Tuesday, February 2, 2016 3:21 pm
Francis Ottah Agbo
Governor Seriake Dickson celebrated his golden jubilee recently, precisely on Thursday, January 28, 2016. His 50th birthday celebration coincided with the afterglow of his resounding re-election victory, earlier on January 11. Whether the victory was an early birthday present or it capped the providential convergence of two good fortunes is up in the air, a matter of contemplation for those interested in probing the metaphysics of life and the twists of fate. The governor disappointed those who expected him to shut down the state for snagging political gold on his golden birthday. Dickson instead elected a subdued, altruistic celebration that is consistent with his philosophy of life and politics. He visited the orphanage home in Yenagoa to show love to the kids and thereafter held a church thanksgiving in his community -Toru-Urua in Sagbama Local Government Area.
Birthdays come and go, what is not certain is how one’s guests would turn out, what one’s strivings would yield by way of outcome. In this sense, it is rare that one gets to celebrate the momentous milestone of 50 years while basking in the biggest political victory of your life. These two events rarely fuse into one continuum of triumph, godly favor, and inexorable destiny as they have so perfectly done in the case of the countryman governor.
Yet there is nothing accidental about this happy convergence. The two events are intertwined and are two sides of a life predicated on putting people first as constant variable, good personal and social deeds and a life rendered great and meaningful by the Karmic rewards of altruistic commitments. Governor Dickson exemplifies this paradigm of good rewards for good deeds, of sowing and reaping. It is a law embedded in the theological canons and philosophical corpuses of major religions — Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddism, and others.
The celebration of a significant birthday in the shadow of a historic electoral victory bears out this axiom. Governor Dickson has sown well and he is reaping well. On the personal moral level, he has sown vision, meekness, selflessness, kindness, a capacity to recognize both his strengths and weaknesses, and the humility to let God order his steps.
Dickson has reaped goodwill in return; a pan-Nigerian network of devoted friends, admirers, and allies. He has reaped opportunities that some only dream of. He has reaped the divine bounty of a good family and excellent health. He has reaped the love of his people, spiritual resilience, uncommon energy, and wisdom.
On the political side of his life’s ledger, Governor Dickson has sowed service, compassion, excellent leadership, conscientious governance, and a commitment to uplifting the vulnerable members of society. In return, the governor has reaped improbable and spectacular political victories, an adoring political constituency, and a massive firewall of political support. He has reaped the adulation of the people of Bayelsa State, the Ijaw nation, and the entire Niger Delta. He has reaped a deserved reputation as a man of unflinching humanistic convictions and a consensus builder, yet does not compromise his stubborn commitment to democratic principles.
This is a perfect segue to the event with which we began this reflection: Dickson’s against-all-odds re-election victory. For nothing epitomizes the enduring quality of the law of sowing and reaping than a political triumph, thought impossible by the federal might but made possible by a formidable cache of goodwill banked with voters and compatriots over a long period of unbroken grassroots political service. Let’s be clear then as we celebrate Governor Dickson’s victory as one part of this combo of milestones. The enemies of democracy said he was not supposed to win; he was not expected to win, and, given the ruthless aggression of the adversarial forces pitted against him, should not have won.
This is elementary political logic consistent with what we know of modern political contests in Nigeria. No candidate in a gubernatorial election should be able to triumph in Nigeria’s peculiar reality of invasive, tyrannical federal might, unless they are aligned with the federal government through the solidarity of party affiliation. Indeed, many feeble politicians in the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) have internalized this defeatist logic. They are either preparing to jump ship or have already switched party to insulate themselves from the onslaught of a rampaging ruling All Progressive Congress (APC). The APC and the federal government are on a conquest mission to accomplish a one-party “democratic” dictatorship. Ordinarily, we should take a cue from the countryman governor and not shout about his good fortunes so that we can honour the Bayelsans whose blood was shed by the merchants of violence in the quest to impose Chief Timipre Sylva on the people as governor and capture Bayelsa by hook or crook. They only succeeded in killing some resilient voters but not in winning the crown. The ultimate honor to the martyrs of democracy in Bayelsa is to reiterate that they did not die in vain. Their sacrifice has written a new chapter in the story of Nigeria’s ongoing democratic evolution.
Governor Dickson’s victory prevented what could have been and was designed to be the first domino to fall in the barely disguised and still active APC plan to overrun the country and the South-South region in particular. The APC’s desperate quest for Bayelsa requires some analytical foregrounding for those who are unfamiliar with the stakes and permutations of Nigeria’s current political configuration.
