When the Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa announced to the Delta State House of Assembly in June, 2015 that he inherited a debt of over N600 billion from his predecessor, not a few Deltans believed that his wailing were laced with half truths and untruths. Nevertheless what was to transpire thereafter belies his strident cry for help. Although some people may suggest that it is too early to make a critique of Dr Okowa’s government he has made so many blunders that it would be a disservice to continue to let him treat Deltans as a conquered people.
Too early in his administration, he tampered with the moral and economic fibre of the oil bearing communities, DESOPADEC and reduced it to a miniscule. A few weeks later, it became clear that the Dr Okowa led PDP Government was going to be a continuation of the 16years of rot in Delta state meaning that nothing has changed. Rather than assuage the feelings of Deltans who are still smarting from a government that rode to power on a fraudulent crest, Dr Okowa is going ahead to reward his cronies with hundreds of appointments all in a bid to further plunder our common patrimony. Dr Okowa’s political appointments so far running into more than 300 at the last count reveals the buffoonery and grotesque inequality that has been the hallmark of PDP administrations in Delta State since 1999. For instance, a former Managing Director of NDDC who was also a distinguished Senator is now a special Adviser to Dr. Okowa. Also a former chairman of the State PDP in the administration of James Ibori and who later became the Delta State representative in NDDC is now a Special Adviser with functions that is unclear and unspecific. A former speaker of the Delta state House of Assembly who later became an acting Governor is today a Special Adviser to the Governor.
A former Special Adviser on Project Monitoring and Evaluation to Goodluck Jonathan is now a Special Adviser to Governor Okowa. A former Speaker of the House of Assembly who hails from the same Local Government with Dr Okowa is also a Special Adviser. What type of Government would recycle spent Politicians who have been on the Political scene since 1999 and claim it is spreading “Prosperity to all Deltans”? At these austere times when government should rather be concerned about the deplorable roads in Warri, Ughelli, Sapele, Agbor and even the Asaba metropolis it is busy dispensing appointments as if that is all to governance. The floods these years have displaced persons in Ijaw Villages, Itsekiri Villagers, Uzere, Oleh, Ozoro and many other places in Ndokwa East yet up till this moment these displaced persons have not been visited by the relevant government agencies let alone send them relief materials. Is this prosperity to all Deltans?
A government that takes care of only civil servant and government Political appointees is pandering to the needs of only 1% of the entire populace. Rather than create the enabling environment for commerce to thrive the Delta State Government is allegedly spending huge sums of money to “upgrade” the Asaba airport and encouraging failed contractors with further mobilization when they have not accounted for the huge sums of money they had collected without doing anything. This attitude in the midst of so much scarcity is nothing but sleaze and should be condemned by all well meaning Deltans. This is even happening at a time when the September salaries of civil servants as at 5th October, 2015 are still unpaid.
When the APC in Delta State campaigned vigorously for CHANGE it was to correct these anomalies and redistribute the wealth of Delta State that has been in the hands of a few PDP stalwarts and their families for the past 16years. The few PDP oppressors have been using their ill gotten wealth to rig elections and subjugate the rights of people they claim to be protecting. It was this impunity that was resisted by Nigerians who voted out the PDP government at the Federal level while in Delta State the PDP, afraid of losing their grip on power used their wealth to rig them back to power. Nigerians are now enjoying a steady rise in electricity supply, disappearance of queues from petrol filling stations, stability of the naira and transparency in government business.
In Delta State our fortunes are on the reverse as the PDP Government is fast becoming like and army of occupation not willing to cede power or wealth to anyone outside their Political camp. “Prosperity to all Deltans” is therefore a ruse, a mere electioneering slogan that was used to deceive Deltans into further mental and economic slavery. If for 16years the lot of Deltans could not improve why do we expect that it is the same PDP Government that would translate poverty to wealth for the people?
