Okowa’s Infrastructure Model : A Vital Tool to Nigeria’s Economic Challenges
Victor Efeizomor writes that the developmental philosophy, governance ideology and political shrewdness of Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa is a vital model needed by government at all levels to move the country out of the woods
As the political space in Nigeria gets turbo charged with promises , permutations and projections about who is likely to win the forthcoming presidential election, it has become imperative for the electorates to put on their thinking cap to differentiate between promises anchored on reality or declarations fuelled by desperation.
Many Nigerians have presented themselves as presidential candidates in the forthcoming elections , notable among them are; Presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar , the Presidential Candidate of the All Progressive Party APC , Senator Bola Tinubu , the Presidential candidate of Labour party , LP, Mr. Peter Obi among others.
These candidates with their running mates have presented their manifestos to Nigerians on how they plan to move the country forward and to the next level.
Many believe that the fact file of the Delta state Governor , Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa and the Vice Presidential candidate of the PDP has a lot to offer Nigerians when Atiku/Okowa ticket mount the leadership position as President and Vice President of Nigeria come 2023.
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, a grassroot and an astute politician has been able to demonstrate his leadership ingenuity since he mounted the saddle as the Governor of Delta in 2015.
Since the past seven years, Governor Okowa has been able drive unprecedented developmental impact in Delta State through transforming and prospering economy, job and wealth creation, unprecedented network of roads, urban renewal and boost of the service sector.
Governor Okowa has also ensured of an era of policy and institutional reforms , a modernized educational system , a transformed healthcare system, a better business environment and a historic upliftment of living conditions in riverine communities.
This leadership trait and purposeful sense of direction played out in one of his speeches, which many be termed a roadmap for the growth and development of Delta State, and when applied to the Nigeria’s situation in general, could get the country out of the present socio-economic and political dilemma that the All Progressives Congress (APC) has plunged it into.
For the doubting Thomase’s, permit me to reel out a part of that all- important speech, that the Governor made at the beginning of his second term in office.
“The Delta State Medium- Term Development Plan 11 (2020-2023) is building on the foundation that was laid in the first term. In a nutshell, the plan is anchored on six strategic imperatives namely : Adopt a cross-sectorial, multi-pronged approach to job and wealth creation with strong emphasis on skills , training and raising entrepreneurial leaders to combat the scourge of youth restiveness, and drive the economic diversification business and competitiveness of the state; promote civic engagement in our communities; create the peaceful atmosphere necessary for development to take place; make agriculture regain its pride of place in the economy through private-public sector partnership in the agricultural sector, and development of the agricultural value chain; lead in the provision of Universal Health Coverage and cutting edge technology for broad-based and excellent service delivery essential for a healthy and productive populace; build an educational system that will produce thinkers, innovators, leaders and managers that will excel globally and partner with relevant stakeholders/investors to attract infrastructure funding …’’
It is heartwarming to know that since Governor Ifeanyi Okowa assumed the leadership of Delta State, he has walked the talk and has not look back since he made the speech, as he has matched every word in the speech with action.
He has continued to work tirelessly, to show the love and commitment he has for the growth and development of the State; and has, by this shown that he is a leader and driver behind the wheel of that growth and development Delta State desires.
By implications, his vision and well- articulated socio-economic policies and programmes in Delta state have shown that he has the capacity, the wealth of experience and commitment to occupy the Vice Presidential position of this great country.
As a matter of fact, no one who had closely observed the unprecedented socio, economic and infrastructure transformation of Delta State since 2015 will not be surprised by Gov Okowa’s emergence as Vice Presidential candidate of the PDP.
Empirical data from the Federal Bureau of Statistics, World Bank, the media, Tony Elumelu Foundation and the United Nations have indicated that Gov Okowa has done so well in many areas, ranging from wealth and job creation, infrastructure and human capital development, service delivery, security, education and all round development in Delta State since his administration came on board in 2015.
With over 100,000 youth taken off the labour market and hope for a better future by the governor, his administration has been adjudged as a visionary leader that has created jobs , employment and youth employment in the public sector in Nigeria.
It is on good record that, these young folks are now self- employed, courtesy of his wealth and job creation initiatives.
Since 2015 when he came on board as governor of Delta State till date, he has been able to create a business support for about 120,000 youth entrepreneurs. The implication of this is the sustenance of about 120,000 direct and indirect private enterprise jobs in the state. The creation of jobs and wealth have positively transformed the economic conditions of youths as shown in their testimonies.
Information on good authority has it that, as a result of Governor Okowa’s economic vision in creating jobs for the youth in the state, the unemployment rate, estimated at 31%, considerably lower than the National all- States average, estimated at 37.2% (according to National Bureau of Statistics Labour Force Survey in 2020.
