The Book Hope and Fulfillment: Selected Articles on Senator Okowa in the Saddle is a compendium of facts-laden articles. This masterpiece, which is a veritable tableau of the Immediate Past Governor (IPG) Senator Dr Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa’s administration and Senator Okowa himself, is co-edited by two renowned journalists, the immediate past Chief Press Secretary to Senator Okowa, Olisa Ifeajika and Frank Igwebueze, one-time PRO to then Bendel State Governor, Colonel John Mark Inienger. Both editors are astute and professional journalists with decades of untainted experience, professional integrity, and competence. Olisa Ifeajika’s coordination of mass media activities during the immediately past administration earned him public accolades. These are constructive and intrepid journalists devoid of sycophancy and parochialism, thus giving absolute credence to the Book.
The foreword to the Book is written by Professor Sam Oyovwaire, one-time federal Minister of Information and an internationally renowned political scientist, administrator, academic par excellence and mentor of incomparable standard and eminence. He wrote a beautiful, intelligent and objective foreword to this masterpiece.
The contributors, including Felix Ofou, Pius Mordi, Sunny Ogefere, Chukwudi Abiandu, Nelson Egwuare and Kingsley Kwubosu, are also men of integrity and distinction. They are not given to flattery. Their sterling qualities make the Book very credible and appealing.
The eleven-chapter Book crystallized not just Senator Okowa’s administration but a historical sketch of Senator Okowa from age 22 when he graduated as a medical doctor.
In their modesty and honesty, the editors admit that the Book could not comprehensively capture the activities and achievements of the Senator Okowa administration. Despite this, the writers did a dignified, intellectual, historical and analytical job.
They critically evaluate the IPG’s top-notch development in health, education, wealth creation, sports, recreation and entertainment, economic growth, infrastructural development, trade, agriculture, private sector partnership, peace, security, and moral rearmament, among many others. Within the eight years, the Okowa administration, as succinctly x-rayed in the Book and which is truthful and objective, provided opportunities for economic sustainability and wealth creation. The job creation scheme and skills acquisition programme under
Professor Eric Eboh, which the World Bank honestly commended, is another one. The administration promoted trade and investment, attracted investors and had a productive engagement with Deltans in Diaspora to invest in the state.
The authors commend the gender friendliness of the administration and its dedication to the girl-child and women’s development. The administration developed, promoted and encouraged the girl child with education, developmental opportunities, and economic and political empowerment. The Book also interrogates and scores Senator Okowa excellently for developing Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) and other skills acquisition programmes.
The Book also dwells on how the IPG provided top-quality health services, including workers’ health insurance, the inauguration of the Asaba Specialist Hospital and the successful tackling of Covid-19. The authors also commend Senator Okowa for tackling flooding and erosion headlong by constructing storm drainages in Asaba, Agbor, Effurun and Warri environs and reducing erosion and flooding.
The Book testifies to the synergy between the Executive and Legislative Arm headed by the then Speaker and the incumbent Governor, His Excellency, Right Honourable Sherriff Oborevwori, which promote sustainable development and peace in the state.
The Book exposes the exquisite ultra-modern State Secretariat as one of the many extraordinary works of Senator Okowa. Please permit me to add that I anchored the Governor Okowa Finishing Strong Retreat last Year at Unity Hall, Government House. During the retreat, I said, there was virtually no state or federal secretariat in Nigeria that can be compared, in magnificence, sophistication and quality to ours, by implication, any state secretariat in sub-Sahara Africa. With my one-month salary, I bet anybody who could show evidence of a more beautiful secretariat building should take it. Till now, nobody has come up. That shows this new state secretariat is about the best in sub-Saharan Africa and probably Africa.
The authors brilliantly celebrated the fantastic work of Senator Okowa in industrializing the state through trade, agricultural ventures and investments, economic summits, policies and actions, industrial parks such as the one at Kwale and the Agro-Industrial Park at Aboh-Ogwashi and the upgrading and concession of the Asaba International Airport. Others include constructing new roads and bridges and maintaining existing ones, which is progressively exceptional in Nigeria. The Koka Flyover and Interchange at Asaba is a nearby splendid example. These feats earned Senator Okowa the nickname “The Road Master”.
