This is a post about my one week trip to Bayelsa State on the mission to organize Town Hall Meetings in a bid to educate the young leaders and the youths in the three senatorial districts sponsored by Enough is Enough Nigeria which i currently volunteer for. (All thanks to my boss for the opportunity)
When i decided to pick a title for this piece, it took me quite some time. I was trying to put the way i felt after all the trips and all the stories i had heard and all the people i had met into words that would depict exactly what i was thinking.
In the end, the question “Is Bayelsa beyond redemption?” captures exactly what i was thinking. It is not mine to answer but the indigenous people of Bayelsa. I would be doing myself a lot of harm if i even tried.
For you the reader, who has probably never been to Bayelsa, i would advise that you don’t attempt to answer too. This piece could just serve as a piece of information serving the purpose of enlightenment about all the things wrong with our beloved country and how more intense it plays out in some parts compared to others.
BAYELSA State I found out to be the most security infested state i have been to in the whole country. For every 5 or 6 kilometers you travel when moving from one LGA to another, you find a MILITARY checkpoint. Forget the fact that while i was there, there were three kidnappings of “high profile” individuals.
To start to define what “high profile” individuals mean would entail me going back to explain all the gory details about the past days of militancy. The title now is what they call “Senior Man”
One thing i could not help but notice is the affinity for waste in their towns. It can be likened to a traffic light in New York City and as you can guess, it is accompanied with the stench that fill the air abundantly.
The denizens are so comfortable with what is now the norm that i began to understand the reason why there was a clash between PDP “thugs” and APC “thugs” when Governorship candidate, Timipre Sylva decided to fake a city clean up.
I mean, how could you remove the statutory heap of rubbish that graces the junctions just because you are contesting. By all means against the norms of this society! To make it worse, the APC “thugs” probably did it of their own accord through volunteering. Timipre Sylva had said he had never paid a thug in his life.
For every ten young Bayelsans that you gather randomly, Seven of them cannot write their names or identify their names if written. Don’t ask for my source, I was so much in disbelief that i decided to find out during the registration process and Mr Siasia who is also a governorship candidate and whose mother was still in the hands of kidnappers when i left gave a similar statistic.
The young are found mostly in joints which are most of the times located in front of huge, massive mansions with gold-plated gates owned by “Senior Men”. They are there from morning till evening and the cycle continues on the morrow.
During a drive-by in Otuoke, i saw with my “korokoro” eyes a large facility that was a Skills Acquisition Centre with no subscribers. I am yet to see an acquisition centre like that in all my life, both online and offline. But how do you tell a son of the soil to make use of the facility when all he is promised after acquiring whatever skill is something close to the minimum wage that Governor Dickson has not been able to pay for the past 6 months.
Meanwhile, there are folks who just wait till the end of the month to collect N60,000 amnesty package. Do they have two heads? I even gathered that some of the folks who were taken to Malaysia for skill acquisition and rehabilitation or whatever it is that it was named came back and SOLD everything they brought along with them. One of them is a friend of the gentle Delta-born Bayelsan that drove me through out. They are back to hailing “SeniorMen” and waiting for instructions.
After five days of journeying from one senatorial district to the other with sad observations, it was no longer surprising that the tissue that was provided for me in the hotel i lodged was from far away Ogun State. I had not noticed whether actively or mistakenly any industry whatsoever.
The only form of life I could see was people who were more or less enslaved by BIG people who were comfortable with the state of the state.
When you see an ongoing project, it definitely belongs to the government and at a point in time, i stopped being baffled by the number of years the projects had been ongoing. Meanwhile Industrial Mansions get completed in a matter of weeks.
I had wanted to take a picture of the first oil well that was discovered in 1956 when coming back from Ogbia LGA and I had forgotten. The frustration made me forgo taking a picture of George Turner’s Industrial Mansion. I learnt he was at a time SA on youths to the Chairman of the Board of the NDDC during President Jonathan’s era and the god of money decided to smile abundantly on him.
In a community called Ogbuna near Gbarain Clan, electricity is not a problem. They have as little as 24 hours of electricity in a day, understandable when you notice the gas station that is just a trekking distance from them. But then, you start to ask yourself whether increase in availability of electricity is a factor that can improve standard of living.
Their counterparts in Otuoke have it much better, a place i understood and found out is less than 10 kilometers in length. and with four different military checkpoints. You would also have to forget that the road leading to this habitation is one of the worst roads you would have the opportunity to drive by in Bayelsa.
By the time i was leaving, the thought of Odi and the Kaiama Declaration kept coming to the fore of my miind, thanks to Timaya whose songs the driver played through out the journey to Port Harcourt. To think that a sitting President of the country could order the death sentence of innocent citizens numbering close to 2000 for no reason i find logical is a testament to the federal ills that worsens and complicates already gory situations that states find themselves. Not one of the militants that OBJ insisted Odi community people harbored was captured. They escaped!
Ask what an average Bayelsan Youth wants and he will tell you Money without Work. The habit of handing over very little to the demographic without having to work for it is paradise. Their is no dignity in Labour as far as Bayelsa is concerned and that explains why even I was of Kidnapping value. They only needed to be sure that if four hours after my kidnap, as little as N100,000 would be in their accounts and they would come looking for me.
There is a lot i would definitely not want to bore you with, It’s just rhetorics of the status quo which all the above has depicted almost perfectly. The sad part however is that this handover culture is not likely to end in the yeeeeeaaaarrrrsssss to come AND so is Insecurity and so is poverty and so is their dependence on oil.
This will be incomplete however if i don’t make mention of the good guys who despite all the odds surrounding them are hopeful of a different Bayelsa.. They are without the monetary resources and the human resources, but they are hopeful still and not relenting in the little things they have decided to do to contribute those tiny drops that they hope will make an ocean one day one day.
If at all Bayelsa will be redeemed, These good people will have to come together, pull their resources into a basket and find an alternative political solution to the cabal-infested politics that is adamant on maintaining the status quo for their private benefits.
They say Bayelsa state is the glory of all land. I hope one day we would all agree.
I remain optimistic (drawing strength from these few) and i think Bayelsans should too.
POWER belongs to the PEOPLE!
– Jude Feranmi