By Prince Abugo
AS Ifeaniyi Okowa’s administration clocks three years and 2019 beacons, it’s between him and others. This is so considering the diversity of Delta state which is a complex State because during electioneering campaigns all sorts of characters, known and unknown political parties conglomerate under apprenticeship of mischief characters playing ethnic, sectional and tribal politics to divide us. Does Okowa deserve a second term? What are his legacies? Has he transformed the state in human and infrastructural development? Has he created enabling environment for comradeship beneficial for growth?
Has Okowa tolerated political views and criticism? Has he united the state against ethnic chauvinists, political bats and tribal jingoists? Has Okowa united the state by giving every section a sense of belonging? Has he managed resources prudently and sustained values of Warri as economic capital and Asaba as political capital of the State? These questions are necessary in separating facts from fictions. Since the creation of Delta state, no leader has been confronted with challenges as Okowa has in cleansing the Aegean stable. We must not play politics of bitterness.
Three years on, Delta works because Okowa is working, defunct Bendel had several industries that Edo and Delta inherited, Asaba, Warri, Sapele and other towns were ancient communities that attracted global attention in commerce and industry, from Colonial era to independence these towns were cynosure of political and economic attractions. These cities were industrial and economic hob; we had Warri, Burutu, Sapele and Koko Ports that were brought economic prosperity. These Ports today are non-functional and evoke tears. The AT& P in Sapele brought subsidiary industries that blossomed economic activities, the NPA ports brought the Delta Timber and industries and Asaba had Textile mills.
Our misfortune did not begin with Okowa but resuscitation as a state began with him. The rot started decades ago under military rule with nepotism, corruption and indiscipline that characterized national life, education was polluted, unity segmented with tribalism and greed, schools taken over, Ports liquidated and oil sector mismanaged. We had no roads except few constructed by Colonial and First Republic leaders, ethnicity and tribalism promoted above competence and excellence, leaders used divide and rule to sustain relevance. Federalism sacrificed for central command structure and industries liquidated.
The era of oil boom became our greatest undoing: corruption, profligacy, squandamania, mismanagement and looting were entrenched. Those who blame the state problems on Okowa are either mischief makers or suffering from political amnesia. He should be credited for reviving a state in coma back to life. The APC known for blame games were before now members of PDP. They were moles and vandals within the PDP preoccupied with destruction rather than welfare of people and as birds of fair weather migrated. Okowa inherited debts, huge wage bills outweighing capital development, ghost workforce as economic went into recession.
Okowa is building on the legacy of his predecessors, recognizing that every economic, political and social policy must revolve around people. Every community is beneficiary of skills acquisition and empowerment programmes that have made youths employers and entrepreneurs. This has arrested youth restiveness; focusing on technical education by reviving technical colleges as pillars of institutional growth. restoring sanity of state workforce by eliminating ghost workers from state pay roll. Through qualitative leadership and prudent management of resources, workers are paid as at when due and pensioners remunerated.
The state is undergoing massive road construction across three senatorial zones. Okowa’s humility, justice and fairness as policy of government have stabilised the oil sector and economy. Before Okowa came most oil companies had left Warri for Port Harcourt and Lagos as operational headquarters, but aware of economic consequences, he put policies to ameliorate its effects and took development to riverine communities to placate restive youths. The advocacy headed by the Deputy Governor goes to oil producing communities educating them on need to protect oil pipe lines and avoid dangers of environmental pollution.
The health policy assists the aged and vulnerable while treating patients with dignity. We have functional hospitals and health centres in every community to bring health services to the door steps of people. Okowa recognises importance of maternal health care, hence free medical treatment is given to mothers and children; and every Deltan have access to him on any issue. Thus, shattering protocols and beaurocracy that separates the leader from the followers. This open policy is building trust and synergy.
Okowa is leading advocacy for oil companies to relocate to their operational base in partnership with Pandef, a voice for the voiceless and victims of herdsmen. He is presently resuscitating Asaba Textile mills, AT & P Sapele among others to bring the state to past glory. He has demonstrated competence, knowledge and understanding of the complexities that make Delta State. His partnership with the federal government is yielding fruits in resuscitation of DSC Aladja and Delta ports, and determined to change the sad narratives of Delta State. The difference between Okowa and critics is that he is prudent, and he won’t play the ethnic card. This is his strength.
Okowa as a movement cuts across political divide. Competence overrides other considerations. In Okowa, a second term is uniting the state above ethnic, sectional and tribal considerations, building a lasting economic legacy for others to follow; cementing unity and transforming our diversity into economic and political synergy needed for comparative advantage.
•Mr. Abugo, a political analyst, wrote from Uzere, Delta State.