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By Dr. Festus Goziem Okubor.
This is election season and the moment for unscrupulous politicians to throw brickbats and engage in callous mudslinging to tarnish formidable honour and unassailable integrity that took years to build. Civilized and mature politics demands that decency should be the rule of the game. When politicians and public officeholders go out of their way to concoct lies and distort facts in order to score cheap political points and transient popularity, then they are not only assailing the public good and public interest, but poisoning the watershed of the political ideal which derives from information and enlightenment. As we prepare and look forward with hope to the consolidation of our democratic experience with the general elections of 2023, some mischief makers who have seen clearly that their political aspirations have been rejected by the people have resorted to spinning and spewing lies of slanderous proportions into the public space. This intervention is a response to one of such deliberate lies. And there should be honour, integrity, and dignity in politics. Men of honour, integrity, and dignity do not lie. So, these characters that chanced on our political space lack these three elements which are desired in building stable societies “where peace and justice reign”.
The latest preoccupation of disgruntled leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Delta State is to peddle lies in order to discredit the Governor of Delta State, His Excellency, Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, and clothe him in the robe of a poor manager of resources who squandered allocations to Delta State under his watch. Those who know Governor Okowa will attest to his nobility of mind. Even those currently accusing him falsely know that Governor Okowa is a man of uncommon mettle whose sandals they are not worthy to undo in saner climes as they ought to be cooling off in jail for the many crimes they committed against the State from stealing from the State treasury, extorting contractors and collecting money for ghost and unexecuted projects and for mace snatching. Certainly, public memory is not short and the internet never forgets. Those falsely accusing the highly respected Governor Okowa should google their names and that of the beloved Governor and they will see the infamous narratives around their names in contrast to the nobility of spirit of the amiable Governor.
The ongoing smear campaign was triggered off by the incoherent story by attention-seeking Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State that President Muhammadu Buhari released monies accruing from deductions from the 13% derivation funds and that the infrastructural achievements of his Government were made possible by the money President Buhari paid. Well, nobody needs to be told that Wike has become a sore loser and a weeping baby. The questions people should ask Wike are: when was the money released? Why did he not tell Nigerians when the money was paid? Why is he just telling them now? Wike is an advocate of bad politics which is unhealthy for the polity. His new activism without definition, boundary, or ideology is a product of the fact that he was beaten during the PDP Presidential Primary and furthermore, he lost woefully to the noble Governor Okowa of Delta State. Wike is fighting his homestead and people. He is bound to lose because no man ever wins against his people. The fact that none of the other five South-South Governors associates with Wike points to the truth that he has been rejected at home.
The rabidly desperate promoters of the Wike bad belle narrative are Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, Adams Oshiomhole, and their BANDits of political desperadoes wanting to push Delta to the EDGE of disaster. What the duo and their minions are pushing into the public space is the narrative that Governor Okowa squandered 250 Billion naira accruing from the 13% derivation fund released by President Buhari. In their unthinking nature they pointed at the flyovers built by Wike in Port-Harcourt, take note, in Port-Harcourt and not any other part of Rivers State, and asked Governor Okowa what he did with the money accruing to Delta State. Their query could be as a result of crass ignorance or deliberate mischief to mislead the public and score cheap points. These are certainly not the hallmarks of altruistic politicians or Statesmen. Altruism is never desperate as the men have chosen to be. Governor Okowa remains an astute manager of men and resources. The fact that he does not mount the rooftop to announce with multiple megaphones the number of projects he has executed does not diminish his monumental and unsurpassed achievements as a Governor.
The truth with Delta State is that about 340 Billion Naira is accruable to it, but it has not been earned. The refund they are talking about is 292 Billion Naira and the Federal Government promised to pay in sixty installments. This was why the State requested a drawdown of 150 Billion Naira and only =N=30 Billion was recently drawn. So the talk about the hefty sum of 250 billion being mismanaged by Governor Okowa is a concocted political lie.
Only an ignorant or mischievous fellow will compare Delta State with Rivers State in terms of infrastructure development and spread. Rivers State is 55 years old, while Delta is just 31. It means that Rivers State ought to have more infrastructure. But let us compare. Delta State has about thirty-one urban centres, the highest in any State in Nigeria. Rivers State has only Port-Harcourt which is where all the flyovers Agege and Oshiomhole are drooling over are located. Whatever development going on in Bonny Island is by Joint Venture, and Rivers State Government refused to meet its obligation. Delta State Government under Governor Okowa has constructed 1,905 kilometres of roads and 1,035 kilometres of drains. Delta State is Nigeria’s frontrunner in human capital development, 14,075 youth entrepreneurs have emerged, and over 223,000 employments created with about 1.3 million indirect jobs. Delta State is number one in Contributory Healthcare Scheme with more than 1.2 million enrolled. The State has four Universities and seven other tertiary institutions, the highest by any State in Nigeria. Roads have been built in the riverine communities for the first time and there are 16 bridges under constriction with 6 others completed. The bridges are ambitious and cost-intensive projects that will link the riverine communities with the world.
The list of projects executed by Governor Okowa’s administration will show the even distribution across the length and breadth of the State. There is a deliberate integration of urban and rural communities so that all Deltans will feel a sense of belonging. Were Governor Okowa to concentrate all the State’s resources in developing only Asaba, then the city would have overtaken Dubai or New York in beauty. Governor Ifeanyi A. Okowa is conscious of his place as Governor of all and not a sectional leader like the Orhomuru-Orogun Senator who took all the projects meant for the entire Urhobo nation of twenty-four clans to his miniature sub-community of Orhomuru-Orogun.
Those calling out Governor Okowa should step out to be audited as public officeholders. Senator Omo-Agege’s time as Commissioner and Secretary to the State Government was financially disastrous for Delta State. His house became a Central Bank where cooks made away with Ghana-must-go bags of money. His Orogun people will not forget how he extorted contractors and collected money for forty-eight projects that he didn’t execute. There were monies for hundreds of projects across the State that he seized using the Tenders’ Board. He thinks the people have forgotten. Is this the man wanting to be Governor? The mace incident and his recruitment as a servant of the caliphate with him a Chief kneeling to thank Buhari remains repulsive to his people. As for Adams Oshiomhole, he left Edo State in massive debt and destroyed the entire fabric of Government. Governor Obaseki is still working to fix the catastrophe that Oshiomhole turned Edo State into. How he ran down the APC and embarrassed the nation before he was disgraced out of office is still fresh in our memory. Are these the men who should call out Governor Okowa on account of probity? Not at all. They lack what it takes. The public, especially Deltans, should discountenance the ranting of Agege and Oshiomhole. They are raving in frustration as they are bound to have their day in the court of public morality.