Opinion: Tears for Delta State

Nigeria (Blank NEWS Online) By Julius Oweh– 
The birth of Delta State was mired in political intrigues and controversy as the political and military elites disdained the wisdom that found expression in the centrality of Abuja as the capital of Nigeria and Asaba was chosen as the state capital on the very fringe of the state. Majority of Deltans were not happy but under military dictatorship, they had no choice and have to live with that contraption. If that were the only misfortune of the state, Deltans would not have bothered but were further burden by drought of leadership that have made profession of amassing wealth and not using the resources of the state to develop it and its people. Today after many years of statehood, a dirge is on the lips of committed and patriotic Deltans. Pay a visit to Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom, you hang your head in shame and you begin to wonder where the people of Delta State recruited their leaders. Go to neighbouring Edo state, the thoughts of transfer of state governors mock your mind.

In midst of this leadership deficit, the elders who are supposed to call the political elites to order are comfortable with the award of contracts which most of the time are not executed. This is not arm chair journalism or infantile product of `bad belly` for the political leadership. This is the reality on the ground as Asaba the state capital is no more than a glorified local government headquarters.

I do not reckon with the activities of military governors for they were mere armies of occupation who pillaged the state with active co-operation of some self serving civil servants. I am talking about the return to democracy in 1999 and what the political elites did with the stupendous oil wealth and the allocations from Abuja. In fairness to Chief James Ibori, he opened up the state capital, built polytechnics, expanded the state university to accommodate the multi ethnic nature of the state with three campuses, built a state of the art teaching hospital and empowered a lot of youths. Some critics are, however, not satisfied with the level of development given the oil revenue. Ibori is cooling his heels in London jail not because he was the most corrupt Nigerian leader but his opposition to the government of President Goodluck Jonathan. It is one of the stunning ironies of Nigeria that the difference between a free man and one in captivity depends on your political camp but there is hope and freshness in the air that the Buhari administration may change all that.

Today, Governor Arthur Okowa, a product of power shift is on the saddle and the story is hardly different. Instead of the government to map out strategic management principles to tackle the variety of problems bequeathed to it by the Uduaghan administration, the government is busy telling civil servants to bring out their primary school leaving certificates. If the aim of the exercise is to fish out those over aged civil servants in the habit of falsifying their years of service, a more ingenious way should have been devised. Instead of the government to address the non payment of pensioners for three years running, the Finance Commissioner gleefully announced that government has released two billion Naira to settle pensioners` claims. Yet the same government failed to tell Deltans the scope of indebtedness to the pensioners. This culture of secrecy of government activities is one of the reasons that had held down the development of the state. After eight years of drifting leadership anchored on slogans, a la three point agenda and Delta beyond oil, of the Uduaghan administration, Deltans are inundated with `prosperity for Deltans` propaganda. It is indeed prosperity for Deltans that Okowa sacked thousands of civil servants immediately after taking the oath of office on May 29. All the reasons advanced by the government for the anti-prosperity move are not just reasonable and smacks of indifference and intolerance. Yet the same government that complained of lack of funds was in a haste to get the nod of the State House of Assembly for ten billion naira loan for yet to be specified project and another five billion naira loan for the completion of the most expensive airport in Nigeria, the Asaba International Airport.

The litany of problems and administrative incompetence plaguing the state are many and numerous. It would take a volume to enumerate all of them and even my journalism colleagues in the state are not helping matters by their oafish indifference to the activities of the political class. You simply gnash your teeth to realize that this is the state that produced Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan who won all the available media awards in his eight years of stewardship. Yet the state radio and television are off the air and the State Information Commissioner is deluding himself about the grand plan to revamp the state owned media houses. If Okowa must avoid the pitfalls of the previous administrations, he must leave the realm of slogans and propaganda and face governance with determination and uncommon courage. His government is becoming too much of a crowd. There are too many political aides doing nothing and just a show of gratitude for political hatchet jobs done. What of the crowd of thirty-two elders’ council advisory committee? What of the numerous political advisers and commissioners? Is not a case of duplication of services and that such monies could be ploughed into more productive ventures? What are the roles of Asaba Capital Territory Development Agency, the Ministry of Works, Direct Labour Agency and the Ministry of Urban Renewal? My brain is becoming dizzy. It is hoped that Okowa despite his promise of Pan Deltan agenda and prosperity for all policy would not end up worse than previous administration?

Governance is a serious business that tasks the intellect of those in office. Okowa manifests the essence of the philosopher-king by his academic training, a medical doctor. But the fear is that he regales himself with a lot of sycophants, people who have pathological hatred for the truth. The dirge for Delta is not for lack of resources but the inability and in some cases, obvious refusal of the government to address the needs of the people and rather pander to some ego driven programmes. This is a trying period for the Okowa administration. I rest my case.

Julius Oweh, a journalist, Asaba, Delta State. 08037768392

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Blank NEWS Online founding Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, Albert Eruorhe Ograka, is a Graduate of Mass Communication. He also holds a Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) in Journalism from the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ).

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