John ODHE, Yenagoa
One bitter truth that must be told is that Bayelsa is among, if not the only state in Nigeria, that will go into extinction or stop functioning as an autonomous state if the federal government happens to stop the monthly allocation to states for at most five consecutive months. If that happens, governing Bayelsa State will no longer be a do-or-die affair. Rather, the seat of power, Creek Haven, will become so unattractive to a point that whosoever occupies that position could voluntarily relinquish power and go his way.
While other states have since outgrown total dependency on oil for survival into self-sustenance and self-sufficiency, our dear Glory of all Lands still has her eyes stuck to oil proceeds as her mainstay. States like Lagos, Rivers, Delta, Cross Rivers, all eastern states and many others in the northern part of the country can stay afloat and survive payment of workers’ salaries and execution of projects with zero allocation from the central government, but the same cannot be said of Bayelsa State.
Bayelsa is still playing the ostrich, pretending to be ignorant of the dangers associated with total dependency on a mono economy.
One area of economic viability capable of sustaining Bayelsa in a post oil and gas era, apart from agriculture, is the tourism industry. Ironically, this is one area, as important as it is to economic development that has not been fully harnessed to the benefit of Bayelsa State. Though the immediate past administration of Henry Seriake Dickson was adjudged as having done well in the area of infrastructural development, tourism experts are of the view that the out gone restoration government performed abysmally in the tourism sector.
For instance, the five star Tower Hotel and International Conference Centre which has been under construction since the days of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as governor of Bayelsa State is yet to see the light of day. The Tower Hotel was initiated and started by Dr. Jonathan to boost tourism potentials in the state. The project was continued and raised to the eighteenth and last storey by the administration of the former governor, Chief Timipre Sylva but thereafter abandoned by the Dickson led administration after doing just a little to improve on what successive governments had done on the project.
Located at a very strategic position in the heart of Yenagoa, the state capital, the abandoned hotel project, which was once described as “monument of disgrace” by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan while he served as president of Nigeria years ago still remains a monument of disgrace till this moment despite billions of naira taxpayers money sunk into the project since it was started. If the Tower hotel had been completed and put to use, one can only imagine how it could have boosted the state’s slim internally generated revenue.
Similarly, the popular Bayelsa state government owned Creek Motel, which is also strategically located at Ovom, near government house in the capital city, witnessed its death and interment under the Dickson led restoration government. Sadly, the once beautified creek motel which was the allure and delight of the who-is-who in Bayelsa and beyond is now a waste dump site. Passersby now have to cover their noses and mouths properly so as not to inhale the stench that ooses out of the waste in front of the dead creek motel.
In the same vein, the well positioned Peace Park constructed directly opposite the government house in Yenagoa by the Sylva’s administration is now begging for help having been abandoned for eight years by the state government. The Peace Park was established to serve as a recreational centre where holiday makers would go for relaxation, funfare and site seeing. The Park has the advantage of generating funds to the state if well harnessed. Miserably, that face of glamour that used to radiate the ecstasy of a capital city is now a comfortable place of abode for reptiles as well as a hideout for criminals.
Also, the Oxbow Lake resort modernized by the then Dickson government was and still grossly underutilized for revenue generation. The place lacks the basic materials for tourist attraction such as water motorcycles, boats for marine patrol that could attract tourists from far and wide to the state. In another breath, the seaplane travels that was introduced by former governor Seriake Dickson to give Oxbow Lake the international and local attraction it desires died the day the first seaplane landed on the lake amidst elaborate funfare. Since then, the supposed money generating facility is as calm as a ghost town safe for Sundays when a handful individuals go to place for relaxation.
Apart from the above highlighted places, there are other tourism potentials in the state. The Okpoama Beach in Brass Local Government Area could be regenerated to meet international standard. The proposed Age Deap Seaport in Ekeremor Local Government Area of the state is another tourism hub that should be harnessed to its fullest extent for the benefit of the state.
With Senator Douye Diri now on the saddle, Bayelsans are hopeful that the Miracle Governor, who believes in the prosperity of Bayelsa and Bayelsans, will exploit all tourism opportunities in the state not only to boost the state’s internally generated revenue but to also create employments for the teaming youths who now wandering around and indulging in all manner of criminal acts.
With the frightening sharp drop in the price of crude oil at the international market as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, all discerning minds know that there is raging fire on the economic mountain in Nigeria and Bayelsa State in particular. That the federal government keeps borrowing to ensure that states have money to pay their workers to cushion the negative effects of the covid-19 lock down does not mean the situation will remain rosy forever. The rainy day must surely come, and it’s not going to be long. The quicker the present administration realizes it, the better for us.