The authors recall that Senator Okowa met the state in a severe economic quagmire during the global financial meltdown. However, within a short time, the state’s economy peaked among Nigeria’s five best state economies, with the fastest-growing cities, urban areas and hitherto villages sprouting into mini-cities. By 2019, Delta State’s economy had risen from N2.9 trillion to N4.47 trillion, a 51% increase.
With an economic team headed by the then Economic Adviser and the current Secretary to the State Government, Dr Kingsley Emu, and the due-diligent then Finance Commissioner, Chief Fidelis Tilijie, combined with the administrative sagacity and celestially endowed prescience of Senator Okowa, the state became less dependent on the oil sector and increased the internal revenue generation robustly, which helped to put the state in the national and global maps.
In analyzing the security situation, the authors illustrate that Senator Okowa placed substantial security measures, such as establishing the task force code-named Operation Delta Hawk and adequately supporting the conventional security agencies and grassroots security measures. The state enjoyed a stupendous sustained peace, thus substantiating the maxim that peace accentuates development and development accentuates peace.
The authors take extraordinary cognizance of Senator Okowa’s institutionalization of the ease of doing business which attracted numerous investors. One such is the creative and entertainment industry, where Asaba and its environs have become African Hollywood under Nollywood’s massive presence. Most epic movies are produced here. The authors eulogize Senator Okowa’s administration for establishing the Asaba film village, contributing to the country’s economy. Nollywood is the largest movie industry globally, and its income is the third globally.
The authors also examine the administration’s developmental stride in the coastal areas, which included constructing bridges, roads, electrification, industrializing and upgrading institutions in the coastal areas, such as the School of Marine Technology to a polytechnic, the building of the multi-billion naira Ogheye floating market, have made the coastal areas very attractive and may soon become the African Bahamas.
The Book highlights Senator Okowa’s effort to develop the oil-producing areas. The state did not witness the hitherto unrest in the oil-bearing areas because of the policy of inclusivity, cordial and functional community relations and corporate social responsibility. The Book also gives kudos to DESOPADEC for fulfilling its defined goals concerning the oil-producing areas.
The authors single out the Okowa administration in education. Delta state remains Nigeria’s only state with four state-owned universities, courtesy of Senator Okowa. Senator Okowa has done what the Chinese, the Philippines and the Indians do. They provide adequate opportunities for their citizens to get a high-quality education, and they are exported abroad and earn and remit back foreign money. For instance, foreign remittance constitutes a significant proportion of the Philippines’ economy.
Some people have criticized the creation of the four state universities. We can refer to such critics as insidious and prejudiced critics swimming in the deep ocean of ignorance and being victims of cognitive dissonance theory. In 2009 I was a Special Guest of the American Government, and that same year, I did a fellowship at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, in the USA. I visited Harvard University, did a little research, and found that the Boston area, with a population of about 4.5 million, has 64 universities and colleges. Among them are world-class universities such as Harvard, MIT, Boston University and Massachusetts University. At that time, there existed in Delta state only one state university, two expensive private universities and one specialized federal university, serving a population of over 5.5 million people.
Before now, JAMB candidates of Delta State origin who applied to the Delta State University, Abraka and qualified for the post-JAMB test were over 25,000 and competed for a space of about 6,000. About 19,000 were usually not admitted. If each of these four universities could admit 6,000 applicants, we would have about 24,000 candidates admitted annually, with only about 1,000 left over in the saturated university admission market. I had a direct experience in this because I was Head of the Mass Communication Department for four years, Director of the Pre-Degree Programme for about three years, and Director of Academic Planning at Delta State University, Abraka. As HOD, every year, we could have about 1,200 qualified candidates, but by the rule of the quota system, we could admit about 100.
By establishing the new universities, Senator Okowa has solved the problem of university admission for Deltans, increased employment opportunities, created a pathway for prosperity, and jump-started the state’s development.
The authors commend the then Honourable Speaker of the Delta State House Assembly and our dear incumbent Governor, His Excellency, Right Honourable Sherriff Oborevwori, for expeditiously passing the new universities’ bill. The incumbent Governor, as then, said the move was necessitated by the rising population of Deltans jostling for space in the few existing universities.
The Book avers the cordial relationship between the administration and the state workforce, as there was no workers’ strike. The state civil service headed by the Head of Service, a renowned administrator, Barrister Reginald Bayoko, helped actualize the SMART agenda and deliver effective quality public service. According to the authors, the then Head of Service of the Federation commended Senator Okowa for effective civil service and for building an enduring ultramodern state secretariat upon a visit to the state.
