Henry Seriake Dickson, lawyer-politician, at 56
Senator Henry Seriake Dickson needs no introduction in Nigeria. He was Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice Bayelsa State later 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.
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.
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.
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.
He is a man who understands and believes in the importance of unity and tolerance of one another especially in the national arena, hence earning 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), which 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 renders support in any way he can. Where he is not physically available, he spends quality time talking to us on the phone and whenever we visit him, he creates the opportunity to feed us with free advice and guidance.
My dear brother and father, today, as you clock 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 touched, we will always celebrate you and please don’t try to do anything about it.
Dickson is an Attorney-at-Law.