By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State was until today the senator representing Delta North Senatorial District and was elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. In this interview, he speaks on his plans, politics and prospects as governor of the state.
I don’t see it as a major challenge, I am not losing sleep over that. The reason is that I believe that the president has Nigeria as his constituency and all Nigerians are part of his constituency. To that extent, I am not seeing him going there to play APC politics but to govern the people of Nigeria and therefore, Delta being one of the component parts, he will be relating to the government of Delta State as he relates with the people of Delta State.
We have been elected to serve our people and not to serve our party. We are not party officials, we were elected by the people to serve in government. To a very large extent, I know he means well for Nigeria, and I mean well for the people of Delta State. We will need to collaborate with each other and on my part, will offer the best in my ability to support the government of the federation to do its best concerning Delta and to achieve a peaceful state.
I offer my partnership and I will ensure that that partnership is really in the best interest of the people of Delta State which also know that to a very large extent Delta State being one of the oil producing states in Nigeria, is a state that the Federal Government cannot largely ignore and it is our duty working with the Federal Government in partnership to ensure that the resources of the country coming from Delta actually come.
So, I will offer cooperation to the Federal Government and I don’t intend in any manner to be confrontational to the Federal Government. That will not be of any help to my people and I also believe that the president would also want to see Delta State as one of his own and in the best interest of the people of Nigeria and the state that he will do what is right.
From what you gleaned from the efforts of your transition committee, do you see any challenges ahead of you?
Obviously, there are challenges going ahead. We are aware that nationally, many states, local governments and even the national government are in debt but it appears to me that the debt burden we are going to meet is going to be a huge challenge, huge enough to cause a scare but by God’s grace, we hope that we will find a way from our experiences to restructure it in such a manner that we are able to manage it going forward. Otherwise it is obvious that we are going to meet a huge challenge financially in the first few months and probably in the first two years.
Will this challenge impede the delivery of your campaign promises?
I will stay focused on my agenda, I will stay focused on my promises to the people, but obviously, there will be a slowdown in the processes that will lead to the actualisation of the promises because the promises definitely will have to be funded in one manner or the other but we are putting everything in place to lay the foundation for the takeoff of the programmes that we have in terms of creation of jobs, creating wealth for the people, restructuring and supporting technical education and entrepreneurial skills development and in terms of having universal health coverage.
We are looking at the totality of all these. We are creating the needed platform, but there will be a slowdown in the processes that will eventually get them to be fully functional and implemented, but you will realise that if you have a challenge to the extent that a state like Delta is not able to pay salaries, then you will know that it is huge.
You need to pay salaries before you begin to implement programmes. We have to grapple with payment of salaries of workers and that in itself is a huge challenge but I am not scared. I have no choice but to keep focused on my programmes, to reassure the people but without holding information from the people. They need to know the challenges that we are in so that they can partner with us to get out of the challenge.
Do you see the challenge from militancy arising again?
It is something that we have to take special note of, we have our peace building efforts, we are in touch with the leadership of such groups across, they were quite effective in trying to show ability to be part of the civil society even in the process of the campaigns on all sides of the political divide. We are definitely going to engage them from the beginning. We will not let them lose and we hope that through our managerial skills that we will be able to let them see the reason why we all need to partner to keep the state stable and peaceful because it is in the best interest of our people and it is in the best interest of ensuring that investors come into the state. We are also very hopeful that the president will also support us through the Federal Government programmes that will help to continuously engage these people and together we will be able to build that peace that will enable the development of our areas and the continuity of the production of oil and gas.
Are you envisaging discord in your relationship with other arms of government, especially the House of Assembly?
Not at all. I believe that the experiences and exposures I have had in government that I should be able to relate with them perfectly. When we are able to understand what the people seek and there is a partnership created from the beginning in which all sides are well informed, both the executive and the legislature, I believe that we would rather work in partnership rather than in confrontation.
What should the citizenry expect from you from May 29?
The people of Delta should expect a competent government committed to the will of the people, a government committed to developing the people and developing the state. A government committed to overcoming the challenges that it is going to meet on ground. A government that will keep the people informed of the activities of government and get them to have a voice in the governance of the state.
That, they should expect. We will respect people, we will treat people with respect, I will treat people with respect and I will direct the government to treat people with respect and by the grace of God, we shall be accountable to the people. But in all things that we do, including in appointments and distribution of infrastructure and programmes, we will ensure that we are fair, just and equitable.