Dr. (Pharm.) Nelson Ejakpovi is the Secretary to the Medical Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta State. In this interview with Blank NEWS Online, he x-rayed his experience he had with the Governorship candidate of the PDP in Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa when he (Dr. Ejakpovi) was the Chairman, School of Health Technology, Ufuoma and Dr Okowa was, the Commissioner for Health, Delta State. He explained what the committee did to have a hitch-free campaign in the state.
Below is the excerpt of that interview:
Q: May we know you Sir?
A: I am Dr. Nelson Ejakpovi, the Secretary to the Medical Committee of the Campaign Organization of the party, PDP in Delta State. As the scribe, my function is to ensure that all our activities are properly documented.
Q: The PDP has been campaigning round the state for some time. What is the experience like with the Medical Committee? Has there been casualties?
A: It has been a very welcome development because, truly before now, I was afraid for the PDP. With the emergence of Dr Okowa, it is like a new day for everybody. For once, that momentum, that feeling of oneness has been rekindled. Everywhere we went, you could see the real slogan of the PDP been put to test. When we say power to the people, you see the people vibrate with strong energy that truly, this is their party and we have been welcomed widely beyond imagination. In short, it is a new dawn for us and a confirmation that people still believes in PDP because, come to think of it, PDP has been one of the most consistent political parties in this country, especially, Delta State, we have been very consistent and the characters if individuals that have propelled the party have also been consistent and Senator Okowa is not just a founding member of the party, he is one of the tested hands in the party. So, we have a situation where we have a square peg in a square hole and we can beat our chests and say PDP is fully on ground in Delta State.
Q: As the Secretary to the Health Committee of the PDP Campaign Organization, have you had serious challenges during your rallies at different local government areas of Delta State?
A: God has been on our side. The campaign has been exceptionally quiet in terms of not having serious casualties. The few challenges we had include when the campaign went to Owa-Oyibu and a bus summersaulted and there were two individuals who sustained minor injuries. Apart from that, it has been cases of the usual scuffle when you get to crowded places, the people fighting for chairs, for space, then there were bruises, minor injuries. Those were things we had or people out of exhaustion, the excitement of having PDP, some would be screaming. Like the case we had when we went to Ogwash-Uku, the man was so excited about the PDP that he did not eat and out of exhaustion from shouting PDP, he collapsed. That challenge was not much, all that we did was to drip him up and he was up and fit again. Apart from those incidents, I will say God has been with us, there has not been serious injuries or death that has been recorded. Delta is very peaceful.
Q: But, are you well equipped for any eventuality?
A: Yes, very prepared. In short, for every movement, we have five state of the art ambulances on ground, we have different individuals who have donated – we have one Doctor Ben from Abuja. He came with two ambulances, we have two ambulances from Erhiatake, Chief Ibori’s daughter, she also gave us Doctors Paramedics, the chairman of the committee also bought a well-equipped ambulance which he donated to the campaign. So, we have these five ambulances in the convoy at every point in time. In short, one follows His Excellency-in-waiting, Senator Okowa and other ambulances were deployed to campaign venues well ahead of the campaigns so that as the people were waiting for our candidate, that is Dr Okowa, if there were any incident, either within the campaign ground or close to the vicinity or within the community, we were able to arrest the situation. In the team, we have more than six medical doctors – two from the United Kingdom, four from America who volunteered to join us. They have been with us, they came with medicaments. In short, you will be shocked at the level of preparedness you will think we were running a full-fledged hospital.
Q: Were the rallies successful?
A: Dr Okowa is a breath of fresh air, I must tell you. When I was the Chairman, Governing Council of School of Health Technology, Ufuoma, I was privileged to have worked with him. In my sojourn in politics, Senator Okowa stood out, he is among one of the finest materials we have in the PDP and the politics of Delta State. As a first teem Senator, he became chairman of a committee which tells you that these qualities were not only discovered by Deltans, even at the national stage, it was identified. So, I don’t think we could have asked for more. And the fact he is Okowa, it is electrifying. You see the joy, people are branding their cars, people are printing banners and posters. To a large extent, the large turnout has been because of the quality of person Senator Okowa is. He is a humanitarian, a man who has a strong feeling and affection for the people, his love towards humanity is amazing. It is not just about politicians, it cuts across.
