‘Why Deltans are happy with Uduaghan’
Barrister Chike Ogeah, the Commissioner for Information, Delta State, in this interview with our correspondent, CATHERINE OGBOGU, explains why Deltans are happy with Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan.
Your major victories managing information for Delta State
What you can call the greatest victory is that Deltans are much more unified and more trusting of their government. The magic for that is what we call, backing your words with actions. We have gone through an election that vigorously spurred the acrimonious litigation that followed afterwards and that left the state very divided and the government a bit distracted such that we lost some momentum and some time because government was going to court every day. But the truth is that all that was the propaganda from the opposition. They said that the airport was a drain pipe even when they know that, that’s the best airport in Nigeria built at the lowest cost. They also said we are using telephone to conduct traffic at the airport. Today, you can see that the airport is a showpiece and to make matters worse, every time am traveling in or out, I always meet those same people boarding the plane at the same airport they spoke wrongly about and they themselves are confessing that the airport is indeed wonderful, that is one of the greatest joy I have ever had.
They said the roads are all dead; our schools were all dead, our hospitals all dead and decayed, but look at what is happening today. All the projects, the whole rehabilitation of schools – Primary, Secondary and Tertiary – all over the state speak for themselves. We have brand new modern schools which have been built all over the state.
The SMEs programme of the Ministry of Poverty Alleviation has empowered a lot of Deltans that were otherwise forgotten. You need to see what they produce and the ingenious ideas of the blind and physically challenged persons as they are all finding their way into the international market as well as their products. They are paying back their loan and it is rather regarded as the best scheme as other states are coming to find out how we do our micro finance here.
The challenges of your office
The greatest challenge for all of us is finance; we have other ministries and though the resources are scare, they still have to go round, so we all get a little share. For instance, I just got off a meeting with Delta Broadcasting Service (DBS) and they also came to lay out their challenges which all amounts to the issue of money. If finance is on ground, by now our broadcasting station is supposed to be on DSTV and visible to the world. Even with what we have, we will make the best of it to achieve all that we want. We have been able to overcome the issue of rumour mongering, because we were transparent enough to put out all the right information to the public to see.
Uduaghan and agriculture
Agriculture is the driver of Delta Beyond Oil. Our momentum in this sector was slowed down by the flood that happened last year. A lot of our farm lands were totally washed away, even in the area of fishing – Fadama Clusters, everything was washed away by flood. Now, we are at the stage of rebuilding. We know where we have our comparative advantage in agriculture mostly cassava, maize. We have the best garri in the world. We are moving to mechanized farming and that’s why the airport has been tagged by the federal government as a Cargo Airport and very soon Deltans would see all the marvel that would come all around the airport. There would be clusters of green houses where you plant and harvest almost immediately in a matter of hours and export them fresh to different countries.
As you know, our Governor won the award of The Most Proactive Governor because he has been dealing with issues of climate change for a long time. He has been with other governors from around the world, Arnold Schwarzenegger and others and that is why we have been able to deal with the flood situation.. We already have a climate change team in the state headed by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment. I must tell you, they are doing a wonderful job, I must commend them. I must assure you that if the flood comes this year, we would be able to contain it because we cannot stop it. Though we already have camps waiting but we’ve told our people living in all the flooded areas, the low lands, to move but it is really difficult for our people to move but we would continue with the advocacy and the preparedness to safe-guard the lives of the people.
We have been doing a lot. Recently the governor gave out a blanket instruction for all casual workers in all ministries in the state to be absorbed; I don’t know any other government that can do that now. The Ministry of Youths is doing great through all its skills acquisition programmes, training young graduates in different skills. Although in the real sense, government should not be the greatest employer of labour, government is to find the enabling environment for private sector to strive but we can see that in Nigeria, the private sector is weak. What government is doing is that we can now train people, give them the necessary incentives and let them become employers of labour themselves. After rehabilitating and building more schools, we have been able to train more teachers and employ more so that our children can have first class education.
Human Capital Development
Human capital development is one of the cardinal programmes of this government. No developed country depends on their resource for their economic well-being. It is the human capital everyone tries to build and that is why the Governor has this in his three-point agenda for the state. Our angle is intervening from the minute the mother becomes pregnant; we offer that woman free health care until she has the baby and we continue with free medicare after delivery until the baby attains age of five. It doesn’t matter if she delivers through cesarean section; we still care for the mother and the child. Even when the child gets to the school we still support the child, through scholarships. In our schools today, aside all the components and infrastructures provided, we are making ICT a component in the school and we also have an ICT park right here in Asaba.
