At a lecture he delivered in Benin City, Edo State on Saturday, September 19, 2015, Delta State Governor, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, talked about the relationship between public office holders and the promises they made to the people while seeking for such offices.
The lecture was part of activities to mark the 83rd birthday of a two-time governor of the old Bendel State from which Delta and Edo were carved out, retired Gen. (Dr). Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia.
Okowa, in the course of the lecture titled Towards Sustainable Democracy in Nigeria: The Role of Political Parties, declared that democracy will be an incomplete concept if politicians or office holders fail to keep their promises. This was how he put it to the admiration and applause from his audience:
“Democracy is advanced when elected political leaders fulfill the promises they made to their constituents during electioneering campaigns. There is nothing worse than unfulfilled promises in a democratic system. When leaders act as if promises they made during campaigns do not matter, it erodes the trust and confidence of the people in the system. Political leaders at all levels must realise that promises are meant to be kept….That is the only way to maintain the trust and confidence that is necessary between the people and their leaders for sustainable democracy”.
Governor Okowa, then seized the occasion to intimate his audience with his campaign promises in Delta State.
“In Delta State, our administration came into power with the bold promise of prosperity for all hinged on a five-point agenda with the acronym S.M.A.R.T, which means: Strategic Wealth Creation and Provision of Jobs; Meaningful Peace Building Platforms for political/Social Stability; Agricultural Reforms and Accelerated Industrialisation; Relevant Health and Education Policies and Transformed Environment through Urban Renewal”.
He literally vowed to remain faithful in implementing them; “We will do all within our power to be faithful to this agenda”, he declared. For those who were privileged to hear Governor Okowa deliver the lecture, or those who read the report, the obvious question must have been whether, in the last ten months, Governor Okowa has been “faithful” to his agenda?
Put differently, has the Delta State chief executive been fulfilling the promises he made when he campaigned for office? Without a shred of doubt, or fear of contradiction, the answer is a straight forward and resounding YES, notwithstanding the fact that the administration had to contend with distractions that came its way in the form of electoral litigations for eight clear months.
The record so far indicates that for each of the five points that form the S.M.A.R.T agenda, Governor Okowa has kept faith in a way that has left even his critics standing in awe of him just as his admirers keep applauding and cheering him on. He has operated as if the last thing he does at bedtime is to ask himself what he has done to advance democracy in the outgoing day. And when he wakes up, he brings up what was left undone the previous day and promptly sets about working on them.
Of course, it goes without saying that the job and wealth creation are the bedrock of the S.M.A.R.T agenda with the Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurial Programme (YAGEP) and Skills Training and Entrepreneurial Programme (STEP) as flagship programmes. Governor Okowa has through this initiative set the stage for the transformation of the lives of thousands of unemployed youths in Delta State between the ages of 18 and 35.
The wealth and job creation scheme has been strategically designed and tailored not just to tackle youth unemployment in the state but to also raise a new generation of entrepreneurs, who will be job creators and employers of labour themselves, thus giving meaning to the idea of prosperity for all.
When the scheme was launched on August 26, last year at Songhai, Amukpe in Sapele, pessimists probably thought it was one of “those programmes”. But by mid-January, 2016, the first set of 771 youths from across the three senatorial districts of the state graduated from the scheme. They have since been assisted with starter packs and settled. Last month, interviews were conducted for a fresh set of trainees for 2016. And, hopefully, it can only get better.
How about Okowa’s Relevant Health and Education Policies? When he assumed office, he focused on overhauling the state’s technical education and associated infrastructure in the firm belief that the world of today need an educational system which is capable of imbuing individuals with requisite skills needed for self employment and creating jobs for others. Today, three technical schools in the state – Agbor, Ofagbe and Sapele, one from each senatorial district have undergone unprecedented renovation and facelift preparatory to launching full time into thisvision.
Governor Okowa, during the state’s education summit in January this year in Asaba, has this to say: “Our goal is to provide the best education available for every student with strong emphasis on science, vocational and technical education, as we hope to harness the power of technology to empower our children with rigorous, high quality, customized education necessary for them to thrive in today’s dynamic market place”.
The health sector has also witnessed massive re-construction and rehabilitation works in the General Hospitals at Patani and Abavo. Early in February, Governor Okowa, as part of efforts to ensure universal health coverage (UHC) for the people, signed into law the Delta State Health Insurance Commission (DSHIC) bill. This is one sure way to provide support for the majority to access qualitative healthcare without the attendant financial burden. He had had the bill prepared well ahead of his inauguration in May 2015. What passion for the welfare of the people of Delta State!
Acting Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Femi Akingbade, who witnessed the signing of the bill, described the governor as “a trail blazer”. He said Okowa has put Delta in the record book as the second state after Lagos to establish a statutory agency for health insurance.
In terms of infrastructure, Governor is building new roads and rehabilitating old ones across the state. Last month, Governor Okowa, twice embarked on a full day inspection of projects across the state with indigenes applauding and cheering his passion and vision. One cannot but put on record, among others, the pace at which the reconstruction work to standardize the Asaba Airport is going; the resumed activities on the Ughelli – Asaba Expressway and the decision to review the BRT Project in Warri – Effrun to give way to an Expressway.
Worthy of note is the fact that there has been a reasonable peaceful atmosphere across the state. Skirmishes are often dealt with in the bud before they escalate through established channels. Importantly, as a firm believer and advocate of politics of unity and inclusiveness rather than a show of power, Governor Okowa has significantly reconfigured the political atmosphere in the state in such a way that all sections have a sense of belonging and consider themselves as critical stakeholders in the realization of the Delta Project through the S.M.A.R.T agenda as a result of his even appointments and distribution of projects across the three senatorial districts.
Time and space constraints will not allow one to continue all day. But suffice to say that in Governor Okowa, Delta State has been blessed with a man who promises and looks upon God to help him fulfil such promises without fail.