GOVERNOR ARTHUR IFEANYI OKOWA THE TRAILBLAZER, DEMOCRAT AND STATESMAN: THE MAN FOR THE RESCUE NIGERIA 2023.
Citizens Alliance Project is a political pressure group with membership strength cutting across all the geo-political zones in the country. As a group we are well informed with the politics of Nigeria and we have been following with keen interest.
At a well attended meeting held at Abuja on Monday 11th April 2022, we resolved to chronicle the political antecedents of Dr Ifeanyi Okowa. His Excellency Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, a founding member of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP have grown through the ranks as a public officer from being Secretary to Local Government Council to Chairman of Local Government Council, Commissioner, Secretary to State Government, a Senator representing Delta North senatorial district at the National Assembly and Governor of Delta state.
In all these assignments of public interest, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has provided credible service to the people who freely gave him their mandates trusting in his capacity to deliver. In 2015 after the Party primaries election that saw his emergence as the flag bearer of the PDP, the Smart Agenda began like every other normal political mantra and after his popular victory at the polls has long gone beyond a mere mantra to becoming a clear policy direction of a very focused and people oriented government in Delta state.
OKOWA AS AN ADMINISTRATIVE COLLOSUS:
In defining the direction of a SMART Delta, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa said his government has “outlined a five point agenda encapsulated in the acronym SMART which means; Strategic Wealth Creation Projects and Provision of jobs for all Deltans; Meaningful peace building platforms aimed at political and social harmony; Agricultural reforms and accelerated industrialization; Relevant Health and Education policies; Transformed environment through urban renewal”.
The strategic implementation of the policy has seen a great rise in youth capacity building engagement for self reliance through programs like YAGEP and STEP, direct employment in the state civil service, rural and urban renewal and continuous stakeholders engagement for peace and inclusiveness. The beginning of the first and even the second term of Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa as governor of Delta state was greeted with the following challenges:
1. Drop in crude oil prices that adversely affected state allocation from federal account.
2. Inherited Debt profile of the state
3. Huge wage bills
4. Avengers hostilities on oil and gas facilities that reduced the stake of the state at FAAC.
5. Covid- 19 global pandemic.
With all the above challenges, Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa led administration has continue to pursue all round development with uncompromising vision and charismatic leadership. Some Policy Objectives, Implementation and Achievements of Senator Dr IfeaNyi Okowa as Governor of Delta state: The acronym SMART as earlier defined have components that needs Xraying in other to put it in proper perspective and evaluation of the level of implementation and work done in actualisation of this policy.
1. STRATEGIC WEALTH CREATION:
This section of the agenda, the government set out to create wealth through employment, knowing fully well that unemployment can only truly be tackled through deliberate government effort to stimulate and create employment opportunities both through known and tested short term and long term strategy.
While Delta state is an oil bearing state, a non labour intensive sector, the approach to supporting Small and Medium scale enterprises by the administration has proven to be a clear road to economic growth, while addressing unemployment.
In line with his set out goals, the Governor created for the first time the office of Chief Job creation officer. This office is manned by a renowned Professor of Agricultural economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsuka; Prof Eric Eboh. The enterprise development programs l ike in the Ski l ls Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP) and Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP) as implemented by the Job creation scheme, did so without recourse to political patronage and has since then trained and established over 20,334 graduands directly through technical and vocational education and agriculture as at 2019.
The record from 2015-2021 also shows that over 5000 unemployed youths have been engaged across various skills; Information Communication Technology (ICT), Agro-allied production and beauty services amongst others through the Job Creation Scheme. These programs have since been expanded to include Project test for girls between ages of 18 and 30, with about 500 starter kit empowered graduands for the first batch. The Rural Youth Skills Acquisition of the Delta state ministry of youth have in no small measure contributed to the overall 30,000 beneficiaries of all the youth and SME empowerment programs. The huge success of the schemes has contributed to the over 150,000 direct and indirect private sector jobs that were created through these youth empowerment interventions and infrastructure development, Contributory Health Insurance, Technical Education, Public Environmental works and the many other socio-economic activities.
2. MEANINGFULPEACE BUILDING
The government led by Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa under this section of it’s policy tries to apply the known fundamentals of security and peace building strategy through sustaining, increasing and the introduction of new measures to contain and tackle from the very source which breed and encourage insecurity in Delta and thereby consolidating on progress through deliberate peace building.
As a state that has witnessed intercommunal crisis, militant activities, oil vandalism, kidnapping and other related vices, the task set out to keep the peace and shore up security is strategically stratified into three levels of engagement within this policy.
(I). Effective Support for all Security Agencies of the state in combatting insecurity, nipping conflicts in the bud and proper intelligence gathering for the dutyful discharge of their responsibilities. In staying faithful to the above policy, the Governor initiated and launched operation Delta safe that saw the coming together and strategic partnership of Civil and military institutions in securing the state. The security gains under this strategy includes but not limited to reduction in sea piracy, Kidnapping and other social vices. He has invested heavily on operational vehicles and security gadgets to enhance the efficacy of the security agencies in Delta state.
