Dr. George Allen Fente
April 11, 2020 will go down in the annals of Bayelsa State’s political history books as a black Saturday. For on this day, news of the death of Dr. George Allen Fente, founder and chief executive officer of Royal FM 95.5 and ITV, Yenagoa, broke. He died after a brief illness. Dr. Fente’s death is shocking as well as unbelievable as he exuded an aura of indefatigability in his intercourse with people in recent times.
It must be said that Dr. Fente’s indefatigability was a factor of his life as exemplified in his various vocational callings. As a politician, Dr. Fente’s onerous duty was to see to the elevation of the society to a summum bonum, of which all mankind under one God would have equal access to the plums of power.
In this, he doggedly fought for the freedom of the Ijaw nation and the larger ethnic minorities of the Niger Delta as mirrored in the philosophy of the old Rivers State. At a point when state creation became the elixir of hope for the marginalized, Fente was in the forefront and when Bayelsa was created by the then government of General Sani Abacha on October 1,1996, the politician in him, made him crave to serve his people.
It therefore, can be seen when democracy was ushered into the country in 1999, Fente was one of the Bayelsa sons to take the plunge into politics from whence he was to become the chairman of the All Peoples Party, APP. It must be said that, as a leader of the APP, Fente was able to lead the party to an appreciable presence both at the state and national assembly. The APP under his leadership between 1999 -2003, presented a credible opposition that gave the state focus and direction as democracy unfolded in the state.
It can also be said that Fente’s strong leadership made APP the dominant party in the period 1999-2003. While parties like the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP and the Alliance for Democracy, AD were tethering, such was not seen in the APP. The defeat of the APP at the gubernatorial race came because Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha came into the race with military appeal to give the PDP an edge in the race and the desire of Bayelsans not to be in a minority state when the PDP was the majority at the center; otherwise, the first term of Nigeria’s democracy in Bayelsa would have been that of the APP.
At a point in Fente’s political career, he left the APP and joined the PDP which saw him being appointed as the Caucus Chairman of the PDP, Nembe Local Government Area and later, a special adviser to Governor Dickson on Special Services. As a Frontline politician, Fente in league with like-minded Bayelsans, stood stoutly behind Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, former president during the latter’s reelection bid in 2015. This demonstrates how passionate Fente was about the things that concern Bayelsa and the Ijaw nation. When the occasion demanded, he pushed aside his own disappointment and worked for the common good of all Bayelsans.
As a mobilizer for a good cause, Fente advocated for electoral reforms in the country, calling for continuous review of the voters register by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The political juggernaut did not favour staggered registration exercise, but assigned to members of the fourth estate the corporate responsibility to call on the people to come out in their numbers to register and not to leave it for the government alone.
Part of the electoral reforms Fente advocated for includes the configuration of the voter’s card to access electronic money transfers, debits, withdrawals and deposits. He believed that voters would be more mobilized if they see other purposes for them to be captured. I think it would be more befitting to immortalize Dr. George Allen Fente by adopting his recommendation than to consign his ideas to the dust bin of history.
Another altruistic call from Fente on his sick bed was for the new administration in Bayelsa State to complete abandoned projects begun by past governments which are littered all over the state. This is a clarion call that should not be taken lightly.
For Fente to harp on this, means Bayelsans stand to benefit if abandoned projects are completed by the current government in the state. This view resonates with Bayelsans and it is hoped that the government of Senator Douye Diri would look into the issue of abandoned projects in the state and complete them for the good of the people.
Dr. George Allen Fente is a firm believer in development economics and administration. He has demonstrated this with the establishment of a thriving Radio and Television broadcast stations in the state capital, Yenagoa. Royal FM 95.5 and the ITV offer news, current affairs and entertainment to the people. When the radio station debuted on April 8, 2011 under my professional guidance, it changed the environment of broadcast journalism narrative in the state for the better. As a flagship, the broadcast structures set up by Fenteare a standard that all Bayelsans would want to see others emulate.
Today, we mourn the passing on of a great son of Bayelsa, a statesman, a journalist, having obtained a diploma certificate in journalism through distance learning, a broadcaster, and community leader whose shoes would be hard to wear. However, let us not wallow in misery over our loss. But, let us be reminded that the Almighty God who knows why Dr. George Allen Fente should depart now would give all Bayelsans and his family the fortitude to bear the loss.
My consolation as a bosom friend for over 40 years right from 1979 when I started my journalism practice, is that in the twilight of his journey to eternity, Pastor Bribena led George Fente to Christ and he immediately embraced our Lord Jesus Christ. It is my prayer, therefore, that the merciful God would receive the soul of this rare gem, the political father of many today politicians, who sadly abandoned Fente when he needed them most.
Like Julius Caesar said, Veni, Vedi, Vici (meaning: I came, I saw and I conquered), Dr. George Allen Fente came, saw and conquered. We owe ourselves the duty to live for those ideals Fente strove to show the way. This is the only way George Allen Fente would be immortalized.
George Allen Fente, you left us just as we, your friends and relations were warming up to mark your 73rd birthday. My friend, one of the few detribalized Bayelsans I have come across, I miss your fatherly advice even in the midst of quarrels that never lasted. Adieu, my friend, Adieu, my father, Adieu, my mentor until we meet to part no more on the resurrection day. Good Night!
*Lawson Hayford, JP a veteran journalist is the General Manager, Peoples 93.1 FM, Yenagoa.