By Fidelis Egugbo
Since 1999 when Nigeria started enjoying the current era of democracy; some persons are practically entrenched in politics; they see political offices as their birthright.
Some are so entrenched in it that they also made the offices hereditary or family affair. This situation was worrisome, and a journalist or other concerned professionals would often ask, albeit casually, “Sir, what is your profession?” The answer to such a question was simple, “I am a politician.”
Nigeria’s democracy has progressed beyond its nascent stages, and it is getting to a stage where people are looking at the backgrounds, the pedigree of those vying for public offices.
Indeed, it is getting to a stage where being a ‘plain’ politician would not be the yardstick for political appointments, not to talk about elective positions. It will be about experience and the quality of your relationships with the people.
The immediate-past Governor of Delta State, Sen. Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, is a man who broke the jinx in several political sectors. Yes! If we are to compartmentalize politics into those who have godfathers, those who have potential, but because they are independent-minded, were considered not to be “loyal,” among others.
Democracy is about the people, and many persons, especially in Delta State, became interested in politics because Sen. Okowa opened a new door to politics. He shortened the queue to accommodate more persons in democratic administrations.
Probably because of the way he climbed the political ladder – from Secretary to Local Government, Chairman of Council, Commissioner, Secretary to State Government, Senator, and Governor – he considered individual capability rather than godfatherism.
My point is based on personal experience and from carefully watching his actions. As a person, I told him that civil servants would always be encouraged to bring out their best when rewarded.
We went through memory lane when I was the Health Correspondent of The Pointer when he was assigned the portfolio of the Ministry of Health to take over from Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, who had been made the Secretary to the State Government when Dr. Tabs Ogaranya-Tabowei was the Permanent Secretary; up to how I was moved from the Ministry to the Office of the Deputy Governor as the Correspondent; and, the journey to when I met him in office and how I have stayed so much in the field and became the longest serving reporter in Government House – seventeen years plus!
That was all that required me to get a political appointment as his Special Assistant on Media.
Today, in the politics of Delta State, it is no longer about how long you have been in politics but about what you have got to offer the people: Quality representation.
This situation probably accounts for why we have Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori and Sir Monday Onyeme becoming the Governor and Deputy Governor of Delta State, respectively. While Rt. Hon. Oborevwori was elected to represent the good people of Okpe in the Delta State House of Assembly in 2015; Sir Onyeme got his first political appointment that same year.
Okowa was accused severally of having a lot of political appointees. That was because of his style of making more people involved in politics and getting Deltans to contribute to the state’s development, a typical case of getting all hands to be on deck. Like never before, he opened up the political space. In the past, some Local Government Areas were limited to having statutory political office holders alone, and these few persons lorded themselves over the people. In a democracy?
His opening up the space did not also stop his administration from executing people-oriented projects. He dared to arrest the flooding of Asaba and its environs and moved to Warri, Uvwie, and environs to replicate what he did in Asaba. He broke the jinx of the state government spending billions of Naira annually on rent by bringing all civil servants under one roof–the Prof. Chike Edozien Secretariat. He also allowed civil servants an uninterrupted power supply in their offices through an independent power initiative.
Moreover, Okowa ensured the free traffic flow for travelers going to the eastern parts of the country by constructing the interchange at the busy Koka/Ibusa Road Junction in Asaba.
Today’s exercise does not attempt to list his achievements in providing infrastructure, as the space would not allow for such. But suffice it to observe that as a democrat who believes in the electorate, Okowa initiated several programs to equip Deltans with the necessary skills and empowered them to be financially independent against the backdrop that financial independence has much to do with democratic freedom.
On Saturday, July 8, 2023, Okowa will clock 64 years. Naturally, most of the pages of the newspapers would be taken by advertorials congratulating him; his phones may be ringing non-stop, but many Deltans would remember him in their prayers as they always do because he made them taste good governance.
As a man who believes in God and is happy to “stand on the solid rock,” he will remember life’s journey so far, smiling and saying, “God, thank you.”
Happy birthday, anniversary, Your Excellency!
- Comrade Fidelis Egugbo, was the Special Assistant, Media to former Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.