MY QUEST TO SERVE AS GOVERNOR OF BAYELSA STATE, NIGERIA. “SERVICE 2019”
PROF. STEVE AZAIKI
MY QUEST TO SERVE AS GOVERNOR OF BAYELSA STATE, NIGERIA.
Before I continue, it is important to note, that among all the aspirants, I am the only one who has worked will all previous governors of the state including the incumbent. I understand the problems and challenges of the state better and can come up with better solutions. My areas of focus are:
- High quality service delivery,
- Integrity as the core of governance,
- Scholarships for bright students,
- Modern infrastructure,
- A modern solid waste management system,
- A clean, sustainable environment,
- Potable water,
- Efficient public transport system,
- Adequate, humane and affordable housing,
- Recreational facilities for everyone,
- New investments in oil and gas,
- Hospitality services, healthcare, Agriculture,
- Land, air and sea transportation systems,
- A secure and prosperous city, and
- A corruption free and an accountable government.
- In Nigeria as a nation, you pay high taxes, but your security is not guaranteed. Unemployment has driven most of our young people to crime. Hundreds of communities have no clean running water. Most of the people live in hovels not houses. More than 60% of hard-working but poorly paid or jobless Bayelsans live in slums; not houses. Lots of us are surrounded with rotten, filthy and disease-carrying garbage.
- As most of you already know, Yenagoa has no solid waste management system. Bayelsa roads and streets are few, narrow, decaying and falling apart. The current government has tried its best to address all these concerns, I am coming on board to continue from where they stopped and build a better future for our people.
- Almost two decades ago, Governor Alamieyeseigha whom I served under as secretary to government constantly reminded Bayelsans that the struggle must continue against poverty, ignorance, backwardness, homelessness, unemployment, exploitation and abuse.
- Today I come before you to declare, that Bayelsa deserves a governor that works as hard as all Ijaw people do; one who is fully committed every minute of every day on growing the economy, creating jobs, building high quality infrastructure such as housing, roads, light rail, and strengthening the middle class. I understand that transformative change is often met with resistance, mostly due to unfamiliar adjustment to established systems and ways of doing things, which may have not been in the best interest of Bayelsa. But I also know that the good people of Bayelsa also know that for the State to be prosperous, we must make necessary adjustments and do away with practices injurious to the prosperity of Bayelsa.
- It is common knowledge that much of our land, water and air is polluted from leaked oil, flared gas and the general population. Our farmlands are wasted and our fishing ponds poisoned. One thing my administration will be known for will be compelling the multinational Corporations to adhere to their corporate social responsibility. I will also ensure our young people are given preference and privileges as they engage the multinational Corporations domiciled within our domain.
- Unlike my competitors in other political parties who have a less than salutary history and record in public office – my record and history is untainted. I have served my people for the past decade as a community organizer. I built the first modern library and museum in Yenagoa a few years ago, a project that has attracted Scholars and researchers worldwide in search for knowledge.
- One thing I have held together in my entire public service career is my integrity and my ability to helping the less fortunate citizens to rise up in life. Bayelsa deserves a governor who is fully devoted to helping less fortunate residents work their way into the middle class and become economically stable and prosperous. I have a humble beginning in the streets of Yenagoa. The people of Bayelsa deserve a governor who understands that governance must be fully transparent and accountable. In other words, Bayelsa deserves a governor who makes better, smarter, fairer, transparent and effective decisions than they have known before. I undertake to lead and manage the government efficiently and ethically. This is a promise.
- Starting on the day of my inauguration, there shall be – as an official government policy starting from the very top – ZERO TOLERANCE for corruption, ineptitude, waste and inefficiency. To get here, we must replace fear with hope, cynicism with hard work, negative, divisive politics, partisan, tribal politics with a positive vision that brings Bayelsans together.
- This is going to be a defining election in Bayelsa State. It will pit differing interests and ideas against each other. My idea is that of a strong Bayelsa earning its deserved place in the comity of Nigerian states and my interests are aligned with the progressive interests of ordinary Bayelsans. The forthcoming election is not just going to be an election between two major political parties, no, it is going to be a referendum for the people. It iis a choice. Either the option of a good life or continuous sufferings. I am definite, my people will choose the good life.
