By Julius Oweh
Hard work and appreciation are part of human existence at the individual level or governmental level. Appreciation for deeds well done is one form of motivation to spur the person so appreciated to do more. And this was demonstrated recently at Eko Hotel and Suites in Lagos where the governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa was honoured by the Independent newspaper as Man of the Year 2017. It was a well attended occasion that saw the presence of the mighty and high from Delta State and friends of the governor from other parts of the country. Two former governors of the state – Chief James Ibori and Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan were present affirming the unity of the PDP family in the state and putting to shame the views of skeptics about the rumoured division in the party.
The award was presented to the governor by Alhaji Ismalia Isa Funtu, appreciating the developmental efforts of Okowa and other award winners. Funtu explained the reasons behind the award: ‘When you look at the list of people this paper is honouring, you will discover that they are Nigerians who have distinguished themselves in various fields of life. I will like to appeal to the media to do her utmost to promote the unity of this country. The media should try and unite Nigerians and stop fanning the embers of disunity‘.
A highly elated Okowa thanked the Independent newspaper for the award and promised to do more for the electorate in the state. The governor also used the occasion to comment on national issues like unemployment and insecurity currently plaguing the nation. He appealed to those in authority at federal and state levels: ‘Government at all levels should begin to pay more attention to our youths; we must make consistent efforts to empower them. We need to strengthen technical education and the polytechnics in the country so that the youths will be well equipped with relevant skills to become self reliant rather than going about with certificates seeking jobs that are not available. Until we do that, we may not have a great country that we seek today. We must also look at the family planning because the level of insecurity that we have in the country is borne out of the joblessness of our youths, we must find a way to control our population growth‘. The governor also commended the newspaper for the award, paid tribute to his predecessors for working with him to ensure that dividends of democracy get to all Deltans.
The Independent newspaper award is the third award the governor has received so far in recent times. It would be recalled that during the Delta State Products Exhibition and Business Fair in Asaba, last year, the World Bank commended the efforts of the government in job creation. Tunde Adekola, senior Education Specialist in the bank in that occasion spoke glowingly of the state: ‘Delta is the only state that has demonstrated its commitment to skills development in practical terms…. the World Bank will continue to support the Delta State government in the area of skills and technical development and will work with the job creation office of the state government to strengthen their labour market observatory system in order to make Governor Okowa dream of re-creating the middle class a reality‘.
The third award came from the University of Ibadan where he trained as a medical doctor. Okowa bagged the highest national award of the University of Ibadan Alumni Association, The Alumni of the Year Award. The national president of University of Ibadan Alumni Association, Dr Kemi Emina observed that the award was given to Okowa to celebrate excellence, maintaining that Governor Okowa bagged the award as a result of effective delivery especially in the areas of empowerment, provision of infrastructure and the contributory health insurance scheme.
Okowa was in his elements while receiving the award from the university that had played prominent role in molding his education and career. Okowa described the award thus: ‘I feel very elated coming back to my roots and be honoured with the award. We should take research in our universities serious, individuals and organizations should support government by sponsoring research in the fields that will encourage us. ‘
Many prominent Deltans who spoke on the relevance and essence of The Man of the Year Award were the deputy speaker of the State House of Assembly, Honourable Friday Osanebi, the Information Commissioner, Hon Patrick Ukah, Honourable Michael Tidi, chairman of Warri South local government area and Mr Nnamdi Ezechi, the DESPOADEC Commissioner.
Hon Friday Osanebi described the award as a reward for hard work, dexterity and prudence. Listen to the deputy speaker‘s sentiments: ‘Your Excellency, through diligence and prudent management of resources, you have practically demonstrated that you are a leader with strong abilities. The award today is indeed a reward for excellence – that the governor was so honoured for the uncommon wealth creation and infrastructure in the state, has demonstrated rare virtues of frugality and industry in the discharge of his duty as a governor‘.
Ukah, the state Information Commissioner maintained that the award to the governor was well deserved given to the fact Okowa as man is not one that jumps at awards and that the award could not have come at a better time. He observed that the developmental projects of the governor were visible in all parts of the state and that sceptics were very free to verify them. He said that his boss was a workaholic who ensured that those working with him were always on their toes until the set goals are achieved. Ukah argued that the Independent newspaper award was a further justification of the 2nd position ranking of Delta State by the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria on its first sub-national competitive Index.
Hon Michael Tidi, the chairman of Warri South local government area saw the award as the resourcefulness of the governor in managing the affairs of the state. Tidi puts it this way :‘It is recognition of Dr Okowa‘s remarkable resourcefulness, resilience and strong managerial acumen as reflected in his spread of infrastructural projects across the three senatorial districts in Delta State amid the difficult economic situation experienced in the country between 2015 and 2017. The award will make him to work harder in wealth creation for the people and the educational sector‘.
Mr Nnamdi Ezechi, the DESOPADEC commissioner applauded the award on the governor for his passion and commitment towards holistic development of the state, noting that the award has shut the mouth of his critics. Hear Him: ‘Within the space of two years, Governor Okowa has demonstrated an unparalleled passion and zeal to the holistic development of Delta State and SMART prosperity of Deltans across board‘.
The mass media apart from informing, educating and entertaining people (of which The Independent newspaper is a critical member) should be able to offer praises where necessary and single out individuals and corporate organizations for commendation for extra ordinary feats and achievements. It is against this backdrop that the award given to the governor of Delta State could be situated and this is one of the fine grains of developmental journalism, helping the government to grow by offering constructive criticism and applauding elected officials should they be faithful to their electoral promises and minister to the people, democratic dividends.