The way Dr Okowa is running government shows that he has no clear vision of what he wants to achieve and that is a negation of what he termed “Principles of continuous improvement”. Dr Okowa is scaring potential investors from Delta state as investors are unable to see an investment friendly climate. For instance, Sarner Limited’s private sector driven tourism projects at Oleri and Ogwashi-Uku have been practically abandoned by Dr Okowa. So where is the “principle of continuous improvement”? Delta State is now run as a private estate thereby creating a wide gulf between government and the Governed. All the disinherited PDP Abuja Politicians of Delta state extraction have run back to the state to further heat up the economic climate and Dr Okowa is giving them palliative appointments.
The average Deltan is now enveloped in a dark cloud of apathy, disillusionment and grief. The Delta State government policies and programmes are shrouded in secrecy as no one is properly informed of government receipts from the Federation accounts, other financial receipts and even the current position of our internally generated revenue (IGR). Rumours are everywhere of alleged payments to failed contractors in the Asaba airport and the Ughelli-Asaba 147km dualization project. News have also filtered in that Dr Okowa has allegedly paid off the Political contractor (from state funds) who loaned him money to unashamedly, give 4000 dollars each to delegates in the PDP governorship primaries of December 5, 2014. News is rife too that some contracts have been awarded for the dualization of the cable point road and for the reconstruction and upgrading of three Technical Colleges at Ofagbe, Sapele and Agbor without technical bids, in clear contravention of the Delta state fiscal responsibility and public procurement act.
These contracts smacks of shady deals. Perhaps, more worrisome is the news that the new government house which was commissioned just barely a year ago is being renovated and re-equipped at a humongous sum. This public disenchantment with government policies and programmes have become so palpable that even in Delta North where the Aniomas should normally celebrate the emergence of their first civilian governor after Dennis Osadebay the people now grieve that this is not the kind of power shift they fought for. This situation has awakened the need for the Aniomas and the Oshimili people to begin to clamour quite early for power shift within Delta North itself.
The thinking among them is that if Dr Okowa manages to complete his four year term, power should rotate to another axis within Delta North. That James Ibori and Emmanuel Uduaghan did not experience such challenge tells us the extent of Dr Okowa’s clannishness. For sake of brevity we wish to give only three examples of Dr Okowa’s hatred for other tribes. The current SSG of Delta State who is scrupulously loyal to his boss is an Urhobo man but an Ika Permanent Secretary was posted to him to checkmate him, making him the most powerless Delta State SSG since 1999. With his office stripped of all its flesh, leaving only the bones, Festus Agas certainty does not possess the powers and latitude of Dr Uduaghan, Dr Okowa, Obarisi Ovie Omo Agege or Samuel Ovuozorie Macaulay who were all his predecessors in office as SSG.
Most of the SSG’s functions have been taken over by Hillary, Governor Okowa’s relation in Government House who functions as a principal Secretary, a position hitherto unknown in Delta state. If the Urhobos believe they had clinched the SSG position they had better had a rethink. The Permanent Secretary, Government House and Protocol is also an Effurun Urhobo. This once powerful position has been diluted by the presence of so many Ika people who surround him and renders him ineffective and ineffectual. The Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Monday Igbuya is an Urhobo man. If the Urhobos know the landmines that have been laid on his path by the powers that be from above they would not pride themselves for having the first substantive Urhobo speaker since 1999. With the absence of an Ighoyota Amori in the Delta state government, the Urhobos just like the Itsekiris and the Isokos are heading for political extinction unless an APC government comes on board to rescue them.
One plausible reason for all the above mentioned malfeasance of Dr Okowa is the fear of a possible Governorship re-run. How Dr Okowa is going to perform the magic of paying the salaries of the political appointees beats our imagination.
If the appointments were hurriedly done to assuage the ill feelings across board then Dr Okowa has made a mistake. Deltans are no fools and would not fall for such cheap political gimmicks. There is a thick smoke of anxiety and frustration on the faces of Deltans who are faced with only one choice: to find ways to extricate themselves from a political dynasty that has held Delta State prostrate for 16years and embrace the wind of CHANGE that is sweeping across Nigeria. That is the only option available to Deltans if they must take their collective destinies in their own hands.
BY COMR. GEORGE UGBELAKA