(ii). Assistance of community security outfits in form of vigilante groups as approved by the police to keep the peace and provide security. This strategy and its recorded gains seem to reecho the importance of community policing, which is the most micro security outfit for community security needs, that when provided will lead to overall improvement of Peace and security.
(iii). The recognition and engagement of critical stakeholders from the community and local level to help flush out elements of insecurity and pick early warning signs for brewing conflict from escalating into full blown violent conflict. This level of engagement has taken cognizance and given due recognition to the role of traditional institutions and rulers and community leadership in keeping the peace and information gathering of possible conflicts and decedents in the communities of Delta state. The government has continue with stakeholders engagement at the community level and has since secured the trust and cooperation of the people of Delta through town hall meetings and continuous engagement.
In his bid to consolidate on the above efforts, Governor Okowa went ahead to inaugurate the Delta State Advisory and Peace Building Council whose aim was to ensure conflict prevention, conflict resolution and transformation, post-conflict reconciliation, and peace management. Knowing fully well what Peace building is about, the Governor said at the inauguration of the council;”Peace building covers a broad range of issues such as inclusive growth, economic development, educational advancement, health improvement, religious harmony and environmental sustainability. It seeks not only to resolve or avert conflicts, but to also formulate policies and build relationships that help to maintain peace and justice.
Ultimately, the goal of peace building in any society is the enthronement of human security, and that refers not just to the absence of violence but the presence of food security, financial security, educational security, health security, and social security.The terms of reference and responsibilities for the Council as inaugurated by his Excellency the governor are as follows: Have power to study the general socio-economic and political situations in the State and render advice to government; Advise on issues that can lead to healthy relationship between the Executive arm of government, the Legislature and the Judiciary. This objective shall also be adopted as regards the Local Government Councils; Carry out in-depth studies and render advice on issues, which can strengthen harmonious relationship with the Federal Government and other States in the Federation; Study the causes of conflicts among the various communities in the State and advise on measures to effectively mitigate them;
Advise on appropriate peace building mechanisms to ensure the sustainability of the various peace programmes of government; and deliberate and advise on any matter referred to it by government. Following religiously the terms of reference, the council worked on a broad area of concerns that included inter/intra communal land disputes, oil companies and host communities dispute, post amnesty agitations and the farmer/herdsmen clashes. There were great result in attending to a myriads of these disputes that posed a threat to peace and security in the state. Some of the gains are;
I. Peaceful resolution and return of immediate peace to Ogbe-Ijoh and Aladja land disputes inter community conflict.
ii. Peaceful engagement of Ogbe-Ijoh market land dispute between the interested parties of Ogbe-Ijoh Warri kingdom, Agbarha Warri kingdom and Warri kingdom.
iii. Ogulagha Community leadership crisis
iv. Resolving Oil companies and host communities deadlock.
v. Leading engagements to stop hostilities and vandalism on oil facilities.
vi. Continuous engagement that reduced to the bearest minimum the Farmer/herder clashes and so much more gains than we can ever remember to mention.
3. AGRICULTURE AND INDUSTRIALISATION
This policy and it’s implementation has been pursued through multiple strategies to boost agriculture, it’s related activities and growth of Agro allied and industrial sector. Agro-allied youth capacity building have since the beginning of the administration been on top gear from Agricultural production and food processing to packaging. The encouragement of mechanised and corporate farming and construction of rural roads to aide movement of farm produce from rural area has greatly contributed to the growth of the sector and supported access to raw materials and food market in Delta state. The empowerment of a critical mass of youth in this sector has provided multiplier effects on security and peace building through job creation. The kwale industrial park project from the beginning of the project to it’s completion will provide platform for thousands to be employed and this will create opportuinities in the industrial and innovation market base in Delta State.
Governor Okowa continue to consolidate on the gains of his administration’s effort to industrialized the state by creating an enabling environment for Local and foreign investors to key into the Delta state market through transparency, accountability and stability.
4. RELEVANT HEALTH AND EDUCATIONALPOLICIES
Under this policy, the state government under Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa set out to transform the Health and Education sector through creating access for more Deltans in terms of spread and consolidate on quality of service delivery in the sector. The governor who has long completed the Asaba Specialist Hospital with upgraded physical infrastructure to enhance institutional capacity for improved service-delivery, also went ahead to launched the Contributory Health Insurance Scheme with the government bearing the cost for Under 5, pregnant women and the elderly in the state.
Since the creation of the insurance scheme over 500,000 have registered in the scheme. The governor in pursuit of this policy have upgraded 63 Secondary Health Care facilities and 110 Primary Health Care facilities as well as the engagement of 52 standard Private Health Care providers for the scheme.The importance of the health sector is known to a Medical doctor, no wonder the governor who is one has continued to procure state of the art medical facilities for health centers; Ambulances and equipment for a more technologically advanced operations for improved medical services across the state.
