by Stanley Azuakola
Critics are still criticising; but the Bayelsa State government, under the leadership of Governor Seriake Dickson, is marching ahead.
In less than two weeks, the Bayelsa State government has proposed the adoption of a state flag, anthem and coat of arms; the state assembly has given it accelerated hearing and passed it; and the governor has given it his assent, making it law.
The Bill titled State Symbols and Songs 2012 was signed by the governor at the meeting of the state Executive Council held on Wednesday at the Government House, Yenegoa. Seven other bills were signed as well.
The governor said that it was his belief in true federalism as a cardinal cornerstone of Nigerian nationhood, which caused him to sign the bill. He also emphasised that contrary to the opinion of critics, having a state flag, anthem and coat of arms, was an inalienable right of Bayelsa state as a federating unit.
Previously, the chief press secretary to the governor, Mr. Iworiso Markson, had disclosed in a media release that the move had to be made, “given this administration’s stand on Ijaw mobilization, Ijaw integration and the need to promote Ijaw fundamental interest, which clearly is not subordinate to any other interests.”
He also said that: “The point must however be made clear that the step taken by our government to announce the proposed launch of a state owned flag, anthem and coat of arm is not in any way different from what other states in the federation have done. It is common knowledge that virtually all the states in the southwestern region such as Lagos, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ogun and Ekiti State – have since launched theirs. The most recent was the North Central state of Kwara.”
States in the federation are permitted by law to legislate on anthems, flags, and coat of arms, under Cap 13 of the Anthem, Coat of Arms and Flag Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as those issues are not under the exclusive list.
Hopefully, the move by the Bayelsa State government would not become as huge a source of controversy as that of Osun State in April this year. Then, the Osun governor Rauf Aregbesola, was in the news as details of a security report on him leaked. It was reported that the governor had been placed on 24-hour surveillance by security agencies for fear that he harboured plans to cause Osun State to secede from the federation.
One of the accusations levelled against Aregbesola was that: “The Nigerian Coat of Arms has been removed from government offices and replaced with the Coat of Arms of ‘The State of Osun.’ The State anthem has equally replaced the Nigerian National Anthem at schools, state public functions and at the opening and closing of transmission of the state radio and television stations.” The governor and his party the Action Congress of Nigeria strongly denied the accusation of harbouring secession plans.
And, no you are not mistaken – the president of the Republic is from that state.