January 27, 2023

Vanguard Personality of the Year: Ifeanyi Okowa, finishing strong


By Charles Kumolu, Deputy Sunday Editor

SUAVE and smart, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa may have spent over three decades in politics, but he hardly appears like the average Nigerian politician. It is correct to say this for a variety of reasons. First, his demeanour exudes a certain kind of restraint that many political leaders, especially in this dispensation are hardly known for. Devoid of air of arrogance, Okowa leaves you with that business-like impression anytime. The combination of these attributes has seen him successfully  leading Delta, a multi-ethnic and sophisticated state, in the last seven years. Governing such a sub-national area, demands more than just a mere understanding of the mechanics of governance, but also uncommon wisdom and sensitivity.

To succeed in such a system, a leader must realise that the more ethnically diverse a population, the more challenging the job of its policymakers. Therefore, the key basic models for managing a multicultural society, especially integration, must matter most to such a leader. This is how Okowa has led the state, which the 2006 National Population Census puts the population at 5,663,400 as of May 29, 2015.

Read Also: Video: Vanguard Personality of the Year Award 2022

The Smart Agenda, which is the cardinal point of his administration, has positively impacted infrastructure, healthcare, the economy, education, agriculture, and youth development. With so many landmark projects to his credit, Okowa’s stewardship has elevated the state in key areas and, as well, earned impressive positions in development indicators. Under his watch, Delta was ranked the best state in human capital development in the 2017 State Peer Review by the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria.

The state was adjudged the second-least poor state by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, NBS. As of June 1, 2022, 128,813 direct and indirect jobs had been created through various job creation, youth empowerment, and social investment delivery platforms. An additional one million direct and indirect jobs have been created through several infrastructure and urban renewal projects. He is known to have brought development to riverine communities and ensured the construction of several township roads.

These and many more are the results of his efforts at building a stronger Delta anchored on peace, stability, and wealth creation. His stewardship has made the “Stronger Delta” slogan not just a dream, but a reality. The breakdown of some of his achievements includes: Road Infrastructure: No fewer than 1,811 km of roads and 977.84 km of drains have been constructed. Urban centres are experiencing growth and renewal.

Health: Delta is the first state to launch universal health coverage in the country with the establishment of the Delta State Contributory Health Commission. The scheme currently has 1,130,888 enrollees and 510 healthcare facilities accredited under it. Three mother and child hospitals were constructed. Education: Okowa is advancing technical and vocational education in line with the new policy emphasis on skills acquisition. Six existing technical colleges have been rehabilitated, and ten new ones are in various stages of completion. The goal is to equip youths with the know-how and skills to function as job and wealth creators, in addition to possessing employability skills.

The state also witnessed the establishment of 58 new primary and secondary schools. In the tertiary education sector, three existing institutions were upgraded to universities in 2021, to broaden access to university education for bright students who, due to limited space, are unable to gain admission into existing federal and state public universities. They include the University of Delta, former College of Education, Agbor; the Delta State University of Science and Technology, former Delta State Polytechnic, Ozoro; and the Dennis Osadebe University,  former campus of Delta State University, Anwai, Asaba.

The universities have already commenced academic sessions with a total enrolment of 5,000 students. Okowa also upgraded Asaba Airport to receive bigger aircraft. In the judiciary, a multi-storey High Court Complex was constructed. The Court of Appeal, Asaba Division, was also established under his watch. Flagship Projects: The ultra-modern Prof. Chike Edozien Central Secretariat Complex, the largest in the Niger Delta was constructed.  There are also the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba Storm Water Drainage, ongoing Warri Storm Water Drainage, Asaba Leisure Park & Film Village, and FRSC Inspectorate Training School, among others.

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