The presumption anytime somebody uses the word “NO” is the lack of or absence of the thing sought for. It tells the seeker that he cannot get what he is asking for because it is not available. It was therefore a surprise to many watchers of the Government of Senator (Dr ) Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa to behold the number of achievement recorded within two years of his administration when he had openly and in different forum stated that “Ego Aria” meaning “There is no money”.
For those who do not know perhaps the Governor may have chosen to express this in his local language- Ika, to drive home the full meaning of the fact that actually there is no money. Starting from the day he was sworn in as the Governor of Delta State on May 29th, 2015, Dr Okowa who had already appreciated the enormity of what he had to face, focused on implementing his SMART Agenda programme and that is where he exhibited ingenuity and managerial capability.
Faced with enormous debt profile of the state, the Governor did not hide under the huge wage bill complain which has been the main excuse why some states Governors who are not performing. He first of all selected a formidable team by putting “square peg in square hole” Hence all the critical sectors like Health, Agriculture, Economic Planning, Information, Works and Youth Empowerment among others have been working as if there is little or no financial challenge.
How then is it possible for a Governor who had openly informed the people that there is no money to have constructed over 500 km of roads throughout the state in just under a period of two years? It is still surprising that in this period of no money which can be attested to by anybody living in Nigeria, there is no local Government in Delta State where you will visit and not see already completed or ongoing road projects.
In Asaba the state capital, the numbers of completed road projects and ongoing ones are just too numerous to mention in this limited space.
I was pleasantly surprised when I followed a delegation to visit Chief P.I.G. Onyeobi (The Iyase of Asaba) who lost his wife recently. I had complained about the bad nature of the road leading to his house only to discover that that road that used to be a nightmare to the users has been tarred.
I can vividly recall yet another Okowa surprise when Engr. Emeka Nwaobi the Hon. Member representing Aniocha North Local Government in the Delta State house of assembly announced that the administration of Okowa would tar the dilapidated road leading into Issele Uku before the coronation of the Obi of Issele Uku, I dare say that many saw that as one of the political promises that were never fulfilled especially given that the coronation was barely one month away. The rest is history because the road leading into Issele Uku town is an eloquent testimony of a promise made and kept.
From one senatorial district to other road construction are either completed or ongoing. Because of the rains work has slowed down but the Government of Delta state has promised that by October when the rains must have subsided, work on the roads will resume fully. How then is the Government of Dr. Okowa doing this when “EGO ARIA”?
In the health sector, the government of Delta State has not shied away from her responsibility because “EGO ARIA”. The health of women and Children which is paramount to the government continued to receive the desired attention. Pregnant women and Children between 0 to 5 years are taken care of free of charge even when the woman has to undergo caesarian operation during Child birth.
Health centres are all over the 25 Local Government areas of the state. In Asaba the State capital the completion of the General Hospital is in top gear. The Delta State University Teaching Hospital is being updated with first class equipment and personnel towards making it a world class Health Centre. Time and space will not permit me to bring all other achievements in the health sector. But the question is how is the Governor able to achieve all these when Federal allocation and internally generated revenue are grossly inadequate?
In the area of youth empowerment, it is worthy of note that over 17,000 direct jobs have been created. Thousands of youths were trained and given Starter- packs and today many of them have started employing as well as training other youths thereby creating more jobs indirectly. Recently in an interview (Pointer of April, 17, 2017) the Commissioner Ministry of Economic planning stated that under the Government of Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa, 6,500 Deltans benefitted from Micro- Credit Scheme.
Loans disbursed under the programme were dispensed by the Delta State Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (DSMSMEDA), the successor agency to the Delta State Micro- Credit Programme (DMCP) , set up by the former Governor Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan. Dr. Emu opined that size and level of commitment of the administration in the area represented proof of Government’s determination to tackling the high incidence of material poverty in the State.
Just as the Governor has done in all the areas mentioned he had even done more in Education, peace building, and religiously working towards fulfilling his campaign promise of prosperity for all Deltans.
In a recent interview, a prominent Deltan Chief Sunny Onuesoke (Pointer of Saturday, April 29, 2017) while answering questions on how Governor Okowa has been managing the State told the reporter that “Okowa is a modern Governor ahead of his time. The only technologically driven Governor with focus to turn Delta State to a hub of modern economy. He is focused and he is one governor with a listening ear to the ground. With the limited resources at his disposal, Okowa is a prudent manager of funds. Okowa was even supposed to be a banker with his approach to the little revenue coming to the state and how he is able to manage it. It is still magical to me on how he is doing the walking of his talk.’’ Continuing, Chief Onuesoke observed that time will not permit him to enumerate all that have been achieved by the Governor in just two years of his administration. He therefore urged Deltans to continue to support Dr Okowa’s administration in other to continue to enjoy the dividends of democracy.
The above succinctly explains the rationale behind the United Nation (UN) General Assembly’s selection of Senator Dr. Okowa for the prestigious Laurel of Nelson Mandela award for Leadership prize.
The assertions of the Commissioner for Information Mr. Patrick Ukah during a recent interview with reporters from E.O.M. Communications which uses international media like Silverbird and transmits on the DSTV cable Network put it this way.. “Dr Ifeanyi Okowa Governor of Delta State is about the most prudent Governor who has been managing the lean resources of the State to the benefit of all”.
The Commissioner made it clear that the State Government made the payment of Salary a top priority hence Civil Servants in the employ of the State are not owed any Salary arrears. Though Local Government Council is a different tier of the Government, the Delta State Government has been very supportive but recently, this has been hampered by paucity of funds.
Mr. Ukah recalled that like every other state in the Federation, cash crunch is a big challenge but Delta State was harder hit due to the fact that her major source of revenue has been experiencing one form of challenge or the other but that has not deterred the Governor from vigorously pursuing his “SMART” Agenda.
The Commissioner noted that the Government strategically put measures in place and this has led to increase in internally generated revenue which has to a large extent cushioned the negative effect of drastically reduced receipts from the Federation account.
On blue print to information dissemination, the Commissioner stated that Delta State apart from other National and International media has two electronic media one in Asaba and the other in Warri as well as the Print medium (Pointer) and Government Printing Press in Asaba. All these are being strengthened by the Governor to get the Citizens better informed and to generate more revenue which will translate to even development of the State.
It therefore follows that all that Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa meant by “Ego aria” is that it is no longer going to be business as usual. Contractors have to justify the payment for work done. Some civil servants can no longer sit at home then go collect salaries at the end of the month. People can no longer come in the name of party patronage, collect mobilization fee then disappear without executing any project, people no longer have the chance to collect money on behalf of the government then the money will end in private pockets. In fact the governor has continued to plug every loophole through which the state has been losing revenue. That is what the governor means when he states that “EGO ARIA”.