- To most people, Politics in Africa is synonymous with corruption, but no one today can accuse me of corruption, I have held high my integrity all these years, shying away from government contracts, living a contented life amidst temptations to join the bandwagon of the corrupt, I turned down every offer just for a moment such as these. Give me the opportunity to prove to you that a Nigerian can be different and we can make our country work starting from Bayelsa State.
In this regard, My 15 Point agenda shall be summarized as follows.
- . CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT THROUGH high-value University Scholarships for at least five thousand (5,000) top needy students from every ward to local and foreign institutions of higher learning in the fields of science, technology, business, entrepreneurship, arts, social sciences and the humanities, annually. We will emphasize and focus on building a knowledge-based economy. We would encourage creativity, originality and industry. We shall empower the youth through education, training and gainful employment. In addition to the groundbreaking initiatives contained in this Manifesto, we shall partner with the private sector to create more productive opportunities for the youth, many of them beneficiaries of the scholarship programs. We shall concentrate on building socio-economic independence and/or financial security for residents; not dependency. We shall inculcate the culture of education, creativity, industry and entrepreneurship as the best pathways out of poverty and stigmatization and banish the culture of handouts, which has stunted our growth and pride as a people over the years.
- ROAD NETWORK AND INFRASTRUCTURE
I plan to SOLVE the traffic gridlock through the construction of more wider roads, the eradication of roundabouts and the installation and utilization of traffic lights. In place of roundabouts, I will build new flyovers. I will improve on what Governor Henry Seriake Dickson did in extending road networks to the far-reaching riverine communities. I will improve on drainage systems, especially storm sewers and catchment areas.
We shall also construct numerous by-passes and over-passes along major streets and roads to ease traffic congestion and for safety of pedestrians. We shall use the international best practices in roads construction. Roads must have beneath each one of them storm drainage and sewer systems for waste and excess water disposal. In addition, power, ICT and clean water supply must also be beneath roads. Currently, most roads in Nigeria are constructed without these essential infrastructures, hence they wash away quickly. I will focus on those little things that have been abandoned over the years in Nigeria.
Commuters driving through red lights shall be ticketed, charged and fined heavily. I will instill discipline in the people. We will expand the width of all existing roads and streets in order to reduce accidents, provide space for commuters, cyclists and pedestrians. We will construct dedicated lanes for emergency vehicles (police, ambulances and fire trucks). Only police and emergency vehicles will use these lanes.
I will REHABILITATE the decaying, collapsed and collapsing government owned buildings and infrastructure. We shall overhaul and revitalize the State planning Commission and hire professional, well-trained, competent, vibrant and ethical staff. The fact that I will have a lot to accomplish within a short time given our scares resources, I will be very prudent with the state’s resources.
We will revitalize the civil service. We shall retrain, transfer or retrench ineffective personnel. We shall institute an ongoing comprehensive inspection of all state infrastructures to identify defects, maintenance needs, et cetera. We shall audit all the buildings in the city before and after construction. We shall set strict standards on the issuance of building permits including but not limited to establishing a robust quality control and international best practices in the construction, management, safety and maintenance of all structures in the country.
We shall set up and revitalize a functioning and efficient Works and Transportation Department which shall: Construct and maintain a modern sewage system; Build and maintain modern storm drainage systems; Construct and maintain modern water reservoirs, cleaning and recycling system; Maintain and repair wide State roads; Construct functioning and well-resourced fire stations in all residential estates. Repair all state buildings; and paint all state properties.
- SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
We shall LAUNCH and operate major solid waste management systems that will permanently rid Yenagoa of its perennial garbage problem. As we know, some parts of our Capital City are currently choking with garbage. Uncollected and untreated garbage is everywhere, and it is a major health hazard. Garbage will be collected twice each week for recycling, treatment, incineration and processing from all Yenagoa residential areas by public utility vehicles and employees. This and other infrastructural developments will create training opportunities and at least 1,000 well-paying jobs for the youth and engineers per year starting from 2021. I have already had extensive discussions with Waste Management experts from around the globe who are ready to take on the opportunity and invest in our Waste systems.