The containment of the Covod-19 virus, made visible the commitment on the part of Delta state government not to loose any of her resident by providing facilities for patience and supporting health workers to fight the virus with all commitment. Other successes recorded in the Health Sector, include the Construction of Abavo General Hospital, Construction of modern Isolation Ward at the Federal Medical Centre, Asaba, accreditation of most programmes in the state’s health manpower training institutions at School of Nursing Agbor, Eku, and Warri; School of Health Technology, Ofuoma and Delta State University Teaching Hospital DELSUTH, Oghara. Mobile Field Hospital and Boat Clinic reactivated and now functional while 12 Flood IDP Camp Clinics and three Medical Outposts currently established and functional in the state.
Dr. Okowa administration has taken keen interest in education in the state. The interest in education can be clearly seen in the policy pursuit of building a technical school in every of the 25 local governments of the state. The importance attached to the technical school is largely to the skill acquisition in the curriculum that will drive manpower and human capacity development. This policy drive also led to the creation of the ministry of vocational and technical education, a ministry dedicated to growing skills through supervision and support of technical education in the state.
While construction of 12 Technical Colleges is ongoing and at its completion stage, several schools; primary, secondary and higher institutions of learning were either constructed, rehabilitated, equipped or upgraded across the three senatorial districts by this administration.
In the bid to ensure that more qualified Deltans are admitted into Universities within the state, three institutions have been upgraded to Universities; College of Education, Agbor was upgraded and named; Delta University. Anwai campus of Delta State University, was upgraded and named; Dennis Osadebey University while Delta State Polytechnic Ozoro was upgraded and named; Delta State University of Science and Technology. All three Universities have been approved by the National Universities Commission, NUC, with a board appointed to oversee the immediate running of the school for take off. Amongst other Educational drive in the state are; Teachers Development Institute at Owa-Oyibu, FRSC Marshall Training School and many others.
5. TRANSFORMED ENVIRONMENT THROUGH URBAN RENEWAL:
This policy drive seeks to massively develop infrastructure of the state through road constructions across the state, beautification of the multiple urban centres in the state and urban renewal of the state capital. The policy action emphasizes environment sustainability and the renewal of at least one urban area in the Ten federal constituencies in Delta state. The governor have since lived up to promises that have long become a policy direction. In trying to achieve the urban renewal policy, the governor have done the following:
1. Rehabilitation/Equipping/Upgrade of Asaba international airport.
2. Stephen keshi international stadium, Asaba
3. Multi billion naira store. Drainage project in Asaba, Warri, Uvwie and environs
4. The multi billion naira ultra modern state Secretariat.
Uncounted road projects across the three senatorial districts with 300 more roads under construction and novel riverine road construction stretching over 25km in different location.
All of these and more are what the “Road Master” as he his fondly called has done and still doing more in pursuit of a stronger Delta. It is also worthy of note to mention that Governor Okowa’s Administration brought in hundreds of Young people into Governance and public service. As part of his administrative policies, Young men and women in their own right were brought into governance in their large numbers for the first time to contribute with their energy and fresh ideas the best way of implementing the policies of his administration.
Special Assistants, Senior Special Assistants, land and water ways security saw a very large percentage occupied by the youth population that the governor introduced to Governance, all in his bid to train the Army of the youths in leadership ahead of higher responsibilities.
The governor went ahead to also appoint very young and sound commissioners to sit at state Executive council meetings with him and went further to put strategic offices of responsibilities in the hands of young Talents at the Board of Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission. Youths are drivers of innovation and properly being harnessed for good as Governor Okowa have clearly shown through his appointments.
To state that Governor Okowa is Youth friendly is to State the obvious, his believe in what the youths can do. He is truly a fan and a champion in the belief of Youth Leadership and that he has demonstrated throughout his administration.
OKOWA AS APARTY MAN AND NATIONALIST-
Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa as a Party man and strategic member of the Peoples Democratic Party, has conducted two party national convention adjudged to be the most peaceful, free, fair and credible elective conventions as Chairman and Convention planning committee for the party.
He has chaired and co-chaired committees of reconciliations and has often been seen pursuing causes of stabilization of the party. As a consummate politician and stateman, he has also established friendship across party lines for the benefit of Deltans and by extension Nigeria. With a very rich experience in people oriented leadership provision and the state of the Nigerian state, we can without any equivocation call on the governor of Delta state, His Excellency Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa to step up for a national assignment of being part of the team that will rescue Nigeria in 2023.
OKOWA IS TRUSTWORTHY, OKOWA IS RELIABLE, OKOWA IS DEPENDABLE, OKOWA IS THE ANTIDOTE TO THE CHALLENGES OF NIGERIA.
Comrade Shedrack Agediga – National Chairman
Amb. Obinna Nwoke – Director
MobilizationAlhaji Muktar Usman – Coordinator North.