Dr. (Senator) Ifeanyi Ekwueme Arthur Okowa
By Jerome-Mario Utomi
I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills’-M.K Ghanghi
For political and socio-cultural identity, Delta North Senatorial zone is also known as Anioma. A loose interpretation of Anioma is, ‘good land’. Delta state governor, Dr. (Senator) Ifeanyi Ekwueme Arthur Okowa is the first Anioma son to assume the governorship of the state. That was on the 29th May, 2015.
Similarly, in 2019, while he sought for second term in office, Governor Okowa’s ambition was again subjected to serious scrutiny via electoral process to ascertain whether his promise to serve the public and to pursue the ‘public good’ remains intact or have been soiled by private ambitions. Again, he emerged victorious.
However, series of conversations held at different times and places in recent months with some deltans and groups of different tribes and exposures within the state of which the content propelled this piece, points to the fact that opinion about the governor’s performance is divided.
The euphoria with which Anioma people in particular celebrated the ascension of their son to that exalted position is gradually ebbing away. Deltans appear to have recovered their equilibrium. While some currently hails the actions of the governor, others view it with skepticism- describing the governor’s actions as neither internally directed, people focused, nor externally open. Indeed, this sort of feelings is not only inevitable but eminently desirable. They give the impression of objective concerns.
Yet, in the words of a particular commentator, some of these opinions-most especially the claim that the governor is not externally open, stems from lack of comprehension that in leadership, and even democracy, government is at liberty to take or discard advice and public opinion in the interest of greater good for the greater number.
Public opinion he argued, do not always provide clear-cut policy guidance, and even when it is clearly in favour of a certain course of government action, Okowa like any other leader may decide otherwise-particularly when they realize how uninformed, superficial, and changeable most opinions really are. Government may also reject people’s opinion as a result of its own convictions or the recommendations of the public service. Whenever government fails to follow a clear-cut preference among the public opinion, they may actually be relying on a deeper understanding of the issue, the greater information at their disposal, or a more sophisticated analysis of its implications.
This clarification notwithstanding, the list of objective concerns coming from Deltans remains lengthy. And in each of the issues expressed, there are ingrain lessons for the governor to draw.
A group for instance, very minute in number and predominantly of Anioma origin is worried about what they called the below average performance of one of their own. Their worry is wrapped in two main arguments. First, having been denied the opportunity to govern the state created over 20years ago by other amalgams, they felt that the incumbent governor will utilize the opportunity presented by his ascension to power to make a political point by providing quality leadership for the other senatorial district to see. Secondly, Okowa who has been in politics since the early 1990s and has never gone on political sabbatical ought to have accumulated, and the needed political and leadership acumen to take the state out of the wood. This position is based on the fact that he has occupied several political and leadership positions in and outside the state since the middle 1990s.
Let’s assume that this group is guided as human brains in most cases thrive on wrong data, there is another concerned class with similar fear but presented differently. In their submissions, they noted that though the state has not entered the period of lamentation, it is already obvious that Deltans are at a regrettable period. The governor is roundly accused by this group of cluelessness, lacking in creativity, resourcefulness, and ingenuity. Not even the recent NBS ranking of the state was spared of criticism.
The legion of deafening complaints resonating from this particular body should be enough reality for the governor to worry about.
Principally, they observed that in the Mid-West and Bendel state of old, there existed government owned companies of which Governor Okowa witnessed, established by the then leaders who demonstrated a passion for their purpose, practiced leadership values consistently, led with their hearts as well as their heads, established long term, meaningful relationships and have the self discipline to get result,. They were established to among other aims create employment while bringing revenue to government coffers. Examples of such companies includes but not limited to; Mid West Lines, Bendel Hotel, Bendel Insurance, Bendel Glass.
They queried; what stopped the governor from resuscitating some of these organizations the state inherited from the old Bendel state considering the volume of money the state has received as federal allocation in the last five years? Or established new ones under public-private partnership (PPP) to tackle youth unemployment and generate income for the state? What is the wisdom behind teaching a man to fish (referring to the state’s youths skill training programmes) in an environment where there is no river to fish? Or train a man without job creation plan? How will Okowa’s administration explain the fact that his skill acquisition initiative which was programmed to empower the youths of the state via employment, have finally left the large army of deltans without job?
Under this present arrangement, how did NBS arrive at the description of the state as economically viable when the people of the coastal communities are still very much in abject poverty and deprived of basic necessities of life, access to good health care, good roads, portable water? Has the governor forgotten that security wise, large unemployed youth population is a threat to the security of the few that are employed? And that any transformation agenda that does not have job creation at the centre of its programme will take us nowhere.
However, like science which believes that there are mental structures that govern feelings and emotions, and these structures have a greater impact on decision making than logic and reason, the opinion of the rest did what is in some ways more brazen to manifest how seriously Okowa’s policies have positively impacted on the lives of Deltans.
While admitting that criticism is an ingredient of democracy, they underlined that objective analysis can only be achieved through a process of diligent evaluation of Okowa’s administration in comparison with available resources. To this group, opinions need be classified into; reliable, trustworthy and factual investigations, and those riddled with biases should be avoided. To do the job of analysis, analysts must do well to first understand the economic and political forces and realities that currently shape the governance of the state.
Aside pointing to the recent National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), which was discredited above, the group argued that if a visit is made to the coastal areas of Delta state, and analysis/report of such visit placed side by side with documented accounts of deprivation, degradation and abandonment that formerly characterized the region, it will, however, reveal something fundamentally new and different about the crisis in the region; justify the belief that creative concepts of leaders can bring both disruptive and constructive aspect; and authenticate the conviction that a leader’s action and inactions is laced with the capacity to shatter set patterns of thinking, threaten the status quo, or at the very least stir up people’s anxieties.
The ongoing development of the region in their opinion cannot in anyway be attributed to speculation but a decision process built on right judgement and supported by rational inferences basically different from mathematical probability process.
For one thing, Okowa, they opined, has shown that strategic success cannot be reduced to a formula, nor can one become a strategic thinker by reading books, but, through constant demonstration of competence, connection and character.
Continuing, the age-long excuse by previous administrations that the coastal region cannot be developed because the terrain is marshy-a feature that renders construction difficult if not impossible can no longer be sustained. The Governor being a God sent, used his politics of development to send such excuse to the dustbin of history. Even though the roads are yet to be connected to major cities in the state, they noted that coastal areas are now blessed with appreciable number of pedestrian roads-a feat that qualifies the Governor as the first to give a sense of belonging to the people of the region.
Certainly, the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has in my estimation scored some good points in certain areas of life-infrastructure, security and sports development. It is a verifiable fact. However, there are hidden lessons to draw from the above catalogue of complaints.
Jerome-Mario (email@example.com) is a Lagos- Based Journalist.