For one to infer that the condition of Yenagoa is appalling should not be considered incongruous. This is because issues surrounding backward development of the capital city have indeed become irksome to observers. Capital cities all over the world are critically sensitive areas. It is for this reason every focused leadership of a state does not gamble with its developmental plan, essentially, in accentuating its beauty. It is so, because state capitals convince influx of visitors that a state worth its status.
After 21years, and still continuing on, Yenagoa, the capital city of Bayelsa State could only be compared to a glorified village. However, this contradicted commendations of some top personalities who have at various occasion visited Bayelsa State government leadership and affirmed that it has developed the state beyond imagination. Such accolades from the point of reality, no doubt could either be regarded as political subterfuge or simply sheer mockery.
On the first of October 1996, when Bayelsa State was created, Yenagoa was considered to be the host capital city due to its central location. It has cluster of communities living in parchment in their various localities. Eventually, when the area assumed a state status, the then military administrators that governed the state speeded up its developmental process. From the time of Captain Philip Ayeni to Colonel Edor Obi, down to Navy Captain Caleb Omoniyi Olubolade, structural development, amenities and functional utilities were given top priorities.
Almost three years later, Nigeria’s political events turned around in 1999, and democratic rule was enthroned. Late Chief Diepriye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha who eventually emerged the first indigenous elected governor strived to sustain that developmental stride initiated by the former military administrators to some reasonable extent, before he was ousted out of office between 2005 and 2006 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo regime. Alamieyeseigha’s impeachment from office with the help of the federal might during Obasanjo’s administration ushered in Dr. Goodluck Jonathan into the scene. However, the Otuoke born scientist turned politician tenure lasted barely one year. He was elevated to become Vice President. Chief Timipre Sylva eventually took over the reins of administration which pave way for Governor Seriake Dickson.
In all this, it was lucidly noticed that the fate of Yenagoa was bedevilled with “politics of sectionalism” which played out greatly in disfavour of the host communities. Each of the successive indigenous leadership of the state had both their negative and positive impacts in developing the state capital, but much attention was paid to areas where each of these leaders hailed from. That is not to say, it is a taboo for them to develop their constituencies and constituents. Besides, if they do not develop their areas when they had the opportunity nobody will do it for them.
After all, late Governor Alamieyeseigha who had the opportunity to be first executive governor of the state failed to implement the Yenagoa city master plane handed over to him, hence other governors followed suit, leaving the state capital at the mercy of unplanned structures springing up everywhere daily.
Suffice it to say that it will take a man with a willing heart, possibly an indigene of Yenagoa itself to make the capital city a befitting state capital as expected. Albeit, there is no gainsaying that successive leadership of the state should have followed a rational and all-inclusive method to touch entire localities in the state and to be precise, Yenagoa could have been considered paramount in the developmental plan of the state because it is the first point of call to visiting personalities to the state.
Today Governor Seriake Dickson has transformed his hometown, Toru Orua in Sagbama Local Government Area just as Chief Timipre Sylva touched his native Okpoama in Brass Local Government Area. Similarly, Chief DSP Alamieyesigha developed his land of birth, Amassoma in Sothern Ijaw Local Government Area just as erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan upgraded his native Otuoke in Ogbia Local Government Area into a city status complete with a federal government university. In all, these hometowns and Local Government Areas of these and past and present leaders have metamorphosed to mini cities in the suburbs of the state but Yenagoa and its environs playing host to Bayelsa State has continued to remain scanty and half haphazardly developed.
Consider it absurd, particularly if Yenagoa is to be compared with other states created the same year with Bayelsa State despite inherent resources abound in it, yet its capital looks like ‘city slum’. It means it is indeed awful. However, some political pundits in the state are not without their own opinion about the sorry state of Yenagoa. To them, the reason is premised on two factors:
First is the fact that Bayelsa State has not got a leader with the political will to embrace all and see the state, irrespective of its diversity, as one homogenous entity. The second factor is that no indigene of communities playing host to the state capital have had opportunity to occupy the state’s seat of power.
Yenagoa is the only state capital in Nigeria that has no state owned or federal university or an institution with repute of university equivalent. No multinational companies, no specialize market, let alone market of international standard. And the worst eye-sore is that almost all length and breadth of the state lacked good drivable street roads with drainage. Portholes in majority of the road expose road users to carnage daily. Electricity supply is a bygone history just as the economy dwindles by the day and the business communities have often lamented this ordeal.
Apart from few private operators of car wash centre and clubs which are sometimes scanty, leisure life in the state capital has become a mirage. Abandoned road projects are order of the day. A project like the mega-star hotel which could have become n tourist delight and huge revenue earner to the state has been abandoned.
With the 2019 general election fast approaching, echoes of campaign has started boozing everywhere just as various cabals have also started mobilizing and galvanizing strategy to outwit emerging rivals. The question again, is “who will bail the cat?” especially now geographic consideration shows that power is zoned to Bayelsa Central Senatorial District. Is there hope that a competent, tested and ready to serve candidates can emerge from this area?
While stakeholders ruminate on the right choice that can deliver Yenagoa and its people from its developmental backwardness, there are indications that some bigwigs such as Chief Dikivie Ikiogha, the former Commissioner for Special Duties in Alamieyeseigha’s administration, Mr. Reuben Okoya, the Speaker of Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Friday Kombowei Benson and former Speaker and Deputy Governor of the state, Rt. Hon Peremabowei Ebebi are warming up seriously for the tussle ahead.
Information from reliable sources also revealed that outgoing Governor Seriake Dickson is in contemplation of whom to anoint successor but it was gathered that it will not be a smooth ride due to the doggedness with which those warming up for the tussle have vowed to storm the state seat of power, Creek Haven, against all odds.
It was learnt that neither the All Progressives Congress (APC) nor the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) may scale through the contest because both parties were responsible for the woes of Yenagoa. Political pundits argued that some of the aspirants may opt for unpopular political parties to secure a ticket to reclaim power from the present government. It is also suspected that some front line politicians from the Central Senatorial District might as well go ahead with the popular parties to slug it out.
Anthony Onyegwaluchi, a journalist writes from Yenagoa