THE MAN WHO REMOVES THE MOUNTAIN

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Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa

Boniface Onyedi writes that Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, is doing remarkably well

The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones – William Faulkner Just like yesterday, the rave and captivating moments of the second half of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s administration began with a resounding symphonies on May 29, 2019 after securing the mandate of Deltans once again. It apparently cascaded into bestriding moments of nostalgia because the victory held unquantifiable hope for the grassroots in the state. His governance style apparently reflects the thought of William Faulkner, which he has as his compass to navigate the state to glory.

To say the least, his second coming holds a lot for the commons of the very commoners due to the infrastructural development dotting the length and breadth of the State. A glaring characteristic that earned Senator Okowa the nickname of Ekwueme (talk and do). The eulogy of christening the governor “talk and do” was not far from the evidences of his unquantifiable performances in his first tenure where even the blind could literally touch and see the magnitude of infrastructural development especially on rural roads, inter-city and township remodeling including restoring the dignity of Asaba as the Delta State Capital City. The desire of enacting mega city legacies encouraged the governor to establish through an edict the Warri/Uvwie and environs development agency similar to Asaba Capital Development Agency to tackle certain development challenges. This has led to building storm water drainages in replication of what is done in Asaba.

Not done with changing the face of governance especially in Asaba, Gov. Okowa inherited agencies and establishments operating from rented apartments across the length and breadth of the state. To this effect, one of the main focus of his administration was to break the old order by building a one-stop-shop State Secretariat Complex which is expected to house all government ministries, departments and agencies. The project estimated to gulp over N12 billion is already at the completion stage and would hopefully be commissioned in no distant time.

What else could have endeared Okowa more to Deltans? As one from the grassroots, it wasn’t a knotty issue to recognize the fact that education and health are key to them. Acting on the philosophical spirit of the letters of Seri I Dew, a renowned writer, who said: “True leaders understand that leadership is not about them, but about those they serve. It is not about exalting themselves, but about lifting others.” Equipped with such perception of leadership, Okowa, embarked on strategic programmes to build a stronger Delta where equity, justice and fair-play are the fundamental principles for sustaining the SMART agenda to lift Deltans out of the quagmire of underdevelopment.

In fact, to demonstrate the stronger character of a concerned leader, Gov. Okowa despite the unforeseen challenges of the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, which he has handled with robust expertise and professional pedigree, still pilots the state affairs with passion to accomplishing the vision of a greater and stronger Delta as enshrined in the 2020 budgetary provisions.

No wonder, his actions point towards opening the entire space of Delta to the world by continuing with the massive road infrastructure after taking oath for a second term. One of such critical roads is the Kwale/Beneku/Okpai road with a bridge crossing one of the aged pontoons used to short-change the Ndokwa people in the past. Significantly, there had been many by-gone political leaders (within and without) who had unfulfilled and dud promises to build the road, but it took the courage, commitment and determination of Sen. Dr. Okowa to break the mysterious jinx of backwardness and embarked on the project which is already at an advanced stage.

Ordinarily, many have waved off the completion of sections A and C of the Asaba/Kwale/Ughelli road on the platform of political paddy-paddy (convenience of party-men) as the cause of its abandonment. But no, one man who believes in using the state money for the development of the critical infrastructure reactivated the job. A contract abandoned for the better part of the past administration, this enigmatic leader found an opportunity to define a moment before his people.

Besides revoking the contract from the initial indolent contractors, he re-awarded it to more competent organisations and stood firm to see value for every money paid. Today, the road project that has remained abandoned for over six years is being handled expeditiously with several parts of sections C already in use while section A is being constructed with elaborate details to withstand posterity. Many communities are beginning to understand what motorable roads are with Okowa’s touch of development. For instance, several Ijaw communities in Ogulagha kingdom of Burutu Local Government remain thankful to Okowa’s administration as the stretch of road leading from Obotobo 1 through Obotobo 11 to Sokebolou terminating at Youkiri remains elegant testimonies of the power of committed leadership to the people. The administration defiled the constraint of the deltaic terrain to deliver the over 20.29 kilometers road to the admiration of the people as it was commissioned last year by the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.

In same manner, several communities without secondary schools are now beaming with great relief as the administration has not only approved new schools, but built what could be termed model schools with state-of-the-art facilities to compete with schools elsewhere. Again, the administration attention to tertiary education is unparalleled as development is spread across the various grades of tertiary institutions owned by the state. Recently many projects handled by the Delta State Oil Producing Area Development Commission inaugurated some critical infrastructure at the Oleh Campus of the Delta State University while a multi-million naira auditorium is currently on-going at the College of Health Technology, Ufuoma, in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State.

One area of passion for the talk and do governor is in the health sector. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Okowa as a health professional had a road map for the sector with focus on building and furnishing well modelled Primary Healthcare facilities in several rural communities driven by the Delta State Health Insurance Scheme. This is inspired by his belief on health being the pillar of wealth. Quite sure, there is every correlation between health and the attendance value of wealth, as sick people don’t have savings due to their drained finances by poor health. On the event of the COVID-19 scourge the pro-activeness of Okowa’s administration was much evident as it paid off in curtailing the spread in the state. It was also apparent in the handling of those that contracted the virus in the state, which received the best of attention from the facilities provided by the state. What more can be said? Okowa’s administration took the health workers as the frontline personnel to saving lives especially at critical times as experienced under the COVID-19 regime. This spurred him to provide total insurance cover for the over 2,557 frontline health workers on the special assignment of combating the corona virus pandemic, in addition to ensuring that that their welfare was properly taken care of. More elating is the Asaba Specialist Hospital, already completed and in use. This is one project that would certainly boost the health sector in the state as it serves as a major provider in the critical health services.
Onyedi, a public affairs analyst, works at FUPRE