Talking about the theory of value judgment, media professionals are of the view that ‘the function of the press is very high, almost holy and to misstate or suppress information is a breach of trust.
Moral philosophers, on their part, are also worried over the issue of standards for evaluating leadership performances. Some prefer the purpose of action shown in the ethical theories. Others prefer the nature of action to its purpose. Some still prefer the usefulness of action. Whereas the rest talk about the relevance of duty performed by a leader to the subjects.
In line with the above arguments, Deltans, especially this author, without any shadow of a doubt believe that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has done fairly well when it comes to infrastructural provisions in the state.
This is a peripheral fact which cannot be suppressed or misstated.
However, when one goes beyond this fact, and brings into view the governor’s other critical leadership performance (or is it judgement) and juxtaposes the same with a recently unravelled shoddy state of affairs in the Ayakromo community, Burutu Local Government Area of the state, situating Okowa’s leadership assessment in the past seven years becomes not only complicated but an onerous task.
Aside from the fact that the referenced sleepy but egalitarian community is conspicuously laced with portraits of neglect and pictures of socioeconomic deprivations with no state government’s presence save for the now near-abandoned bridge that took two different administrations—Emmanuel Uduaghan (2007- 2015) and Okowa May 2015 till date—in Delta state over nine years to construct. That the yet-to-be-completed Ayakromo Link Bridge is not up to a kilometre says something unpleasant.
Further qualifying the condition of the Ayakromo community as a contradiction of sorts and a reality that all Deltans of goodwill, including Okowa, must worry about is the sad awareness that the bridge, which was awarded in 2013 by the Uduaghan-led administration to link several communities in Burutu LGA and other communities in the adjourning local governments within the coastal part of the state, was never starved of budgetary allocation.
Why this piece is particularly concerned about the abandonment of the bridge is that the state governor, Okowa, had at different times made public declarations that this is one of the projects that must be completed during his administration.
For instance, when the administration learnt in January 2020, that the Ijaw Peoples Development Initiative and Ayakoromo youths planned a protest against the ‘abandonment’ of the bridge, the Okowa-led administration, through the Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu, in a statement in Asaba, stated that the state leadership was committed to the completion of road projects it has embarked on. It added that the Ayakoromo bridge project had not been abandoned and, therefore, urged the groups to shun their planned protest. The statement also noted that the state government had already made provisions for the completion of the bridge in the 2020 budget and that it was desirous of completing the project.
Again, six months after that statement, precisely in June 2020, the Delta State Government in a similar style assured that the Ayakoromo Bridge would be vigorously executed as a top priority project. This time around, the Commissioner for Works, Chief James Aguoye, made the disclosure in Ayakoromo while speaking to newsmen. Aguoye, according to media reports said that the project had a budgetary provision of N1bn in the 2020 budget. The commissioner added that the project would be up-scaled in 2021.
In January 2022, after the first Executive Council meeting, which was presided over by Governor Okowa, the Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, announced that the Delta State government has recently approved an upward review of the contract cost of the Ayakoromo Bridge project from N6bn to N10.5bn, noting that the review was necessary as a result of present economic realities in the country.
The underlying objective of this piece is not to chastise any individual or group, but to draw the attention of the Okowa-led government to this mess, in ways that will assist him to perform the traditional but universal responsibility of provision of economic and infrastructural succour to the citizenry, which the instrumentality of participatory democracy and election of leaders confers on him.
As an incentive, it is important that a new contractor is appointed, backed with adequate funds, superior technical skills and experience to replace the current contractor, who obviously lacks the wherewithal to complete the bridge. Government must give the desired new lease of life and satisfactory service/governance to the people of the community. Above all, the state government must design more creative and development-focused ways to holistically serve and save Deltans.
Most importantly, the state government must not fail to remember that the Bobougbene community and its environs in Burutu LGA are reputed for the production of palm oil in commercial quantity and supply of same to Warri metropolis and Okwuagbe markets in Ugheli-South LGA. The bridge when completed will provide easy access to these markets. This is a very important reason why the state must pay disciplined attention to that project. It must not for any reason be abandoned.
Utomi of Social and Economic Justice Advocacy writes from Lagos; 08032725374