Okowa’s four years in the saddle
IT is clearly obvious that the Delta State governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, came prepared for the job of governance. It has been argued in several quarters that the governor had his plans worked out long before he took up the mantle of leadership of Delta State, going by the achievements recorded in the first four years of his administration. 2019 elections have come and gone. Okowa has been re-elected to govern Delta State for another four years. The mandate was no fluke given the superlative performance he posted in the last for years It is pertinent to recall that Okowa came on board as governor of Delta State in 2015, at a time when the financial situation of Nigeria was in a very precarious state, when it was nearly difficult to even meet up with something as basic as payment of workers’ salaries. The debt profile inherited by the Okowa administration was frightening. The State was worse hit with Militant activities and oil prices as well as production output was at an all time low. The situation was indeed frightening. The circumstances would not favour a governor to perform well in the least and all was expecting the obvious excuses to be made by the new governor but to the amazement of Deltans, Okowa moved on with the dexterity of an experienced administrator. He went on to assemble his team, unveiled his master plan, his five point agenda and went to work. His five-point agenda was an unbeatable master plan. His laser blazing focus saw that 95% of his election promises were delivered as at January 2019. The master plan was christened “SMART” Agenda, meaning: 1 Strategic wealth creation projects and provision of jobs for all Deltans. 2 Meaningful Peace Building Platforms aimed at political and social harmony. 3 Agricultural Reforms and Accelerated Industrialization. 4 Relevant Health and Education Policies. 5 Transformed Environment through Urban Renewal.
Job creation which was delivered to Deltans through the establishment of the Delta State Job Creation Office is indisputably one of the major achievements of the Okowa led government in the last four years. Consequent upon the initiatives of the Job Creation office, thousands of Delta youths have not only been gainfully employed, but have gone ahead to become employers of labour. The multiplier effect of this rare economic policy will definitely outlive Okowa’s government and position Delta in the near future as the nation’s economic hub; it would indeed, give her a prominent place in the world’s economic development index. As expected, the adoption of the State’s job creation template by the World Bank in 2018, for other states in the country to emulate is an attestation about the success of the initiative. Thousands of youths across the three senatorial districts have been trained to acquire skills in various trades and vocations, and empowered with starter packs in the last four years. Many of them today have become employers of labour. That initiative has recorded more than 85% success in strategically creating wealth through the provision of these jobs. Okowa is an amazing team player who knows how to broker peace and settle disputes. With the reputation and cordial relationship he has built across the state over time, it was easy for him to achieve peace which has helped in no small measure to accelerate socio economic and infrastructural development in the State. The few uprisings that were heard of at different locations within the State were quickly dealt with. For instance, the Ogbe Ijaw/Aladja boundary dispute which was becoming quite challenging was eventually resolved. It can safely be asserted that Okowa’s peace building initiative is clearly responsible for the social, political and economic harmony which the state is enjoying today.
The PPSP (Production and Processing Support Program) is another pacesetting agricultural support programme of the Okowa led government. The Delta State government through the program gave massive support to farmers in the state, by giving out loans, farm machineries, expert support and training. The commendable supports have had tremendous positive effects and outcome in the production capacity of Delta farmers’ in the last four years. Fish farmers across the state have received support, ranging from fish fingerlings, feeds and expert training amongst other assistance. Governor Okowa’s Midas touch also extend to the Small, Medium Enterprise sector, where the DMSMDA ( Delta State Micro, Small And Medium . Development Agency), an agency that was charged with the provision of loans and technical support to small businesses in Delta State. The governor has left no stone unturned in giving a new lease of life to the various sectors of prosperity in Delta State. Okowa brought a whole lot of relevant experience into governance no doubt, and that has positively impacted on the health sector in the state. Governor Okowa, who was at a time, the State Commissioner for Health and later Chairman, Senate Committee on Health in the 7th Assembly has equally done excellently well in the area of health care provision to the citizens of the state. In the last four years the administration has committed enormous resources to ensure that Deltans have access to basic health care to better their lives. Relevant health policies have been initiated and implemented. In order to fulfil his promise to provide affordable and accessible health care to all Deltans, Gov Okowa made available about N1 billion to boost the State Contributory Health Insurance Scheme, this is in furtherance of the governor’s promise to provide affordable and qualitative healthcare services to people. The scheme which took effect in 2016 now has over 200,000 enrollees.
