What has AMAA done for Bayelsa?

THERE are several festivals the Bayelsa State Government can bankroll yearly, as part of an articulated programme to show-case the state’s rich tourism potentials to the world.

These festivals, as outlined in my eight-year rolling development blue-print for Bayelsa State entitled, “A Modular Paradigm for Bayelsa’s Transformation”, include the All-Bayelsa Creative Writers’ Festival, the Bayelsa State Sports Festival, the Bayelsa State First Lady’s Cup (inter-local government female soccer competition), the Bayelsa Agricultural Show and Farmers’ Festival, the Akpulokia Fishing Festival of Tungbo, the Adegbe Fishing Festival of Amassoma, the Bayelsa State Scholarship and Academic Excellence Festival, and the All-Bayelsa Technicians and Inventors’ Festival.

Where none of these festivals catch its fancy, the state government can as well float its own version of movie awards- the Bayelsa Movie Academy Awards (BMAA)- with 100 percent local content.

This open proposal has been provoked in large part by the growing profusion of complaints concerning the African Movie Academy Awards being hosted yearly since 2005 by the Bayelsa State Government. With nominations for the 2011 AMAA awards already on, Bayelsans in their thousands have given the verdict on their state government’s romance with the AMAA as a clear waste of resources to Bayelsa State.

They have variously called on their government to refrain from sponsoring the awards, after all, it is their collective wealth that is being generously lavished on the African Film Academy, the owners of the AMAA.

One is persuaded that if government’s recalcitrance on this issue, as it has always demonstrated, purely derives from want of festivals to host and throw money around in Bayelsa, what the government should do is to peruse the list of marketable festivals I have taken time to espouse in my eight-year rolling plan and adopt any that serves the purpose best.

The Bayelsa State Government in all sincerity can’t deny the profound discontent and misgivings her people have been expressing on this provocative issue. Government’s insistence on hosting the AMAA ceremonies, despite the deluge of calls from Bayelsans not to do so, is worrisome.

First, government being elected of and by the people should have to be accountable to the them, which implies also that it must respect the views and will of the people. Second, by refusing to accede to the will of Bayelsans not to host the annual AMAA in view of the social cost and financial drain on the state, the State goverment has convincingly demonstrated that it does not have any regard for their feelings; neither any respect for their views on public issues that concern and affect them.

Third, government’s alibi that it couldn’t meet some of its obligations in the state due to shrinking statutory earnings seems a ruse to hoodwink the gullible-minded. This is because truly cash-strapped governments don’t play with millions as the Government of Bayelsa State is doing to host awards that contribute virtually nothing to the wellbeing of its people.

Ironically, this one policy of government successive administrations in Bayelsa have tenaciously clung to is iatrogenic, in the sense that it starkly exposes the buffoonery of the Bayelsa State Government in the manner of the proverbial ostrich.

While poverty and dehumanising squalor are the lot of the average Bayelsan outside the corridors of power, the government is not interested in changing this condition but only interested in how to flaunt wealth and opulence through the AMAA ceremonies.

Arguably, if the primary objective of hosting the yearly AMAA in Yenagoa is to lure investors to the state and make it a choice tourism destination, then the objective is now a pipe-dream. The logic behind the hosting of the AMAA with public funds all these many years falls flat on the face of reason and rational thinking.

The AMAA, regrettably, had not attracted a single investment to Bayelsa State. If it had done, it is something too infinitessimal, vis-a-vis the huge cost cumulatively incurred to host the AMAA, from Alamieyeseigha’s administration to the present one.

The billion dollar question is: What really had the the African Movie Academy Awards done for Bayelsa State? The awards appear as another annual ritual through which public funds are siphoned by some privileged individuals in full collaboration with the state chief executives and the administrators of the awards.

Scarce public funds which ought to be channelled to capital projects that would have direct impact on the life of the Bayelsan is misapplied through hosting the AMAA. No wonder, when one takes a peek at other states, the gospel being preached is- “Bayelsa is so rich that the leaders there don’t know what exactly to do with money again.”

A clinical assessment of the AMAA since their inception shows that Bayelsa State, the chief-host, had spent over N2billion on the awards.

Two billion naira is large enough to change the sad story of development in 10 among the hundreds of long-forgotten communities in Bayelsa State- oh yes, it is adequate to electrify at least 10 rural communities and hook them to the National Grid. Yet, less than 15 percent of the state is currently linked to the National Grid!

When the state first hosted the first ever AMAA back in 2005 during the Alamieyeseigha administration, the African Film Academy promised to establish a film village in Bayelsa State, in collaboration with the state government. Where is the film village in the state? Where are the over 50 actors from Bayelsa State the film academy promised to groom?

The voice of the people, society had reasoned, is the voice of God, and nobody can truly disobey God and go unpunished. The Bayelsa State Government’s adamancy on hosting the AMAA smacks not only of a conspiracy against the will of the people of the state, it also willy-nilly exposes a militant character inherent in its key players driving public policies.

In the words of President Barack Obama, “Each nation gives life to democracy on its own way and in line with its traditions. But history offers a clear verdict: Governments that respect the will of the people are more prosperous, more stable and more successful than governments that don’t.”

The Government of Bayelsa State should put a stop to its sole funding of the AMAA ceremonies. The AMAA is not a Bayelsa State project. It is a property of the African Film Academy and government’s continued sponsorship constitutes a distraction.

Mr. Dennis ALEMU, a public affairs commentator, writes Yenogoa

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