Although the word deviance often carries negative connotations, it is not synonymous with dysfunctionality. Deviance is, at heart, a creative act-a way of searching out and inventing new approaches to doing things. Acts of deviance can point to areas where organizations/society/nations need to change and can result in fruitful alternatives. The chief thing to keep in mind here is that norms can have expectations. By challenging a particular norm, we can play a role in changing it.
Without an iota of doubt, the above expression by Leslie Perlow, aptly captures transformational leadership prowess demonstrated in the past six years by Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa, the Executive Governor of Delta state. This claim is evident in ways and manner he has to the admiration of many piloted and challenged particular norms lacking in human face at both state and Federal Levels, and in the process played a key role in changing them.
Specifically, while it is a common knowledge that the governor has recently in the state scored high points in areas such as youth empowerment, infrastructural provisions, security and peace building, it is of considerable importance to underline that Okowa is presently making in-road and covering new grounds in areas that are more national in outlook.
Commenting on these new areas is the objective of this intervention.
But before then, it is important to add that decisiveness/ transformation is not new to the Governor Okowa. He is transformation personified.
A medical Doctor turned Politician. A politician turned Administrative Secretary of Ika Local Government; Administrative Secretary turned Local Government Chairman (Ika Local Government); Local Government Chairman turned Commissioner where he at different times and places transversed about three different ministries; Commissioner turned Secretary to the State Government (SSG); Secretary to the State Government (SSG turned Senator and of course a Senator turned Executive Governor of the state who is now serving out his second in office as the Executive Governor of the state.
Let’s look at this issues beginning with his recent call for complete overhaul of the nation’s 1999 Constitution.
It was widely reported that Senate Sub-Committee on review of the 1999 Constitution met recently, with Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, in Asaba, the state capital. Surprisingly but to the admiration of all, Governor Okowa was not only decisive but emphatic in his position/demand. While he noted that Nigeria needs a new constitution, he kicked against the amendment of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Let’s listen to him; a new constitution for the country had become necessary in view of inherent flaws in the 1999 Constitution. It’s good enough that those sent here are familiar with the zone. So, when the people speak, they would understand “But, I also wished that some persons from other zones actually had the opportunity to come here and hear the voices of our people directly, because sometimes we do not understand the extent of the pains that the Niger Delta people truly suffer in the country. “We believe in one country and in the unity of Nigeria, but we will continue to ask for equity as a people, and I know that the people will give their opinion at the public hearing,” he stated. The governor urged the National Assembly to reconsider power devolution to the states, review revenue allocation formula, oil derivation and state police in the amendment to enable the Chairman of Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to provide a revenue allocation formula proposal directly before the lawmakers.
He lamented that the revenue allocation formula had not been reviewed for the last 24 years, whereas it was supposed to be reviewed every five years, Okowa noted that oil-producing states had continued to struggle for the 13 percent derivation fund, adding that oil was a wasting asset, while the environment where it was being extracted had continued to be polluted and degraded.
Away from the call for complete overhaul to the call for nation restructuring, he again going by media reports captures it this way; the voices for restructuring have been very strong out there. Why will somebody even criticize restructuring? The only thing you need to know is that restructuring is of various facets, you only have to bring forth your arguments”.
His stand came against the backdrop of the criticisms of the Asaba Declaration by Abubakar Malami, Federal Attorney and Minister of Justice including Mallam Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman.
“I actually thought that the voices who tend to criticize the meeting failed to have an understanding. People should learn to approach things after a very deep thought rather than just looking at the surface, picking one thing and speaking about it. “We actually came in as state governors to reaffirm our belief in the Nigerian state and secondly we do also realise that there are things going on very wrongly and there was a need to address them”, the governor said.
On the enactment of anti open grazing laws in the state, the Governor again, scored a very high point as he berated critics of southern governors on the ban of open grazing of cattle and the call for national dialogue to restructure Nigeria.
‘These were part of the decisions taken when he hosted his 16 colleagues on 11 May, 2021 in Asaba where they also called for state police and devolution of powers from the Federal Government to the States. “We owe no apologies, because we spoke the truth and we thought that the truth we spoke was in the best interest of this nation. Can we truly at this moment be promoting open grazing? Thank God that the President was misrepresented, because I have seen news headlines that the President is not opposed to the ban on open grazing. We need to begin to look into what is best for us. Where we were 50 years ago should not be where we should be today and tomorrow.”
“Today, a lot of money is being spent by the Central Bank of Nigeria to encourage farmers to ensure that we are food sufficient but a lot of these efforts are lost, because of insecurity. Farmers can’t go to farm, their crops are destroyed, they are maimed and raped and some are even killed. We cannot continue like this, because if you have a programme you are spending billions on, we must secure it and we must ensure the food security of this country.”
“Ranching obviously is the only way out as is happening in other climes and it’s not impossible in this place. In some parts of Taraba State, ranching has been on for so many years and we can actually create those ranches where the cattle will have more meat, more milk and then the children can actually afford to go to school”, “We may not go into the big ranches but we can start in some form by acquiring some lands for that purpose and it may not be owned by individuals. Government can own the ranches where individuals can come and populate and pay some form of token”, the governor stated.
On power rotation in the state, Mr. Governor also created new awareness.
Speaking through, Mr Olisa Ifeajika, his Chief Press Secretary, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa among other concerns noted that there is an insinuation making the rounds that the governor came to power through zoning. That assertion, he noted, was wrong because people from other senatorial districts participated in the primaries that brought him to power. He said that there was no time in the history of the state that any primary for governorship was allowed as an exclusive preserve of any senatorial district. “We are all witnesses to the primaries that brought him to power, persons from the other senatorial districts in the state other than Delta North, participated in the exercise.
There was no time in the state, particularly in this present dispensation that any primary for governorship has been allowed to be for only one particular senatorial district. “In all the records we have, primaries had been for all comers; people from all the senatorial districts always participated in all of that. “For the one that brought Okowa to power in 2015, we are aware that aspirants from Central and South Senatorial Districts participated, including a former minister who has become an apostle of zoning and saying that zoning consensus brought Governor Okowa to power.
He fired again; “Indeed, former Chief of Staff, Olorogun David Edevbie, came second in that race, meaning that if he had come first, there was no way they would have asked him to stay away and allow Okowa to grab the ticket on the grounds that it was the turn of Delta North to produce the governor.“In other words, it is not true that it was zoning that brought Okowa to power; it was his person, his pedigree in politics and the grace of God. He also had, as he still does, immense goodwill across the three senatorial districts.
In all these, Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa’s latest call on political appointees to be a repository of ideas that will end poverty and social vices in the country appears to be the most appreciated by the people of the state.
The governor while inaugurating eight newly-appointed special advisers at Government House, Asaba, noted that the times were difficult for Nigerians and that this was not the time for them to be lazy in their duties. Even as he urged political appointees to commit themselves to more work to revive the economy and create opportunities for the younger generation, he decried the high rate of youth unemployment which, he said, had driven many into self-help, leading to the current social vices in the country.
In my views, such comment/notion can only come from an honest and decisive National Leadership.
Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;email@example.com/08032725374