By Sunny Ikhioya
IT is said that ‘the curse of Nigeria is the curse of Delta state’. So much abundance, blessed beyond measure in human and other resources but lacking leadership to properly harness these resources for proper development.
Long before Professor Pat Utomi’s spat with the former governor of the state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, the disclosures being made now were already in the public domain, for those familiar with Delta state affairs. Benin city is a far bigger space than Warri city, Uvwie and Udu metropolis put together but go through the length and breadth of Benin city, you will not see any tout or area boy disturbing you from carrying out your legitimate business under any guise – be it national road workers or local governments.
But, come to Delta state, from one local government or city to the other; you are chased, harassed, beaten up and sometimes killed. How can there be business growth or development under such environment? I was reliably informedthat the Oba of Benin kingdom made a representation to the state House of Assembly to ban unauthorised persons – touts or agberos – from collecting taxes or any form of revenues from our roads and the state assembly promptly passed a legislation to that effect. Today, in Benin, whether a vehicle is branded or not, whether a truck or an ordinary car, nobody harass es or demands anything from anyone.
Now, cross over into Delta, it is a bedlam. That is why it was easy to connect when Prof. was talking about the agricultural project that has been moved to Edo state because of the inability of the Delta state government to key into the project. There is no society that can make positive progress in the absence of peace.There is no community that can make meaningful growth in the absence of a welcoming people. As it is presently, the Delta state environment is very hostile to sustainable business growth and the government must do something about this. All touts, in whatever form must be cleared from the road. If a government cannot maintain law and order in society, it does not deserve to be a representative of the people.
The Oghara Teaching Hospital, was touted as one of the best in the nation at inception but today it is a shadow of its former self. We have had two successive medical doctor governors in the state but as I write, the hospital is still battling for accreditation of relevant courses from the approving authorities, the required cash to fund the processing is yet to be approved by the state government.
What is happening presently beats the imagination. The local governments, like Warri south have not paid staff salaries for twelve months, so, they send out touts to harass people and business entities for money, but this does not go into the coffers of the state government. Why would Warri and Uvwie local governments be unable to pay workers salaries? What they can get from only environmental fines is more than enough to pay staff salaries, if they know how to go about it and proper structures put in place.
Warri is dirty and rotten and we claim to have a government in place. People have simply refused to think, so they recourse to the easiest way of collecting money, going after innocent people and businesses. Lagos state is successful today, not because there are no corrupt people there but, institutions and structures which have been put in place to operate transparently and check the excesses of residents. The only way our fight against corruption can be effective in this country is by instituting the appropriate institutions that will regulate and check societal excesses.
You cannot grow the society without empowering the youths. Programmes that should prepare our youths for the challenges facing the nation are lacking. Voluntary youth organisations are not given the required support to institutionalise their programmes. So the lack of a proper youth development initiative has given way to cultism and other societal deviants.
We want companies operating in the Niger delta to bring their headquarters to location. We must make the environment conducive for them to operate in. Keep the youths busy in whatever way we can and direct their focus towards productivity, then there will be peace in the land and the people can enjoy prosperity.
Going by the culture of Deltas, they are a very hospitable people. The Warri I know does not know tribe or race, until the carpetbaggers and blood suckers came into the scene, now brothers are at war with themselves and the mighty federal government and its state counterpart are looking up with glee, with the infighting distracting the people from their common focus.
Our leaders and traditional rulers must take a cue from the action of the Oba of Benin. If traditional institutions are unable to curtail or rein in the excesses of their youths, then their authority is questionable. Whatever is bad is bad, there are too many illegal collection groups in Delta state and it is not making things easy for business and development generally. Create a peaceful atmosphere for the people to live in and the people will prosper in it. Governor Ifeanyi Okowa must begin to put the machinery in motion.
*Mr. Ikhioya, www.southsouthecho.com