- MARKETS, MICRO CREDIT FOR SMALL TRADERS
I will CONSTRUCT affordable modern markets for hawkers and entrepreneurs so that they can market and sell their goods in clean and safe environments without harassment and indignities. Hawkers and small vegetable traders are legitimate and hard-working entrepreneurs who need support and an enabling environment to prosper. My administration will be committed to providing these and to ensure that these vibrant business men and women thrive and prosper and are not subjected to cruel, inhumane and humiliating treatment. I also plan to partner and provide credit guarantees to local banks to extend micro credit facilities to small local traders in Bayelsa Sate.
- CLEANING UP THE CREEKS AND WATERSIDE
We will ban the use of all plastic products in the City of Yenagoa and its environs like it is done in Kigali, Rwanda. The Bayelsa River and Creeks and other water sources shall be cleaned and safeguarded. I will ban defecation in public places, bushes and waterside. Public parks, gardens and recreational resources shall be rehabilitated. Tree planting and care will become a daily ceremony for Yenagoa residents. We will ensure that more than one million seedlings are planted, cared for and celebrated annually. We will discourage indiscriminate cutting down of trees.
Within three months of taking office, we intend to pass a by-law banning littering, use of plastic and cutting down trees regardless of whether it happens on public or private property. We will establish a major recycling plant in all residential areas to be identified for both degradable and non-degradable products. As part of the solid-waste management system referred to above, there will be no discrimination on the collection, disposal, treatment and recycling of garbage based on social status as it is happening presently.
Public toilets will be constructed and operated in all public places within the City. Potable water. I will PROVIDE adequate, clean and safe water for all residents. Running or piped clean water is a vital basic necessity and right. It will be available to everyone in all residential areas/estates. There will be no discrimination on the supply of clean water based on social class or status.
- ADEQUATE AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING
I will UPGRADE and construct environmentally friendly, affordable and hygienic Public Housing with indoor plumbing and clean running water for the economically under-privileged residents. We shall unveil a major construction program to resettle all slum dwellers to the new homes/houses. The intention is to eventually eliminate slums from Yenagoa and its environs. Funds will be sourced from well-wishers both locally and from abroad. Full details of this progressive program will be unveiled in due course. We estimate that the construction projects will create more than 50,000 well-paying jobs for residents each year. This will provide training, employment and economic stimulus and growth for the people.
This proposed Housing project in Yenagoa and the other Senatorial districts shall come equipped with Recreational facilities for everyone, Safe pedestrian walk-ways and bicycle lanes. We will FACILITATE private sector investment and an enabling environment that attracts domestic and increased foreign investment. We will INTRODUCE a minimum livable wage for all civil servants based upon a structured and legal framework working together with the federal Government and Organized Labour and in consultation with the Private Sector. My government will prioritize the quality of life for all people of Bayelsa.
- INTRODUCTION TO DIGITAL GOVERNANCE
I will INTEGRATE ICT in government and private sector business processes. We shall ensure that an effective, efficient and transparent e-payment module is implemented featuring online rents, liquor licensing, land rates, market stalls, single business permit applications and parking tickets. Local taxes and other levies shall be integrated too in the e-portals. The e-payment module will include an interactive web portal that is transformational and provides unified communication and email for both efficient and effective service delivery. I will MAINTAIN efficient and effective security systems for the improvement of public safety and the protection of property.
- HEALTHCARE AND EDUCATION.
I have no plans to build new specialist hospitals, rather, I will invest in existing facilities and make them functional. I have no plans to build new schools, rather, I will work to improve on making our existing primary, secondary and Universities state of the Art schools in the nation. I will STRENGTHEN the principles of universal access to education and quality health care by ensuring that Bayelsans have well-constructed, equipped and staffed learning and health facilities. Both the Niger Delta University and the new University of Africa shall become branded learning Centers during my administration.
