Gov Seriake Henry Dickson of Bayelsa State on Saturday stunned the public and observers of political developments with the announcement of enlistment in a youth empowerment programme of 10,000 of the 11,000 youths who reportedly renounced cultism.
The governor, who was speaking an elaborate ceremony at the Bounquet Hall in Yenagoa, said he had set aside N1 billion for the programmes to ensure they become self-reliant.
"If we do not help to build you all, then our future will not be assured,” he told them. “You are all aware of what our Restoration Government is doing; building schools, roads, hospitals, investing in security and making our state safe, talking to people to come here to invest so that we can create jobs for you.
“All of these will come to nothing, if we don’t help to equip you with the skills that you need to partake in the economy to protect our future.”
He promised that the exercise is just the beginning, and that his team will conduct a meticulous verification exercise to select the 10,000 beneficiaries, local government by local government.
“When we are through with all of these, we are going to engage you in a special youth empowerment programme. A total of 10,000 youths will be engaged” Dickson said.
The announcement however caused a stir among those youths who were not part of the 11,000 that earlier registered to renounce cult participation.
The state government had announced the provision of free transportation from the eight council areas, a development that caused several thousands of youths to join the bandwagon.
One of the so-called “repentant cultists” told our reporter that he was lured to join the group because of the empowerment attached to it.
"I can tell you that most of us here are here for the money, since the government is rewarding the lawless and punishing the lawful we have to play along, first it was the militants, now it is the cultists, may be armed robbers and kidnappers will be the next.
"This same government just increased tax burden on civil servants and has announced it will impose additional levies on citizens for refuse disposal. Since there is nothing for the law abiding ones, we have to survive, that is the game," said one of them.
It was however learnt that Dickson bought into the idea for calculated political gains ahead of the 2015 general elections and his re-election contest in 2016.
Said a resident, "This is just an exercise to worsen the spate of violence, we all know the history of militancy, the initial cache of arms they used were remnants from election duties and that was what took us to where we are today. It is rather unfortunate that we are all sitting on a keg of gunpowder by this policy of government. Let them wake up if they are dreaming.”