By ‘Timi Alaibe
This week, Bayelsa, our beloved state, clocks 25 years since its creation on October 1, 1996.
It was carved out of the old Rivers State by the administration of the late General Sani Abacha.
No matter what history says about that administration, the people of Bayelsa State owe it some depth of gratitude for ending our political servitude.
It was on October 1, 1996 that what was hitherto considered impossible became a reality.
The creation of Bayelsa State came after years of agitation by our reverred founding fathers — great men and women of Ijaw land.
It came as a dawn of a new day — an opportunity to turn our dreams into realities.
By the creation of Bayelsa State, our feet were pulled out of the miry clay of negligence and hopelessness, and placed on a solid rock of a bright future full of big dreams and loaded expectations.
Today, 25 years on, we can still recall the eruption of excitement that trailed the news of the creation of our state.
Our esteemed founding fathers and those of us who were mature enough to know the historical significance of the political exercise, poured out on the streets of Port Harcourt and Yenagoa, rejoicing and thanking God for His intervention.
At last, we had a geographical identity; a home for the Ijaw people; a place we can call our own.
When the dust of celebration settled, it quickly dawned on us that the challenges ahead would demand good and credible leadership if our dreams must come to pass.
What we needed, from the onset, was a leadership that would, in the words of Waller Newell, “exhibit that magic quality of personality, character, conviction, and the vision that would turn our expectations into concrete achievements.”
Our founding fathers and succeeding generations looked forward to a leadership with the capacity and the will to rally men and women under a common purpose; a leadership, in the words of Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, “possesses the character that inspires confidence among the governed.”
We had envisaged a state that would conceive and execute a sustained blue-print of economic and infrastructural development, with the aim of turning our towns and villages into booming business centres; and a sustainable plan to resolve our fast deteriorating environmental conditions. We intended that Bayelsa would be the “Glory of All Lands”.
Unfortunately, and in spite of the development efforts of past leaders, we are not there yet.
In leadership, we are still experimenting. We are yet to put our best foot forward.
On physical development, we are yet to develop a Master Plan.
Sadly, states that were created at the same time with ours, have left us far behind.
What Bayelsa State has in abundance, but is yet to put to profitable use is visionary and transformational leadership that is trustworthy; a leadership with the capacity to persuasively generate support and turn our abundant human and material resources into development capital; a leadership that would recognize that marine-based industrial development and growth, or blue GDP, is a great potential to Bayelsa State economic and social development; a leadership that would utilize the “Blue Economy” as a strategy or policy instrument to drive economic growth, create jobs and reduce youth unemployment.
Even more imperative is a leadership with a clear understanding of the reality of disruption of the digital revolution and the inevitability of its impact on governance, and be able to establish a set of common values to drive policy choices and implement changes that will create boundless opportunities for Bayelsans.
However, despite these avoidable setbacks, despite the human errors that have pushed us several years behind our contemporaries, we still have reasons to celebrate.
We have reasons to thank God for giving us a state — a state that has produced the first President of Nigeria from the South-South geo-political zone; a state with trail-blazing youth and future leaders; a state that has become a home to the Ijaw people of Nigeria.
Bayelsa State is now opened to the world through the conception and building of an operational airport.
At present, Bayelsa State has not less than three functional universities that contribute to the intellectual capital growth of our people.
I am personally proud of my state — not necessarily in what it has achieved in 25 years, but in what the future holds. Our future is bright. Our tomorrow will be better than today.
As we celebrate 25 years of togetherness as a people, I pay special tributes to our forebears who dreamt and struggled to achieve this for us.
On this day, my advice for every child, man and woman of Bayelsa State is: Don’t give up. Keep praying. Keep hope alive. Keep dreaming. Don’t resign to fate.
We may not yet be where we ought to be. But we will get there. Let us look inward. Inside each of us are potentials waiting to be harvested for the good of our state.
Let us believe as the Bible says that “though weeping may endure for the night, joy comes in the morning.” Our morning is by the corner.
God bless Bayelsa State. God bless the government and people of Bayelsa State.
Alaibe, a one-time Executive Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), wrote from Yenogoa.