Aside from the general discontent with the quality of governance, frustration and disappointment of the citizenry who feel betrayed by the All Progressive Congress(APC) led Federal Government elected into power, and anger, at the deplorable state of the nation, Nigerians (students, businessmen, traders, investors, creative people and women among others) have in the last seven years learnt that the difference between good and bad government sometimes lies in the number of obstacles leaders can remove from the path of their citizens or put before them.
This believe is further fed by the fact that at no time in ‘the chequered history of our beloved country have we been as divided as we are today or witnessed such magnitude of mistrust of ourselves and of our nation’. In fact, the nation has not only lost the capacity, sincerity and trustworthiness to negotiate and resolve contentious issues without resorting to violence. Rather, today, no nation best typifies a country in dire need of peace and social cohesion among her various sociopolitical groups than Nigeria as myriads of sociopolitical contradictions have conspired directly and indirectly to give the unenviable tag of a country in constant search of social harmony, justice, equity, equality, and peace.
Qualifying the above scenario as a crisis is the awareness that Nigeria is blessed with plenty politicians/leaders, more than it really needs, but the present administration at the centre lacks creative managers of resources (human material and human) who can lead the nation out of the constant crisis or possess political will to engage as policymakers best minds to help get the answers and deploy the resources we need to move into the future.
The above failings and failures on the Federal Government part has made the need for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa’s joint ticket in the forthcoming 2023 presidential election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) not only necessary and welcoming, but eminently desirable.
Separate from their enormous experience in public leadership sphere as the nation’s former Vice President and Executive Governor of Delta state respectively, the duo are aware that presently, Nigerians need for lengthy speeches, statements and eloquent words is far less important than their need for people who can build airports, ports, companies, factories and other growth-generating ventures. Atiku snd Okowa are aware that good management requires a capable manager and if allowed, will end both the galloping unemployment and underemployment sitution in the country which going by the latest report from the Nigeria Beureau of Statistics (NBS) stands at frightening 33%.
Their ‘combination’ will save and serve Nigeria as they are capped with required managerial skills capable of mobilizing the resources needed to reach specific targets within a defined time frame.
Therefore, as the selection process for Atiku’s running mate hots up, one point that is Okowa -specific which Atiku, the party’s standard bearer and of course the party’s hierarchy must not fail to remember is that Governor Okowa’s antecedents in the last seven years as a state governor, indicates that in the areas of infrastructure development/deployment, education and healthcare delivery, the Governor shares ideological characteristics/ideals with the late sage of the old Western in the person of Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
Take as an illustration, I grew up in the then Mid Western region, all the primary schools that I know were founded in 1955 by Awo. It is amazing to create this number of schools to make sure that education was available for all was exemplary. You ask; what was the education budget of Western region in 1955 to create this number of primary schools. He was just looking for what to do for people.
In line with the above performance, Delta state under Governor Okowa’s first term in office, in his search for what to do for deltans, witnessed over 5,000 classrooms renovated/reconstructed/constructed and at the same time to his credit; incubated, nurtured and brought into existence three healthy universities to cater for the academic yearnings of the people of the state.
That was not the only effort that currently postures him as the Chief Obafemi Awolowo of our time.
Separate from three new universities Okowa recently incubated, nurtured and established in the state, evidence also abounds that as a result of the work of the Technical and Vocational Education Board in conjunction with the supervising Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education in the state, six technical colleges in Agbor, Sapele, Ofagbe, Utagba-Ogbe, Ogor and Issele-Uku have been fully rehabilitated, well equipped and fully functional. Consequently, Delta is the first State in the country to have all of the courses offered by its technical colleges accredited by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE).
In the same vein, The Delta State Library (a fully equipped e-resource centre) and the Office of the Head of Service were completed and are functioning to optimum capacity. The administration’s quest for organizational synergy among Ministries, Departments and Agencies, cost-efficient bureaucracy and timely, excellent service delivery is in full flight with the completion of construction of the Central Secretariat Complex, an architectural edifice in its own right. All the MDAs are currently in one location, which has enhanced functionality, discipline and reduced cost of managing government business. because, they have one source of power, internet services, among others. The new complex is also fitted with, among other facilities, banking halls and crèche to boost productivity and enhance staff welfare.
In the areas of infrastructural development of the state, Okowa in his first term in office (between 2015 to 2019), through the Ministries of Works, Urban Renewal and the Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency, embarked on a total of 455 projects comprising 1,269.42 kilometres of roads and 517.34 kilometres of drainage channels. As at April 30 2019, 263 of these roads, covering 638.23 kilometres of roads and 295.71 kilometres of associated drains have been completed. Such record has since tripled. The Direct Labour Agency also made great strides in the development of road infrastructure during this period.
This effort has advanced rural-urban integration whilst ensuring that our urban centres remain livable cities with good road network and recreation opportunities. Even much more significant is the awareness that such success in this sector not only saved thousands of jobs, but also created several thousand others as well as opportunities for the informal business sector to grow.
For instance, it was noted that when this administration came on board, many of the major construction companies/Government contractors were at the verge of retrenching many of their workers as a result of the slump in the economy. However, we prevailed on them not to do so assuring them of patronage. Today, these companies have expanded and employed more people as a result of our huge investment in road and physical infrastructure.
Just before you conclude, wait till you cast a glance at the next paragraph.
The Asaba Airport for example, was downgraded just before the Governor assumed office. Today, the same airport is now a category 6 airport that receives international flights; the airport is now a major national carrier’s hub in the South-East and South-South geo-political zones. Same goes with the Osubi Airport in Warri part of the state.
In the health sector, Delta state under Governor Okowa became the first in the country to commence Universal Health Coverage with the establishment of the Delta State Contributory Health Commission in February 2016. The Commission commenced healthcare service access to enroll on the 1st of January 2017. As at May 15, 2019, the total number of enrollees stood at 530,664 broken down as follows:
Providing services under the scheme according to reports are 110 primary healthcare facilities, 65 secondary healthcare facilities and 52 private healthcare facilities spread across the 25 Local Government Areas in Delta State. Healthcare service access has also been provided to employees of the State at the Abuja and Lagos Liaison offices. With a robust and dynamic ICT Platform, the scheme has been able to initiate a seamless e-medical records registration process for all.
In the past seven years of his administration, he devoted substantial resources, time and energy to build a knowledge-based economy and a critical mass of skills for entrepreneurship and business competitiveness. Over 20,000 persons benefited from flagship Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP), Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP) and similar programmes undertaken by the Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Commerce and Industry, Women Affairs as well as the Delta State Micro Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency.
Without doubt, there is, in my view, need for Okowa, a strategist, to per with Atiku, who as a ‘private citizen’ is reputed for being an employer of labour, to bring this nation out of economic woods while promoting Pa Awolowo’s welfarist ideologies
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Cordinator (Media and Public Policy), The Social And Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA). He could be reached via; firstname.lastname@example.org or 08032725374.