…Says Okowa not under- reported
COMRADE GODSPOWER ASIUWHU is the Special Assistant (SA) on Social Media to His Excellency Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa, Executive Governor of Delta State and Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party, Patani Local Government Area. In this Chat with Vanguard, he gave an expose on the efforts of government so far in addressing the plight of Deltans even as he reeled out the road map to further development. Excerpts…
The talks are rife that Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa is under -publicized. What is your position on this as a Special Adviser on Social Media to the Governor?
First and foremost, my boss, the Governor of Delta State, is someone who does not actually blow his trumpet; he believes in touching the lives of the people. Many governments have come and gone with a lot of publications but nothing to show for it. We are not here to criticize past governments; we are here to build-to start from where they stopped. His Excellency Senator, Ifeanyi Okowa, to the best of my knowledge, has built bridges in terms of human capital development through the STEP, YAGEP and GEEP programmes.
He has distinguished himself in infrastructural development programmes by keying into road construction, even in coastal areas like Burutu, Ogulaha, Sekibo and has created a sense of belonging for the people. The Governor has linked almost eight communities in that area.
Talks that the governor is under reported are quite unfounded. The media team is doing its best. I think we are very objective and factual in our reportage. We will not come on ground, on air or social media to say Governor Okowa is doing A, B, C whereas they are not on ground.
We are always publicising what the Governor is doing; for instance, the Sapele Market, Okpe Ultra modern market and a lot of roads. This government had approved not less than 200 roads across the state and, adding them together, we are talking of about 400 kilometres. He has commissioned some, while others are ongoing. He did not stop there but rather he came out to hold town hall meetings.
The town hall meetings was not a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) affair, but an affair of all Deltans- market women, road transport workers, Nigeria Union of Teachers(NUT), interacting with the Governor in order for them to be abreast with the happenings in the state and for the Governor to know their needs, yearnings and aspirations.
Again, the government has also come out with a committee to curtail duplication of projects.
For example, in some communities today, you will find NDDC executed water project, there are DESOPADEC water projects as well as the State Government water projects. You see a lot of water projects which are not functioning. The committee examines the needs of each community; if it is water project they need, market, road or school, they will be well guided. The committee was designed to ensure an all- inclusive government.
Recently, the National Assembly considered a bill to curtail the essence of social media and censorship for practitioners. As an SA on Social Media, do you find it necessary? If yes, do you suggest it is domesticated in Delta State? Thirdly, what are the things you say to those who come online with fake profiles just to cause mayhem for the government or the society?
One of the fundamental human rights is freedom of speech. It is applicable to the social media. Secondly, the social media is actually taking over the conventional media whereby any person can hold a phone and say whatever they like. Sometimes, out of the nonsense, you see some sense. As much as I agree with the Federal Government to censor the social media, the question should be that, will censorship stop people from saying their minds?
The social media today has corrected so many things as far as this regime is concerned. The social media actually helped to develop some areas. Let me bring the issue of Umeh Need Road during the regime of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan. Few people knew where Umeh was in Delta State; yet, this was a community with a lot of economic and agricultural values. The social media assisted in the agitations and today the road is there.
There are some schools today that the social media platform has aided their rehabilitation. They were investigated and approved to SUBEB or Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education. Actually those schools have received government’s attention. Some persons, however, have abused the social media platform with fabricated stories, they have done immoral activities on social media towards inciting the people, hence a man sitting in his house can start to post hate speeches.
As much as the Social Media has done society a lot of good, it has also impacted negatively on our society. So, as a stakeholder in the sector, I will advise that whosoever that is coming to social media platform should make him or herself relevant. There are some people who do not know you but your contributions on social media might bring you to limelight.
I remember that in the last election, some people were not voted for because of fabricated stories made on Social Media platform. People assumed that when such people are voted in, they will resort to insulting, elders and community leaders. So, monitoring is very good. In Delta State, we have tried our best to caution our team not to use hate words or fabricated stories. What the Governor loves most is dining with his opponents because he believes that one’s friend will not tell you the whole truth so as not to hurt him. He believes that it is his opponents who will tell him the truth. He believes and loves constructive criticism. He is always open to his opponents.
The social media has helped immensely. It has developed our youths in many ways. So many youths had nothing doing. Some youths have been engaged on social media platforms in one way or the other. I remember that recently, one company advertised for social media practitioners who will showcase their activities. We recommended some boys who were engaged.
