By Zik Gbemre

We have been told in the Holy Writ that: “Where there is no vision, the people perish… (Prov.29:18a), that means the best thing that drives any society to attain greater heights of development is tied to the ability of the leaders of that society having the vision (a mental picture that is to be translated into reality), of where that society should progressively be in the near and far future. Where this is grossly absent; then it is doom and a bleak future for the people concerned. As sad as this may sound, that has been the unfortunate story of Delta State in the last 16 years or so. A sad situation where the State’s past and present crop of political leaders as Governors, have been leaders without clear cut vision for the entire State and its people. To complicate issues, majority of the people themselves have become complacent, indifferent and practically comfortable with this deplorable state of its land in the hands of such visionless leaders. As such, Delta State has been a State that takes one step forward and three steps backwards in its quest for development.

President Mohammadu Buhari

Those who are very keen observers of the politicking, socio-economic progression and dynamics of events in Delta State since 1999 till date, would understand what we are trying to say hear. We need not to elaborate much or analyze all the events from time past and presently in Delta State Government circles for everyone to have a clear picture of what we are trying to drive home here. A sincere, honest and holistic look all around us; will present to us a lot of ‘evidences’ that suggest that indeed, we have been having, and we still have political leaders in Delta State Government House, that is without vision. The only ‘vision’ they know and have, is to satisfy their insatiable stomachs and greed as well as that of their families, friends, cronies and the PDP cabal that put them there in the first place.

Without going too far, let us start with the present Delta State Government of Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa. Considering the fact that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, can best be described as an ‘offshoot’ and more of a continuation of the immediate past two governments of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and James Ibori, many stakeholders like us were not expecting much (or any) sustainable change at all with regards to the development of Delta State. This fear started playing out immediately Governor Okowa came on board. We can see this when we look at every of the actions, statements and body language of the new Delta State Governor since he came into power. For instance, it is really sad to observe that the same set of persons (whose pedigree and questionable integrity are of great concern), most of whom were in the deplorable immediate past government of Uduaghan, were still absorbed by the Okowa administration. From his list of Commissioners, to his so called Special Advisers and down to his Senior Special Assistants of one thing or the other, all we see are ‘questionable products’ of the immediate past governments.

From this action by Governor Okowa, it clearly shows that the new Delta State Governor is one ‘without vision’ and not a serious person who truly wants to serve the people of Delta State and make a positive difference. When such persons that were part of the immediate past government that had left a deplorable legacy behind in the State, are now appointed as one thing or the other by the Okowa government; what kind of advice, input and contribution are we going to expect from them? What iota of ‘needed change’ can such group of supposed public officials make in the new Okowa administration to the benefit of Deltans? Are we going to expect any positive change and development from the Okowa administration with such moves? It is simply sad! As rightly put by Albert Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

There are so many actions of the current Delta State Government under Governor Okowa that suggest his ‘visionless’ state. Some of them include: Governor Okowa’s initiation of a ridiculous Asaba Capital Territory Development Agency Bill, when it is evident that no area of Delta State will need a bill before development could be carried out there. But as many stakeholders has noted, the said bill was to create a similar Commission like DESOPADEC in Delta North where funds can be fleeted into the Governors and his cronies private pockets to offset some of their debts incurred during their elections. This was how the ex-governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan used DESOPADEC to his own advantage to amass wealth for himself.

Or is it Governor Okowa’s collaboration with some members of the Delta State House of Assembly to amend the law establishing DESOPADEC and have it passed to suit his hidden agenda. This he did, in spite of all the protests and calls by relevant stakeholders, including all oil and gas producing host communities’ in Delta State, that Governor Okowa should not amend the law establishing DESOPADEC as planned, but to leave the Commission the way it is. Their aim with this action is to practically render DESOPADEC ‘useless’ while their newly carved Asaba Capital Territory Development Agency is fed fat to thrive for their selfish interest. There is also Governor Okowa’s advice to the daughter of former Governor James Ibori, Hon. Erhiatake Ibori, “not to bring disgrace to the Ibori family, but to continue with her father’s legacy” – In other words Governor Okowa was telling Ibori daughter to continue looting the State treasury from where her father stopped while he was in government before he was convicted of corruption charges in a UK Court and is now serving his prison sentence in the UK. Or is it Governor Okowa’s approval of the construction of a so called Modern Market at Orerokpe (which is not a priority need of the people), instead of continuing and completing the abandoned expansion of Osubi Airstrip to an International Airport, or establishing a Polytechnic or College of Nursing and Standard Students’ Residential Halls (Hostels) that would expose and benefit the people of Orerokpe more than a so called Modern Market that will be abandoned.

