By Moses Oruaze Dickson
Everyone who has come across him has a sweet tale to tell. It ranges from how engaging his interactions are, to the abundance of wisdom at his disposal. Senator Henry Seriake Dickson is a man blessed with many positive attributes. He is, indeed, a man of many parts.
Seriake’s towering figure never goes unnoticed. A lover of Ijaw cultural heritage, he carries himself with an exceptional panache in his usual trademark Ijaw traditional attire combined with a matching bowler hat and a staff. He is my brother, the quintessential family man and public servant, who later became my father.
I owe Seriake my life. He fought a vortex of battles to keep me alive, warding off all attacks to pave the way for my survival as my father figure. I call him my hero. He stood firm to play a protective role that kept me focused. He was my defender, my protector and my provider; a brother in times of need.
Long before our parents passed on, he took over the responsibility of ensuring that I had the best form of education, from primary school to tertiary level. I was just nine years old, enjoying the little comfort of our rural enclave with limited vision of the future and a dew of uncertainty when he decided to take me away to Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
He spared nothing, despite his meager salary then as a policeman. I went to some of the best schools in Port Harcourt before obtaining a law degree from the Niger Delta University. Perhaps my choice of becoming a lawyer was also influenced by him after I watched him grow in the legal profession.
My brother’s penchant for education led him to encourage and support me to obtain a master’s degree. Today, I have two in my kitty with distinctions and will soon be proud to also brandish my doctorate degree. But he went through difficult times to make all of these happen.
I remember when I got admission to the university, in the midst of excitement and jubilation, the issue of how to get my fees became a problem. He looked at me and said “Don’t worry, God will provide, I am Ozidi, I work before I eat. I will go and hustle and I will be back. If I don’t succeed, we will sell the generator and raise the money.”
That was the only generator we had. I cried. As God may have it, he went to court for a matter and returned with some money, which he gave me for my fees. I remember that, just as I was to set sail to school, he armed me again with kind words of encouragement and told me to also remember where we came from.
My brother took me as his own son and raised me to be who I am today. Aside from our late parents, he taught me all the time-tested values I have today, including to say no when it is the right answer. He always admonished me to remain focused on every goal, no matter the distractions.
Growing under him, I was prepared early to face the world. He taught me humility and ensured that I had an early sense of responsibility, thereby entrusting me to always endeavor to think and act rightly. I learnt love, tolerance, contentment, discernment and forgiveness. I learnt from him how to aspire through hard work and integrity. Through him, I also learnt to make God a priority and not an option and that has been a guiding principle for me.
Senator Henry Seriake Dickson is a man who always believes in integrity. He raised me to learn how to navigate the difficulties of the world and survive it. He is a man who loves and lives his life more for others than himself. While growing up, I often watched him share his little meal with his friends and neighbours. Till date, he doesn’t like eating alone.
My brother’s inspirational and captivating life is a good example for any aspiring leader. My all-time admiration of him stems from his profound love for God. It grew beyond our imagination when he delved into full-time partisan politics.
From his days as attorney-general and commissioner for justice to his membership of the House of Representatives and governor of Bayelsa State for eight unbroken years (the first since the creation of the state), he lived a modest and religious life. Everything about him was about the Almighty. Little wonder he recorded uncommon achievements.
Many people will attest that, throughout his eight years as governor, he made sure morning devotions were held in his official residence. He would not miss it for anything, even if he was down in health or had just returned from a long trip the previous day. He was later nickednamed, “the Choirmaster” by the state’s religious team because of his love for leading choruses. He would dance so hard to his all-time best song, known as “Ikedi” in Igbo language, while waving his favorite tambourine.
He instituted the monthly praise night and sponsored an executive bill that was passed by the Bayelsa State House of Assembly that made November 2 every year to be the Bayelsa State Thanksgiving Day with a public holiday. Not done, he built the 15,000-seater magnificent ecumenical centre, a delightful citadel for worship.
Senator Henry Seriake Dickson is a rare breed. A man who sees into the future and prepares for it. His tenure as governor was eventful. He had remarkable footprints in all sectors of the state. In education, he built more schools, upgraded and equipped existing ones, after declaring a state of emergency. The free education policy of his administration and the scholarships awarded to indigent students in various countries up to postgraduate level are the highpoints of his achievements in that sector.
In health, it was a revolution. The Bayelsa State Drug Distribution Centre, Bayelsa State Specialist Hospital, Bayelsa State Diagnostic Centre and Bayelsa State Medical University are all screaming pointers. Additionally, his administration established the state health insurance scheme, which became a model in the country and introduced the safe motherhood initiative to tackle the rate of infant and maternal mortality.
The success story in education and health was also recorded in infrastructure, human capacity development, security and the state economy generally. He was a man ready for the tasking job of governor and at no time did he take the peoples’ mandate for granted. Even in the last 24 hours of his tenure, he was busy inaugurating projects, including the landmark Bayelsa International Airport.
Honours, garlands and awards were given to him in recognition of his efforts to change the face of the state, which hitherto was yearning for development.
He was also awarded myriads of honorary degrees by universities within and outside the country.
While his profile was rising, his enemies were also growing in envy. He never allowed them to distract him with their hatred, falsehood and frivolous petitions and publications aimed at inciting the people against him. He saw it as wicked politics played by desperate politicians.
My brother’s doors were always open even at the expense of his personal security. He was always attending to the needs of people. It was such gesture that earned him the sobriquet, “Countryman governor”. His oratory prowess is always faultless. He is a man blessed with the gift of spontaneous remarks. An intellectual property he is and just like the good product he is, never hard to sell. He knows how to use words to communicate and inspire people.
He has to his credit, raising young men and women to the heights they never imagined. During his time as governor, young people below 35 were commissioners, special advisers and local government council chairmen. That was how well he prioritized youths in the scheme of things. He allowed them to make mistakes as they climb the ladder of their political career.
His love for the state made him support the current governor, Senator Douye Diri and his Deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewrudjakpor. Desite all odds, he stood by them in the most trying period and always assured them that it is not over until it is over. When many thought that it was finished for him and his party the PDP, the God that he serves showed up and gave them victory at the Supreme Court on February 13, 2020 which changed the destiny of the state.
It is not a mistake that he was recently sworn-in as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It was another confirmation of the love his people have for him. Like every position he has occupied, his journey to the Senate will also be outstanding. Indeed, Seriake, my brother and father is a fulfilled man, who still has so much to offer his people and country.
Today, as you clock 55, your first birthday after a successful legacy service to our dear state and also first birthday as a senator, I want you to know that you have done well. Your sacrifices and selfless effort to me and my siblings is well documented in our hearts as it is for others you have made in one way or the other.
Your sacrifices and selfless services to humanity are indelible documents in our hearts, especially to my family and your siblings; Ebuomotimi Steve Dickson, Akpolagha Dickson, Mrs. Fafi Ebimoboere, Mrs. Ogbere Fabopregha and Miss Nancy Kemeaweregha Dickson.
We wish you the best things of life and we pray God Almighty continue to bless and uphold you to greater heights.
Like the late reggae icon Bob Marley said: “The greatest of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively”.