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Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa, the Executive Governor of Delta state

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

At a time like this, there is a compelling need to evaluate our politics and governance via a broader view of the people’s paramount concerns and legitimate expectations in order to unravel its values of fiscal discipline, prudent management, robust and continuous community engagement, effective and efficient public communication, and excellent public service delivery for the benefit of this generation and the next.

Despite this logical, rational and practical belief, one is bound to face confusion in doing this as there is no codified word or structured documentation adequate enough to evaluate a public office holder. This fact notwithstanding, there exists two recent factors and actors that triggered systematic determination by this piece to subject the activities of the delta state Government to merit, worth and significance, using criteria governed by a set of standards.

The first is a comment credited to a friend from the western part of the country but on a temporal official assignment in Asaba, the Delta state capital, and a journey which avails him fortunate opportunity to among other things; witness the ongoing construction works by the state, at the New Corker/Asaba flyover/exchange.

Relaying his experience/impression about the state Government’s effort, he said; when the flyover is completed and functional, not will the Governor save and serve his people, rather he will proudly join the leagues of Governor Ibikunle Amosun and Rotimi Akeredolu, former Governor of Ogun state and, the incumbent Governor of Ondo state respectively, who in their quest to save lives constructed in their respective states, flyovers across the ever busy Lagos/Onitsha expressways, noting that the tree (Amosun, Akeredolu and Okowa) will be remembered by generation yet unborn as authentic leaders that had as paramount, the safety of their subjects.

The second source of inspiration to this piece is the full text of the second term inauguration speech of Delta Governor Ifeanyi Okowa-a document I read a few days ago.

In a referenced speech, Okowa said in parts; the oath of service that I just took is more than an official function or constitutional requirement; it is a covenant between us, a covenant to build a Stronger Delta in which we can freely – and confidently – pursue our dreams of prosperity and happiness in a safe and secure environment.  When I took this oath four years ago, it was in a time of general unease. The national economy was in distress, unemployment was high, the infrastructure deficit was intimidating, the education sector was hard pressed, and there was palpable despair in the land. It was a test of our desire, our resolve and our preparedness to deliver the prosperity we promised the electorate.

I spoke to you then of building a diversified, self-reliant economy that will withstand the shocks occasioned by the physical, social and economic changes that have become a recurring decimal in the 21st century. After a holistic review of past development frameworks and several consultations with various stakeholders, we launched the Delta State Medium Term Development Plan with key strategic imperatives to drive rapid infrastructural development, engender inclusive economic growth, reduce the worrisome high level of youth unemployment and pervasive poverty, and improve the general well-being of all Deltans. He concluded.

Looking at the above spiraling speech by no other than the Governor himself, it will elicit the questions; how well has the governor made good his word to unlock – and unleash – youth entrepreneurship through technical/vocational education? What level of impact has the Governor’s   Executive Bill presented in 2015, for the establishment of a Technical and Vocational Education Board to drive our policy emphasis on skills acquisition presented by the governor created in the lives of Deltans?

How true is the Governor’s claim that in his first term, his administration was quite busy with road and physical infrastructure construction of the most vital interest and consequence, through the Ministries of Works, Urban Renewal and the Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency, his administration embarked on a total of 455 projects comprising 1,269.42 kilometres of roads and 517.34 kilometres of drainage channels? And that as at April 30 2019,, 263 of these roads, covering 638.23 kilometres of roads and 295.71 kilometres of associated drains. Is it also true that the Direct Labour Agency under Governor Okowa’s administration also made great strides in the development of road infrastructure during this period?

Or devoted substantial resources, time and energy to build a knowledge-based economy and a critical mass of skills for entrepreneurship and business competitiveness of which over 20,000 persons benefited from our flagship Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP), Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP) and similar programmes undertaken by the Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Commerce and Industry, Women Affairs as well as the Delta State Micro Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency?

Did Okowa truly as claimed overhaul the curriculum in state-owned tertiary institutions to include courses in personal development and problem solving?  And in the course of his first tenure, engineered the Delta State University to receive full accreditation for the Faculties of Law and Engineering at Oleh Campus as well as other departments at the Abraka Campus?

Can Deltans in deed and in truth say that Governor Okowa has built a Stronger Delta in which all can freely – and confidently – pursue their dreams of prosperity and happiness in a safe and secure environment?

Providing answers to these questions is the objective of this piece.

Essentially, if emotion can give way to objective analysis, two observations seem to  stand out; my  friend’s observation about development in the state as underline above, may be apt just as information contained in Okowa’ s referenced speech appears accurate. Secondly, the present administration has sincere desires to move the people forward. This fact is evident in its clear definition of the problem facing the people, the goals to be achieved, and the means chosen to address the problems and to achieve the goals. Secondly, the system has definite consideration for connecting the poor with good means of livelihood-food, job, and security. This is the only possible explanation for this situation.

Take as an illustration, in the area of education, evidence abounds that as a result of the work of the Technical and Vocational Education Board  in conjunction with the supervising Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, the six technical colleges in Agbor, Sapele, Ofagbe, Utagba-Ogbe, Ogor and Issele-Uku have been fully rehabilitated, well equipped and fully functional. Consequently, Delta is the first State in the country to have all of the courses offered by its technical colleges accredited by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE). Furthermore, the National Business and Technical Education Board (NABTEB) has commenced the issuance of modular certificate and NABTEB certificates to the graduates of these schools while Trade Test Certificates for practical proficiency are issued by the Ministry of Labour and Productivity. This is to ensure a unified standard of certification for the graduate trainees.

Today, with improved linkages and partnerships, all Six Technical Colleges now enjoy World Bank/SEEFOR funding support. They run vocational programmes thus positioning them as Vocational Enterprise Institutes (VEIs) and for the National Vocational Qualification Framework (NVQF). For the full and effective utilisation of personnel, equipment and instructional facilities, Junior Secondary education (JS 1-3) has been incorporated into the technical colleges. Let me also hasten to add that the vocational education centres in Asaba, Sapele, Ozoro, Agbarho, Bulu-Angiama and Otor-Owhe,Mbiri, Ubulu-uku and Orerokpe are enjoying a new lease of life.

To be continued.

Utomi, is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374.

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