By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
Recently, this author has seen people (deltans and non deltans alike) argue that the success of Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa’s led administration particularly in the infrastructural development and promotion of technical education in the state dwarfed that of his predecessors. These efforts on the part of the Governor contributed appreciably to why Delta State was ranked the Best State in Human Capital Development in the 2017 States Peer Review by the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria, and also in 2020. It is also responsible to why Delta as a state was adjudged to be the Second Least Poor State, coming only after Lagos, Nigeria’s business hub, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
Despite the validity of the above declarations, I have also within this span, observed critics argue that Delta is a small state, oil producing, and therefore, can achieve their goals and record developments easily. That the success so far recorded in the state has nothing to do with creative leadership but a function of availability of natural resources in the state.
Like the first group mentioned above, I have in recent post among other things noted that the ongoing development in Delta state tellingly justifies the popular belief that creative concepts of leaders can bring both disruptive and constructive aspect; laced with capacity to shatter set patterns of thinking, can threaten the status quo, or at the very least stir up people’s anxieties.
While noting that Okowa has in the past six years demonstrated that strategic success cannot be reduced to a formula, nor can one become a strategic thinker by reading a book, but, through constant demonstration of competence, connection and character, the piece submitted that if one had visited the Coastal areas of Delta state before the 29th of May 2015 till date, he/she may have concluded that the area was a location that has apparently never heard of civilization. But under Governor Okowa’s administration, the people are coming to understand that education and infrastructural development of an area are the best tools for shaping the future of the people, and not devices for an exclusive privileged few.
Among all the reaction/comment received, a particular one from a supposedly coastal dweller seems to stand out as it was a positive reaction with a sprinkle of agenda setting.
Essentially, it reads in part; Okowa has deflected 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, this particular reader/respondent in line appreciated the Governor for level of good/internal road networks and other infrastructural development- a feat that he said qualifies the Governor as the first to give a sense of belonging to the people of the region.
He however, concluded that for the Governor to finish strong, he should construct road networks that will link Warri to Escravos terminals in Warri South West Local Council Area of Delta and another from Escravos to Forcados terminal in Burutu Local Government Area as well as complete Ayakoromo bridge to link communities in Ughelli South and Burutu Council Areas.
More specifically, a further analysis of his comment reveals that while the first part of his comment acts as a morale booster to the state Governor, the second part which is the demand for the construction road networks that will link Warri to Escravos terminals in Warri South West Local Council Area of Delta and another from Escravos to Forcados terminal in Burutu Local Government Area, as well as complete Ayakoromo Bridge to link communities in Ughelli South and Burutu Council Areas, performs agenda setting function for the state Governor and his team.
Continuing he said; , the bridge project has lingered for a very long time having been awarded by the now outgone Emmanuel Udughan administration. The project has in fact thrust a responsibility and extremely important destiny; to complete this process of socioeconomic rejuvenation of the people of the riverine community which the state have spent far too long a time to do.
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 an 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’.
In reputation terms, there are more reasons to applaud Governor Okowa’s effort in this direction. It is said that a leader’s image is an amalgam of a variety of factors, and followers must at intervals evaluate these perceived factors in order to dictate if they are in positive or negative light. Particularly, image is capable of saying much more about a leader than any of his long speeches and verbal declarations. And once established, the image becomes not just the leader’s picture but remains highly durable.
Even as this is being internalized, there exists yet another area of concern that in my views needs urgent challenge in the coastal area of the state. It is in the areas of bringing primary and secondary schools close to communities in the coastal/riverine communities in the state.
Just very recently, I listened with rapt attention to King Monday Whiskey, Udurhie 1, the Ovie of Iderhe Kingdom speaks on the challenges children of his kingdom need to confront to access education. King Whiskey who spoke in Lagos, among other things lamented that children in the Niger delta must attain the age of 12 before starting from primary one because it is only at that age that children can be able to paddle their boat successfully to the other side of the community where their school is located.
Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;[email protected]/08032725374.