Security in the state
Delta State have been applauded as one of the best in boosting security in the country. The Governor has worked consistently with the federal agencies, Police, Road Safety, Army and even the Navy because of our water ways. We have provided them with first class gadgets, state-of-the-art equipment and vehicles. That is the reason for the reduction in kidnapping here in Delta State today.
Development of infrastructure
We are doing well in that area. We have the flight infrastructure and the roads in place. You can see the Warri-Ughelli road dualisation. We want to connect the economic zone, oil and gas zone to the capital territory which is the administrative head in Asaba and then connect them by road from here to the ports in Warri and in Koko where we want to establish a free-trade zone and the whole idea is we want to see trade move. When that happens, all those who use the port in Lagos who are from the South-south and South East will migrate to the Warri port. I had a discussion with the SSG of Anambra that with their collaboration we can build a mono-rail from Asaba to Awka, because an airport can serve up to six states.
We have built the airport and at the same time roads are constructed, we are also providing big boats for Deltans that live off shore, we have built jetties and provided them with speed boats. We bought Macopolo buses for intra-city transportation, provided buses and tricycles (Keke) to ease transportation as we phased out motorbikes (Okadas) and premature deaths are reduced because the Kekes are safer and they were given at a much reduced price thereby using that as a kind of empowerment.
We have just finished our sports festival. Sport is one of the greatest tools for curbing children and youth restiveness. It is also a way of reducing unemployment. Training a child to become a great sports man or woman is one of the effective ways to alleviating or stamping out poverty from a family.
Internationally, Deltans are flying the Nigeria flag. Blessing Okagbare and others are winning the trophies all around the world. From the beginning, Deltans have the tradition for excelling in sports.
The Governor took a bill to the State House of Assembly because he realized that sport should not be left in the hands of a Commissioner that can be changed at any time. The bill proposes a term limit of five years for the person handling the sports ministry. What that means is that you can have a stable commission which would have a short, medium and long term plan. Nobody will come and say tomorrow that, I am sacking this commissioner. So, they are there planning and paying attention on grassroots sports.
Healthcare in Delta
Apart from our care for mothers and their babies from conception, a lot has been done especially at the grassroots. You see a lot of ambulances, caravans manned by well trained doctors, nurses and surgeons where people can go to receive free medical services all spread across Delta State. We have cases where old men and women who had never seen in their lives, totally blind, and now they have their sight restored – minor operations are done in those ambulances. It is the real poor that are benefitting from this rural healthcare. The Commissioner for Health and Special Adviser on Health should be commended on that; it is a wonderful work they have been doing.
Meeting people’s expectation
We still have two years to go and I can already feel the shift from that terrible pessimism and outright condemnation of our administration. Now, they are listening to us because of what they are seeing. In another one year, it would be the people shouting Hosanna! The Governor has run his race and he has done it well. The idea is to get a good successor because good governance is a continuation of the good works of the government. What is happening now is that people are beginning to hold and own the Uduaghan programmes because they are precious to them. They can now feel the impact and it would only take a mad man to come and say, ‘I want to reverse everything’.
Delta Beyond Oil
Delta Beyond Oil is not a destination, it is a means to an end. It is a way of life and life style of the people. The last programme the Federal Government went for in China, it was tagged ‘Nigeria Beyond Oil’. So they have already started borrowing the concept. It is not the first time Delta is giving Nigeria a good thing; we gave them amnesty because our Governor believed that without peace we cannot talk about development. Now, Nigerians are woken-up to the fact that this country is a mono-cultural economy and anything can happen. So, let’s start looking at other areas especially areas where we have comparative advantage like culture and tourism, agriculture, entertainment etc. Asaba is now the capital of Nollywood, on daily basis films are being shot and produced here. That is why an icon in the field was brought on board, Richard Mofe-Damijo, to come tap more talents and train more youths and he is doing that. For example they just finished one of their projects, ‘Delta Talent Quest’.
Your word to Deltans
I want to say a very big thank you to Deltans for their cooperation, understanding, constructive criticisms and patience.