By Julius Oweh
The concept of democracy is anchored on the time honoured principle that sovereignty belongs to the people who periodically have the civl duty to choose their leaders. In Nigeria, in the current dispensation, the electorate have the power to choose their leaders in every four years. However in Delta State, the governor is not waiting for four years to render accountability to the people, rather he and his team embarked on tour of the local government areas to meet the people couched in lofty terms as the town hall meeting. This did not come from the blues, rather it is a promise given to the people of the state by the governor that he would rather meet the people in their domains and feel their pulses.
The town hall meeting started last year but this year so far the governor has visited a couple of local government areas like Ethiope East, Ukwuani local government, Ughelli north and Bomadi local council areas. In these meetings with the people, projects are commissioned and the governor uses the opportunity to explain to the people the direction of his administration. It would be recalled that on assumption of office, the governor pledged to visit all the 25 local government councils and hold town hall meetings with the people. So far at the last count, the governor has visited 19 local government areas, saying that he has gained so much by directly interacting with the people. The governor also added that the town hall meeting was an avenue to break down the wall of bureaucracy and make the people freely assess his administration and contribute their own quota towards the growth and development of the state.
At Isiokolo, the headquarters of Ethiope East local government areas after listening to the complains of the people especially of the menace of Fulani herdsmen in the local government area, he not only promised the people that he would address the issues raised, he also made a powerful statement to the federal government on the need to put an end to the crisis.
This is how governor Okowa addressed the issues raised: `Unfortunately, in our state, we are under siege but we are trying to manage it the best way possible. We have made a statement that we would not support cattle colonies in Delta State because we believe that we do not have enough land for our farmers considering the fact that a lot of our lands are already degraded from oil exploitation activities. We have raised these issues along with other states as we have no doubt that these clashes we have here are not limited to Delta State`.
Speaking in the same vein, the speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Honourable Sheriff Oborevwori harped on the dangers of herdsmen in Abraka and other parts of the state. The speaker maintained thus: `Our people are mainly farmers and our dynamic governor has been doing everything to encourage our people to go into farming. The governor has created jobs for Deltans in the agricultural sector, but as I speak, most of the farmers are now scared of going to farm to avoid being killed by herdsmen. Something drastic must be done about the situation`
In the town hall meeting at Ethiope East and Ukwuani local government areas, a lot of projects that have direct impact on the people were commissioned. The projects include Isiokolo Orhoakpor/Ekerhauvwe and Abraka township roads in Ethiope east local government area. He also commissioned the Phase II of Amai /Ezhionum /Abbi Road and Umutu Skill Acquisition Centre in Ukwuani local government area.
The governor used the opportunity to thank the people for their support and understanding and solicited for more co-operations. He also explained the import of the projects commissioned. Listen to him: ` Our projects are designed to make our towns and cities accessible, give them facelift and make our people happy. With all these commissioning and inspection of projects, we believe that we are imparting on our people but the flagship of our programmes is the wealth creation programmes which have created a lot of jobs and wealth for our people…. I thank you (Deltans) for your support which has ensured good governance in our state, as long as we continue to make the state peaceful, we will continue to witness the development in the state`.
On the town hall meeting at Obiaruku, the headquarters of Ukwuani local government area, the executive director, social services, Delta State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (DESOPADEC) Honourable Chris Ochor hailed the massive turn out and warm reception for the governor. Ochor put it this way: `I plead with the people to continue to support this government, so that the necessary attraction of development to the communities in Ukwuani will be achieved. During the town hall meeting, we saw different groups who freely expressed their minds, without harassment, including the opposition during the town hall meeting. This showed how united we are in Ukwuani. Let us keep living in unity. I call on the people of Ukwuani to extend this love to Governor Okowa, as they can do more by obtaining the only legal means of returning him for second term. Let them obtain their PVC, to enable them vote come 2019. It is only with your PVC you can do that and the love which you showed during the visit will be more appreciated`.
Chief Amos Itihwe, the commissioner in DESOPADEC representing Ughelli South, Udu, Uvwie and Urhobos in Warri South local government area argued that the town hall meeting of the governor showed the calibre of leadership and that other governor should emulate him. Itihwe described the town hall meeting thus: ` The town hall meeting let Deltans know about the fundamentals of politics to understand that the coast is clear now and even beyond 2019. The positive impact of the Okowa government in job creation through YAGEP and STEP, the unique health insurance scheme, the provisions of road networks and social infrastructures, schools rehabilitation, puts the Okowa administration on the path of enviable growth and development. Besides that, the human capital empowerment of Deltans in this dispensation outclassed something one can easily measure. His political aides who are on payroll is indeed a teaming population of men and women who are reaping the dividends of democracy more than we have ever experienced before this time…. Delta State is blessed beyond our imagination because of how resourceful the man at the helms of affairs has been handling programmes and policies of government with dexterity`.
On the part of Chief Raphael Uwalaka, the vice president , Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Abraka, he sees the town hall meeting as a manifestation of the governor’s good intentions. He explained further: `It is only a man with vision and foresight that can think of such ingenious initiative. How many governors can come up with such innovation? The town hall meeting is an avenue to interact with the people in the various local government areas in order to know their needs. Note that it is only a true leader that can do this. For a governor to go from local government area to another, to interact with the people is a testimony of genuine love for the people and we pray that God will strengthen him to continue in this trajectory. A true leader is one that inserts himself in the shoes of those he is leading so as to know their expectations. With the interaction today, I think and I am happy that the governor now knows the challenges facing the local government and the people`.
With the verdict of the people about the importance and relevance of the town hall meeting, it would do the state and its people a world of good if some of the suggestions got from the meetings are incorporated into the art of governance so as to peak up their living standards and take care of the current security challenges confronting the state.