By Julius Oweh
In three days time, the country will mark yet another democracy day and the achievements of the federal and state governments will be assessed. There would be knocks and cheers here and there. On May 29th, 2015, Senator Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa was sworn in as the governor of Delta State. In his inaugural speech, Okowa promised prosperity for all Deltans and harped on the theme that his administration will be driven by a Pan Deltan agenda. Three years down the line, this reporter spoke to some prominent Deltans and they passed verdict on the government. The Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Honourable Sheriff Oborievwri, Chief Clement Ofuani, Director General of the Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency, Mr Godwin Animam, retired civil servant, Mr Uche Okafor, Keke rider, Mr Sunday Omolu were among those who spoke. There were also a business man,Comrade Lawson Efenudu, the Delta State chairman of Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria and Barrister Sam Chukwuji, former chairman of Ndokwa East Local Government Area.
Honourable Sheriff Oborievwri observed that the rating of the governor in terms of delivery of democratic dividends is very high and that he was a blessing to the state. Said the Speaker :‘ My rating of the administration of Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa is very high. High in the sense that, he has done a lot for the state in the past three years. The impact of the governor is being felt in all parts of the State. He came into office at a time when there was a serious economic recession in the country and this affected the revenue of the state. But as a governor with a vision and on a mission, he has carried on efficiently and Deltans are seeing things for themselves that they have a capable and experienced governor. I will rate this government very high because we have a prudent governor at the helm of affairs who has been able to manage the funds coming into the state to the satisfaction of the people‘.
Prodded further whether the governor was faithful to the promise of a Pan Deltan agenda and the catch phrase ‘prosperity for all Deltans‘, the speaker argued that the dividends of democracy are visible in all parts of the state, adding that Okowa as a consummate politician and statesman has been able to carry everybody along despite their politician affiliations. This is the argument of the speaker :‘ It is not true that Ifeanyi Okowa, the Governor of Delta State failed to deliver on his campaign promises to Deltans. The governor has fulfilled his campaign promises. The governor has kept his covenant with Deltans. I have known the governor for a very long time; he is a man you can trust. The governor has been able to spread infrastructural development to the three senatorial districts and today, cries of marginalization have died down naturally. He has restored peace to all parts of the state and today Deltans are enjoying ethnic harmony. Apart from the menace of herdsmen in some parts of the state, there is no threat to peace in the state. The menace of the herdsmen has been curtailed to a very large extent by this administration. Attacks on oil facilities have stopped. The summary to your question is that, the governor has delivered on his electoral promises to Deltans and he should be given a pat on the back.‘
As for Chief Clement Ofuani, Deltans could not have asked for a better governor. He says aside biases and political coloration, Okowa has demonstrated unusual streak of leadership. Ofuani explains further: ‘I am part of the Okowa government and it is also our party that is in power. There is therefore the tendency that anything I say is bound to be understood as speaking from a partisan perspective. I cannot shy away from saying that in all honesty, the Okowa government has done very well.
Every government sets out to deal with the circumstances of its time. And so, the government can be best assessed by how these circumstances have been dealt with. In the area of ensuring peace and harmony in the oil producing riverine areas that has boosted Delta State oil production and hence the nation’s oil production for instance, the government has performed excellently well and the nation has benefitted from the administrative astuteness of the Okowa administration.
In the area of Infrastructure, the government has done very well also. An area that usually causes problem is the perception of lopsidedness in the distribution of infrastructure generally referred to as the dividends of democracy and in this area, the governor has performed brilliantly. For a state with diverse ethnic groups like ours, perception of lack of equity is bound to breed a lot of problems but the governor has demonstrated incredible administrative astuteness and even handedness in this area which has reduced the muttering that would have been expected in these areas to an inconsequential opposition and not from the people who are benefiting from the strides of the administration. So, my overall rating of the government is excellent.‘
However, Godwin Animam, a retired civil servant argued that while the governor could be given kudos for the building of infrastructure, he maintained that only the living enjoy such amenities lamenting the non-payment of pensions to retirees. He puts it this way: ‘There is no doubt that governor Okowa is trying in the area of infrastructure particularly roads. One area he is lagging behind is in the payment of retirement benefits to contributory retirees. It is only the living who will use the infrastructure provided and also vote for him. As of date, the state government is in arrears of payment for four years. Even so, it is quarter payment that is being paid to retirees. What contributory retirees are calling for is a harmonized pension which the former governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan approved on the eve of his departure and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa promised to pay. It is three years since Okowa came in and no hope in that direction`.
But Comrade Lawson Efenudu, a labour leader and chairman of Delta state, Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria stated that Okowa administration has been fair to workers and labour related matters. Said Efenudu: :‘From labour perspective, and as one privileged to have negotiated one on one with the governor, it is crystal clear that the government of Senator Okowa has focus. All labour related issues were addressed in favour of workers. The governor promised regular payment of salaries, he promised providing office accommodation for workers, as well as enhanced welfare. These he did. The middle management staff quarters in Asaba was given to the occupiers on a subsidised rate (owner/ occupier basis). Okowa is truly compassionate. Just pick issue of Asaba Capital flooding. Look at road network. The mandatory biometric exercise for employees across the country as prerequisite for bailout was done with human face in Delta State. What else would labour want from your governor or government?‘
Uche Okafor, a Keke rider in Asaba was full of praise for the governor for the efforts in controlling the flood situation in Asaba but picked holes with the slow pace of work. He called on the governor to give the contractors marching orders to complete the job as Asaba would be a river with the onset of the raining season. He also asked the governor to call his road traffic marshals to order for, instead of them to ease the flow of traffic in Asaba, they are more involved in the extortion of money from motorists especially the keke riders in the capital territory.
Mr Sunday Omolu said that despite the challenges facing the governor, he should be singled out for the achievements recorded in the areas of conflict resolutions. Listen to Ormolu’s sentiments :‘ There was a time almost the entire landscape of Delta State was embroiled in one form of upheaval or the other – from very bloody land feuds between communities to inter tribal wars. Delta State was then on an unstoppable descent to the abyss. Yes, there are still pockets of conflicts but nothing to compare with our sordid past as far as violence is concerned. I was elated to no end the other day to read of the solidarity the Ijaws and Itsekiris are forging. They now sing from the same song sheet. Bellicose propensity, apologies to Andy Akporugo, is now anathema to these great people of Delta State. But for the intractable menace of the rampaging herders and their cattle which are Nigeria’s heel of Achilles, Delta State by now, would have been a haven of peace. What is more, Governor Okowa has taken the interests of the diverse people of Delta into consideration in appointing those working with him. This is equally commendable and it is no surprise that the cries of marginalization have been drowned.‘
Barrister Sam Chukwuji said that Okowa has kept faith with the people in appointments and distribution of social amenities in the state. He couched the governor’s achievements in these terms: ‘True to the pedigree of Okowa despite the financial challenges, he has remained focused and result oriented these past three years. The governor has kept to his electoral promises; across the state you will see life changing projects. I am very happy with his sterling performance so far and I am looking forward to more in the remaining year and beyond`. The diverse views of these Deltans paint the picture of the Okowa administration.