Aside from the painful fact that public offices in Nigeria erroneously view their positions as an opportunity for private gain/personal enrichment instead of an avenue for public good, there exist in my view, two other constraints that explain why Nigeria’s democratic experience remained nascent, socioeconomically stunted and devoid of democracy dividends after over two decades of unbroken practice.
The first and very fundamental has to do with the fact that public office seekers/holders are usually laced with set vision/agendas which are at odds with the general inspirations and motivations of the citizens. And even when such visions are in consonance with that of the masses needs, there is colossal failure of recognition that the feasibility of a vision/agenda is not enough as visions do not make civilization nor achieve growth and progress unless the visionary in question transforms his vision into a reality within a reasonable period.
The second centres on politicians’ non-understanding that democracy works where politicians have the culture of accommodation and tolerance which makes a minority accept a majority’s right to have its way until the next, and wait patiently and peacefully for its turn to become the government by pursuing more voters to support.
Yet, from the ashes of hopelessness and bye-gone years of national leadership failures, disappointment and ‘hemorrhage’ came two capable and creative leaders that cannot be associated with any of the shortcomings/leadership ills mentioned above. These leaders are; Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and Barrister Kingsley Burutu Otuaro, Governor and Deputy Governor of Delta state respectively.
Governor Okowa’s leadership vision, agenda, inspiration and motivations have always aligned with that of the larger Deltans. This fact needs not be over-flogged or subjected to further debate as such relentless efforts by the Mr. Governor particularly in the areas of Infrastructures (road) , a few years ago, earned him ‘road master’ as a title.
Likewise, evidence abounds that Otuaro judging from his actions and inactions, is not just a Deputy Governor as he is laced with attributes of a true follower and a loyal ‘party man’. His exemplary, inspiring and heroic support to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and to Governor Okowa bears eloquent testimony to this fact. His unalloyed loyalty to both ‘instituted and constituted authorities’ in the state significantly ushered a rancor-free administration in the state. The obvious irony is that some of these silent but giant contributions of the Deputy remain hazy as they are not properly documented or well covered by the media.
This piece considers as instructive the need to look at the Deputy Governor’s contribution in this dispensation as the government of and for the people is supposed to be generally opened to scrutiny by the people.
Without much labor, there are in fact countless examples of realistic appreciation of how the Deputy Governor has demonstrated/approached the job of public leadership with wider range of strategic alternatives that prevented bureaucratic shortcomings from becoming a bottleneck to growth and development in the state
Beginning with his knack for truth, simplicity, love of God and humanity , the Deputy Governor has in the past seven years of being in the saddle proved beyond reasonable doubt through his actions, that simplicity is always more appealing than complexity, and faith is always more comforting than doubt.
Going by commentaries, there are people in both political parties(PDP and APC) that are presently ‘worried’ that there is something deeply unique about the Deputy Governor-his relationship to reason, his love for peace, his unalloyed and ‘blind’ obedience to his Boss/Principal and undying love for, and development of the coastal communities of the state.
Take as an illustration, very recently, during the Delta State PDP Mega Rally held at the Cenotaph, Asaba, he said something remarkably striking and alien to the nation’s public leadership corridor.
“The present administration will not fail the people of the state, Delta State is a praying state, God’s state, and the government believes in the magnificence of God. We will not tell our people half-truth, we will tell you the whole truth because, from the onset of this government, God has been our guide and we will not take our eyes off Him. We believe in God, we believe that Delta State is for God, we believe that God enthroned kings and we believe that going forward, God will enthrone the best leader,” “As a government, we will not fail you, we are determined to ensure that we finish strong and enthrone a better and secured Delta for future generations,” he concluded”.
Away from simplicity, truth and love for God, to the area of peace, the state Deputy Governor has reputedly become a peace advocate. He is known for preaching politics without rancor. Some years ago, Otuaro going by reports, was used to save the nation from serious economic debacles occasioned by the threat issued by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA).He was at the forefront of the campaign that got the Avengers to see reasons as to why they should not engage in the wanton destruction of oil facilities or plunder the nation’s economy.