As Kalada McFubara points out in “Health Manpower in Bayelsa State” Bayelsa State has a low level of health manpower. Many health facilities cannot function because of a lack of personnel to run them. For instance, in 1999, the health manpower consisted of 44 doctors, 11 pharmacists, 54 medical laboratory technologists, and 306 nurses staffing nine general hospitals and 15 cottage hospitals in addition to over 100 primary health centers scattered across the state. Although by 2006 these figures had risen to 124 doctors, 23 pharmacists, 445 nurses, and the same number of medical laboratory technologists, the figures were still low. In fact, when the statistics are placed alongside the state’s population of 1,703,358 persons (National Population Commission, 2006), the calculated doctor-patient ratio of one to 13,737 is not acceptable. Subsequent 2011 figures of 298 doctors and an estimated population of 2,022,079, giving a doctor-patient ratio of one to 7000 (the World Health Organization recommends one to 5000), indicate that at least ten years after the creation of the state, access to effective health care remains difficult. For instance, in almost all eight local government areas, doctors are conspicuously absent in the 168 primary health centers. Less than 6% of the primary health care centers have a general practitioner attached to them. Meanwhile, all but seven of the primary health care facilities in the state have at least one community health worker but less than 18% of them have over 50% of the required community health care workers/staff. Further, just over 18% of the primary health care facilities have a nurse attached to them. This situation has left many of the citizens with no options but to consult patent medicine dealers and traditional healers as their main care providers. My administration will build on manpower development to improve on the capacity of existing health and education projects.
- JOB CREATION
I will RADICALLY minimize youth unemployment through creative and innovative expansion of employment opportunities. We are committed to the introduction of a massive “Azaiki Plan” (Marshall Plan) that will create at least 100,000 well-paying jobs for Bayelsans in the next 4 years. The peasants, the working poor, the hustlers and the unemployed will receive enhanced government support and empowerment through government and private sector partnerships and targeted skill-retraining programs including micro credit support. These are hard-working Bayelsans They deserve respect, support and empowerment.
On industrialization, we will build and improve and bring to fruition an industrialization project initiated by Governor Dickson with the Mayor and City of Houston, USA. We plan to follow the path also listed by Governor Dickson to include the Agge Deep Sea Port, economic diversification using agricultural investment opportunities in the state, oil and gas and the utilization of the abundant gas reserve in the state to catalyze the industrialization of Bayelsa, as areas where Bayelsa State Government seeks partnership and collaboration with the mayor and City of Houston.
My administration will further seek a Sister City Partnership for Yenagoa with the city of Houston and a sister state partnership between Bayelsa State and State of Texas.
The new thinking among most development experts is that state governments should engage directly in industrial development employing Public Private Partnerships. My administration will seek technical partnerships with foreign investors in the garment industry, Energy, Power sector, Agriculture sectors and commercial Fishing and Agriculture. We will work with Oil Companies in the state including Shell Petroleum to lead the new industrial drive.
- National Legislative Agenda to attract Federal Projects to the State.
My administration shall develop a harmonious relationship with members of the Senate and House of Representatives. The state government shall provide members with additional support mechanism to enable them lobby for federally-assisted projects into the state, more importantly, projects that the state enjoys some degree of comparative advantage. We will seek to attract World bank projects and funding bothering on environment, Climate change, technological innovations, carbon credit, and the historical preservations of artifacts. I will work closely with National legislators to attract projects in Science and Technology, elimination of mosquitoes in the Creeks, new funding and projects from TETFUND, among others. My administration will work closely with regional agencies like NDDC to attract access to local roads in terms of infrastructural development, rural electricity and NDDC scholarship programs for our people.
- INVESTMENT MOBILIZATION FROM BAYELSANS IN DIASPORA.
One aspect that most State governments have often overlooked which my administration shall emphasize upon is working closely with Bayelsans in diaspora. We understand that there are projects that only Citizens of certain countries can apply. One of such projects is the US Private Investment Corporations loans and grants. My administration plans to partner with Bayelsans in Diaspora to access these grants to develop the state. I will mobilize some of our best brains scattered all over the world to contribute their share to the states development.