The Niger Delta contains the last contiguous bulwark against the one-party ambitions of the APC. It has emerged as the most resilient block of oppositional politics in the country. It is the site where the various efforts to hold the ruling party accountable and nurture a viable alternative has crystallized. The home of Nigeria’s former president, Goodluck Jonathan, Bayelsa is the bastion of this new oppositional energy, which is the only hope for accountable governance in Nigeria but which the APC government regards as a mortal enemy to be vanquished. Bayelsa, moreover, is the political centre of gravity of the Ijaw nation, a historically revolutionary entity committed to egalitarianism, justice, and equity — all virtues that are anathema to the ruling party. This new image of the glory of all lands were sustained by the restoration government of Dickson, and the next four years will be used to consolidate and concretize the lofty dreams of this visionary Toru-Urua born public servant.
It is in this broad political context that Governor Dickson’s victory must be understood. It was not a personal political victory, although it was a sweet culmination of a personal political journey. Rather, it was a popular people’s victory. It was a triumph of popular will and the principles of democratic franchise over the conspiratorial machinations of a rapacious and recidivist elite. In other words, Dickson’s re-election was a triumph of people’s will and aspirations over a destructive federal might, of light over darkness! Dickson’s victory has therefore moved the state decisively towards a democratic culture that is impervious to the manipulation of external interests.
Dickson stood doggedly between tyranny and democracy, preventing the former from overwhelming the latter. By refusing to yield to the seemingly omnipotent majesty of the alliance between the APC and apparatchiks of the military, Dickson, all modesty aside, held the line against the first act in an elaborate set of scripted political battles that would have seen the APC turn Nigeria towards the kind of authoritarianism that is the stuff of political fiction. It is no exaggeration, then, to say that Dickson may have saved Nigeria’s democratic pluralism and oppositional vibrancy being the very essence of liberal democracy.
The election has posited Governor Dickson as the preeminent factor in the reclamation of the Niger Delta from the marauding political schemes of the ruling party. Additionally, the electoral victory and the defeat of a well-funded group of internal and external carpetbaggers have thrust Dickson into the national political scene. He is being analysed, and justifiably so, as the embodiment and manifestation of a burgeoning spirit of uncommon political courage that was thought extinct in Nigeria’s notoriously opportunistic political arena. Dickson, it is now widely acknowledged by his friends and foes alike, has crafted a compass, a pathway, for mounting an effective oppositional challenge of federal political overreach, and for placing principle over political convenience. He has additionally demonstrated the possibility — some would even say the inevitability — of challenging the hegemony of the APC!
Significant as Governor Dickson’s victory was, it is important to enter an important caveat, namely, that it would not have been possible without God, the people and two other factors — the unprecedented program of holistic infrastructural and human development accomplished by the governor in the last four years, and the extensive grassroots mobilizations that the governor embarked upon as part of his electoral campaign.
The governor’s scorecard has both breadth and depth: the transformation of the Isaac Adaka Boro Road into a six-lane highway, construction of first ever flyover in Yenagoa, the state capital, construction of over 450 kilometres of roads and 18 bridges across the state, in the last three years; the introduction of free and compulsory education with massive funding; the building, from scratch, of a world class tourism and hospitality sector; an unprecedented program of youth/ women empowerment; social security scheme for the aged, development of large scale agriculture and the establishment of plants for processing cassava into commercial starch. Others are the building of a world class Diagnostic Centre and Drug Mart, construction of five state secretariat annexes, building of Traditional Rulers Secretariat, police officers mess, brand new government house and VIP lodges, building of hotels, construction of ecumenical centre and cargo airport in the Wilberforce Island to enable the state play active role in the Gulf of Guinea, among many other achievements in all sectors. The capstone of this agenda was to reposition the state beyond the volatility of the global oil economy.
The crowning glory of Dickson’s stewardship in the last four years is that he has systematically rebranded Bayelsa State; brought the world to Bayelsa and taken the world to Bayelsa. So profound is this revolution that the heartland of Ijaw nation has suddenly become the frame of reference in matters of transformative governance. It is this record that proved a fail-safe defence against the federally coordinated electoral offensive against the governor and the PDP in the hotly contested December 5 and the rescheduled January 9, 2016 governorship polls!
Dickson is not called the countryman governor for nothing. His politics is about the regular citizens — the people in the countryside, in the creeks. He has since identified human beings as the permanent variable in politics. So in his political odyssey and particularly in his re-election bid, the Talk Na Do Governor anchored his campaign on the people that are most physically removed from the glitzy governing precincts of Creek Haven, Yenagoa, the seat of government. Dickson is the first gubernatorial candidate/governor in the state’s history to visit all Bayelsa communities to personally request their support. He is also the first to spend the night in these communities. The governor didn’t just pass through them; he communed with them, breathed their air, ate their food, immersed himself in their realities, and received a personal, intimate introduction to their aspirations and concerns, all of which culminated in the people owning and driving his re-election.
Agbo is a journalist/public affairs commentator based in Yenagoa, wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org