sentiment. In some quarters, some have expressed the concern that as a state, we are not there yet. They contend that the various sectors of our state are yet to meet the expectations of the people, and the dreams of the founding fathers. Everyone, by the logic of thought, are on the same page that Bayelsa as a state has left the Egypt of underdevelopment but certainly still far away from the Promised Land of well-rounded development.
The truth is that development is a process. Nation building takes time, patience, energy, commitment and cooperation of both the leadership and the followership. This explains why even the developed nations are still building on their infrastructure and expanding the frontiers of development through new initiatives.
Bayelsa State is not an exception. We must appreciate what we have to make our journey into the future of developmental endeavour smooth. There are many indices to measure if Bayelsa is progressing or not. When we ask pertinent questions, when we look at the basics, we may be surprised that we have neglected to celebrate our achievements but rather mourn the seeming challenges that the State still faces today. For instance, at creation how many schools, especially tertiary institutions there were in the state? How many young men go beyond secondary school education? How many lawyers, doctors, engineers, and several other professionals there were in the quest to build a state of our dreams?
It could be recalled that there were no tertiary institutions, and most of the primary and secondary schools in the state were in no condition to serve the purpose for which they were established. Even the teaching staff was inadequate.
Today, the fortunes of the state have changed for better and we have a new tale to tell. Bayelsa can now boast of three state and one federal owned universities, namely; Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, Bayelsa Medical University, Yenagoa, University of Africa, Toro-Orua and Federal University Otuoke.
These are in addition to the State and Federal Polytechnics located at Aleibiri and Ekowe respectively. Other places of learning include; College of Health Technology, Otuogidi, Isaac Jasper Boro College of Education, Sagbama as well as International School of Tourism and Hospitality, Elebele, not to forget the South South Campus of the Nigerian Law School in Agudama. The establishment of these institutions and the generous award of scholarships by government have positively impacted on the manpower needs of the state.
Records show that as at 1999, manpower in health sector consisted of 44 doctors, 11 pharmacists and 445 nurses, with no health educators and training facilities. A good number of them were sourced from neighbouring states. The number of lawyers, engineers, architects and other professionals could also be counted on the finger tips. This was our story then.
Now, we can boast of several professionals in almost all disciplines. This is a new level thought unachievable, but the creation of Bayelsa State dropped it on our laps.
There is no doubt that investment in education by successive administrations is money well spent and must have been driven by the sagely thought of Fredrick Herbison who said that “The wealth of a nation depends ultimately upon the productive skills and the levels of education of its people.” The present state of affairs in the education sector has certainly set up the state on a sure path to human capital development which will rub off on all other growth efforts.
In the area of infrastructure, the state has also witnessed an upturn. Yenagoa that was formerly described as a one-road-city now has the road dualised with many more roads and bridges dotting the capital and other major towns in the State. A number of communities that were hitherto reached by water are now accessible by land; Amassoma, Nembe, Opokuma,Trofani, Odi, Agbere and several other in-roads to communities along the way.
Residential and office accommodations have also witnessed serious improvement. What used to be Yenagoa Local Government Secretariat became the State Secretariat upon its creation. For instance, the Ministry of Information and Culture, as it was, had only five rooms. Few members of staff were canned in one room, while many more had to make do under the canopy of a mango tree. This situation was a replica for all other ministries and government establishments. The Government House was also accommodated in the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC) secretariat.
Today, the office accommodation situation has greatly improved. The iconic structure now stands in honour and pride of the resilient people to the Glory of Bayelsa as the Governor’s office. Arguably, the edifice is second to none amongst the Governors’ offices in Nigeria. Civil servants now have better office accommodation with some ministries occupying one huge structure. This is why you hear Information House, Education House amongst others.
The residential accommodation has also received a boost. A number of Government Housing Estates and Quarters including, the Black Market Estate, Opolo Housing Estate, Okaka and Ekeki Housing Estates, New and Old Assembly Quarters, Commissioners quarters are geared towards catering for the accommodation needs of Bayelsans. Individual houses dot the landscape of the state thus, giving it a new outlook. This is a pleasant departure from the inglorious past where people were compelled to live in mud, shanty and thatch houses.
The pervading security in the State has also created an ambience for growth and development. Communal clashes that used to claim lives and property are now myths as the orientation of youths is shifting towards more productive ventures. This has paved the way for businesses to thrive.
Bayelsans have created wealth and employment opportunities by building industries, bakeries, water processing plants, subsistent and mechanized farms. This has brought immense relief to the endless wait for bread, sachet water, garri and other staple food to come in from Ughelli and elsewhere. Senator Douye Diri is set to expand the frontiers of wealth creation by encouraging small and medium scale entrepreneurs and farmers through the Diri Boost and Agric Revolution to bring about food security and prosperity for all Bayelsans.
The agriculture revolution of the present administration is the way to go in sustaining and building on the successes Bayelsans have achieved for 24years of existence.
We should come together, unite to make Bayelsa the paradise of choice. All bricks should be put on the Bayelsa project to build the Bayelsa of our dreams. Happy Anniversary Bayelsa.
Omo Ikosomi is a member of the Strategy team of the State Ministry of Information, Orientation and Strategy.