- A CORRUPTION FREE AND ACCOUNTABLE GOVERNMENT
Following from what Governor Dickson did, I will ERADICATE incompetence, all forms of corruption, theft and misuse of public resources; ensuring high quality service delivery for all Bayelsans. Working collaboratively with the Office of the Auditor General of the State, and an independent forensic audit firm I plan to bring on board as Governor, we shall carry out monthly and ongoing audits in all departments to ensure ethical compliance and fiscal responsibility. We shall entrench a scientific performance appraisal system to determine efficiency and effectiveness among all state’s employees and offices .I will ENSURE the efficient utilization of states resources to facilitate growth and prosperity. Every Naira allocated for public service or service delivery shall be spent for what it has been allocated for in a timely and efficient manner. The Auditor General, the forensic investigators and other law enforcement agencies shall have the full cooperation of my administration to ensure that no public funds are lost or misused.
The procurement system, processes, procedures and personnel shall be transparent and open to scrutiny 24 hours a day. No person shall serve in the procurement department for more than one year. I will also digitalize and create electronic portals for procurement and general government business. There will be no sacred cows in my administration. My Team shall TRACE, locate, seize, repatriate and restore stolen public resources and assets.
- TRANSPARENT BUDGETING AND RESPECT FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AUTONOMY
In continuation from Governor Dicksons policy of transparency, I will run an open budget government. The people will know how much money comes into the state monthly and how it is spent. I will improve on Internal Revenue Mobilization. I will put in place mechanism and systems that will block theft and poor revenue intake. I will account for every kobo that comes into the state’s purse. There shall be absolutely no waste. My security allowances shall be limited and I will improve on social service support mechanisms. I will respect local government autonomy. I will introduce all my Council Chairmen to my International contacts. I am coming into government to serve not to be served. To lead not to rule over you.
- OPEN GOVERMENT
In further continuation from Governor Dickson Open government policy, I will run an open and transparent government, its first in Nigeria. I shall have monthly extraordinary, unrestricted and televised live Town Hall meetings with residents from various estates, groups and interests so that my Government can listen to, receive feedback from, provide update to, and dialogue with all the people of Bayelsa home and abroad. I will be a tech-savvy Governor.
I take public accountability and transparent governance very seriously and shall ensure that my government will belong to the people in spirit, fact and daily operation. I shall govern for the benefit of the people not the powerful elites. My policies shall be people friendly. I’ll make Bayelsa safe: Our children will play, learn and thrive in a clean environment free of illicit drugs, thugs and garbage, and Kidnappers. I’ll make Bayelsa great again: Our children will embrace the culture of diversity and success through learning and hard work. I’ll make Bayelsa prosperous again: Where the youth, women and men work in solidarity and patriotism; where nationhood won’t be a survival façade. I’ll make Bayelsa self-sufficient again: Where residents won’t scavenge and beg for survival from those who have impoverished them. I’ll make Bayelsa proud again: Where our people, visitors and entrepreneurs shall flourish in a culture of creativity, ingenuity and regeneration. I’ll make Bayelsa fun again: Where all residents will be free, safe, secure, confident, financially independent and happy. I’ll lead and serve Bayelsa democratically. Transparency, accountability and integrity shall be myself and my government’s badge of honor.
I had silently worked very closely with Governor Seriake Dickson in his transformation agenda. He achieved a lot of milestones especially in creating access roads to the Creeks. In Security and capacity development, his work is not complete. We cannot at this crucial time bring in a governor that will destroy everything we have collectively built together. We need continuity, and I am that Aspirant.
In Conclusion, starting from tomorrow I have set up the Bayelsa (Shadow ) State Advisory Council and Bayelsa Integrity Group to Monitor the Campaigns and the Election. I have already nominated 32 Bayelsans to the Advisory Council for Shadow screening (henceforth cabinet members and the Assembly will know the respective portfolios of Commissioners) as Commissioners and perform these duties (campaign program, advise, manifesto, liaison, transparency, hardwork, knowledge of job, etc). It is my thinking that 15% of the members of my cabinet will fall within the age bracket of 23 to 35 and about 30% will be women. Let me emphasize that integrity, character, education, experience, exposure, hard work will be the defining points.
I am Steve Azaiki. I want to be your governor.
FULL TEXT OF A SPEECH DELIVERED BY HON STEVE AZAIKI, MEMBER, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, REPRESENTING YENAGOA/KOLOKUMA/OPOKUMA FEDERAL CONSTITUENCY, AT AN EVENING WITH A SELECT GROUP OF NIGERIANS IN KIEV, UKRAINE.