In recognition of his effort in this direction, a recent report among others, observations noted that he (the Deputy Governor) is a humane administrator and amazingly simple-minded individual. The report further noted that nobody ever expected he would venture into the dicey and precarious nature of Nigerian politics. Barr. Kingsley Otuaro however, saw the need to boost the socio-economic prowess with political interest of the common man as well as bridge the lacuna of the rural-urban dichotomy of his people through the provisions of social infrastructure’.
Beyond the state level, the Barrister turned public office holder cum peace ambassador has succeeded in enshrining the needed inter-states security cooperation, especially among adjoining Niger Delta coastal states. To further illustrate his peace building and conflict management competence, Deacon Kingsley Burutu Otuaro , it was reported, demonstrated an unequalled sagacity on behalf of Delta State Government, spearheading the rescue of six students of Igbonla Model College, Epe, Lagos State, from kidnappers. That was a few years ago.
To take another example of how Otuaro’s obedience and his friction free relationship with the Governor is building peace and promoting development in the state, this piece will cast a glance at the tremendous development recently recorded in the coastal areas of the state and Gbaramatu kingdom in particular where he(Otuaro) hails from.
If a visit is made to the coastal areas of Delta state, and analysis/report of such visit placed side by side with documented accounts of deprivation, degradation and abandonment that formerly characterized the region, it will, however, reveal something fundamentally new and different about the crisis in the region; justify the belief that creative concepts of leaders can bring both disruptive and constructive aspect; and authenticate the conviction that a leader’s action and inactions is laced with the capacity to shatter set patterns of thinking, threaten the status quo, or at the very least stir up people’s anxieties.
The ongoing development of the region cannot in any way be attributed to speculation but a decision process built on right judgment and supported by rational inferences basically different from mathematical probability.
It has also shown that strategic success cannot be reduced to a formula, nor can one become a strategic thinker by reading books, but through constant demonstration of competence, connection, character and unity between the Governor and his Deputy.
Today, as a result of the present peace and unity that exists between the duo, the age-long excuse by previous administrations that the coastal region cannot be developed because the terrain is marshy-a feature that renders construction difficult if not impossible can no longer be sustained.
As recently argued by a coastal dweller, Okowa/Otuaro being God sent, used their politics of peace and development to send such an excuse to the dustbin of history. Even though the roads are yet to be connected to major cities in the state, they noted that coastal areas are now blessed with an appreciable number of pedestrian roads-a feat that qualifies the Governor and his deputy as the first to give a sense of belonging to the people of the region.
Certainly, the Governor Ifeanyi Okowa/Oturo administration has scored some good points in certain areas of life-particularly infrastructure.
This feeling came to mind following a recent media report that the Delta State Government has approved an upward review of contract cost of Ayakoromo Bridge project from N6 billion to N10.5 billion, elicited two sets of reactions among deltans particularly those in the riverine communities of Burutu, Patani and Bomadi local government areas of the states.
This decision by the state government to complete the bridge looks good both in practical and pragmatic terms. The transport sector has a huge role in connecting populations to where the work is. Also, Infrastructure investments help stem economic losses arising from problems such as power outages or traffic congestion. The World Bank estimates that in Sub-Saharan Africa, closing the infrastructure quantity and quality gap relative to the world’s best performers could raise GDP growth per head by 2.6% per year
Again, like the Bomadi bridge which was executed by Chief James Onanefe Ibori’s administration, connecting three local government areas, (Burutu, Ughele and Patani), likewise, the Ayakoromo bridge going by commentaries, when completed, promises to promote the socioeconomic lives and wellbeing of Deltans living in over in four local governments of the state.
Take as another illustration, Bobougbene community and its environs are reputed for the production of palm oil in commercial quantity and supply to Warri metropolis and Okwuagbe markets in Ugheli South. The bridge when completed will provide easy access to these markets. Even more, it will open up the majority of communities that are yet to have access to the ‘uplands’.
This massive infrastructural development in the state, I insist, is one of the fruits of effective, peaceful and productive collaboration between Governor Okowa and his Deputy.
Utomi, is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), A Lagos-Based Non Governmental Organization (NGO). He could be reached via Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374.