John ODHE, Yenagoa
Leaders all over the world approach governance in a multidimensional manner. While some would assume office and hit the ground running, others take time to study the most pressing needs of their subjects and try to prioritize them accordingly. Upon assumption of office, some leaders would consider roads and other infrastructural projects as the ultimate needs of their people and prioritize same. In another vein, some other leaders may as well ruminate over the welfare of their people and decide to make it their priority. Education or the health sector could form the priority of a particular government while yet another leadership may ponder on agriculture as its priority.
Also, there are governments that may decide to carry out all the above mentioned components of governance simultaneously depending on the volume of funds that may be available to them to adequately finance the respective projects. Unfortunately, not all governments may be financially buoyant enough to effectively fund key projects at the same time as expected. This could be responsible in the way different governments prioritize particular projects.
In Bayelsa state, for instance, the present administration led by Senator Douye Diri has come under serious criticism in some, especially from the perspective of the opposition, over non-existence of physical projects in the state since the Prosperity Government came into office about a year ago. Some residents of the state had expected a harvest of infrastructural projects in different parts of the state as previous administrations had done in their first one year in office.
However, watchers of government activities in the state for the past 11 months that the prosperity government came on board, believe that the Diri led government is on course. They have their reasons. There is a general impression that the present administration inherited a very harsh financial weather. If that inference is anything to go by, then it will be agreeable that the present government may be passing through some internal fiscal complications than meets the eyes of the ordinary Bayelsan.
A Government House source recently confided in this reporter, saying “Bayelsans need to be grateful to God for giving us a man like Douye Diri as governor. If not for his prudence, if it were to be somebody associated with financial malfeasance, the state would have collapsed by now. It takes a man with a large heart like Diri, who knows how to approach governance with human face, to be able to keep Bayelsa afloat at this critical point of our existence. I don’t have to tell you everything. I am an insider. Our people used to put a parable that “he who circumcises women must learn to keep secrets.”
The source hinted that it takes only those who understand the workings of governance to appreciate Diri for continuously paying civil servants’ salaries and promptly too. He said though the present government has not lost sight on other critical sectors such as infrastructure, education, agriculture, health and other areas of concern, the governor decided to consider the welfare of workers as paramount in the face of other daunting challenges.
From all indications, civil servants in the state seem to be at peace with the leadership of the Sampou born politician for some obvious reasons. As a predominantly civil servants state, they believe that the governor’s leadership approach towards their welfare is commendable compared to previous bitter experiences. A level-12 civil servant who preferred not to be mentioned in prints said the previous administration almost rendered civil service career a nightmare. He noted that apart from incessant non-payment of salaries, career workers also experienced indiscriminate deduction from their monthly wages as well as multiple taxation. He said “during the previous administration and some successive governments, we were relegated to the background. We never knew when salaries would be paid. As a result, we couldn’t plan anything meaningful with our salaries. But today, I when l will get the next alert and l plan my life accordingly.”
Another civil servant who equally preferred anonymity pointed out that “the best gift Douye Diri had given to civil servants in the state is prompt payment of salaries. It is no longer business as usual when civil servants were being neglected and always kept in the dark, not knowing when your next salary would be paid. Now, with the emergence of Diri, many of us have joined cooperative societies because payment of salaries has become constant and prompt. Before now, l couldn’t join any cooperative society that requires compulsory monthly payment because our salaries were not regular.”
Apart from prompt payment of salaries, the present administration has also embarked on promotion exercises for civil servants. This is one thing that public servants in the state have longed for in vein. Majority of them have remained stagnant for the past couple of years as against the normal civil service rule which stipulates that promotion examinations be conducted on civil servants at three years intervals. From the state Civil Service Commission, we gathered that the governor has graciously approved the results of the promotion examinations recently conducted by the commission. It was learnt that over 850 officers were successfully promoted in the exercise. For this singular act of welfarism, all civil servants are happy with the governor. This will, no doubt, also boost productivity in the state civil service.
Another area that has endeared Diri to the heart of civil servants in the state is the payment of gratuities and pensions to retired civil servants. Before now, most public workers in the state have become so sceptical about what fate would befall them after the end of their career services. This is because they had witnessed many bitter experiences of their retired colleagues who would lament for years and die in penury and out of frustration without receiving their gratuities.
However, the story has changed for the better since the coming on board of the Miracle Governor, as he is fondly called by his admirers. Immediately he assumed office, one of the first humanitarian action taken by the fifth civilian governor of the oil-rich Ijaw state was to dust the hitherto forgotten pension files and commence payment of gratuities to the appreciation of all civil servants. The governor’s gesture has revived lost hope and wiped away civil servants’ tears of uncertainty towards payment of gratuities after retirement.
Information reaching us from the Bayelsa state civil service commission has it that the governor just approved extra N500 million to augment payment of gratuities. With this, it means more retired personnel are going to be touched in a positive light.
We have it on good grounds that a certain retired low-level civil servant fainted recently when he unexpectedly received an alert of over N2.5 million being his gratuities after many years of retirement and endless expectations. It was gathered that the aged retiree disregarded the said alert at the first instance, thinking it to be one of those unsolicited fraudulent alerts from the ‘yahoo’ boys. We further learnt that the hopeless pensioner reluctantly agreed to go to his bank for confirmation after much persuasion by his children to do so. When he got to the bank and finally confirmed the alert to be true, it was gathered that the old man collapsed out of excitement, over what he had earlier considered impossible in his lifetime, knowing that many of his colleagues who retired the same year with him have gone to the great beyond without enjoying the fruit of their labour.
Though the man’s collapse might have caused some momentary scare and pandemonium in the bank before he was revived, his joy knew no bounds. To him, Diri has added more years of excitement to his life. The governor has restored his hope. People like this pensioner and civil servants in the state now believe Diri should wear a new toga: Mr. Humanity