Q: You are talking about Senator Okowa with so much passion but, we are aware that other political parties, the All Progressive Congress and the Labour Party also have strong candidates for the governorship elections. How confident are you that the PDP will win in the elections?
A: You may say because I am PDP but, looking at the situation as it is today, I can beat my chest to tell you that we have no opposition. A few people that you see making noise today, you will have to ask yourself, what is the strength of the opposition? We have travelled to all the local government areas of Delta Stare, I haven’t seen any sign of the opposition on ground. The few places where I saw some signs of opposition were in Delta Central but, out of the eight local government areas in Delta Central, I don’t think I saw signs of opposition in more than two local governments. So, if you remove two local governments from twenty five local governments, we are coasting home with twenty three local government areas. And you see, when we talk about politics, acceptability, it has nothing to do with tribal sentiments. You will be surprise that what we now have in Delta State is about the local government that will deliver most votes for the PDP, we are not talking about winning but, the margin of winning is what we are working for.
Q: As Chairman of the Governing Board of the School of Health Technology, Ufuoma, can you give us a hint about your working relationship with Dr Okowa who was then, the Commissioner for Health which is the supervisory Ministry for the institution?
A: Thank you very much. School of Health Technology is synonymous with Dr Ifeanyi Okowa. You may not know, but let me tell you today, he was the Commissioner who built that school. While he was the Commissioner, it was about that time I was seconded to the school as Chairman of the Governing Council. Actually, on my resumption, I was very furious, I asked the crime I committed for the government to send me to such a forest to go and stay. It was just a school of two buildings and a population of about three hundred and fifty students and they were receiving their lectures in the adjoining secondary school. They had no classes, everywhere was rubber plantation, but I will good kudos first to the governor, Chief Onanefe Ibori. When I complained, he told me that, I was sent there to build the school and I worked very closely with Dr Okowa. Every proposal I sent, every advise we gave scaled through. You will be surprised that in his time, we built a twenty room administrative building, a library was built for the school, three other buildings of six classrooms each were built, then a computer lab was also built. As at that time, the community was encroaching on the land for the school, so, when I went to complained to Dr Ifeanyi Okowa that there was need for us to fence the school, he actually did it and today, the school is fenced round, the access road to the school was so bad and he also did a lot to see that the road to the school was tarred. As at the time he left as Commissioner, from two classrooms, we rose to more than fourteen buildings in the school and the school had a bore-hole, during that time, the school had a school bus, because, as a Commissioner, that was the time he moved that all the schools supervised by the Ministry -School of Nursing, Midwifery, School of Health Technology, were all given school buses, twenty four seater buses and it will surprise you too that the school was on impress of about thirty thousand Nara a month. So, the tutors took it upon themselves, they were surcharging the students, extorting money from them, printing handouts, different levies. So, when I took the matter to him, he said there was need for us to fund the school in other to regulate its activities and stop those extortions and in his time, he was able to make a case and the school now have an impress of about three million naira monthly which made all the departments to have enough money to run their activities and as the Chairman, I stopped the sales of handouts and all other levies so as to create credibility in the quality of education we offered. So, these are the values we are looking for. In his time as Commissioner, we made a case for and created five departments – we created the Department of General Studies, all the students has to go through that department to learn the use and application of English Language. That was when the computer lab was built for all the students to be computer literate. We also created Food/Hygiene, then for the first time ever, that was the land-breaking point of what we had. Before Dr Okowa became a Commissioner, only two trained opticians were in Nigeria at that time, and these two were old men who were already retired from the service. Most of the opticians were those who learnt from optometrics by association. School of Health Technology was the first school of dispensing opticians in the whole of West Africa. It was made possible by the fact that we had a dynamic and focused commissioner. We hear now there are other two but, School of Health Technology was the first school to start the training of dispensing opticians in West Africa and certifying them to be qualified to practice. Again, the school under his watch, there was more discipline, values of education was returned to the school, students were thought and propelled in such a way that discipline was the watch-word because these are going to be health care professionals tomorrow. So, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa made all these possible. From my experience with the way he tacked problems, it gives me a very strong feeling and assurance that Deltans will see great things happen. He is a man with foresight and very articulate. I am very proud of him and very happy he succeeded to be the flag-bearer of the PDP.