It should be put on record that about 65 secondary healthcare centres are fully operational to facilitate the successful implementation of the scheme, while about 100 primary healthcare centres have also been designated for the scheme. In addition to this, the free maternal and free under five healthcare programmes that were initiated by the previous administration is still being sustained through the Delta State Contributory Healthcare Commission. Okowa has earned a name for himself in infrastructure development particularly in the area of road construction. Today, he is fondly called the “Roadmaster” by his beloved Deltans. Delta State has experienced an unprecedented transformation in the road sector . As at October 2018, the Okowa led government had awarded about 317 roads projects, comprising 1,000km, and 344 km of drains valued at about N243bn. Out of these, 135 projects have been completed covering 405km of roads and 159 km of drainage. And all these are aside the rehabilitation of existing but dilapidated roads. The interesting thing about the governor’s efforts in road construction is that he had extended network of roads to the riverine areas and the creek in the state; these are places that were usually considered to be very difficult terrains. Chief among these roads are the main Axial Road and Okerenkoko township Roads in Warri South West local government area. There is also the asphalt overlay of the 19.5 km Obutobu1-Obutobu11-Sokebolou-Yokori Road also in Warri South West local government area. Even the government’s fiercest critics have joined in acknowledging and applauding the success so far recorded in road construction across the State. More of these roads worthy of mention are the 10.8km Okpere-Umolo-Ovwodokpor-Kiagbodo road in Ughelli South and Burutu local government areas Jeddo-Ughaton road in Okpe Local government area, and the Access road to Eagle Heights university.
Again, the Oteri township road in Ughelli North and Okpe Olomo/Otor-Orere Olumo road in Ughelli South. There are also the expansion and rehabilitation of sections of Oghara junction to Otafe road in Ethiope West LGA Oghara, Access road to Jesse town, Access road Ughowangue New Layout, construction of Okuomowa road to Osubi to link Efekpo Lane, the construction of Ekete main road off DSC Expressway, the rehabilitation of Ekreravwe/Orhoakpor/Isiokolo road in Ethiope East, Abraka Township Road phase 1 and the reconstruction of the 8.5km Ughelli-Afiesere-Ohioma road in Ughelli North. It would go down in the history of Asaba as the state capital that no governor, since the creation of the state, has been more focused towards her development as Okowa has done. Prior to Okowa’s government, Asaba was a flood- riddled city. Okowa took the bull by the horn in embarking on the construction of the storm drainage which when competed, would rid the state capital of the perennial dreaded flood.
Asaba now wears the look of the state capital befitting of a state like Delta. Roads like the Cable Point dual carriage way have gone a long way to enhance the status of Asaba as a state capital. Okowa pulled a big one when he rehabilitated the long abandoned Asaba Stadium, christened, Stephen Keshi Stadium, making it a state-of-the-art sports facility. With the completion of the magnificent edifice, Delta State was catapulted to international reckoning as it began hosting several international sporting events. The 23,000 sitting capacity stadium which enjoys the approval of FIFA for its matches has gone ahead to host major international meets like the African Senior Athletics Championship which held between August 1st to 5th 2018. The AFCON qualifier match against Seychelles, the Flying Eagles vs Libya intermediate national team, the finals of the AITEO Cup between Kano Pillars and Enugu Rangers, the FA Cup finals between Lobi Stars and Enugu Rangers etc.
Governor Okowa also ensured that the Asaba International Airport was given its pride of place. He took the bull by the horn and tackled the seemingly unsurmountable challenges bedeviling the airport. Today, the airport is considered one of the best in the country. Needless to say, Okowa’s last four years has brought massive positive changes to Delta State in all sectors and facets. Okowa has simply redefined political leadership as it were. Delta State is on the right path and it is no surprise that Deltans massively voted him for another four years. Come 29th of May 2019, the second part of his eight year term will commence. Deltans look forward to more radiant and sterling performance from the “Road master,” for if he can perform against the odds then, he can do even better now.
- Onwuka writes in from Delta State