By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
Each passing day brings to mind the fact that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta state understands that globally, the credibility of a leader can only be established through action and not words- referring here are the kind of actions that distinguishes a leader who considers his people as foremost assert and not one who looks at them as a burden; leadership that is based on love and respect and not on hatred or fear.
This feeling came to mind following a recent media report that the Delta State Government has approved an upward review of contract cost of Ayakoromo Bridge project from N6 billion to N10.5 billion, elicited two sets of reactions among deltans particularly those in the riverine communities of Burutu, Patani and Bomadi local government areas of the states.
Speaking after the first EXCO meeting of 2022, Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu said that the review was part of decisions reached at the first State Executive Council meeting in 2022, which was presided over by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa on Thursday. Aniagwu explained that the contract for the construction of the bridge which was awarded in 2013 had to be reviewed as a result of present economic realities in the country. He said that the project was a priority to the present administration in the state, adding that it was expected to be completed and inaugurated within the next 15 months. “The Ayakoromo bridge also came up today and the Exco has approved an upward review of that contract which was awarded in 2013 at the initial cost of about N6 billion. He concluded.
Indeed, this decision by the state government to complete the bridge looks good both in practical and pragmatic terms but not without opposition/criticism.
To some, the development reinforces the belief that the state Governor, Senator (DR) Ifeanyi Okowa is ready to ‘finish strong’ via provisions of infrastructures to the people of the state. For others, It brought to mind the global recognition that Infrastructures such as roads, rail and electricity enables development and also provides the services that underpin the ability of people to be economically productive, for example via transport. The rest, while referring to a similar budgetary allocation to the same project under the Emmanuel Uduaghan led administration, argued that it is another phantom budgetary approval that will not see to the successful competition of the project but will further stack the deck against the poor and disadvantaged Nigerians and the future generations.
Without doubt, globally speaking, the transport sector has a huge role in connecting populations to where the work is,” says Ms Marchal. Infrastructure investments help stem economic losses arising from problems such as power outages or traffic congestion. The World Bank estimates that in Sub-Saharan Africa, closing the infrastructure quantity and quality gap relative to the world’s best performers could raise GDP growth per head by 2.6% per year.
Away from the above global considerations, there exist even more sincere reasons why the Governor’s present move is on the one hands commendable, and on the other hands, it is pressing that he completes this project before departing office come 2023.
First, the bridge project has lingered for a very long time having been awarded by the now outgone Emmanuel Uduaghan administration. The project has in fact thrust a responsibility and extremely important destiny; to complete this process of socioeconomic rejuvenation of the people of the riverine community which the state have spent far too long a time to do.
Similarly, like the Bomadi bridge which was executed by Chief James Onanefe Ibori’s administration, connecting three local government areas, (Burutu, Ughele and Patani), likewise, the Ayakoromo bridge going by commentaries, when completed promises to promote the socioeconomic lives and wellbeing of Deltans living in over in four local governments of the state.
Take as an illustration, Bobougbene community and its environs are reputed for the production of palm oil in commercial quantity and supply to Warri metropolis, and Okwuagbe markets in Ughelli South. The bridge when completed will provide easy access to these markets. Even more, it will open up the majority of communities that are yet to have access to the ‘uplands’.
In reputation terms, there are more reasons to applaud Governor Okowa’s effort in this direction. It is said that a leader’s image is an amalgam of a variety of factors, and followers must at intervals evaluate these perceived factors in order to dictate if they are in positive or negative light. Particularly, image is capable of saying much more about a leader than any of his long speeches and verbal declarations. And once established, the image becomes not just the leader’s picture but remains highly durable.
Correspondingly, going by Governor Okowa’s latest decision and desire to complete the bridge, it is now evident that he has developed a spectacular identity for himself, that is worthy of emulation and created a connection or ‘hyper ‘relationship between the state government and the people of the riverine communities that the bridge, when completed will boast their socioeconomic wellbeing. No doubt, this move to complete the bridge will, when completed, brighten Governor Okowa’s reputation in the estimation of the right thinking Deltans and the world as a whole.
However, even as we celebrate this feat, there are in the opinion of this peace, more work to be done and more reforms to be made. To truly and thoroughly make the experience a dynamic and cohesive way of earning a higher height of excellence, there are ingrained actions that are still calling for attention.
Very key is that for development to be enduring, it must be integrated and sustainable. In this light, this draws the attention of Mr. Governor to the fact that communities in the riverine communities are lacking heavily other infrastructures such as; good internal road network and electricity.
From what the people of Ayakromo and adjourning communities are saying,, they have not had access to electricity since 2010. That, according to a community dweller, was immediately after the military inversion and bombardment of their communities.
To make the whole exercise a rewarding one, the state must take steps to complete the bridge and tackle other highlighted infrastructural deficiencies in the community. The Governor needs to do this not for political considerations but for the survival of our democracy.
Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;firstname.lastname@example.org/08032725374