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Okowa: A Leader Of Many Firsts

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By Ken Umukoro

In a bold move that caught many by surprise, the Delta State Government last week introduced the use of body cameras and use of breathalyzers for officials of Delta State Traffic Management Authority (DESTMA). Typical of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s inimitable style, it was done without the fanfare that should typically herald such a novel introduction.

Not even Federal agencies like the Nigeria Police, Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, or any state traffic and anti-crime agency has been able to achieve this. Delta leads the charge courtesy of the far-sightedness of Okowa.

This latest feat by Governor Okowa solidifies his profile as a pacesetter and serial pioneer. The benefits of the body cameras are many.  Several studies conducted by international anti-crime and community-oriented policing agencies including the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) – a global police research and policy organization and a provider of management services, technical assistance, and executive-level education to support law enforcement agencies – attest to this.

It is the consensus that videos captured by body cameras help protect police officers and citizens against false accusations, claims of misconduct, or abuse. Such videos increase transparency and accountability of officers and, in some cases, help prevent and de-escalate confrontational situations between law-enforcers and the public.

According to Navy Commander Azubuike Idah (Rtd), the Director-General of DESTMA. “the body camera acts as a deterrent for all drivers in the State who may be tempted to violate the traffic law, provides documentary evidence during a traffic stop, and protects all parties involved against false accusations, assault and overzealous actions of DESTMA officers.” He reiterated that the introduction of these devices will “reduce violent confrontations, reduce assaults of DESTMA officers, hold DESTMA officers accountable for their actions and increase public trust.

It will also help us provide safe roads for all road users in Delta state while refining the attitudes of DESTMA officers when dealing with the general public.” The introduction of the Body Cameras and Breathalyzers is just one among a series of firsts by Governor Okowa.

Upon assumption of office in 2015, like a well-tooled surgeon adept at his trade, he wasted no time in introducing a workable health insurance scheme with the establishment of the Delta State Contributory Health Commission in February 2016.

By that singular act, Delta State became the first State in the country to launch Universal Health Coverage. As at December 31, 2019, no fewer than 677,071 persons had enrolled in the scheme. As a medical doctor, he understands the need for a functional health insurance scheme that would not only bear the tag of insurance scheme but one that practically delivers its objectives as a buffer against poor healthcare delivery common across the nation.

In 2019, Okowa created the Ministry of Technical Education, a novel ministry specifically to drive his wealth creation and innovation-oriented policy of technical and vocational education. The ministry is overseeing the revolutionary acquisition of technical skills across the technical colleges and vocational centres in the state. Majority of graduates of these colleges and skills centres have already established themselves as techpreneurs, creating wealth and employing people.

Another first is the creation of the Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency (DSCTDA). The impact of the agency headed by a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Onyemaechi Mrakpor, a people-friendly advocate for Affirmative Action has been outstanding. Through the agency, the glory of Asaba and environ is being restored. The city of Asaba was once the colonial capital of the Southern Nigeria Protectorate.  Then, it had all the trappings and lustre of a city with a busy port and rich repository of goods and services. It was founded in 1884. Between 1886 and 1900, it hosted the then popular Royal Niger Company (which later became UAC) owned by the British authorities to facilitate trade and export of goods to England. But Asaba lost much of its glory during the war when it became the epicentre of one of the most gruesome pogroms in human history. Okowa is restoring that glory and allure.

The governor has complemented the Asaba makeover with the establishment of the Warri-Uvwie and Environs Special Area Development Agency (WUEDA). This agency is another first from Okowa’s collection of many firsts. Headed by  Ovuozourie Macaulay, a former Secretary to the Delta State Government under the administration of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, the agency has the clear mandate to re-model Warri and environs through a comprehensive clean up and urban-renewal mechanism that would entail environmental sanitation exercise, demolition of shanties, illegal structures and caravans erected  along the major roads and unapproved areas. Warri is the commercial capital of Delta State.

To ensure that Warri and its environs remain beautiful and habitable enough to attract investors, Okowa has charged the agency to restore the grandeur of the environment. The restoration has begun. Delta is Nigeria’s hatchery for sports. The best of the nation’s athletes, footballers and other sports icons have come from the state over the years. Okowa has since upped the ante. Aside maintaining a strong production line of outliers in sports, Delta is now the preferred destination for sports tourists. The Stephen Keshi International stadium in Asaba remodeled by Governor Okowa and named after the late Stephen Keshi, a scion of Delta who became Nigeria’s most successful and most cosmopolitan footballer and manager has become the Mecca of sporting activities and the preferred choice of sports tourists.

Ever since the reconstruction of the Keshi Stadium, it has played host to several international and national sporting events including the African Senior Athletics Championship (Asaba 2018). The championship scored some landmarks worth celebrating. With about 800 athletes in attendance, the highest in the history of the event, 46 events competed and a record 52 countries in attendance, the highest in its 39-year history, Asaba 2018 fit into Okowa’s cap of many firsts. It was the first time that Delta State would host an international event of such magnitude, attracting the presence of Mr. Sebastian Coe, President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). and other respected sports icons and dignitaries.

The stadium has also hosted international football matches including friendlies and World Cup qualifiers involving Nigeria’s Super Eagles among several national sports feasts including the final of the Aiteo Cup.  Never in the history of Delta has there been such profound manifestation of sports tourism. It speaks eloquently to the vision and dynamic leadership of a man who came to office fully prepared.

Truly, Okowa is a man of many firsts. He is the renaissance man. Leadership watchers in the State attribute his trail blazing strides to many factors. To some, it’s because Okowa fully understands the need-gaps in the State he has served for decades starting out as Local Government Secretary and later Chairman.

His metamorphosis in the State public service which has seen him hold the positions of Commissioner (thrice), Secretary to the Government, Senator representing Delta North and now as Governor, they say, lends him to back-to-back knowledge of the needs of the people.

Others attribute his pacesetting record to the Governor’s trademark no-holds-barred commitment to any cause he believes in and his personal value of selflessness as the best form of service.

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