Henry Seriake Dickson, at 56

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By Barr. Moses Oruaze Dickson

Senator Henry Seriake Dickson needs no introduction in Nigeria. He was Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice Bayelsa State. Later, he represented the people of Sagbama-Ekeremor in the House of Representatives and then became governor for eight years before his recent elevation to the Senate, representing the people of Bayelsa West Senatorial District.

Before he ventured into partisan politics, he was a public servant, lawyer and ijaw rights activist, committed to the struggle and using the platform of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), alongside other like minds. He was and still is strongly an advocate for resource control, its ownership and a better and united Nigeria.

All through his political life, Senator Dickson has been consistent with his time tested value of using peaceful dialogue as an instrument of political interest. He is a man who also believes in service and has demonstrated that in so many ways.

As a resourceful politician, Senator Dickson uses every legitimate thing at his disposal to advance the life and course of the common man and woman. He is a great and an unrepentant advocate for one Nigeria and does not pretend about his love for the unity and peaceful co-existence of every Nigerian.

I recall that by this time two years ago, he was preparing to leave office as the Governor of Bayelsa State. He had almost fulfilled the constitutionally stipulated tenure of eight years for governors and he was leaving with a strong conviction that within the period, he had accomplished his mission for Bayelsa State and the Ijaw Nation.

There was no doubt that his eight-year tenure was a huge success. He laid lasting foundations for growth, opened the state for real and sustainable development, realized many of the dreams of the founding fathers including building a standard international airport, connecting the capital city Yenagoa to the hinterlands,
among others. Indeed, he left his giant footprints in all sectors.

But then, he had a burden in his heart, he was leaving the state in the hands of those, who were coming through the backdoor to clinch power. It was an open secret that the opposition party in the state in its desperation compromised the November 16, 2019 governorship election in a way best described as a ‘high-tech’ electoral fraud.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had despite the serial flawed electoral process, announced the result and declared a winner. Certificate of Return was issued and what was left was the formal inauguration. There was nothing to be done again, nothing at all.

Those who were declared victors wasted no time in declaring themselves gods, fast-forwarded time to hurriedly imprison civility and humanity. Every morning, people were greeted with threats of violence, excommunication of political supporters and even death.

The situation can best be likened to what the Israelites in the Bible were faced with at the Red Sea. Behind them was the best army in the world approaching and ready to annihilate them from existence . Ahead of them was an impregnable and unforgiving Red Sea. They had nowhere else to go.

The mood of the state was that of sadness and pain. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was relinquishing power in the state for the first time since 1999. Members of the party were traumatized, there was a low morale, backlash and negative commentary. In all and as always, my brother took the fall as the leader.

But he never gave up. He had always believed in the efficacy of prayers and he knew that the Almighty God who made him a governor through the people was still in the business of doing miracle. So, just as he was doing daily for almost 8 years, he continued going down on his knees in supplication to God. His voice was heard, the Almighty God intervened, the last minute miracle happened and his choice for governor was sworn in.

Having returned the state to the PDP, his kinsmen came all the way to the government house to escort him back home in a blaze of endless traditional ceremonies and glorious fanfare. While he was perfecting plans to retire to the classroom and also devote his time to farming, his people had
other plans. They insisted they wanted him for the Bayelsa West Senatorial District’s seat and went as far as purchasing the form for him.

So, on December 5, 2020, he was declared winner polling a total of 115,257 votes to beat his closest rival, Peremobowei Ebebi, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who garnered 17,541 votes. Ten days later, he was sworn in as a member of the Senate, sealing his return to a legislative advocacy journey in the National Assembly, where he left eight years ago as a member of the House of Representatives, a familiar place that never forgot him.

He was prepared for his new job. He needed no prompting to correct an erroneous assertion made against his people on the floor of the Senate on March 23, 2021 by Aishatu Dahiru, his colleague from Adamawa State, over her shocking claim regarding the size of Bayelsa State.