The authors celebrated Senator Okowa for improving the state media houses and providing a platform for regular interaction between the government and the citizens in town hall meetings, which provided an effective feedback mechanism.
There is the aphorism that when a man marries a lousy wife, Satan leaves him alone because Satan knows he has built an embassy there, with the ambassador as the woman. But when a man marries a good wife, the angels of the Lord dwell in the family, and progress becomes a given. This concurs with the mantra that behind every successful man, there is a woman. The authors admit that behind this great man of honour, timber and calibre, charisma, hospitality and gentility, intelligence and strategy is a dame, and she is Her Excellency Dame Edith Okowa, who has supported her husband in all areas to succeed. The author’s depiction of Dame Okowa’s humanitarian service as superlative is incontrovertible. They talked about Dame Okowa’s role in effectively fighting against sickle cell anaemia, caring for people in need, giving meaning to life for the helpless and hopeless and fulfilment to the hopeful.
The authors’ description of Senator Okowa as a unifier at the state, national and intra-party levels and a democracy expert is perfectly accurate, as depicted in his stabilizing role in the Okowa-led PDP convention in Abuja that enthroned Prince Uche Secondus as the PDP National Chairman in 2017, and the Chairman of the Convention Planning Committee of the 2018 PDP convention that produced His Excellency, Atiku Abubakar as Presidential candidate for the 2019 election. After choosing Senator Okowa as the Chairman of the 2018 Convention Planning Committee, Prince Secondus said, “Okowa is a thorough gentleman who conducted the best convention ever had in Eagle Square, Abuja.
He is well-respected among his peers and across the nation. Thus, he won several awards, including the 2018 Vanguard Personality of the Year, cumulated by President Buhari, awarding him Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).
The authors describe Senator Okowa as an inspirational leader and a silent democracy revolutionary for sustaining democracy in Nigeria. He played a significant role in mobilizing and uniting the South-South governors, where he served as the Chairman of the Governors Forum. In the authors’ words, these sterling qualities made him the PDP vice presidential candidate for the 2023 presidential election. Senator Okowa, from all indications, as depicted in the Book and reality, is a man of peace, love, development and people orientation who, throughout his administration, did not record any iota of political bullying, political violence, political witch-hunting, political gangsterism or political rascality.
The authors describe Senator Okowa as a man of few words with untainted and uncommon intelligence. In Senator Okowa’s exiting words as Governor, he said, “WE GIVE OUR BEST TO A BETTER AND STRONGER DELTA,” which is incontrovertible. The administration’s foremost mantra, “Prosperity for all Deltans,” materialized.
He did not neglect any sector of the state. He took culture, tradition and Christianity to the highest level as he observed the tenets of Christianity and gave maximum support and recognition to the traditional institution made up of our dear kings.
Having gone through the Book, I can say with a great degree of certainty, modesty, honesty and objectivity that this is a grand book of historical records, a compendium of progressive activities, an intellectual production for posterity and a handbook for development enthusiasts, public commentator, book collectors and students of political economy and development studies. Generally speaking, the Book has no anointed or esoteric audience but a general audience within and outside Delta state. The editors and authors deserve uncommon commendation for their selfless, in-depth, insightful exertion. I commend the Book to all of you, both here and not here. And I respectfully plead that the editors and authors should be well encouraged and motivated for their selfless service in writing the Book.
Your Excellencies, my Lords, spiritual and temporal, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I humbly crave your indulgence for all of us here present to celebrate and felicitate with this great and humble son of the soul, son of the great Ika nation, son of Delta State, son of Nigeria, son of Africa and child of God, who became a Councillor, Council Secretary and Chairman of Ika North East Local Government Council and, after that, rose to a commissioner in different ministries, Secretary to the State Government, a distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Governor of Delta State, the 2023 PDP vice presidential candidate and by the grace of God, will still rise to the unique and exalted position the Almighty God has destined him for. Please let us generously give Senator Okowa a reverberating rousing ovation.
Thank you very much for listening, and God bless you in Jesus.
- Professor Emanuel Ufuophu-Biri is Rector, Delta State Polytechnic, Otefe-Oghara, Nigeria.