Has it happened to you before? There are days I just wake up amidst parables raging in my little head. This morning, many of those time-tested idiomatic expressions paid my mind their usual courtesy visits. My dad used to say that when parable is the first thing that springs up in one’s mind in the morning, age is catching up on one and his year of maturity has commenced in earnest. Am I growing old? Don’t even call me old. May be, I have stayed a little longer and enjoyed more than usual share of indulgence from the elders. That is it!
Amongst many wise saying that crowded my mind, three shouted for attention and stayed back for a little while, whilst their colleagues had long left for the eagle spot in the horizon. One of them is: “Look before you leap.” The second: “A new broom may sweep cleaner but the old one knows the corners better.” And the third is: “Round peg in the round hole.”
My mind could not but find relevance in the parables and the recent development in the six-months-old administration of the one dubbed as: “Miracle Governor,” Senator Douye Diri of Bayelsa State. Many had expected him to appoint the full complement of his cabinet in a matter of days in office. For them, that is hitting the ground running.
However, Governor Diri had some other ideas in his occupied mind. The stories behind the idiom, look before you leap is indelible in his heart. The idiom takes is source from Aesop’s stories about a clever fox that fell into a pit and could not climb its way out. He asked a goat to jump in so that he could climb on the goat to get out. The goat jumped in without a second thought and then got trapped with no hope of ever climbing out.
Being an old horse tamed by practical experience of life, in public and private arenas, he is conscious that effective planning is crucial to achieving his global objectives of the well-thought-out campaign manifesto of prosperity for all. Governor Diri decidedly chose to be preoccupied with redesigning the civil service structure. This was borne out of his conviction that the civil service is the engine room of government.
After a painstaking exercise, ministries and parastatals were reorganised and refocused to be in sync with the prosperity agenda of his administration. This is not just intended to eliminate duplicity and waste, but also to guarantee effective service delivery. At the end of the exercise, only 21 Ministries were left standing. The governor also invested more in the welfare of workers with prompt payment of salaries and pensions as well as the commencement of payment of the backlog of gratuities. Being a man of deep reflection, there was no way the governor could have reconciled his prosperity agenda with delay in the payment, or outright nonpayment of pensioners’ emoluments.
Alongside this was the selection of those who became commissioners. As a clearheaded administrator, the Governor had set a three-month deadline for such appointments. Alas! The corona virus found its way to Nigeria and subsequently the state. The focus of government now substantially changed with the survival instinct red-flagged. There is no doubt that the state government discharged its responsibilities on this front with distinction. From taking suspected samples of COVID-19 patients to Edo State and later Rivers State, the Diri administration has now provided a molecular laboratory for testing Covid-19 and other infectious diseases in Yenagoa. The laboratory has the capacity for testing 200 samples daily.
In the midst of the herculean life-saving combat against COVID-19, government also commenced work on the Bayelsa Urban Renewal projects. Notable among which is the Etegwe Roundabout Expansion. The project was envisioned to eliminate the bottleneck around that corridor in order to put to rest the unending traffic gridlock at the major entrance into the city centre. There is no argument that the project suffered some setback, however many critics failed to appreciate that the current situation was as a result of government’s determination not to put life at risk in the course of implementing the expansion.
There are assurances that as soon as it is confirmed that the expansion will not infringe on the safety of the high pressure gas pipes buried around the area, the project will be brought to a logical conclusion. It is therefore not a case of sluggishness but a look-before-you-leap scenario.
It seemed the people could not but start another wave of discussion about the State Executive Council and when it would be constituted. The discussions soon shifted to who should be on the list and who should not be appointed. Some argued old hands should not be returned. They have benefited enough others argued, insisting it has to be a shift from the past. The impression was created as if appointment into cabinet is an invitation to banquet. Yes, benefit will accrue, but the first reason for the appointment is call to service. Rather than being distracted by such discussions, the Governor was more concerned about appointing those who share his vision and believe that poverty can be banished from the Bayelsa space; the first converts of prosperity agenda. He would not mind the generation of the appointees but what they could bring to the table. He was conscious he needed the experience of the elders and the energy of the youth. It is therefore no surprise that he eventually nominated a fair blend of old hands with experience and new entrants with vision and passion for service.
If anything, the sagacity displayed here by the governor resonates yet another idiom; new broom may sweep cleaner but the old one knows the corners better. One could better imagine the collaboration of the two generation of brooms as mixed by Gov. Diri in the service of sweeping out poverty and heralding prosperity.
Since the inauguration of the cabinet few days ago, many have agreed that the delay in the appointment of members was well worth the wait, especially when members were assigned to ministries where they enjoy comparative advantage in view of their exposure and experience. This ultimately landed us on another idiom of round pegs in round holes.
It is getting obvious by the day that a wise man who is guided by experience and native intelligence in the helm of affairs in the state is finding expression by his conduct in the wise sayings of the elders.
It is the hope of the citizenry that those appointed will justify the confidence reposed in them by their appointments and rate service above any other consideration.
. Bakare, is a Director in the Bayelsa State Ministry of Information and Orientation.