1. It seems like only yesterday that I had the honour and pleasure to address the State at the dawn of a new year. All too soon, another 365 days have passed.
2. It was an eventful year that tested us in diverse ways, but we have arrived at the start of a brand new one. I am persuaded that He who has brought us this far will faithfully help us throughout this new year.
3. I am aware the challenges we confronted in 2022 will not disappear overnight. But because God has kept us to see this day, I am filled with fresh hope about the possibilities of better days to come.
4. I recall that for several weeks across October and November in 2022, our State was inundated by flooding of unprecedented proportions. The devastation that occurred turned our State into an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Camp.
Critical infrastructure, including roads, bridges, schools and hospitals were severely destroyed and degraded. No fewer than 400 communities were submerged with over one million persons displaced. Several deaths were also recorded.
But by God’s grace, despite all of these, we prevailed. So, with our faith firmly anchored on our Heavenly Father, we look forward to a better 2023.
5. As clearly stated in the state’s Budget of Sustainable Growth and Reconstruction for this year, our expectation is not bereft of careful planning. The necessary consideration has been given to the imperatives of recovery and reconstruction.
We have carefully outlined an expenditure profile that instigates development and that is in keeping with our administration’s fidelity with our people in the prudent use of our collective resources.
6. To repeat a point I often make, which is in tandem with this Administration’s Prosperity Mantra, development should not be driven by political expediency or blind imitation. Rather it should be by critically prioritizing the present needs of the people and creating the conditions of a desirable future. Bayelsa cannot afford to choose the popular path over the prudent; the fanciful over meaningful development. And, most importantly, the sectional over the collective.
7. The point about minimizing the sectional in favour of the collective interest cannot be overstated. Too often, we have allowed ourselves to be segregated along narrow, parochial lines. Yet, if we insist on working together, and harnessing our strengths towards a common purpose, we can make the impossible possible.
So, in 2023, let us resolve to rise above our instincts and embrace the Bayelsa State envisioned by our founding fathers- the Glory of All Lands- we can all be proud of.
8. In 2022, my Administration has continued to address the deficits that impact our people in order to accelerate the pace of our development. We are addressing the deficit in infrastructure, including roads, health, education, human capacity development, and security.
9. In the area of roads, with the strategic intent of linking all communities in the State through a robust network and to reduce the inconveniences of water transportation as well as facilitate the easy movement of goods and services, I am pleased to note that work has progressed simultaneously and meaningfully on the three senatorial roads.
In Bayelsa Central, the road project has reached Angiama community and work on the bridge linking Oporoma, the riverine headquarters of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, is underway.
10. Similarly, there is high expectation that by the third anniversary of this Government of Prosperity in February, the remaining portion of the Bayelsa West senatorial road to Ekeremor, including six newly built bridges, would have been completed.
The 21km Nembe-Brass road in the eastern senatorial flank has been cleared and sand-filling will commence shortly. Ultimately, these roads will give the State direct access to the ocean, where the rich treasures of the Blue Economy abound.
11. As you are aware, these projects have taken a heavy toll on the state’s finances. But no cost is too high to lift our people out of poverty and inaccessibility.
12. Other major road projects, designed to effect urban renewal and open up Yenagoa, the capital city, are also ongoing. They include the gateway Glory Drive road from Igbogene to Onopa, which has now reached the Tombia-Amassoma road as well as the Igbogene-Elebele outer ring road project and multiple internal road arteries. The government has also mobilised the construction giants, Julius Berger, to return to the Opolo-Elebele dualised road project to commence this January.
13. Of course, we will continue with post-flood reconstruction of our damaged infrastructure, particularly, the Amassoma Road leading to the Niger Delta University.
14. In the health sector, we are moving closer to the attainment of Universal Health Coverage with the construction of a brand new Bayelsa State Health Insurance Scheme complex and expanding access to potential patrons outside the Civil Service structure. We are equally building healthcare facilities across all the local government areas. Through our bold and progressive initiatives, healthcare will be increasingly accessible and made inexpensive for all.
15. SPORTS – Our landscape in sports in the outgone year was replete with outstanding achievements. The huge investment we have made to meaningfully engage the youths of our state was fully justified. We attained an all-time high second-place podium position in the recent 2022 National Sports Festival at Asaba, Delta State. Our male and female football teams represented Nigeria at continental tournaments. This year we are geared up for even greater laurels.
16. EDUCATION – We are deepening our focus in technical and vocational education by completing the construction of technical schools in the eight local government areas. This year, most of the structures wil be completed. Alongside this, new secondary and primary school structures and classroom blocks are also being constructed. The aim is to increase the enrollment figures in our public primary and secondary schools.
17. SECURITY – Our commitment to ensuring that Bayelsa remains safe and peaceful is irrevocable. We have continued to retool and rejig our security architecture just as we have put in place robust strategies to combat crime and criminality.
Our seriousness in this regard is underscored by the signing of the Bayelsa Community Safety Corps Law. Already, the State Government has recruited 600 youths across the eight Local Government Areas who are currently undergoing a 2-month intensive training to equip them to effectively combat miscreants.
Our zero-tolerance approach to criminality has been encouraging as many citizens in the state can now attest to a more peaceful and safer state.
18. In the Public Service, we have kept faith with capacity building through training and retraining and the motivation of the workforce to earn their promotion and benefits as and when due.
This government has ensured the prompt payment of monthly salaries and gradual payment of outstanding pensions, gratuities and death benefits.
Today, the story has changed with our new law on the Contributory Pension Scheme which will afford us the benefit to efficiently manage the pension and gratuities. It is a new dawn for us.
19. Fellow Bayelsans, as we approach the general election in a few weeks, let me restate my position that a government of the people, for the people and by the people represents our best option for electing leaders. I again implore politicians in Bayelsa and elsewhere in Nigeria to be tolerant and eschew violent conducts.
The election should be a contest of ideas and choices and not an opportunity to settle political scores or an excuse for calumny. And that is why we must insist on some irreducible minimum required for those who seek leadership roles.
20. We must choose leaders that will not play politics with development. Leadership is about vision while politics is about positions.
Indeed, our endorsement of people with a fixation with politics has only hindered the actualization of the lofty dreams for our state by our founding fathers.
21. We must therefore reject those who insist that they will rule not by building bridges of consensus but by brigandage; not by the ballot but by the bullet. In the end, power belongs unto God.
22. In closing, I am pleased to intimate you with the State Memory verse for 2023 drawn from 2 Chronicles 20: 15 – “And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”
23. Finally, fellow Bayelsans, to many of us who incurred loss in 2022, let 2023 be a year of healing, restoration, and revival. It is my prayer that the first dawn of the New Year brings with it unsparing blessings for us as individuals, clans, communities, states, and as a country.
24. Whether you are in Bayelsa or the Diaspora, I wish you all a Happy New Year, and a safe and prosperous 2023.
25. God bless you all. God bless Bayelsa State. And God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.