There is also Governor Okowa’s fruitless appeal to Shell (SPDC) to re-establish their office in the State due to the numerous benefits derivable from such, which we described as “medicine after death”, when the said appeal was not backed by ‘concrete incentives’ to attract Shell (SPDC) to re-invest in Delta State in the first place. It is not enough for Governor Okowa to appeal to Shell (SPDC) to come back to Warri, Delta State, when the Delta State Government has not done or is doing anything to attract them back. The Governor has to show some element of seriousness, by addressing pressing insecurity issues in the State like kidnapping, armed robbery, community youths restiveness and demands, decayed and non-existing basic amenities and infrastructure, etc. Governor Okowa should not expect Shell (SPDC) and all the other oil companies like Pan Ocean that have left the State, to return back when he has not done anything to attract them back.

Another more recent action of the Governor Okowa government that suggests the Governor is clearly visionless, was his approval of the appointment of the former Chairman of Delta State Waste Management Board, Chief Olori Magege, as his so called Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Social Advocacy, and his inauguration of a 30-man so called Advisory and Peace Building Council that is charged, according to Governor Okowa, to strengthen the foundation of the unity of Delta State. We cannot help but wonder what in the world will such a frivolous portfolio of an office – Social Advocacy – offer to the people of Delta State? Or what would the said Advisory and Peace Building Council do differently that the previous Delta State Advisory Council could not achieve since its existence from year 2000? Why waste ‘scarce’ public funds by creating completely unnecessary portfolio and body of people that will obviously come with their strings of ‘personal’ personnel, which will further waste our public funds? In a State where lots of people who retired as far back as five years ago as Teachers and Civil Servants, have not been paid any dime of their gratuities. All the Delta State Government could think of, as priority to him, was to create needless portfolios and positions for people in government circles that are obvious drain to the State’s purse.

Some call it “jobs for the boys”, that is, those who have placed Governor Okowa in Government House deserve to have their interests present in the administration they helped to create. That is how best to explain the above actions of the Okowa Government. It is no doubt that the Governor Okowa regime is an extension of former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s Government – which is also an extension of the James Ibori Government. With this rather unfortunate status, we can conclusively say that “Deltans allowed themselves to be ‘manipulated’ at the last polls to vote for the ‘continuity’ of the deplorable PDP-led Government. Since no ‘voting actually took place in Delta State in the last gubernatorial election, what we ended up having is a Government that manipulated the system to grab political power. This also means that majority of Deltans by allowing themselves to be manipulated are indirectly saying they were happy with the past 16 years of the PDP Government in the State in spite of the stunted development, comparative poor performance, massive State debts, runaway corruption, culture of impunity and unaccountability, etc.

Deltans are obviously not tied or fed up with the deplorable 16 years of the PDP-led Government in Delta State, hence majority of the people practically allowed the ‘political class’ and those in government circles to continue manipulating the election outcomes in the State – that are often done in the favour of selected few. If Deltans were really tied and fed up with the PDP-led Government that has continued its deplorable legacy in the State in the last 16 years, we would have witnessed ‘a civil and peaceful protests’ by now; where they would do everything thing within their power to protect, project and ensure that their votes in the last Governorship election in the State, really counted.

Obviously, the reason why the present and past political class in Delta State Governments do not see the need or obliged to be accountable and transparent to the people in the management and appropriation of State’s resources, is simply because majority of the people did not really vote them into power. Our past and present Governors in Delta State have been and are still operating with ‘stolen mandates’ of the people. But the majority of the people themselves are obviously ‘comfortable’ with this unfortunate situation. Deltans are not tied of the present ‘skewed system of governance’ in Delta State that ONLY favours some selected few in government circles to the detriment of the general masses. Yet, the annoying part is that majority of Deltans are still expecting things to change for the better in the hands of the current government. And we keep wondering how that is possible!

Again, Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, comes into play here. We even doubt if Governor Okowa and those who obviously manipulated the electoral process to put him in Delta State Government House are expecting different results (from those of Uduaghan and Ibori), unless they are insane.

To have different results, Deltans must vote for CHANGE in future elections as Nigerians did at the national level this year, and as the Bayelsans may likely do in their State come December 2015.

If we most move ahead as Deltans, then this culture of widespread celebration of mediocrity, supporting or singing praise of a dysfunctional government (no matter how long it has been with us), have to be uprooted and done away with; both from the political leaders and the followers. No matter how hard or daunting this task may seem, we believe there is no problem that has no solution. But we must first acknowledge the fact that we have a big problem as Deltans in this regard, and then we can take the necessary steps in addressing them. Deltans, especially those “political traders”, should stop all the praise-singing and sycophancy for things to change for the good of all. Until we begin to tell our political leaders and ourselves the ‘truth’ as Deltans, mediocrity would continue to be enthroned as lord over all of us in Delta State.

Zik Gbemre,JP.

National Coordinator

Niger Delta Peace Coalition (NDPC)