Beyond the drop in unemployment rate, the impact of this development policies and programmes on the overall economy of the state is highly significant with the general economy witnessing progressive structural shift, exemplified by the fact that the non – oil sector has constituted 52.50% of crops in 2020, compared to 41.90 of GDP in 2023.
In line with this structural shift, the Agriculture sector increased from 9.53% 2013 GDP to 13.22% of 2020 GDP, just as services sector increased from 18.77% of 2013 GDP to 29.73% of 2020 GDP.
In the field of sports, the Okowa administration has made remarkable progress in the state.
The Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba is now completed and is currently hosting All African Games Festival having been put into several use under his administration.
For over a decade before he became governor, the stadium facility was decrepit but within three years, it was fully built and transformed. Kudos to the sports- loving governor.
Worthy of mention is the wisdom and competence Governor Okowa and his team displayed in managing the economy of the state between 2016/2017 in the face of economic recession and the covid-19 global pandemic that practically grounded the economies of the World.
According to him, Delta State was able to stay afloat because “we limited our expenditure to revenue limits, prioritized the funding of programmes/ projects based on their socio- economic value, and strengthened the Economic Intelligence Unit in the Ministry of Economic Planning as the due diligence outfit of the government”.
The Okowa administration, knowing fully well the negative consequences of allowing the army of unemployed graduates and Secondary School Leavers to roam the streets and wallow in abject poverty, was clear on what needed to be done. It went ahead to equip them with the requisite technical know- how, vocational skills, values, and resources to make them become employable and self- employed.
In order to drive this process, the state government established the Technical and Vocational Education Board and created a special purpose vehicle – the office of the Chief Job Creation Officer.
Seven years after, and still counting, the Technical and Vocational Education Board has been integrated into the new Ministry of Technical Education, while the office of the Chief Job Creation Officer is now known as the Job and Wealth Creation Bureau by law of the Delta State government.
In the education sector, Deltans are proud that the six existing Technical Colleges have been fully rehabilitated and equipped with the knowledge and skills to function in wealth and job creation. This is in addition to possessing employability skills. Also, nine new ones have been established in nine Local Government Areas and very recently, the Governor provided brand new buses to each of them to ease transportation and improve on their service delivery.
The Okowa’s administration has also, in addition to the existing twelve vocational education training centers in the State, given approval for the establishment of five new ones at Evwreni, Umutu, Kokori, Ashaka and Oza-Nogogo.
To crown it all, the Okowa administration in its wisdom has established three new Universities – The University of Science and Technology, Ozoro; Dennis Osadebey University, Anwai-Asaba, and University of Delta, Agbor. The purpose is to broaden access to University education for our bright students who, unfortunately are unable to gain admission even when they are qualified.
It is very important at this point to mention the highly impressive achievement of the Okowa administration on road and physical infrastructure in the State, and to quote Gov Okowa’s statement in one of his speeches on this in order to drive home the point.
“We have constructed roads and physical infrastructure of the most vital interest and impact. Through the Ministries of Works and Urban Renewal, Direct Labour Agency, DESOPADEC, Delta State Capitol Territory Development Agency, we have embarked on a total of 799 road projects, comprising 1,577.8km of roads and 908.8km of drainage channels.”
Interestingly, the road projects cut across the three senatorial districts; even deep into the remotest parts of the State. Notable among remote areas that have benefitted from the network of road projects are 20.29 km Obotobo 1-Obotobo 11-80 Kebolu-Yokri Road in Burutu Local Government Area. These roads are in the riverine area, and the project is unique because the road is located right beside the Atlantic Ocean with all the human, material, ecological and financial implications that the terrain presents.
Without doubt, the flagship physical infrastructure project of the Okowa administration is the Central Secretariat Complex, named Prof Chike Edozien Secretariat. This, no doubt, is an architectural edifice, only surpassed by the Federal Secretariat Complex, Abuja in terms of size and layout.
Also, worthy of mention is the Gov Okowa’s health policy in the ”Health for all Deltans” (HeFAD), in line with the Universal Health Coverage Mandate of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In February 2016, Delta State became the first State in Nigeria to launch the Universal Health Coverage Scheme with the birth of the Delta State Contributory Health Commission, with not less than 906, 768 enrollees.
The Governor Okowa’s economic development outcome together with their policy and institutional reforms, no doubt demonstrates a fundamental development model that should be emulated by other states of the country and at the national level.
*Efeizomor is Special Assistant to Governor Okowa on Media and a member of Media/ Publicity Sub -Committee, Delta state PDP Campaign Council.
Since the past seven years, Governor Okowa has been able drive unprecedented developmental impact in Delta State through transforming and prospering economy, job and wealth creation, unprecedented network of roads, urban renewal and boost of the service sector