On youth empowerment, can you please, tell Deltans, what package the state government has in stock for youths in 2018, especially since February has ended leaving government with only 10 months to go?
A batch of over 700 youths were discharged last week from Songhai Delta, Amukpe, near Sapele, through the STEP, YAGEP and this time around it is not just government alone. The World Bank has stepped in after seeing what the Governor has done and is still doing for Deltans. The World Bank was impressed when they carried out their investigation. They found out that those trained by the state government have also trained one or two persons and this has reduced the number of applicants looking for white collar jobs.
The World Bank is financing the programme with contributions from the state government. Within one week those that received orientation in Songhai Amukpe – about 700 plus – will receive their posting letters. Delta South will receive in Warri, Delta Central in Ughelli , while Delta North in Asaba, where they will learn in various selected fields for the next six months to one year.
I think the STEP, YAGEP has impacted lives. Apart from that, there is the Graduate Entrepreneurship Programme (GEEP) where graduates as Mechanical Engineers that know only the theoretical knowledge, are assigned to real companies for them to learn the practical aspect, after which they are absorbed if the company deems it fit. If not, government will make available finance in order for them to step up business of their choice. After the government gives them funds, it will not just leave them to their fate but will monitor them. Government has set up a mentoring department that moves from one senatorial district to another to encourage those that are not doing well to mentor, guide them in their various fields.
The State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, recently bagged the Independent Newspaper Award as Man of the Year 2017; how do you see the award and what do you think it portends to Deltans?
I think the award will be a challenge to His Excellency Sen. (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa to do more. If outsiders can honour him with an award that the whole world will cherish, I believe it will spur him to do more. If you listened to his speech, you will find he is not going to be carried away by the award. The Governor had turned down so many awards. I know this in my capacity as a Special Assistant on Social Media that even in the first six months in office a newspaper house wanted to give him an award and he asked for what? ”I am just assuming office and you want to give me an award, I must say ‘no”. He has accepted the Independent Newspaper award because the reasons they gave matched what is on ground. The award is a plus to Deltans not just the PDP family but the entire political parties in the state. This award will spur the Governor on to do more.
Ahead of 2019, how positioned do you think the party is to grab power from the ruling APC?
Nigerians are fed up with this APC government. They say they are fighting corruption by selecting people who they assume will be strong opposition to them. To me, APC has failed Nigerians. PDP, as a party, will capitalize on the fact that the APC government has failed and will stroll into Aso Rock. Unless you try the food prepared by two women, you can’t know who the better cook among them is. Nigerians have seen that PDP is the better. President Buhari contested severally. If actually he has something in stock to give or offer, he would not keep making excuses. What His Excellency, Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa has done in his first tenure are on ground and will speak for him in second tenure.
During the 2015 elections he had nothing much on ground to show in other senatorial districts expect for Delta North as a result of his extraordinary performance in the Senate.
But this time around, he has something to say, that during my first tenure these were my projects in Delta Central, South and North. So, the job will speak for him. Most of us do not come out as aides to the Governor but ordinary citizen of Delta State and what we hear is favorable to the government. The negative aspects are duly communicated to the governor and I think the government is also working on it to make sure we leave no stone unturned when it comes to the 2019 general elections.
People are already wooing him to contest 2019 election but he has not made his intention known. For now he has a job Deltans sent him to do and he is doing it perfectly. When the time to declare comes, he will bounce back to his family and consult his political associates before making his intention known. But as it is now Deltans want him to run. As for the PDP, we just finished our convention; we are trying in position and finances but zoning weakens the party. In the last dispensation, we lacked internal democracy but this time around, the people will speak and the popular candidates will take the floor and I believe that success will be achieved.
What are you doing to address the issue raised in some quarters that the governor is under- reported?
If you say under reporting of government activities, I think there is a clause. The President, Gen. Muhamadu Buhari was out of the country on health grounds for over 60 per cent of last year. When he came back, the Governors visited him. He spotted our Governor and he said to him ‘You are media -friendly and the most loved by the media’. That is kudos to the Press not only The Pointer but other media houses working in Government House, meaning the government is not under- publicized.
The Governor is working with the Commissioner for Information, who happens to be my boss, to make sure Delta Broadcasting Service, DBS, Asaba, comes fully on board. We are doing our best to make sure government’s policies and activities are publicized. All I have for Deltans is for them to be patient and to believe in the leadership of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa. He has a well defined road map to the development and total emancipation of the state. Thanks.