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OPINION: OKOWA’S LEADERSHIP CAPACITY AND A COMMENTATOR’S IGNORANCE

Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State
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One inherent ‘sorrow’ associated with public leadership across the globe is that once a citizen is elevated to such a position, either through election or appointment, he loses his or her right to private life.

Closely associated with this challenge is that such public offices, particularly in Nigeria, have lately become targets for fierce political and ideological warfare in ways that negate our rationality as human beings. And each time such ‘wars’ occur, great amounts of innocent human character are spilled, wars of words waged, countless souls and ambition persecuted and martyred.

Making it a reality to worry about is the new awareness that at every moment, it matters not whether the ‘embattled’ public official has demonstrated passion for his purpose, practised leadership values consistently, promoted social mobility, facilitated economic justice and led with his heart and head.

There are countless examples , but the first that understandably  comes to mind is the recent comment by Frank Tietie, lawyer and public affairs commentator on an Arise TV programme broadcast on Monday, May 30, 2022. The comment this time around was spewed at Ifeanyi Okowa, a former Commissioner in Delta for eight years, one time/one term Secretary to the State Government, Senator and current Governor of the state.

Commenting on the strengths and weaknesses of some members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) tipped as Vice Presidential candidate to the party’s presidential candidate who emerged on Saturday night, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, when he got to Okowa for his assessment, he said that the gôvernor could not be the Vice Presidential candidate because he had not developed Delta State and that he lacked national exposure, among others.

Essentially, while he enjoys the right to comment on such public discourse, there was however, an unwelcome departure from the normal good sense and judgment expected of such a ‘public forum’.  The diatribe demonstrated how an unequipped and misinformed public affairs commentator could easily morph into a political attack dog-promoting hatred and confuses malice with objectivity.

Aside from the visible departure from fact-based analysis, an action this writer  believes was fired more by asymmetrical political and economic understanding than public good,  it is important to expose the fundamental flaws in the basic argument projected by the said analyst/commentator as they cannot hold water when faced with the embarrassing fact.

First and very fundamental, based on his achievements as commissioner and secretary to the state government, senator and governor, it is factually supported that Governor Okowa is eminently qualified to be the nation’s president as his credential speaks volume.

Frank Tietie is perhaps unaware that Delta State under Okowa’s leadership was ranked the Best State in Human Capital Development in the 2017 States Peer Review of the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria? Is he unmindful of the fact that  in 2020, Delta was adjudged the Second Least Poor State, coming only after Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS)? Or is he denying the fact that the state is a microcosm of Nigeria because she is populated by different ethnic nationalities and has under previous administrations had inter-ethnic conflicts/clashes, fatal boundary disputes, especially over oil-bearing land, political tensions, high unemployment and poverty rates, which have all been tackled and sustainable peace restored in those troubled areas by the Okowa-led administration?

How could these feats be possible if the state was not in the hands of a dynamic leadership that is exceptionally good at painting a clear vision, which inspires and motivates his populace? If the governor has not performed as alleged, how come sustainable peace has endured in the state?

The Asaba Airport for example, was downgraded just before the governor assumed office. Today, the same airport is now a category 6 airport that receives international flights. The airport is now a major national carrier’s hub in the South-East and South-South geo-political zones. Same goes with the Osubi Airport in Warri.

In the area of education, apart from three new universities that Okowa  recently incubated, nurtured and established in the state, 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 in the state, 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).

At the national level, the achievement of Governor Okowa stands tall.  A while ago, he identified the absence of a national ideology, which all the component parts of the country subscribe to as the reason why we are yet to forge a sense of unity. In the absence of a shared national vision or aspiration, primordial loyalties and sentiments largely hold sway among the citizens. He submitted.

Before the dust of appreciation, analysis and commendation elicited by such objective declaration could settle, another was up. This time around, the governor called for a new constitution in the country, lamenting that the lack of political will to devise a constitution that supports true federalism will prevent the nation from moving forward.

In his words, the 1999 Constitution (as amended) centralises political and economic powers in the Federal Government and emasculates the states by denying them powers to secure their own territories and control their natural resources for the development of their territories and people.

And as a man of peace and promoter of national unity, Okowa admitted that we are better and stronger together, and that, with appropriate, visionary leadership and good governance, we can turn our diversity into a great source of strength and a springboard to build a strong multi-ethnic and multi-religious country that will be the envy of other nations.

To catalyze the process of building a more united Nigeria, he underlined that the Federal Government must frontally and transparently tackle insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, criminal herdsmen operations and all purveyors of insecurity in a way to obviate the popular impression that they are executors of a pre-planned genocide. He concluded that there should be stiff penalties for electoral violence and other malpractices, regardless of which party is culpable. Election results should also be transmitted electronically at the point of counting the votes at the polling units to remove the opportunities for later alterations of figures.

Glib official declarations like “The unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable” or “The unity of Nigeria is sacrosanct” cannot diffuse the tension, resentment, anger and sectarianism prevalent in the country today. Only conscious, consensual action to remove the causes of mistrust and disunity identified above can. He concluded.

For one thing, Okowa has in my views shown that strategic success cannot be reduced to a formula, nor can one become a strategic thinker by reading a book, but through constant demonstration of competence, connection and character.

Now, looking the above facts, I ask; who will be considered best as President or Vice President to help lead the nation out of its present socio political and economic woods if not the likes of Governor Okowa?

It is only the ignorant that can answer in the negative or counter such a proposition.

*** Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy) of the Social And Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA). He can be reached via  jeromeutomi@yahoo.com or 08032725374.