An entrepreneur in the oil and gas sector, Mr Keniebi Okoko, has urged the government to empower the Niger Delta people.
He identified poor mental disposition of many people in a state like Bayelsa as the cause of poverty in the midst of plenty.
Okoko, who spoke in Yenagoa, said poverty of the mind is worse than material poverty.
He said it was ironical that while the state is endowed with abundant natural resources, the people have not been exposed to the right kind of education to develop their mental abilities.
“Well, I believe that Bayelsa as a whole needs to focus on education. Mental poverty is worse than financial poverty. If a mind is not developed and equipped, a man cannot give what he does not have.
“Our people are not completely exposed to good education systems. Our people are not well travelled like other tribes, if you look at our rich natural endowments, you wonder why we cannot harness and turn them to wealth.
“If you look at Singapore, it is an Island with no oil deposit, but it has oil refineries. Our state, Bayelsa, is larger than Singapore and we have so much oil and gas deposits and other minerals, yet development seems to have eluded us because we lack the right mentality, we need to think right.
“The Ijaw man is determined to succeed. If you give the Ijaw man the right playing ground, he will perform, I can assure you. So, I believe that what we should do as a people is to focus on education,” Okoko said.
He, however, said the emphasis on education should not be restricted to classroom education, but should include skill acquisition for the less privileged, who might not be able to afford university education.
“Creating skill acquisitions with the right personnel to man them, gives you the opportunity to train the less privileged on the skills that can develop them,” he said.
He commended the Seriake Dickson-led government in Bayelsa for the investment it has made in the education sector and called for more of such efforts in the sector.
“I think the governor has given it a good try. I think that the intentions are good. I believe that he has genuine intentions for the job, and I believe he has tried his best.
“My duty as a leader is to try and add to what he has done; to build in any way we can help the government to improve where they have stopped in any capacity we find ourselves with good suggestions,” Okoko said.