By Julius Oweh
Last Monday, Delta State, the famed big heart of the nation celebrated 27 years of existence or its separation from the defunct Bendel State.
Though the creation of the state was mired in political intrigues and controversies, the Urhobos, the Isokos, the Itsekiris, Ijaws, Ndokwas, Ikas, Oshimilis, and Aniochas have continued to soldier on as one entity despite some political flash points that manifested in the agitation for creation of real Delta State or Anioma state.
Looking back at the 27 years of existence, it would be most uncharitable to harbour the thoughts for a fleeting second that the state has not witnessed development. One thing that must be borne in mind is that there is no other state in the nation that has as many urban centres as Delta State.
Thus because of this unique nature of many urban centres namely Asaba, Agbor, Abraka, Bomadi, Ughelli, Warri, Effurun, Sapele, Oghara and Oleh, developments are evenly spread and in some cases unnoticeable.
The state has witnessed tremendous achievements in education with a multi campus university to assuage the needs of the three senatorial districts. There are four functional polytechnics, two colleges of education, many secondary schools and few technical colleges that are producing middle level manpower.
In the health sector, there is a teaching hospital and every local government area boasts of at least one general hospital. There are many arteries of roads that transport goods and services and these boost the level of commerce in the state.
Though last Monday celebration was low key, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa used the occasion to salute the spirit of oneness and togetherness of Deltans. In a statement issued by his chief press secretary, Mr Charles Aniagwu, he acknowledged the support government has enjoyed from the people and urged them to continue in that stride.
The governor spoke of his vision for the state :‘This year anniversary provided an opportunity for the people of Delta state to reflect on the vision of the states founding fathers and celebrate the progress achieved over the years‘.
And this was essentially the theme worked on by High Chief Iduuh Amadhe, the president general of Isoko Development Union. The Isoko leader stated that there were many reasons to celebrate the creation of the state as it has brought development to the grassroots. He said that the Okowa administration should be lauded for his attention devoted towards the development of Isoko land, saying that the people of Isoko have never had it so good.
He rolled out the upgrading of Ofagbe Technical College, the tarring of various roads in Isoko land, the giving of 200kv transformer to Isoko Unity House. He therefore urged Isokos to continue to support the Okowa government. He, however, drew the attention of the government to the neglect of Isoko communities in Ndokwa East and urged the authority to redress this injustice in the spirit of equity and fairness.
Prof Job Akpodiete, the Rector of Delta State Polytechnic, Ozoro in Isoko North Local Government Areas maintained that Delta State educational strides are simply unequalled and the governor should continue to march along that line. Said Akpodiete :‘Our governor, the ‘Ekwueme‘ of Africa, we join other well meaning Deltans in the state and Diaspora to rejoice with you as our state turns 27 under your uncommon leadership which has impacted greatly in the transformation of the education system as well as sporting activities in the state. While we congratulate you on this special occasion of steering the ship of our beloved Delta State, accept our felicitation also for successfully hosting Africa to a sport fiesta. We commend your courage for saving the nation‘s image at a very short notice‘.
As for Dr Ifekan Ugwala, a scholar in Educational Assessment and Measurement, he agreed that Delta State ought to developed faster because of the gas and oil endowments. However, he praised the Okowa efforts for steering the ship of the state. Ugwala argued thus: ‘Since the governor came on board, despite the economic crunch, Okowa was able to manage the little resources at his disposal to keep the state running.
He made sure that every sector of the economy is functional. It is only a man with vision and determination that could perform in such hostile environment. At a time when many state governors were crying because most of them were unable to pay workers‘ salaries, Okowa was paying salaries without delay and at ease‘
The royal monarch of Okpanam, HRM Michael Mbanefo Ogbolu, the Ugoani of Okpanam stated that at 27, Delta state has come of age and a child born 27 years ago should be a full grown man. He spoke of developmental efforts under Okowa :‘Roads are being constructed and rehabilitated in all parts of the state. The government is committed to agriculture and has matched the growing population of the state with commensurate social infrastructure. Also worthy of mention is the fact that Governor Okowa through the stadium and the athletics competition was able to attract African Athletes to Delta State, thus bringing the state and Asaba to global limelight‘.
The Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Honourable Sheriff Oborevwori used the occasion to call on all Deltans to live in peace. The speaker appealed thus: ‘The strength of Delta State today at 27 is our unity and I am using this occasion of our anniversary to call on the good people of Delta State to continue to live in peace with one another. We can achieve so many things in the state when we remain united. We cannot afford to fail our founding fathers. We should maintain the existing ethnic harmony in the state as this is the only way to attract more investors to the state.
At 27 years of creation, we have every reason to roll out the drums to celebrate Delta State. As we mark the occasion, my assurance to Deltans on behalf of the state legislature is that we will remain focused, very articulate and we are going to do very well in the days, weeks, months and years ahead. Deltans should expect more robust debates. We will continue to dwell more on people oriented bills and also give adequate attention to our oversight functions and sustain the cordial relationship between the executive and the legislature. We will continue to work round the clock for more bills to be passed and assented‘.
Mr Oghenekaro Ilolo, the Commissioner for Youth Development, drew relationship between the state at 27 and the disposition of youths. He puts the argument this way: ‘After 27 years, a child is expected to be a full grown adult, with a job, responsibility and a drive. At 27, there should be no excuses as youths why we are not doing well. In some countries like Russia and France, their leaders are youth.
Tafawa Balewa and other founding fathers of Nigeria were in their late 20s and early 30s. So what happened? Why is this age bracket being looked upon as youngsters, when at a time, they were the founding fathers of this country. So if at 27, we are not doing well, then we have some questions to ask ourselves. At 27, I think Delta state has not done badly but there is the need for improvement‘.
The congratulatory message of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to all Deltans had a ring of truth, honesty and the togetherness of the people of the state. This is how the governor put it: ‘Despite the challenges the state grappled with over the years since creation, we have remained one indivisible state bound by love and brotherhood. The fact that we are still one is reason to celebrate and it is our hope that we will leapfrog from where we are to where we want to be in the nearest future. Our administration’s investment in meaningful peace building had yielded so much gains which have impacted positively on not just the economy of the state but the entire country.
We have kept faith with our SMART Agenda as can be seen from the recent completion and ongoing construction of over 300 urban and rural roads that traverse across the three senatorial districts‘. The testimonies of these Deltans coupled with the sentiments of the state helmsman, it is a fitting tribute to maintain that Delta State has come of age and will continue to be a shining example of people living together in a diverse ethnic coloration.