Speaking at the senate plenary session, Dahiru had said the population of Mubi is bigger than that of the entire Bayelsa. She made the comment to justify the need for the creation of the Federal Medical Centre, Mubi while presenting a bill on the proposed hospital. But my brother kicked against her submission, arguing that the size of Bayelsa is bigger than that of many states. “In my senatorial district, it will take me four days to go round. In my local government, Sagbama, it will take me three days to go round,” he said.

He went further to say: “I just felt I should rise up to enlighten the sponsor of this bill and, by so doing, the rest of the country. When people talk about population, they should be careful because if you go deep and ask who conducted the census, who verified what and what were counted, who are the residents and how justifiable, you would shudder”.

Since then, he has continued to make very profound interventions on the floor of the senate. His position on the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) was well known before it was passed into law. He strongly kicked against the three percent allocated to Host Communities and at some point led others to stage a walkout from the red chamber.

“I am not happy with the three percent that was eventually passed. Most of us disagreed completely and that was why I led my other colleagues from the South-South to stage a walk out. The argument was that the investors would not come if more than three per cent was approved. “However, I want to state that if the host communities are not happy, the investors will not come. Let us be very careful, and that is why I am of the view that the three percent is not helpful to the host communities, not helpful to the oil companies and also, not helpful to the country”, he said.

He is a man who understands and believes in the importance of unity and tolerance of one another especially in the national arena, hence earned the respect of even his opposition colleagues from his state.

Since his return to the National Assembly, he has empowered his constituents with tools that can make them more self-reliant. Part of the support was the distribution of tricycles and canoes which was done in collaboration with the National Institute of Cultural Orientation (NICO), that conducted entrepreneurial skills training for the beneficiaries.

Also, he collaborated with the Agricultural and Rural Management Training Institute (ARMTI), Ilorin in Kwara state to organise a five-day training for 100 women from our Senatorial District on new and existing developments that can make them to be successful in agribusiness. Specifically, the goal of the training was to equip the women with the requisite skills to engage in poultry farming, piggery and cassava farming for profitability.

On December 14, 2021, in honour of our late father, who was a great wrestler during his time, the Annual Nanaye Dickson Traditional Wrestling Competition was launched in Abuja by the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, in the presence of other stakeholders. The tournament discovered new wrestling talents that can represent Bayelsa State and Nigeria.

As a lover of sports, during the last yuletide , he organized the Ofurumapepe Football Tournament for youths of our senatorial district. The tournament was designed to identify talents in the round leather game and also to promote sports development at the grassroot. I must say, it was a one of a kind event that heralded a new vista of youth engagement, entertainment, opportunities and hope. It was a carnival of some sort, an all accommodating event that went beyond party affiliations.

For us his siblings, immediate and larger family, one intriguing thing about him is his deliberate efforts to see us achieve our dreams. Despite his very busy schedules, he still finds time to ensure we are always on track in the pursuit of our legitimate goals, aspirations and projects and render support in any way he can. Where he is not physically available, he spends quality time to talk to us on the phone and whenever we visit him, he creates the opportunity to feed us with free advice and guidance.

Last year when he turned 55, I wrote a similar article titled “SERIAKE DICKSON: MY BROTHER WHO BECAME MY FATHER”, I stated unequivocally, that “I owe him a lot. He fought vortex of battles to keep me alive warding off all attacks to pave the way for my survival as my father figure. I call him my hero. He stood firm to play a protective role that kept me focused. He was my defender, my protector and my provider; a brother in time of need”.

My dear brother and father, today, as you clocks 56, I want to thank you for the love you have for us your siblings and family, the people of Bayelsa West and Bayelsans in general. I am also grateful that in good health, God has kept you. I pray that you live long and continue to make his people, the Ijaw people proud. It was nice seeing you play football during the tournament, I trust that when you return for constituency outreach again, we would do some fishing.

I know you don’t celebrate birthdays but in my heart as in the hearts of the sea of people whose lives you have have touched, we will always celebrate you and please don’t try to do anything about it.

Moses Dickson writes from Yenagoa, Bayelsa State

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