Q: Doc, you also had dreams about the future of the School of Health Technology, with Dr Okowa emerging victorious at the polls, what are your expectations?
A: There were few discussions we were having before he left office as the Commissioner for Health which he was also working towards to ensure we achieve. In terms of Education, Deltans are advanced, our quota is quite high. So, in this age and time, we felt the school should rise beyond offering certificate courses, we felt the certificate courses were two low for Deltans and the school should be upgraded to College of Health Technology, we already agreed on it, Dr Okowa was working towards it before he left as Health Commissioner. By having a College of Health Technology, we have the opportunity of issuing OND (Ordinary National Diploma) as the minimum certificate we can offer in that school. We will have cadre of persons who will leave there and go to the University. So by the standard of our education background in Delta State, we deserve to have College of Health Technology where we can even have campuses of the institution. For instance, in Delta State, we are having challenges of radiographers. A College of Health Technology should be able to train radiographers. Those who operates the x-ray machines. You cannot offer that in a certificate course, the minimum qualification you can get in that area is OND, HND. By that standard, it will boost our education level and boost our potentials. I am very sure that now Dr Okowa is coming in, I know that are some of the areas he will look at.
Q: Currently, we have a Medical Doctor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan as Governor of Delta State and another Medical Doctor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa is very likely, hoping to be the next Governor. How do you feel having Medical Doctors as Governor?
A: What is politics? Politics is a platform to offer leadership. A leader who leads others to prosperity. One of the cardinal programmes of a healthcare provider is that a Medical Doctor is almost next to God. If you look at the outgoing Governor, you will see that the pattern with which he has piloted the affairs of governance, he didn’t take it from the part of business, but instead he has tried to veer it to provide a human face to governance. That is the luck we are having in Delta State and we are going to see more of that from Dr Okowa when he comes on board as Governor. The average health worker is a compassionate person and we need compassionate leaders. I think we are lucky that we are not seeing shrewd individuals who are seeing government as strictly business, but giving governance a human face.
Q: The Presidential elections will come up before the governorship elections. Don’t you think the outcome of the Presidential elections will determine what happens at the governorship elections?
A: I don’t think so. This is because Delta State is PDP, we are not influenced by anything from outside, we believe in the PDP and again, I want to tell you that at the national level, we are not afraid, we are not losing the elections. What we are seeing now which we have not seen before is a real democratic process at play. There is no true democracy without a formidable opposition. Let us give kudos to the PDP. What is happening shows that the PDP is very democratic, we are open, we appreciate the fact that the country is more important than ourselves. In time past, there were Presidents who strangled the opposition but if you look at the President we have at the moment, he has given room for a level play ground. For the first time, there is freedom of speech, there is access to everything, we all have equal access right now. That is democracy, it is beautiful. So what we are seeing that is making some people panic, to say, will PDP win is because, they are seeing democratic freedom they have not seen before. For the first time, the Chairman of INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) is very neutral, INEC has been made so independent. The same way you have with the Police Force, so gradually, the President is creating independence for all these institutions.
Q: What is your advice to Deltans as they set for the elections?
A: They say count your blessings and see what the Lord has done. Rome was not built in a day. In the course of this campaign, I went round, I give kudos to the PDP-led government of Delta State. Look at Warri, I went to interior places, we have made a lot of gains. Deltans should vote PDP all the way. You saw what happened at the Presidential rally, we provided seven ambulances, Deltans came out to speak with one voice that they support PDP, they will translate that into proper votes. We should shun all forms of violence, we must tolerate ourselves and live in peace and enjoy the leadership of PDP.
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