Governor Dickson and his entourage embarked on day four of his visit to LGA`s in Bayelsa state and this time it was the turn of Southern Ijaw LGA. In what now looks like routine, thanks in no small measure to a well planned event, a huge crowd numbering close to three thousand people was on hand to welcome the visitors.
Travelling from Yenagoa to Southern Ijaw, the river banks are different from what we saw with for instance, enroute Brass or Nembe LGA`s. The entire journey showed off not mangrove swamps with stilted plants and trees, but forests on dry land.
It was quite revealing to see that Bayelsa has so much variety in terms of forests and land. The river had a dusty hue and there were quite a few locals fishing or ferrying sand along the route that took us about forty five minutes to cover.
Southern Ijaw was ready for the Governors visit. From the jetty where Governor Dickson`s dependable ally and Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral Gboribiogha Jonah John (rtd) waited with dignitaries like the Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly Hon Victor Tom Ateke, The Chairman of SILGA Chief Remember P.N Ogbe and serving commissioners of Health and Agriculture among others for his arrival, to traditional chiefs who were gathered at the Restoration Play Ground to meet His Excellency and a civic reception was also in the waiting at Oporoma Secondary School where a tumultuous crowd was already building into a frenzy.
Elegantly dressed ladies in fluorescent colored t-shirts and branded shirt wearing men dotted the Island, while banners and posters outnumbered the vendors of snacks and refreshments. Mobile bands and dancers on hand to add colour to the event streamed past by the minute each trying to outshine the other as the most vibrant group at the venue. Security did not seem as stern as in the previous visits but was however no less effective as the human chain of beefy young men dressed in black formed a barricade for the Governors procession at all times. Other security outfits were also courteous yet firm in their interactions with the crowd.
Oporoma is the Headquarters of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, the largest LGA in Nigeria, and it is an impressive layout of little houses along concrete roads of about fifteen feet wide. There are also existing gutters to channel water across the Island, which seem to imply some effort is being made in environmental matters. As usual some people were shy to take photographs and needed a little coaxing. Others bluntly refused, while most were eager and willing for a photo of them to be taken. I saw a young boy who made shoes out of empty can drinks. I saw well dressed students, and I met regular people who made us feel welcome.
My initial impression of the Local Government still tally`s with my impressions from visits to the other LGA`s. Bayelsa state will do well to invest in Toursim on the Islands. Some locations could easily be developed into a Mecca for visitors and holiday makers.
The sum of One Hundred and Five million Naira was presented to seven women groups as a revolving grant scheme and a whooping amount of Three Hundred and Seventy Million Naira was presented to over two thousand people of the SILGA by the MDG’s office.
Speaker of Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Kombowei Benson, ascended the podium and fired up the crowd with his superb remarks explaining why the good people of the LGA had turned out in such large numbers. They were simply happy with the Governors achievements, especially with regards to the ongoing Yenagoa-Oporoma road development project. Also to speak was former Governor of the state Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha who thanks Governor Dickson for his thank you tour and noted it as a first by any serving Governor in the history of Nigeria. Other speakers included State Chairman of the PDP, Colonel Inokoba(rtd) as well as Commissioners and members of the House of Assembly.
In his welcome address, the Executive Chairman of Southern Ijaw LGA, Chief Remember P.N Ogbe thanked Governor Dickson on his achievements within the short period in office, his words; ‘’Your Excellency Sir, you have within such a short period in office completed the reconstruction of the Tombia – Amassoma road, and the approaching Anyama-Ijaw. We the people of Silga in the true characteristic of Ijaw people say Noah! Doo!! Noah ooh!!!”
Entertainment included cultural displays and a remarkable war dance that thrilled the crowd before Governor Dickson approached the podium. He spoke mostly in the Ijaw dialect but his message could easily be understood with his body language and the English words and sentences he used sparingly. He spoke of security, sea piracy and other vices and urged the good people of the LGA to live up to their responsibility of pointing out suspicious characters and happening to the security agents and their elders too.
Governor Dickson and his entourage then went for an inspection visit of some projects that were ready for commissioning, before retiring to Governors lodge where dinner was served.
It was a somewhat different atmosphere in SILGA. The people have a solid political structure, well supported and organised, and if they can come out in such huge numbers to receive Governor Dickson, their action speaks positive volumes for the Restoration administration…………………………….
Saint Mienpamo Onitsha, writer, Social Commentator.