THE curse that has afflicted the leadership of the Nigerian nation also extended to the states; greed, profligacy, corruption, mismanaged resources,etc. As it is with Nigeria, so it is with Delta state. A multi ethnic group of people with abundant resources in solid, mineral and the very important human capital resources.
Delta state used to be part of the old mid west region, which later became Bendel state. Much of the resources that helped to build the old western region in the fifties and sixties were derived from Delta state, then known as Delta province. We grew up in the neighbourhood of rubber plantations, palm oil plantations, cassava plantations, plantain/ banana and many others. There was also the forestry where various types of woods are sourced.
We remember the biggest timber and plywood company in Africa (AT&P) in Sapele, Asaba textile mills, rubber crepe factories at Koko and Sapele. The Delta sea ports that includes Burutu, Warri, Sapele, Koko and others. We had also the fisheries reserves and different types of acquatic occupations like the Delta boat yards and inland waterways.
There were many viable business concerns that were run by the government of that period and the good people of Delta state. It is therefore a paradox that a Delta state with all of these potentials still struggles to meet its obligations to the people. As I write, the local government workers are yet to receive salaries for five months and everywhere you ride through are stretches of abandoned projects. The unemployment rate is increasing daily.
I have listed all the above revenue generating potentials that Delta state has without mentioning oil, the nation’s wealth spinner. The point is that, even without oil or largesse from the federation account, Delta state should be in position to comfortably meet its citizenry obligations. That is the challenge of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.
How does Okowa harness all of these raw materials and put them to efficient use? How can he make Delta state operate efficiently and independent of the federal government monthly allocation? That is his challenge as governor of the state.
As a state in the opposition at the federal level, he has to work twice as hard to ward off the intimidation of the APC led federal government in the manner Senator Bola Tinubu check mated President Olusegun Obasanjo in Lagos state between 2003 – 2007. This can only happen when the state grows its economy to an independent level. That is the challenge of Okowa.
And how can he achieve this, given the diversity of indigenes, plurality of cultures, youths restiveness and the near lack of infrastructure in the state?
Okowa should recall the Delta province days, the people were happy and inter ethnic rivalry was almost near absent. There were inter tribal marriages amongst the people and this ensured that everyone was part of the other’s celebration. You were addressed as Warri boy, Sapele boy, Asaba, Ughelli, Agbor and so on, not by the language you speak or parental roots but based on your interactions with people around you. Tribal bias was very minimal.
The oil wealth escalated the tribal differences, with a contented Federal government stoking the fire. How will Okowa unite the various contending forces of ethnic diversity into a meaningful and beneficial programme for the state? How will he get them motivated enough to go back to their roots or source of their original existence? How can he make them to tap from their God given talents?
How does he wake them up to the realisation that wealth and contentment do not reside only in white and blue collar jobs? That a lot abound on our soil, our agriculture, our acqua culture and a rich reservoir of qualified personnel. That is the challenge.
Given the way he managed his campaign, effectively meandering his way through the various competing forces in the PDP and ethnic shenanigans, it is hoped that he will put this skill to work. It must be noted that Okowa was not the favoured candidate of the PDP hierarchy and the past governor but he played his politics right and won. If the people understand and believe in your programmes, they will give you the maximum support, just show sincerity.
Because Delta state is high up in the nation’s education hierarchy in this country, there is more than abundant of employable youths. The development and future of the society is dependent on the quality of its youth. How does the Governor Okowa intend to handle the restive youths who abound in all the local government areas since they will determine the peace in the region?
How can they be channelled to positive engagements? Those who have lived all their lives as militants, how would they be rehabilitated and absorbed into society? Again this is a big challenge for Okowa.
Unfortunately, in the list of commissioners released by the government, I did not see anyone specifically assigned to youth affairs. It is a big omission, the youth ministry must be well established, structured, funded and monitored to meet the realities on ground.
When the youths are well taken care of, society will be at peace, which will create the right atmosphere for development. Their needs are channelled through the youth ministry and voluntary youth organisations, which keeps them focussed. Without an active youth commissioner, there is a gap and Okowa must fill that gap now.
He must keep his programmes simple, the SMART agenda appears okay at the superficial level but when broken down to small indices, it gets complex and muddled up with octopoidal tendencies, no straight direction.
Keep it simple: education, agriculture, youth employment, revenue generation, peace and conflict resolution. Happiness for all Deltans, that should be the focus and the people must be made to understand this. That is why he must improve on all of the state’s media agencies by upgrading Delta Broadcasting Service. As it is presently, many parts of the state do not receive clear signals.
The public works department must be reactivated to take care of all the pot holes on the road and drainage channels. These can only be achieved through disciplined and dedicated personnel.
Let us hope Okowa will live up to expectation.
Mr. Sunny Ikhioya, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos.