New Telegraph

February 25, 2024

A minority from the South in terms of attitudes

The recent contention by Erastus Ikhide in a piece dated July 8, 2022 and titled: “Atiku in stormy waters over choice of running mate’, more than anything else brings to mind the time-honoured saying by Martin Luther King Jr., American Baptist minister and civil activist, that just as there are three Souths geographically, there are several Souths in terms of attitudes. A minority in each of these states, he explained, would use almost any means, including physical violence, to preserve segregation.

Aside from qualifying as one of the above referenced minorities that uses almost any means, including but not limited to diatribe, to preserve ‘segregation’, promote fierce political and ideological warfare that negates our rationality as human beings as well as manipulate mass opinion, Ikhide, in that report alleged that all is not well with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s bid to contest next year’s presidential election on the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

He hastily and scantly concluded that the joint ticket of Atiku and Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has deflated the hope of Nigerians who were looking up to the party for redemption. But nothing in the opinion of this piece could be further from the truth! And that is the apt response to the above tissue of lies.

Further characterizing his minority attitude a contradiction, and fantasy fast approaching hallucination is the new awareness that it came at a time when vast majority of Nigerians with critical minds, for reasons that will be explained in subsequent paragraphs, views Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa’s joint ticket in the forthcoming 2023 presidential election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as not only necessary and welcoming, but eminently desirable.

Essentially, separate from their enormous experience in public leadership sphere as the nation’s former Vice President and Executive Governor of Delta state respectively, the duo are aware that presently, Nigerians need for lengthy speeches, statements and eloquent words is far less important than their need for people who can build airports, ports, companies, factories and other growth-generating ventures.

Atiku and Okowa are aware that good management requires a capable manager and will end both the galloping unemployment and underemployment situation in the country which, going by the latest report from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), stands at frightening 33%.

Their ‘combination’ will save and serve Nigeria as they are capped with required managerial skills capable of mobilising the resources needed to reach specific targets within a defined time frame. One point that is Okowa – specific which Erastus Ikhide must not fail to remember is that Governor Okowa’s antecedents in the last seven years as a state governor, indicates that in the areas of infrastructure development/ deployment, education and healthcare delivery, the governor currently has no rival in the country as he glaringly shares ideological characteristics/ideals with the late sage of the old Western in the person of Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

Take as an illustration, I grew up in the then Mid-Western Region, all the primary schools that I know were founded in 1955 by Awo. It is amazing to create this number of schools to make sure that education was available for all was exemplary. You ask; what was the education budget of Western region in 1955 to create this number of primary schools? He was just looking for what to do for people.

In line with the above performance, Delta State under Governor Okowa’s first term in office, witnessed over 5,000 classrooms renovated/ reconstructed/constructed and in his second term had, to his credit; incubated, nurtured and brought into existence three healthy universities to cater for the academic yearnings of the people of the state.

Apart from three new universities Okowa recently incubated, nurtured and established in the state, evidence also abounds that as a result of the work of the Technical and Vocational Education Board in conjunction with the supervising Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education in the state, six technical colleges in Agbor, Sapele, Ofagbe, Utagba-Ogbe, Ogor and Issele-Uku have been fully rehabilitated, well equipped and fully functional. Consequently, Delta is the first state in the country to have all of the courses offered by its technical colleges accredited by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE).

In the same vein, the Delta State Library (a fully equipped e-resource centre) and the Office of the Head of Service were completed and are functioning to optimum capacity. The administration’s quest for organisational synergy among Ministries, Departments and Agencies, cost-efficient bureaucracy and timely, excellent service delivery is in full flight with the completion of construction of the Central Secretariat Complex, an architectural edifice in its own right. All the MDAs are currently in one location, which has enhanced functionality, discipline and reduced cost of managing government business. Because they have one source of power, internet services, among others.

The new complex is also fitted with, among other facilities, banking halls and crèche to boost productivity and enhance staff welfare. In the areas of infrastructural development of the state, Okowa in his first term in office (between 2015 to 2019), through the Ministries of Works, Urban Renewal and the Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency, embarked on a total of 455 projects comprising 1,269.42 kilometres of roads and 517.34 kilometres of drainage channels. As at April 30 2019, 263 of these roads, covering 638.23 kilometres of roads and 295.71 kilometres of associated drains have been completed. Such a record has since tripled. The Direct Labour Agency also made great strides in the development of road infrastructure during this period.

This effort has advanced rural-urban integration whilst ensuring that our urban centres remain liveable cities with good road networks and recreation opportunities. Even much more significant is the awareness that such success in this sector not only saved thousands of jobs, but also created several thousand others as well as opportunities for the informal business sector to grow. For instance, it was noted that when this administration came on board, many of the major construction companies/government contractors were at the verge of retrenching many of their workers as a result of the slump in the economy. However, we prevailed on them not to do so, assuring them of patronage. Today, these companies have expanded and employed more people as a result of our huge investment in road and physical infrastructure.

The Asaba Airport for example, was downgraded just before the governor assumed office. Today, the same airport is now a Category 6 airport that receives international flights; the airport is now a major national carrier’s hub in the South-East and South-South geo-political zones. Same goes with the Osubi Airport in the Warri part of the state. In the health sector, Delta State under Governor Okowa became the first in the country to commence Universal Health Coverage with the establishment of the Delta State Contributory Health Commission in February 2016. The Commission commenced healthcare service access to enrol on the 1st of January 2017.

As at May 15, 2019, the total number of enrolees stood at 530,664 broken down as follows: Providing services under the scheme according to reports are 110 primary healthcare facilities, 65 secondary healthcare facilities and 52 private healthcare facilities spread across the 25 local government areas in Delta State.

Healthcare service access has also been provided to employees of the state at the Abuja and Lagos Liaison offices. With a robust and dynamic ICT Platform, the scheme has been able to initiate a seamless e-medical record registration process for all. In the past seven years of his administration, he devoted substantial resources, time and energy to build a knowledge-based economy and a critical mass of skills for entrepreneurship and business competitiveness.

Over 20,000 persons benefited from flagship Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP), Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP) and similar programmes undertaken by the Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Commerce and Industry, Women Affairs as well as the Delta State Micro Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency. Looking at the above evidence, it will elicit the question as to; where did Erastus Ikhide get his facts from?

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), the Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA).

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