How Okowa’s SMART Initiatives Triggered Delta’s Giant Leap in Economic Ranking

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Victor Efeizomor

Kathy Gates, the author of “7 Secrets to a Great Life” wrote in his book, “A great life doesn’t happen by accident. A great life is the result of allocating your time, energy, thoughts, and hard work towards what you want your life to be. Stop setting yourself up for stress and failure, and start setting up your life to support success and ease”.

When Senator Ifeanyi Okowa was inaugurated on May 29, 2015 as governor of Delta State, he knew the enormity of the tasks and challenges before him – to pilot the affairs of the state, so he allocated his time and energy to priorities.

Immediately after the inauguration, Gov. Okowa hit the ground running by initiating policies and programmes that would help him realise his goals.

After two years and five months of four years tenure of Gov. Okowa’s administration, an independent and none political group, the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria (NCCN), a private-public non-profit organisation in Nigeria, has passed a verdict.
The NCCN a forth night ago rated Delta State as number one in human capital overall ranking in Nigeria. The council also rated the state as overall second in Sub-National Index overall ranking in the country behind Lagos that came first.

The council, whose mandate it is to improve the attractiveness of Nigeria’s economy as a place to do business in the global marketplace, carried out its assessments of Delta State socio-economic development devoid of any bias or political interference, based on what Gov. Okowa had done and how he had been steering the ship of the state.
The implication of the NCCN report is that Gov. Okowa has met the expectations of Deltans , considering the promises he made. He has spread development across the state and removed the mistrust that existed between the three senatorial zones in line with the SMART agenda of transforming lives in tandem with the prosperity agenda
No doubt, assessing Okowa’s accomplishments must come from a non-partisan angle with analytical mind to give a fair verdict that support value for democracy.

But , it’s necessary to put the records straight. Okowa came at a most difficult time of recession, huge debt profile, bloated wage bills, uncompleted projects, and pipeline vandalism and fall of oil prices that deemed economic potentials.

With a clear vision, to create wealth, reduce unemployment through technical, vocational and formal education, make food abundant, have functional health institutions, enhance peace building for economic growth, the SMART agenda became the template.

SMART means- Strategic wealth creation projects and provision of jobs for all Deltans, Meaningful peace building platforms aimed at political and social stability, Agricultural reforms and accelerated industrialisation, Relevant health and education policies, and Transformed environment through urban renewal.

It is economic, political and social awakening to deepen Delta beyond oil and lay sustainable economic and infrastructural development.

Okowa, upon assumption of office , blocked all leakages, made corruption unattractive and ensured prudent management and accountability to attract investors. This won him confidence of the masses.
He has demystified political power and office, that is why all including the opposition see him as central point for fertilisation of ideas. Today, Delta is witnessing uncommon transformation in wealth creation, health institutions, agriculture, industrialisation, rural and infrastructural development, peace building and inter-ethnic relations among others.

The projects embarked upon by Okowa had multiplier effect on the economy. Delta invested in agriculture, acquiring 3,850 hectares of farmland and encouraged the establishment of rice processing mills to support rice cultivation.
Fish farmers through technical partnership have increased production from 24,413 metric tons of fish production in 2016 to 59,347 in 2017. The gains are jobs creation, food production and agribusiness, palm production through palm plantations, rubber plantations and other cash crops. The synergy between government and farmers had discouraged rural-urban migrations and made agriculture attractive.

Okowa places high premium on education. Education replaces ignorance. Thus, making it possible for people to understand the workings of government. Okowa through holistic education that combines technical training with vocational training has transformed the state.

Technical colleges have been upgraded, public schools have their pride restored and teachers are now well remunerated, while students study under conducive environment.
His greatest achievement is dousing ethnic tensions and building bridges of understanding across all sections of the state. Okowa’s rescue mission has impacted on people and institutions. Okowa’s strength is unity for justice, development, emancipation and service.

The health sector is transformed with a universal health insurance scheme that affords every Deltan access to health. The state’s teaching hospitals have been transformed in medical personnel, training and facilities. primary health care is also a priority and various communities have functional health centers that take health closer to people.

The state is witnessing uncommon transformation of roads linking hamlets to villages, villages to towns and towns to cities, increasing transportation of goods and services, promoting economic activities.

The civil service has been stabilised as the biometric exercise weeded ghost workers, discipline restored and punctuality at work upheld. Workers now imbibe ethics of service, salaries paid as and when due, dedication rewarded with promotions and training. This has encouraged productivity, synergy between trade unions, labour leaders and government.

The Commissioner for Economic Planning, Dr Kingsley Emu, while commenting on the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria (NCCN) said that However, the NCCN report was the outcome of a research carried out last two years which justifies the huge expenditure by the State Government on developing its human capital base.

It’s on record that since the inception of the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, over 46,000 jobs had been created in the state which is seeing as a major government’s strategy at disengaging the unemployed youth from being potential terrorists.

Interestingly , the performance index which covered the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja saw Delta taking the overall fifth position in infrastructure ranking, although not surprising, as the State Government has demonstrated sincere commitment on infrastructure development and upgrade in the last two years.
It is on record also that over N170 billion road contracts have been awarded by the State Government covering 179 road projects, just as over 56 of the projects have been completed so far.

The Okowa led government recognised that road infrastructure has a connecting link with economic growth and development of a state, hence much effort has been put into ensuring that government gives much attention to this sector to alleviate the suffering of the people.

Happily enough the NCCN rated the Delta State 7th in Institutions development such as security, justice, transparency and fight against corruption.

There is no other time than now in joining hands with Gov. Okowa in the task of building a greater and prosperous Deltan for Deltans and Nigerians at large, rather than engage in senseless mudslinging and being a clog in the wheel of progress as the transformation train is already in motion.

–Prince Efeizomor is print media assistant to Gov. Okowa