Due to the dynamic nature of humanity, it is popularly believed that change is a constant phenomenon in all sphere of existence; be it in governance, relationship or belief system.
Change is imperative, as humanity endeavours daily to adapt to new ideas, development, environment and general challenges of life.
However, adjusting to new ways, especially when people are used to a status quo; whether good or bad in most cases, is faced with inconveniences, resistance, protest and outright revolute. For instance, world reformers like Marthin Luther King Jr. known for his civil right movement in America, did not receive applauds from government authorities, nor was it easy for African- Americans who were marginalized to eventually gain freedom.
Neither was it easy for Jerry Rawlings of Ghana with his ‘housecleaning exercise’ to weed off corrupt leaders that bedeviled the growth of Ghana. Be that as it may, when there is a need to correct a wrong; change, reformation or total overhauling of a system becomes inevitable. Hence, organizations, government and individuals all over the world are compelled to change or reform when the need arises.
In Nigeria for instance, the Federal Government recently saw the need to overhaul its system due to over-bloated wage bill. About 50,000 ghost workers were fished out from its public service system and this saved about N208b.
In Kaduna State, about 36,000 workers were laid off due to some irregularities, especially in the educational sector. In Kogi, about 1774 unqualified personnel were fished out due to verification exercises and in Benue about 1000 staff. The list goes on.
The Bayelsa State case has also come to the fore, due to the anomalies in the Public Service. This is necessitated in view of the over-bloated wage bill, caused by overaged/underaged workers, ghost workers, Diaspora workers, age and certificate falsifiers, pension fraudsters, as well as those who inherited employment from retired or dead relations, amongst other issues. Hence, the deliberate decision by Governor Henry Seriake Dickson to initiate a reform mechanism through a detailed verification exercise in ministries, agencies and parastatals, with the aim to uproot ills threatening development.
In the space of a few months, there has been a drastic reduction of the State wage bill from about N6b to N4b. The Local government areas have also recorded successes, as Southern Ijaw wage bill reduced from N201m to N131m, Ogbia from N207m to N165m, Nembe from N127m to N99m, Brass from N117 to N101m, etc.
However, just like every other reforms, the exercise in Bayelsa State is greeted with mixed reactions, especially from those benefitting from the irregularities. A clear case is the protest by those whose names were removed from the payroll in the state owed Niger Delta University (NDU), Wilberforce Island.
The protest by overaged women, who are majorly cleaners and gardeners in their 60s and 70s at Amassoma, was unfortunately overtaken by some hoodlum who not only barricaded the entrance to the University and massive looting of the university properties but also creating chaos that stalled academic and businesses activities in the community.
The school had an over-bloated workforce of about 70% non academic staff and 30% academic staff. Hence, government saw the urgent need to cleanse the system, so as to create space for the teeming unemployed youths in the state.
My worry, however, is the level of backwardness of youths who think that by welding and barricading the university gate, carrying coffins, attacking security personnel with guns who at the request th the university went to reopen the university, would make them famous.
Ironically, universities in other climes, like South Africa, Ghana and in the UK advice government on policies and research, as well as contribute over 50% to the economy of their countries; it is unfortunate to witness such disruption of law and order in the NDU. In those climes, universities teach government how to do things properly , they carry out research and their leadership/ Governing councils attracts funds into the school and run the institution as a business.
A university attracts so much into the economy of its host that almost all aspects of the economy rest on it. In amassoma for instance, rents are as high as the state capital, food prices are not funny not to mention the transportation and other sectors of the amassoma economy.
Sometimes I wonder if NDU is a university or a dysfunctional secondary school. From when I left that school in 2009, nothing much has changed. Who says the Engineering and construction works of the state cannot be done by the university faculty of engineering?? Who says the faculty of law, economics or political science cannot advice the government or even private sector on how to get things rightly?? It’s all because of the weak and sometimes political leadership of the university management.
Indeed, How do you expect the government to now rely on the university to advice government on major policy reforms when It took the vision of the visitor to the university to make them look out of the box to survive. I hear they now produce pure water, bread etc.
