Features: When Okowa Did The Unimaginable

Nigeria (Blank NEWS Online) –BY FIDELIS EGUGBO 

Delta State Governor, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, represented by the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Patrick Ukah (right), and the Special Adviser to the Governor on Petroleum Matters, Mr. Bosin Ebikeme (left), commissioning the Akala Road in Umusadege-Ogbe Community in Ndokwa West Local Government Area

Delta State Governor, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, represented by the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Patrick Ukah (right), and the Special Adviser to the Governor on Petroleum Matters, Mr. Bosin Ebikeme (left), commissioning the Akala Road in Umusadege-Ogbe Community in Ndokwa West Local Government Area

CELEBRATION of one year anniversary of Delta State Governor, Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa has opened a new vista for what Deltans should expect within the next three years or did I hear you say, “seven years?”

The Governor has been known for pulling surprises but, nobody expected him to do what he did during the celebration of his one year in office.

Before May 29, 2016, colleagues in the pen-pushing profession were skeptical if the Governor would address a press conference and when such was confirmed that certainly, the Governor who believes in saying things as they are, would address the press to x-ray his achievements within one year and also, unfold the programmes to celebrate his one year in office, another question came up; will the press conference be for a selected few?

That press conference which took place at the Press Centre, Government House, Asaba on May 23, 2016, has come and gone but, I had to bring up the issue here because, the press conference which ordinarily was supposed to be for only accredited journalists was open to almost everybody who had one or two questions to ask the Governor. It was an interesting press briefing which saw the Governor answering more than twenty questions on different topics including those that concerned the nation and the international community. As an individual, it was a memorable press briefing as the Governor made it obvious that he was not just running an all-inclusive government where everybody is a stakeholder but, a transparent, accountable administration that is accessible to all.

It is no longer news that Governor Okowa came into office when the finances of the federal government had tumbled to the extent that a state which was receiving more than N20 billion from the federation account with a wage bill of more than N7 billion on staff salary alone was battling to get about N3 billion. So, many Deltans including event watchers were expecting the Governor to say, his greatest achievement within one year in office was the payment of salaries as at when due. Yes! As I am writing this piece, many civil servants in other states are yet to receive their salaries while some staff of some state governments have down-tooled due to same issue.

So, ordinarily, payment of salaries at this point in time, was supposed to be a great achievement by a state government but, alas! Governor Okowa embarked on commissioning of projects and backed it with inspection of projects which were under construction. The surprising element of the commissioning and inspection of the projects was that the Governor unlike previous administrations that would have abandoned projects which were initiated by their predecessors, weighed the benefits of such projects to Deltans and embarked on completing such projects while initiating new ones.

Such action by the Governor is unimaginable and a closer look at what is happening in the country today, will show that what the Governor did doused tension, proved critics wrong and consolidated on the gains of previous administrations to prove that government is a continuum.

On May 24, 2016, the Governor, accompanied by political aides and followers stormed Delta Central Senatorial District to commission the Ejinyere/Orodje Streets in Orerokpe. He also inspected the YAGEP (Youth Agriculture Enterpreneurial Programme) at Ekpan-Ovu in Ethiope East local government area of the state that same day. That was the commencement of what the Commissioner for Information in the state, Mr Patrick Ukah described as “project commissioning spree.” The activities to mark the celebration of one year in office ended Friday, June 24, 2016 with the commissioning of Abavo General Hospital and Palace Road, Owa-Oyibu in Ika South and Ika North-East local government areas of the state.

Significantly, at every place he visited, the communities expressed joy that what they thought were impossible were done by the Governor and of course, it is on verifiable record that there is no federal constituency that Governor Okowa did not commission or inspected at least one project.

But, if you think what the Governor was doing was without a lot of sacrifices, then, you are joking. Democracy provided that any government can be assessed by anybody, so, the common man on the streets must feel the impact of that who is in power for such a person to win his or her confidence. If the Governor had succeeded in paying only salaries without commensurate execution of projects, even the civil servants would not be happy with him.

When you are struggling to deliver on electoral promises and you see someone trying to thwart your efforts, naturally, you will be angry. As such, the Governor did not hide his anger when he discovered at Uduophori, Patani Local Government Area of the state that some civil servants could still connive with contractors to execute shoddy jobs despite efforts to meet with the yearnings of the people.

Visibly angry Governor Okowa emphatically said, that with the lean resources accruing to the state, his administration could not afford to execute one project twice and the projects executed by his administration must stand the test of time.

“The Engineer that supervised the job is not supposed to be an employee of the state government, we cannot afford to have failed projects within one year of execution, it is good that he (the Engineer) has been queried but I will follow the case up as appropriate sanctions must be applied. You (the contractor handling the project) have embarrassed me with this type of shoddy job, we cannot push you to go beyond your pace, the first thing we want is quality job as my name matters a lot to me. We don’t have to manage anything, the name of the company is at stake too, the financial situation is tough, so, we cannot afford to do one road twice,” the Governor said at the occasion.

In other climes, the Governor would not have personally inspected the projects and seen not just the pace of work done but, the quality of the projects been executed and he was always ready to ask the supervisory Ministries if their staff was on ground to ensure that what was been done was in accordance with what was in the terms of engagement.

Governor Okowa also surprised many persons and endeared himself to the people of Ndokwa nation during the inspection of road construction at Beneku, Ndokwa East local government area of Delta State. The Governor walked into the Pontoon on Ase Creek from Kwale to Beneku. He trekked some distance and showed his statesmanship during his return journey. The Pontoon was filled beyond capacity and the crowd surged towards the exit eager to leave it. Of course, most of the people were not used to river and some of them have never entered a Pontoon or a boat, so, that anxiety caused the Pontoon to tilt and the managers of the Pontoon asked the ‘passengers’ to shift back to enable the Pontoon had a balance to stabilize it for landing, this elicited a little commotion for obvious reasons but, throughout the period, the Governor was calm and was even telling others to be relaxed as the Pontoon would safely berth. At the end, everything was without mishap to the glory of God.

The people in most of the communities visited by the Governor said they were having an elected Governor visiting their communities for the first time since the birth of democracy and this was clear indication that the Governor was on one-on-one with the electorates who were happy to have such a grassroots man as their Governor.

During the visits, like the proverbial Oliver Twist, while the communities thanked the Governor for what he had done, they still made a lot of requests showing that despite the sixteen years of democracy, a lot is still expected by the people. But, can Governor Okowa in four or eight years do what could not be achieved in more than sixteen years of Nigeria’s democracy or twenty-five years of the existence of the state?

Times shall really tell, but, with the commissioning and inspection of projects, critics of the Governor cannot accuse him of incompetence and of course, there is no fear about opposition political parties because, the state remains the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stronghold. Congratulations Deltans, congratulations Democracy.

(Courtesy: The Pointer Newspaper)

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