The story of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State is the story of courage and resilience. He is a man of great faith, enviable impacts and of flawless reputation. As senator in the seventh National Assembly, he was ranked among the best senators for sponsoring 10 bills, including the National Health Bill, a feat many acknowledged as ingenious, legendary and laudable despite his short stint in the red chamber. His steady progress did not just start today, as those who know would not easily forget how he rode on the back of humility, through his professional and political career, to his present status as governor of Delta State.
Born on July 8, 1959 at Owa-Alero in the present Ika North-East Local Government Area of Delta State, Okowa had his early education at Iroro Primary School, Owa-Alero, and later attended the famous Edo College, Benin City. He graduated with the second best result in the Higher School Certificate Examination in the then Bendel State in 1976. Thereafter, he proceeded to the University of Ibadan to study Medicine and Surgery.
Okowa graduated in 1981 with MBBS, at the record age of 22. Upon his completion of the National Youth Service Corps in 1982, he worked briefly with the defunct Bendel State Hospitals Management Board as a Medical Officer before venturing into private practice as Director, Victory Medical Centre, Igbanke, in 1986. He later expanded his outfit with another branch at Boji-Boji, Owa. He endeared himself to his people through his humanitarian disposition, as he often rendered free services to the very poor in those locations.
Okowa has displayed high craftsmanship in his work and the evidence of his constructive leadership manifests in his growing political profile. He rose through the ranks from local government secretary, to council chairman, commissioner in different ministries, Secretary to the State Government, before being elected to represent the people of Delta North senatorial district in the Senate in 2011.
Today as executive governor of Delta State, Okowa has made positive impressions on the minds of Deltans in just one year in office. With his approach to leadership, core progressives have come to believe that our democracy is truly yielding desired results. Here is a man who, on many instances, has demonstrated his love for Delta State and Nigeria above pecuniary interests and enjoins others to embrace same. Looking back the past 57 years, his family and indeed his associates and admirers do have cause to be grateful to the Almighty God for having granted him a life of great accomplishments and abiding fulfilment.
Ekwueme (one who does what he says he will do) is his traditional title and for him, nobility of birth in a predominantly peasant milieu was more of a challenge than the comfort it provided. In fact, it was this outlook that has become the fulcrum on which his life and leadership style revolves. In Delta today, the citizens are rightly rich in expectations from the Okowa administration. This, in all honesty, is not unfounded because of his pedigree and passion for service.
There is an element of freshness about Okowa even at 57 – freshness of spirit, freshness of ideas, freshness of vision and mission for him as a person, as a leader and for the state he has superintended in the last one year. He is unarguably running a dazzling race of his life as a politician, an administrator and a leader. Despite the numerous successes he has made of of his endeavours, he exudes a seeming urgency to reach the finish line in his chase to get the citizens of the state to the Promised Land.
A year ago, Okowa set the stone rolling by building on his predecessor’s developmental framework. Methodically, he set about adding to the foundation, the necessary ingredients for Delta State to attain its potential through his policy plank – the S.M.A.R.T. Agenda – geared towards bringing prosperity to all Deltans. As an astute politician and lawmaker per excellence, Okowa sees plenty, even in the face of paucity. It is his rare determination to make the most out of nothing that has been driving all that is needed to ensure Delta State grows in leaps and bounds and eventually raise the bar by setting standards for others. That in marking his one year in office, Okowa spent a whole month in commissioning several landmark projects across the three senatorial districts of the state has become a template and a reference point for many states today.
Through consensus-building, thorny political issues have become free of tumult, acrimony and bad blood. This was made possible by Okowa’s calm persona. By entrenching the core values of selflessness and integrity, he has effectively earned the confidence and trust of his friends and foes alike. He has redefined the concept of leadership and effective governance by effectively reorienting the mind-set of the political class to see politics as a call to service.
As he clocks 57 years, his track-record in politics and in the leadership of Delta State sure sets him apart as a selfless and passionate leader who burns to put his state on the world development map. He detests waste because he is confronted daily with the lack that dots the socio-economic landscape. That is why in the anniversary of his birthday last year, he requested that friends and well-wishers should not place goodwill advertorials in the media. He rather urged them to convert such resources to assisting the needy. As he marks yet another birthday, his wish is that Deltans should pray for him and the state in order that what he has lined up in his wish-list for the state would come to fruition.
Out of my personal convictions, I write to express my warm felicitations to him on the occasion of his 57th birthday. As he deservedly celebrates this glorious day, it is my prayer that the Almighty God, who has richly prospered him and ordered every of his steps these past years, will continue to bless him with good health and fulfilment in the many more years of worthy service for his people.
Congratulations to His Excellency, Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, at 57.
––Aniagwu is Governor Okowa’s Chief Press Secretary.