By Julius Oweh
The mass media, the world over, is recognised as an indispensable component of any thriving society, be it democracy or one party system of government as epitomised by the Peoples Republic of China. Human civilization down the ages has taken it as an article of faith and tool of development to have a functional and responsible mass media.
The men and women of the pen fraternity are called the Fourth Estate of the Realm because of their unique role of holding the government accountable to the masses, the owners of electoral sovereignty. The case of Delta State cannot be a league of its own. To the credit of Delta State, it has produced many print media publishers, owners and top flight journalists that continue to practice their craft within and outside the country.
It is also instrumental to note that Delta State has two electronic media- Delta Broadcasting Service, Asaba and Delta Radio and Television Service, Warri. Both stations have viable radio and television arms. It is also a fitting tribute that the state boasts of the most viable state owned newspaper in the country – The Pointer.
Governor Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa is very much abreast with the importance of regular meetings with journalists in Asaba and that informed the quarterly press briefing. In such briefings, media practitioners in the state always take the governor to task to explain the run of governance to the people of the state. It is also worthy to note that the Information Commissioner, Honourable Patrick Ukah regularly briefs the press on the activities of government. And not too long ago, all the Commissioners finished their stewardship through the ministerial press briefing organised by the Ministry of Information.
The Information Commissioner, Ukah has not hidden his passion to take the state owned media houses a notch higher. He maintained that his mandate is to make The Pointer, DBS and DRTV the envy of other media houses around the country. He recently unfolded his vision for the digitalisation of the electronic media. Said he:
‘On assumption of office, it was observed that the stations were confronted with so many challenges even though a contract for the supply and installation of broadcasting equipment for the television and radio arms of DBS Asaba and Warri in earlier years had been awarded and adjudged to be at a high level of completion…. This solution also placed the station on the Startimes digital platform on channel 22 making it possible for Deltans with Startimes decoders to receive the station on the digital platform. Also, the state government approved and installed new earthling systems to replace the non-functional one in Asaba and another in Ubulu-Uku, which was never in place to curtail the recurring trend of equipment being damaged by incessant occurrence of thunder strikes. Some of the equipment blown up by lightening were also repaired and put to effective use‘.
And some journalists working in Asaba recently aired their views on the relationship between the media and the Okowa administration, mentioning some of the achievements of the government. Those who spoke are Mr Amaechi Okwara of the Blueprint newspaper, Mr Hendrix Oliomogbe of the Guardian, Comrade Matthias Ogbagah, the publisher of Rainbow newspaper, Mr Tee Otone, an online blogger and Mr Johnson Ebigide of the state Ministry of Information.
Mr Amaechi Okwara stated that the Okowa administration should be given kudos for the jobs done so far given the state dwindling economic fortunes. Okwara maintained thus: ‘When you come to Asaba, all the streets especially those off Nnebisi Road have been tarred. In fact, the government has littered Asaba with a lot of road projects, from Traffic Light to Cable, Governor‘s Street, Usonia, Ebenuwa, you name it. This one is verifiable and I am highly impressed by that effort of the government. Concerning that Nsukwa/Ejeme Road that leads to Owa area, the quality of work there is commendable. I am commending the contractor and the state government for the construction of that road. I also saw two of three roads constructed in the Issele-Uku/Obomkpa area that are of high quality, all put together in my estimation have brought succour to the people of this state because the projects cut across the three senatorial districts‘.
As for Mr Hendrix Oliomogbe, he said that he has been following developmental activities in the state for over ten years. He rated the governor high in road constructions and education. His views :‘I was part of the people who followed the governor to some local governments in Delta North, Central and South senatorial districts and I think he has tried but my major worry is whether the roads constructed will stand the test of time since the contractors are not well known otherwise the governor has done very well. I overheard the governor saying in the next two years, he will give priority to the development of schools and for me he has already done well here.
He has renovated Sapele Technical College and I know same has been done in Agbor and Ofagbe, all aimed at deemphasizing paper qualification for technical and skilled training. I also think he has succeeded in creating jobs. I have seen people freely giving testimonies of how the trainings they have got at Songhai Delta and other places and the starter packs have helped them to set up their businesses and now they are employing people, which is good for the state especially among the youths where unemployment rate is high‘.
Comrade Matthias Ogbagah opined that the Okowa administration has opened arteries of development as regards constructions of roads in the rural areas. He specifically mentioned Kokori town in Ethiope East Local government area.
He said thus of the success story of Governor Okowa: ‘To be sincere, the empowerment programmes of the governor have really touched lives remarkably. The programmes have the potentials to transform Delta State to a hub of successful entrepreneurs like people in the United States. My fear is that a sizeable number of the beneficiaries are not prepared but are out of political patronage compelled to benefit.
At the end of the day, say sell their starter packs and the programmes abandoned. I think the governor should closely monitor the implementation to ensure that only willing potential entrepreneurs are trained and provided with incentives‘.
Mr Tee Otone has high praise for Governor Okowa for constant payment of salaries in an era where other states are groaning under the burden of non-payment of salaries to civil servants. He shares his sentiments :‘ As long as the backlog remained unpaid, accusations will keep flying and that is why I do not envy the governor one bit because every blame will be laid at his doorsteps. Nevertheless, we must celebrate all that have been achieved in the past three years, the government embarking on projects to promote infrastructure development, attending to the educational needs of the people, reorganising the health sector for optimal benefits, providing the atmosphere for agriculture to thrive, paying state workers as when due and dishing out different empowerment schemes are things many states are dying to celebrate in this time of recession‘.
Mr Johnson Ebigide, a leading journalist and a staff of the State Ministry of Information would rather see the achievements of the governor in the prism of those chosen to drive the SMART agenda of the Okowa administration.
He anchored his logic thus :‘The core tenet of the SMART agenda of the Delta State government is creating wealth enough for Deltans, ensuring that prosperity is brought to the very doorsteps of Deltans, constraints notwithstanding….Actualisation of that dream required immediate sourcing for the right human resources in the state.
Daunting as the task was, for Governor Okowa, it did not take him much search and considerations at arriving at the choice of those to man the commission saddled with the onerous tasks of recruiting, training, promoting, and disciplining of the state workforce towards the realization of the set goals of the new administration.
It required, though, personalities of high managerial and political pedigrees, personalities who are cast in the mould of Dr Martin Luther King Jnr. to be able to galvanise the state workforce into a mass of determined in the envisaged march towards a better Delta State‘.