AUGUSTINE AVWODE writes on the giant strides taken by the Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, to transform his state during his first term in office.
In two days, it would be four years since the era of Sen Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa dawned on Delta State. And, let’s say it here the way it is: Okowa has given a good account of himself as the Governor of Delta State in the last four years.
He has not only demonstrated abundance of Competence, Character and Capacity, the three Cs all good and great leaders should have, he has added a fourth, – compassion, which together with the first three, makes him one of the best around.
A promise keeper and a man of immense humility by every definition, Governor Okowa, in the last four years has walked his talk and kept faith with his electoral promises hinged on the S.M.A.R.T agenda that came with a likeable chorus: “Prosperity for all Deltans”.
Okowa’s consuming passion, one can say, has been how to ensure that Deltans, irrespective of differences in ethnicity, gender, faith or political persuasion, come together as one united people, live a good and decent life and ensuring greater good for the greater number. The beauty of Governor Okowa’s SMART agenda is that it is at the heart of people’s efforts to meet their everyday needs.
From day one, he left no one in doubt that he was prepared for the job. He hit the ground running and the last four years have been phenomenal. Within a week of his inauguration, he sent two bills to the State House of Assembly in respect of Asaba Capital City Development and the State Health Contributory Scheme. And, in less than a month of his being sworn-in as Governor, he sent in a list of 12 commissioner nominees to the Assembly, a clear indication that he hasn’t come to play but to work. And, he has amply justified the pan-Deltans mandate given to him.
Okowa brought verve, passion, excitement and confidence into governance. He threw himself at his job with so much zeal notwithstanding the fact that the economic horizon was heavily overcast, menacingly cloudy and frighteningly intimidating as at when he took charge.
For a start, take Governor Okowa’s job cum wealth creation and empowerment initiatives. They are as scientific and strategic as they are practical, transparent and result oriented. With the establishment of the Job Creation Office, Okowa came up with schemes such as the Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP); Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP); Graduate Employment Enhancement Programme (GEEP); and skills acquisition and empowerment programme for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs). Through these, youths were trained in technical and business skills of their choice vocations and provided with starter packs to establish their own businesses.
With this, at least a total of 2,324 unemployed youths have been transformed into owners of business enterprises, self-employed individuals and employers of labour since its inception in August 2015 with the following breakdown: 1,687 STEPreneurs, 618 YAGEPreneurs and 19 beneficiaries of GEEP.
And in line with Governor Okowa’s principle of inclusiveness, STEP and YAGEP beneficiaries comprise 64% males and 36% females and that includes (51) Persons with Disabilities (PwDs). His wealth and job creation efforts have received commendations from within and outside the state, including the “Outstanding Governor Of The Year Award (Job Creation) from Daar Communications Limited, owners of RayPower FM and AIT and other sundry bodies and individuals, including the World Bank in Nigeria.
Okowa’s peace building initiatives in the last four years have engendered a new found sense of unity, peaceful and collective approach to the development of the state by all and sundry.
Intangible as it were, it is generally believed that without peace, no meaningful development, be it social, economic, physical or industrial can take place. There has been little or no inter-ethnic acrimony, social upheavals or sectarian related disturbances or industrial conflict at a disturbing scale in the state since he took over. Okowa’s tactical approach to issues of conflict resolution has resulted in hitherto unfounded sense of oneness, unity and peaceful co-existence amongst all Deltans.
This is a clear departure from the tense atmosphere of mutual suspicion, mistrust and misgiving that pervaded the socio-political and industrial space as at the time he took over. The one or two incidences recorded in this regard were quickly, firmly and objectively resolved.
His imprint in urban renewal and infrastructure development has been bold, legible, equitable, verifiable and second to none across the three senatorial districts of the state. Take Asaba, the capital City for instance, in the last four years, Asaba status as a state capital has changed so dramatically for good. Look at the Asaba Airport now, the once degraded and decertified airport is now of international standard, upgraded, recertified and acceptable to all regulating agencies. Take the Asaba Storm Water Drainage Project, the Mariam Babangida Road and Cable Point Road among many other networks of internal roads.
As we speak, Ekwueme has turned Asaba to the sporting capital of Nigeria. He achieved this through the reconstruction, redevelopment and upgrade of the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba, a project long abandoned and almost forgotten. One must not forget the ongoing New State Secretariat that promises to house all ministries, departments and agencies.
Then you talk road infrastructure. It’s not for nothing that Governor Okowa is nicknamed “The Road Master”. In very simple term, the construction of new, or rehabilitation of existing roads in the state has never been this good. Within the last four years, the Okowa administration has embarked on at least 317 road projects across the state with most of them located in rural and riverine areas. The rural folks are not only happy but full of praises and prayers for the man everyone loves to call Ekwueme (Talk and Do).
On Education, Okowa’s policy is simply pragmatic. He has repositioned the educational policy of the state with emphasis on technical and skill acquisition. Given the dearth of white-collar jobs and the menace of youth unemployment to the society, acquiring a vocation or skill comes handy as a most plausible remedy.
To this end, the technical colleges in the state have been renovated, upgraded and given a face-lift to adequately deliver on this vision. Only recently while on an inspection of the state Polytechnic at Ogwashi-Uku, Governor Okowa reiterated his vision on education. Hear him: “If we strengthen skill acquisition and entrepreneurship development, we will have creators of jobs and creators of wealth as graduates in the new Nigeria”. Such has been his passion and believe in technical and vocational education.
Governor Okowa’s healthcare delivery policies in the last four years have been fantastic. The Delta State Health Insurance Scheme which he initiated has the enviable record of being the very first in any state across the federation and now boasts of about 500,000 enrollees. Then you have the massive renovation of hospitals, equipping and making them functional to meet the daily health needs of the people.
Governor Okowa, in the last four years has written his name in solid gold through verifiable performance, all delivered in humility, love and without discrimination. The numerous awards garnered in these four years are eloquent testimonies to the success he has recorded in the state. And, for these and many more positive steps taken by a man who came prepared with clear-cut vision, ample passion and desire to make an impact, Deltans justly rewarded him with a resounding Second Term Mandate in expectation of a #StrongerDelta and #BetterDaysAhead.
*Avwode is Media Aide to Governor Okowa.