Isn’t it strange and curious that right in the heart of Yenegoa, the Bayelsa State capital, is a Government House Complex initiated by the duo of former governors Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and Timipre Sylva, but avoided like a plague by President Goodluck Jonathan and incumbent Governor Seriake Dickson? Shola Oyeyipo, who just returned from the state, unveils this mysterious structure
In Nigeria’s political parlance, the talk about misappropriation of funds in official places is a familiar aberration, even though it never ceases to generate concern among the people.
But a quintessential case study is this massive structure Bayelsa State and perhaps, one of the most expensive Government Houses in the country. Named “The Glory Land Castle”, the expansive mansion is located across the Taylor Creek, behind the Government House in Yenogoa, the state capital.
Sources in government hinted that the structure had gulped not less than N24billion or more. It was the brain child of the administration of former governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha of which President Goodluck Jonathan was a part. But when he assumed office as governor, Jonathan was said to have considered it wasteful and abandoned it in the category of white elephant.
However, when former governor Timipre Sylva came on board, he completed the construction and furnished it to taste.
A visit to the magnificent structure, revealed several state-of-the-art sitting rooms, many bedrooms with aesthetic furnishing, exceptional toilets with bravura fittings that place the facility in a world of its own. Apart from questions that border on somewhat obscene display of tax payers’ money and which is still valid; the structure beholds a beautiful sight.
Dickson, recently, was asked why he has refused to stay in the building especially that a lot of tax payers’ money had been sunk into it, the governor gave a rather dramatic response when he said he would not use the building because it is too costly to house just himself.
“This castle was started by Chief Alamieyeseigha. Of course, as you know I was in the cabinet of Dr. Jonathan when he was governor. We, within that short period that we were in government, didn’t think that completing the project as at that time was a priority. But when my immediate predecessor came on board, he managed to complete it.
“So he achieved the completion, including the furnishing and all that. Now upon my ascension into office, I of course made it clear from day one that there was no way I was going to stay in this type of place. It is simply too grandiose. It is way out of format with my own personal standard,” he said.
But considering the fact that so much money had gone into it and the need to put the facility into productive use, the Dickson administration has resolved to ride on the structure to put the state on the global tourism map by converting it to a six-star hotel.
“We have decided to convert this to a 6-Star hotel. As it is, we have to suspend work. There is actually a lot of work going on in the upper floor. But in the next five to six months, around November to December I would like you to come to be part of the various tourism promotion activities that will come up at that time. Then, you are likely to meet a five or six-star hotel in this complex. Work is already ongoing. That is about it. I’m not staying here. I have no plan to stay here,” he reiterated.
Ironically, while Dickson and Jonathan thought it was a sheer waste of money, Sylva who completed and furnished it would rather it was something to show off as he was alleged to have excitedly unveiled his “Gloryland Castle” to a CNN reporter.
Sources in the Government House said Sylva displayed various sections of the castle and their special features.
But the supporters of the present administration thought there were some more pressing needs that such money would have been deployed to.
Defending this, they cited, for instance, the infrastructural development of the state including road construction that is critical to the state. They mentioned the need for provision of free and compulsory education, which they claimed has been taken up by the current administration.
Importantly, they are of the view that because Bayelsa is an oil rich state does not translate into riches in every home, because a considerable population of the state as in the larger Nigeria still lives below poverty line.
Thus, they argued that amidst allegations of fraud and mismanagement of public funds levied against the Sylva administration, the former governor still completed such projects as the new gas turbine, the state owned television station, Glory Land Television, the Glory Land Castle, awarded and completed 37 internal road projects, the Opolo cottage hospital, the completion of the erstwhile Ikoli Bridge now Goodluck Jonathan Bridge in the Swali area of the state.
It also completed the state judiciary building and the Peace Park and redesigned a 500-bed hospital to re-activate and re-position the health care delivery facility in the state.
But even with all these, the duo of Alamieyeseigha and Sylva received considerable knocks from Bayelsans and Nigerians for embarking on such wasteful ventures that do not share direct bearing with the living standard of the masses, which should have been their primary objective as governors of the state.
Sadly, the two governors remain the most troubled by the anti-graft agencies over issues bordering on corruption, one of the reasons the recent pardon granted to Alamieyeseigha, was vehemently opposed by the larger society.