-Speech by Professor Patrick Okedinachi Utomi at the meeting with Delta Central APC officials and leaders at Ughelli – Nov.3, 2017.
I want to thank, and celebrate people of commitment who in spite of many troubles of spirit, crisis of pocket, and afflictions of reason still have hope. Let me assure them that it is appropriate to hope. Any Christian who has lost hope has lost everything. Hope the feedstock that kept the widow of Zarapeth and her son in times of famine needs to be encouraged, for God is able to do all things including the rescue of Delta State. He did it when it seemed impossible in Anambra State and he did it when it was unthinkable in Edo State.
The same God who set the pace in Lagos with foresight into those words of wisdom that a candle loses nothing when it lights another candle can do it in Delta. Just as in Lagos and in some parts of our country, the people of hope have a duty to take the light from where they live to the cradle of their ancestors.
I have lived in Lagos for years and had the good fortune of being celebrated as one of the Icons of Lagos at 50 earlier this year. I was also lucky to have worked with the Tinubu team in the Lagos revival and to have helped take the light of Lagos to both Edo and Anambra.
A little over a week ago, I enjoyed the warmth of the company of over two hundred leaders of the APC from Delta North. It was an interactive session at which I unequivocal stated that, if a person is sent on errand by his people, especially an errand of seeking a cure for the soul wrenching trouble of people living in undiluted misery, as is the case with most ordinary people in Delta State today, such a son has no choice than to say to his people: Here I am, I come ready to run your errand whether or not it is at a high cost to personal comfort.
Today, we gather again to formally hear a pledge. Nevertheless, it is important to understand why what many of you repeatedly urged, is critical, even before I say here am I, send me.
WHY DELTA SHOULD ARISE
The man of the Century for Time magazine, in the 20thCentury was Albert Einstein. To him is attributed the wise words that doing the same thing repeatedly and hoping for a different out come is the definition of insanity. Yet to be truthful, that is what we have been doing in Delta State. We have for many years after the era of Olorugun Felix Ibru, who I am ever pleased to acknowledge as someone I was friendly with, have repeated wrong ways.
We do it in ways that not only will shock Einstein but will crush George Orwell who reminds us that “A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims but accomplices”.
A starting point for the journey of redemption for us in Delta State is for all of us to do a critical examination of conscience. What has been my role in this big peculiar mess (kpenkejenisie) that has been the Delta Journey? Are we part of erecting this ugly fence that marks an Asylum, in which the inmates have chased out the psychiatrists or are we working towards healing? The time to stand up and be counted is now.
Ask yourself if you have been part of this definition of insanity and the need for psychiatric care? Have we been playing victim when in fact we have been accomplices?
My response to the many calls on me regarding the rescue of Delta is that it is not about one man or a group of people. What Delta needs is a revolution, a thoughtful people-centered, love-inspired dramatic change of mindsets in which no one is left behind in the transformation from current state of misery to a place that reflects the motto of our state – the big heart.
Delta is gifted. Its people, its flora and fauna can sustain economic transformation and social harmony. Instead of the progress we deserve and desire, we have a location on the misery index that beggars belief just because our politics and leadership arising there from have been less than the desirable.
THE PEOPLE MUST OWN THEIR REVOLUTION
If Delta will be redeemed, the people must own their Revolution. And their revolution must, of necessity, touch lives, transform communities and make poverty history.
I will offer a number of ideas on how we can make that happen by changing the traditional way we campaign and corner public office. Instead of just being polling agents, party faithful should be vehicle for the identification of community needs, aggregating such through frequent village square and digital meetings. As community organizer, the campaign worker becomes part of a process for channeling what is required for decision makers, upward and transmitting empowerment initiatives downward; and thus impacting lives in a way that transforms the quality of life in the communities. This way the people can own their revolution, their government and ensure that all the leaders who come are people centred.
PUSHING FOR PROGRESS
Many years ago, in 1979, I attended an event in Chicago. It was an event of people united to save Humanity (PUSH), which was addressed by its founder Rev. Jesse Jackson. His power talk challenged the people to take charge of their destinies. My encounter with people who started what they have called the Pat Utomi Support Hub (PUSH) has managed to resuscitate the emotions of that 1979 PUSH visit during which I interviewed Jesse Jackson for a Nigeria Magazine.
Since my goal in public life is to have impact on the lives of people, with or without a title or office, I am convinced that all who want change can begin with how we can change how political parties and candidates already win elections before results are announced by the kind of campaigns they organize which empowers citizens by opening opportunities. My hope is that our social contract with Deltans will involve crafting an electioneering process that essentially on its own, significantly dent the poverty profile and offer a clear trajectory from the misery of now. I will speak more to the New Deal in the coming weeks.
A campaign by people who chant the song of change must be a campaign of ideas and programmes of action. So, permit me to provide some insights into the top priorities of a campaign we will be involved in will focus on.
What we seek is commitment from those who believe in a Delta rescue to emphasize education, healthcare, clusters based on our factor endowments that will enable us dominate specific global value chains in a way that create lots of jobs for our youth; and infrastructure that support this growth strategy. This means plenty of commitment in public-private partnerships to taking fibre optics to urban areas and select rural focal points faster than what the much less endowed Rwanda has managed to achieve and linking the new cities in the three senatorial districts that are built around the endowments we talked about with fast train services, and multilane Turnpikes (super highways).
I want to assure that there is nothing ambitious or even particularly remarkable about these ideas. They have been done before in places with hardly one tenth of Delta’s intellectual capital stock, not to talk of its natural resources. The only thing that has held us back has been the limitation of our imagination.
Let me conclude with a point that has been much discussed, the apparently “over bloated” civil service in Delta. Some have said they will massively retrench these people. With so many being paid for doing so little, misery remains so deep. Imagine what will happen when you sack the bulk of them. For me what we need to do have to be creative. It is to retrain and deploy them to more areas that are productive. If the massive development we expect will broaden activities as it also expands the tax base, the size of the civil service that is productively and efficiently deployed may indeed have to go up. Given the intent to increase teacher’s salaries and raise the prestige of Teachers, with Finland as model, some of these will be rushing to be retrained and sent to the classroom. This will help us harvest a demographic divided from Youth bulge. For those not interested in new ways and new challenges in our state, we are proposing a network of vocational training institutions for Adults. These will provide skills that will fetch good pay and happy life.
Finally, let me say that part of the reason I am here is because many people of goodwill urged that I have a duty to come home and do the needful for what they think is my legacy to be fuller and more fulfilling. These selfless patriots, Generals, Businessmen, Traditional leaders and even traditional politicians come from all the senatorial districts of the state. To mention them will take time and may get me into trouble for missing some out. However, let me mention a man of great conviction who is unfortunately not here. This politician made getting me on the Delta project the most important assignment of the last weeks of his life. On the day he died, he spoke to several people about what he saw as the imperative of getting Pat Utomi to provide a new direction to Delta State. With great respect to our heroes past, allow me to request that we all rise and be silent for a minute to honour the memory of a politician of great sagacity, Sir Olise Akamukali.
May his soul as the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.
Dear compatriots. If we were minded to come on a journey, I have just outlined then I have no choice but to say here I am, to the call.