Anytime Universities in developed and even developing countries and states like us talk, governments listen. They teach government and not as we have in NDU where the government is teaching a University which is a citadel of learning how it should run itself. While that university has some of the best academics and as such should have gotten the university on the right path long ago. Sadly, we have professorship and doctoral degrees dished out like food every day. Ideally, University lecturers and leadership are academicians and people of inspiration not political people. Clearly, everything in Bayelsa is politics including development and the lives of human beings.
It takes a pragmatic leader to ensure that education of its citizenry is given the right place in governance. Thus, the deliberate steps by the government embarking on major projects in the educational sector, including
the construction of the senate building, three kilometer internal roads and other projects in the NDU.
The Niger Delta University is a state owned institution deliberately sited in Amassoma community. Hence it therefore behooves on people of the community to jealously guard lives, property and activities in the institution for the benefit of all. Verily, It takes a lot of leadership to ignore the nonsense, desperate and ignorant exhibition of foolishness by some elements in the name of “agitation” which from all indication is ill-motivated. It is suggested and correctly too that the decision to site the airport there is a monumental mistake because one day, they will lock the gates of the airport as they are doing.
Fee increment and student protests are not new. During my days as a student, I took part in a lot of protests against the university authorities under the leadership of Vice Chancellor Buseri and Apreala as Registrar. In all these, We were led by our student union leadership and at no point were we sponsored or armed with guns.
I remember vividly how one of such protest against the refusal of Julius Berger the contractors (that constructed the Tombia -Amassoma road) to allow students use the road and this led the then Governor Alamieyeseigha to drive down to the road himself and directed them to open the road be it finished or not.
Before the road was opened, We were beaten up by the police some were arrested and we stoned them too. It was hot and fun! But no gun was fired. In all our days of protest, No student carried gun nor did we even destroy their equipments.
Usually, the government never intervened because it’s an internal issue of the university and in most cases when things get hot, the police deployed only stopped at the main gate and manage access control as well as beefing up internal security in the town. They never came into the school except at the request of the University Authority.
I, therefore, call on the governing council of the university, to consciously ensure peace returns to the school and community, for the resumption of academics activities. This can be done through dialogue with the aggrieved parties and adequate information to ensure that the public is in the know as to why certain categories of staff who were affected by the reforms.
The university council should also give human face to the disengagement process, by empowering affected staff with entrepreneurial skills that could give them hope of economic independence, even after their disengagement. Trying to hide from the onerous responsibilities of leadership of a university as I see is shameful. The Governor of a state is only a visitor to the university and it is the duty of that university governing council to rebrand the goals of the institution.
Let those in charge of the university management do their jobs or leave and face their political interests and allow serious people to come in. I don’t also understand why it took so long for young, qualified and contemporary minds that can do these jobs and even better to be entrusted.
We have good hands who are serious and not politically corrupted with evil hearts. Let us begin to clean up our own swamp!!!
Managing a university is as simple as running a business. You don’t employ people you cannot pay and you must always look at making profit, standards and quality. It has nothing to do with government. That university was founded on wrong principles and I expect all the so-called professors and big men there to have corrected this long ago. They had to leave it for a government to tell them and compel them to do the right thing. Yet they sit there shamelessly blaming the government.
Am sad over the loss of lives in my only alma mater. Now we have lost our own boys to this avoidable leadership failure in that university and the usual vulnerability of our youths while the people who sponsored them are marrying new wives, their kids abroad and they enjoying simply because they want to be governor and that without Southern Ijaw votes in their hands, nothing good should come to Bayelsa. They forget that power comes from only God. With all the federal might and all they did, God still through the people gave power to Dickson yet these people think it’s by sponsoring disunity and shedding blood. Many people don’t fear God!
In conclusion , whoever sponsored the attack on the security agencies or killed the boys must be made to pay for it and I know the security agencies will never let them go free. Those who think that because of their perceived issues with the government, our people have to be sponsored to act their wish and die must never sleep as well. If they want to be governor, they should work and earn the trust of the people through their manifestos, democratic means and not sponsor our gullible youths and set our state in flames.
I also hold the view that ALL THOSE WHO CLAIM TO HAVE HANDLED THIS ISSUE BE HELD TO ACCOUNT. Clearly, they did not do their jobs of resolving the issues properly before going to open the gate while tempers were high.
May God comfort the families of our departed boys
But my thoughts and prayers are with you. ???
-Moses Oruaze Dickson