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Okowa ‘SMART AGENDA’ and Leadership Gaps

To describe Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa, the Executive Governor of Delta State as a ‘Political War Lord’ as well as a ‘Political Bishop” when it comes to Delta State politics may not be inappropriate as he is evidently and eminently qualified looking at his political track records.

As a ‘Political Bishop’, Okowa has in the time past ordained many of his followers to the positions of political priesthoods and exorcized others from their political ill–fates. Also, he has as a political ‘War Lord’, used his large war chest to unceremoniously but democratically end the political voyage of his opponents as well as sent many to the ‘political accident and emergency wards’ where they are currently recuperating.

But recent happenings in the state shows that the Senator Okowa’s ‘Political Titanic ship’ had finally ramped into a ‘mal-performance iceberg hence his teaming political passengers like that of the ill-fated  Italian Titanic ship are but gradually nose diving as their grouse against their ones revered political leader has become barefaced.

The inability of the governor to fulfill to an appreciable level his campaign promises is the reason for the face-off. The governor during the electioneering campaign, in 2015, presented a 5-point agenda tagged ‘SMART AGENDA’ that he will vigorously pursue on assumption of office. SMART according to him, is an acronym for; strategic wealth creation, meaningful peace building, agricultural reforms, relevant health care provision and transformed environment. But two years after, it has dawned on the people that they entered into a political business without conducting adequate ‘political feasibility studies’.

From non-payment of workers’ salaries, to infrastructural decay, project abandonment and failure of completed ones. The particulars of his mal-performance also include but not limited to youths and sports neglect and unwilling interest in rural community development. All these megawatts of complaints resonating from the people within a space of two years should be enough reality for the governor to worry about.

Even the few projects his administration executed are not spared of criticism as they are viewed as shoddy and toxic. Some alleged that most of the Okowa’s road projects could be best described as plastered and not tarred as they are lacking in thickness and often without drainage. This has accounted for a very high number of failed road projects under his administration.

To authenticate this position, a tour round Asaba will present you a town evolving into a slum as it is lacking in ordered amenities that signposts a modern city. To support this claim also, a little drop of the rain renders most of the major roads and streets in the town impassable as a result of floods, as the roads and streets are without drainage.

‘Okpanam road’ is a typical case in mind and bears testimony to the veracity of other challenges as signposted.   It remains a metaphor of poor execution of projects which characterize Governor Okowa’s administration. My concern is, if the governor cannot take good care of this road that is so strategically located, serving the ‘high and mighty’ including the governor himself as it provides a major access to the government house, that alone will give the readers an insight into what plays out in the riverine communities.

A visit to the Gbaramatu Kingdom and other communities in the creeks along Warri axis of Delta State will but amplify the very visible neglect of those communities by this administration. The residents testified that the governor only visited during the electioneering campaign, made a basket full of promises, and since then, they have not heard a word from him.

Now, how do you expect the people in such communities, and youths in particular, to survive in an environment that is lacking in basic amenities; schools and structured skill acquisition training centres? As a leader, you cannot be talking about the provision of security without first engaging the youths in a meaningful and sustainable means of livelihood.

If urgent attention is not taken, these villages will evolve to a slum and you are well aware of the social and security implications of such development. Remember also, that slums are perceived all over the world as a creation of the government. This position is evident as slum communities thrive when the government of the day fails to provide the needed basic infrastructures as well as default in carrying out the regulatory and supervisory responsibilities required of the state.

In the same fashion, one thing I may not be in a position to comment on is the Governor’s intention for inactions, but whatever his intentions are, I think you need very urgently to ignite the intellectual elasticity to draw a lesson from this catalog of concerns as expressed. Doing this I think will assist you in resetting your leadership priorities and re-direction.

In the face of the above, let your Excellency be guided by the fact that ‘There is a kind of stubborn stupidity that reoccurs through history and it is a strong impediment to leadership: the superstition believe that if the person before you succeeded by doing A, B and C, you can recreate their success by doing the same thing’’. I believe it is time to depart the old order so that we can build the Delta State of our dreams.

Also, the recent appointment of some Executive Assistants on Project Monitoring is viewed as a right step taken in the right direction. However, your Excellency should by no means abandon project inspection and monitoring to these groups. As a Governor that is focused on delivering the democracy dividends, you should always be involved and your involvement should be unstructured. This you can achieve through the payment of unscheduled visits to project sites.

Another but a related development is the issue of the Paris Club refunds and the workers’ salaries as it is giving your subjects a sleepless night. Though you are not the only Governor cut in this visible demonstration of cluelessness but at the same, you should remember also that your state has a stronger financial muscular through internally generated revenue (IGR). Spending the Paris refunds without considering the plights of the workers and pathetic situation of our pensioners is synonymous to providing leadership without a human face. If after receiving such volume of money and workers are still owed their salaries, and pensioners their pension, it visibly shows that we have leadership challenge on our hands.

At this juncture also, it will be pertinent to draw your attention to the fact that ‘greatness is not a function of circumstance but largely a matter of conscious choice’.  And if greatness through effective leadership is your goal, then, you have to inter-alia cast a glance to this succulent remark “We made sure from the day we took office that every dollar in revenue would be properly accounted for and would reach the beneficiaries at the grass root as one dollar, without being siphoned off along the way. So from the very beginning, we gave special attention to the areas where discretionary powers had been exploited for personal gain and sharpened the instruments that could prevent, detect or deter such practices”, the words of Lee Kuan Yew, the former Prime Minister of Singapore, speaking on how he was able to transform Singapore from the third world to a first world nation. Mr. Governor, Deltans need such level of commitment from you and your cabinet.

In a related development, your over-hyped skill acquisition programme designed for the youths has become a sort of ‘goodness without good luck’ as the few people trained are left between the devil and the deep blue sea. Training without start-up support arrangement via soft loans or provision of the needed operational equipment is synonymous to sending a child to the farm without providing him with a cutlass and still expect a superlative performance from such child.

Very importantly also, I would like to remind you, Mr. Governor, that opportunity to serve humanity remains one of the greatest gifts from our creator. Using that opportunity to serve the people at a selfless level earns you greatness and engraves your name in an immortal portal but using it abusively portrays you as a personality with a toxic and anemic character.

To support the above also, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that ‘’humanity will never have peace in the world until men everywhere recognize that ends are not cut-off from means because the means represent the ideal in the making and the end in the process. Ultimately, you cannot reach good ends through evil means, because the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree’’. Put differently, the way and manner you handle this Gods’ given position will go a long way in shaping the future of both your personal and political life.

In the final analysis, I will very respectfully urge Mr. Governor to transform and view his position as an opportunity to effect positive political, cultural and socioeconomic changes. If he views and act along that axis, he would leave the Government House not just as a mere former governor but an ‘alchemist’ and as a sage. This I wish Mr. Governor.

—By Jerome-Mario Utomi

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