How Dickson is creating a new Nigeria

FRANCIS Ottah Agbo is the Special Adviser, Media Relations to Governor Henry Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State. So what, you might ask. After all he is qualified and has consistently demonstrated his capabilities as a frontline journalist, image maker and reliable friend of the Countryman Governor over the years and had stood by the governor through thick and thin. A veteran of many investigative stories, Agbo was part of the highly-successful tenure of Prof. Dora Akunyili as Minister of Information and Communications and has been with Governor Dickson since his first epoch-making election as Governor of Bayelsa State in 2012. It was in recognition of Agbo’s impactful public service, particularly, the impact of his investigative journalism and in-depth writings in shaping government policies in Nigeria that the Pacific Western University, Colorado, USA in 2012, conferred on him, an honorary Doctorate Degree in Public Administration. Agbo is however not the first non-indigene to occupy such an important position. In the defunct Gongola State, Governor Bamanga Tukur appointed Chief Raymond Dokpesi as his Chief of Staff, just as Adagbo Onoja, an indigene of Benue State served as Special Adviser, Media Affairs to former Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State. It must be stressed, however, that although other non-indigenes occupied political offices in some other states in the past, the recent appointment of Benue-born Francis Ottah Agbo as Special Adviser, took many people by surprise. This is so because recent experiences show that some politicians, especially State governors, hardly tolerate people who are either non-indigenes of their states or do not share the same God-given language with them. For me, Agbo is simply reaping from where his state- Benue sowed. In the first Republic, the legendary JS Tarka sponsored the election of Alhaji Ibrahim Imam, a Kanuri man to the House of Representatives to represent Benue particularly the Tivs. Alhaji Imam was father of former Presidential Liaison Officer to the National Assembly and PDP governorship candidate in Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Imam. Similarly, Francis Agbo’s constituents had overwhelmingly elected Chief Agbo Nwangbo, an Igbo man from Izzi community as Councillor representing Ijigban Ward in Ado Local Government. Those who are familiar with the antecedents of Governor Dickson and Agbo are, however, not surprised at the appointment. They share a common belief in hard work, loyalty, integrity, a united Nigeria and friendship that is built on trust and competence. The governor has always demonstrated his desire for the evolvement of a Nigeria in which everybody would be free to live and operate freely and fully in every part of the country irrespective of his creed, religion, ethnicity and state of origin. That explains why the governor made spirited efforts to join the Nigerian navy, and when that failed, the Nigeria Police Force became handy. He enlisted in the Nigeria Police Force in 1986, about three years after his secondary school education. The Nigeria Police Force broadened his national outlook and gave him a fair idea of how to relate with Nigerians from every part of the country. Although his initial plan was to serve until retirement, he knew that a secondary school certificate would not take him very far in the Nigeria Police Force. His quest for further education took him to the Rivers State University of Science and Technology where he picked a degree in Law in 1992. Thereafter, he attended the Nigerian Law School, Lagos, where he also grabbed the Bachelor in Law and was subsequently called to the Nigeria Bar. At the end of the law programme, he proceeded to the Police Academy, Kano as Cadet Assistant Superintendent of Police. While there, his interest in the police force began to wane and subsequently withdrew his service to commence law practice. At the time he stepped out of the Nigeria Police Force, he knew that he could not set up his chambers, so he joined the chambers of Serena David Dokubo and Co as an Associate Solicitor in Port Harcourt. Driven by a sense of adventure and the need to further broaden his horizon, he went to Lagos and joined the Chambers of Aluko and Oyebade in 1995, also as an Associate Solicitor. He returned to Port Harcourt in 1996 and set up his Chambers, Seriake Dickson and Co. In all this, he created a data base of trusted friends from various parts of Nigeria who are committed to ensuring good governance and building a united and prosperous Nigeria. Although not all his friends are in politics, most of them are active participants in the politics of their respective States. Apart from serving his immediate Ijaw community in various capacities through the Ijaw National Congress INC where he rose to be its National Legal Adviser, he also held respectable positions in the Nigerian bar Association in Bayelsa State. His broadened national outlook came into use when he opted for politics in 1998, an opportunity he explored in the service of his people. Of the three major political parties, AD, APP and PDP, he pitched his tent with the AD because of its commitment to true federalism and Ijaw national interest at the time. Dickson was elected as the first chairman of the AD in Bayelsa State and worked hard, so much so that the party produced the Senator representing his zone (Bayelsa West) and two members of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly from Brass Local Government of the state. The governor’s achievements in the political arena were further illuminated when he was elected into the House of Representatives in 2007 and as Governor of Bayelsa State in 2012 where he sponsored many bills, embarked on critical oversight function of the Executive Arm and brought so many national issues to the front burner on the floor of the green chamber. Governor Dickson has re-awakened a revolution which will bind the country, heal the wounds of its people and change the face of politics in Nigeria. That state of origin still takes pre-eminence over universally acceptable criteria of competence and of state of residence, 50 years after Nigeria’s independence should not deter other political leaders from following Dickson’s example. Using the bridge of friendship and reliance on the need for good governance and national cohesion, political leaders in the country should seek the best or tested hands irrespective of their state of origin to provide quality leadership in their respective political offices. The primitive inclination towards self and race or tongue must give room for wider participation of the competent hands in governance so that we can move gingerly into the Nigeria of our dream; the Nigeria in which a man from Bayelsa State can feel a sense of belonging in Bauchi; the Nigeria in which the man from Ebonyi State or Zamfara State can live and work in Delta State without being treated as a stranger or non-indigene; the Nigeria in which the man or woman from Benue or Ondo state would not suffer the indignity of being denied employment or enlisted as a contract staff in the civil service of Kano State. Francis Agbo’s appointment clearly demonstrates Governor Dickson’s desire to build bridges of unity and create a new Nigeria in which people will have the opportunity to contribute to the over-all development of the country. It is amazing that in some States, some of the so-called indigenes are even excluded from occupying certain political offices, their mortal sin for such denial being their God-given minority status. Politicians must use the example of Governor Dickson to build bridges of unity, which they would definitely need as they progress in their careers. Late General Shehu Musa Yar’adua and MKO Abiola built such bridges in politics and were able to create the most enduring political structures in the country. Of course, Francis Agbo’s appointment clearly demonstrates Governor Dickson’s desire to build bridges of unity and create a new Nigeria in which people will have the opportunity to contribute to the over-all development of the country. And like one commentator put it, the appointment has further deepened the national discourse of state of residence/ state of origin and provided a template for the proposed constitutional amendment to shift the basis of appointment/doing business in Nigeria from the template of state of origin to state of residence! Mr. Nat Onoja Agbo,a veteran journalist, wrote from Lagos.

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