Created on 1st October, 1996 by the late General Sani Abacha administration, Bayelsa State will clock 12 on 1st October, 2008.Naturally, this is an occasion that calls for a big celebration by the government and the people of Bayelsa State, including non-indigenes who for one reason or the other make Bayelsa State their state of residence. In line with our usual tradition, your favourite Biographer Magazine has come up with a special publication to commemorate the 12th Anniversary of Bayelsa State.
Our Executive Editor, Akinleye Temidayo, took out time to interview Mr. Maxwell James, a renowned media figure and Managing Consultant/CEO of MediaMax Consulting on his views on the state ahead of the 12th anniversary celebrations. As an indigene of Olowa-Elika, Dekina LGA of Kogi state, getting Maxwell James down to an interview in his expansive home at Felicia Villa in Kpansia Epie, Yenagoa was easy owing largely to his souring popularity in the area and in the state as whole.
We serve you fresh excerpts of the interesting chat.
THE BIOGRAPHER: Please Sir/Madam; kindly tell us about your good self.
MAXWELL: My name is Maxwell James I was born in old Plateau state to parents of Kogi State origin. I am in my late twenties and have been a freelance journalist with particular interest on the Niger Delta conundrum. My corpus of works in national media endeared many patriotic sons of the region to me who felt my unbiased, incisive, rational and robust contributions as well as advocacy in the region could be a road-map to the much needed solution to the myriad of problems that have bedevilled the region for decades. In view of the above, I was called upon by a development based nongovernment organisation (NGO) in the region to coordinate the Niger Delta Nonviolent Project sponsored by DFID, UNDP, USIP and NNPC. The project which also included a 13 episode television advocacy programme entitled Solution Hour for Peace on AIT and NTA successfully engaged a teeming youths numbering 1400 across 20 LGAs in 3 core states of the region – namely Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta. Presently, I am the Managing Consultant MediaMax Int’l Ltd and also run a youth oriented NGO called Centre for Youth Development and Productivity all in Bayelsa. I am a holder of bachelor degree in Foreign Languages from the prestigious University of Jos and currently running a post graduate programme in International Affairs in the University of Port Harcourt.
THE BIOGRAPHER: Who are the Bayelsians?
MAXWELL: From my personal experience and also to be candid with you, an average Bayelsan is a hospitable, industrious, warm, fun loving and receptive person with enormous propensity to extend hands of friendship and care to a total stranger. I said this from my 6 years old relationship with couple of friends from Bayelsa state. Worthy of mention are Honourable Maxwell Oko, Mr. Samuel Ogbuku and couple of others who took me as their brother since I met them in Abuja. On a general scale, Bayelsans are the most misunderstood Nigerians. The agitation and quest for their right within the context of the Nigerian state as encapsulated in the Yar’Adua administration citizen diplomacy agenda must not be misunderstood as hostility against Nigeria. Rather, it should be seen as a people’s desire to regain their inheritance as evident in the negative consequences of oil exploration and exploitation to fishing and farming which are their traditional trade.
3) THE BIOGRAPHER: What is your assessment of the performance of Governor Timipre Sylva so far?
MAXWELL: Just excellent. Chief Timipre Sylva is a man of destiny and a treasured commodity to Bayelsa. As someone that is fully resident in Bayelsa state, I will say the governor has brought charisma, leadership focus, dexterity, style, vision and agility to bear in governance. Some examples will suffice; Even the opposition parties in the state recently converged on the state capital and gave the governor a pass mark for spearheading what many observers term ‘developmental revolution’ .
My brother, you will agree with me that the challenges to peace and development in the state before now were herculean; the governor within a short while was able to contain the rising national and international expectations of bringing about peace and tranquillity to the admiration of many observers. If you read one of my articles entitled, Hostage Taking: Lessons from Bayelsa, you will observe that I chronicled the strategies adopted by the governor in dousing the spate of hostage taking in the state. These strategies I contended were communication, consultation, training, education, engagement, rehabilitation, peace enforcement and non-payment of ransom which the governor himself christened the “3Es”.
In fact, the youth class has never been so empowered in Bayelsa like in the present administration. From the Chief of Staff – Government House, Mr. Samuel Ogbuku, to many cabinet commissioners, youths are given tremendous opportunities to serve as example to their peers. Youth development is a cardinal state policy in Bayelsa state today. Take for instance the series of training in ICT, Aviation and Marine Engineering in India, United States and Norway respectively, all geared toward developing the human capital of the state. These also include good engagement plans both locally and internationally for all beneficiaries.
The governor’s mostly liberal collection of ideas about infrastructural development, youth empowerment and vocational/technical skill based education, agricultural development especially fish farming, gender empowerment and wealth creation, rural transformation, friendly and enabling environment for foreign investment, private sector driven economy, improved internally generated revenue, strict compliance with the Yenagoa master plan, fiscal discipline and reform, state – of – the – art health care delivery system and environmental sustainability and remediation are all areas the government has scored an A in my thinking.
It is to the credit of Chief Sylva that Bayelsa state is set to become the hub of oil and gas arbitration in Africa following the award of the multi billion Naira International Peace and Arbitration Center project in the historic town of Oloibiri. Remember also the state readiness to build the first ever Local Content Capacity Development Institute to increase the participation of Bayelsans and indeed the Niger Delta in the oil and gas sector.
The internal roads construction, the state beautification as evident in state-of-the-art- millennium park in Onopa, the planned industrialization of the state and the Central Business District (CBD) development that is expected to house sky scrappers to leverage on the state economic potentials are all significant milestones in the annals of Bayelsa history.
In the final analysis, the governor’s leadership style based more on furthering consensus and consultation than on imposing his own ideas has endeared him to many. Above all, he has risen beyond everybody’s expectation in terms of delivering the goods of democracy.
THE BIOGRAPHER:What is your message to the people of Bayelans State?
MAXWELL: Well, I will admonish bayelsans like George Soros – the renowned and celebrated billionaire who is reputed to have spent over 5 billion dollars of his personal income to developing countries. The global investor and philanthropist observed that “ Governor Sylva is a man with vision who is serious about finding lasting solution to the problems of the state and it is to that extent that I intend to support him” therefore I will urge bayelsans to support the vision inspired governor.
THE BIOGRAPHER: What really prompted the people of Bayelsa to agitate for their own state then?
MAXWELL: I think there are many versions of stories regarding what led to the creation of bayelsa state by late General Sani Abacha. But the most credible to my mind is the desire to have a monolithic Ijaw enclave that can serve as a hub of all Ijaw nations thereby creating a common ground to harmonise all the perceived marginalisation of the Ijaw people being perpetrated by the Nigerian state. As headquarters of all Ijaw people worldwide, the Bayelsa state Chief Executive must be recognised as the Governor General of the Ijaw Nation (laughs)
THE BIOGRAPHER: Bayelsa State clocked 12 on 1st October, 2008. Do you think the state has justified the reasons for its creation?
MAXWELL: Yes, I think so. Bayelsa today is a huge construction field. Also, consider the developmental strides I mentioned earlier. Therefore a lot has changed; physical structures, human development, name it.
THE BIOGRAPHER: What are your expectations from the present Government in the next five years?
MAXWELL: Simply put, the government must maintain the developmental momentum and meet my expectation of imagining Bayelsa state as the Dubai of Africa!