Okowa: An Apt National Honour

October 3, 2022

By Nelson Egware

On Tuesday October 11, 2022, President Muhammadu Buhari would confer national honours awards on deserving Nigerians at an event scheduled to hold at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, at 9 a.m.

The national honours, which are awarded yearly, are backed by the National Honours Act No 5 of 1964 and are bestowed on Nigerian citizens in appreciation of their outstanding contributions to national and human development.

Among the distinguished Nigerians shortlisted for the 2022 awards is the Governor of Delta State and Vice-Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Sen. (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa.

Announcing Okowa’s listing for the award, Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Olisa Ifeajika, said in a statement that the selection of the Governor for the award was conveyed in a letter by the Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Sen. George Akume. Approval for the award to be conferred on Okowa was given by President Buhari, the minister stated.

According to Ifeajika, the letter from Akume to the Governor stated, “I have the honour to formally inform you that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, has approved the conferment of the National Honour on you, in the rank of CON (Commander of the Order of the Niger)’’.

Okowa is a man who has dedicated his life to public service. Born on 8 July, 1959, at Owa-Alero in the present Ika North-East Local Government Area of Delta State, he had his early education at Iroro Primary School, Owa-Alero and the famous Edo College, Benin-City, where he graduated with the second best result in the Higher School Certificate Examination in the then Bendel State in 1976. Thereafter, he proceeded to the University of Ibadan to study Medicine and Surgery and qualified as a medical doctor in 1981 at the age of 22.

After a brief stint in the medical profession, during which he established two medical centres in communities in Edo and Delta states, young Okowa ventured into public service in 1991 with his appointment as the Secretary of Ika Local Government Council in the then Bendel State. Upon the creation of Delta State in the same year, he became the first Chairman of Ika North-East Local Government Area. From that time, Dr. Okowa has not looked back.

He was three times commissioner and also Secretary to the State Government from 1999 to 2011. His subsequent senatorial election victory took him to the Red Chamber of the National Assembly as the Senator representing Delta North Senatorial District between 2011 and 21015. Over the years, he distinguished himself as a consummate politician, gifted administrator and a man of unimpeachable integrity.

At a recent gathering, His Excellency, Chief James Ibori, former Governor of Delta State, remarked that Dr Okowa as Commissioner for Health, and later, Secretary to the State Government (SSG), contributed immensely to the establishment, building, equipping and take-off of Delta State University Teaching Hospital (DELSUTH), Oghara.

As a Distinguished member of the 7th National Assembly, Okowa was ranked among the best senators for sponsoring 10 bills, including the National Health Bill, a feat many acknowledged as ingenious, legendary and laudable, especially as he accomplished all that as a first-time and one-term senator, before becoming Governor of Delta State.

Dr Okowa was elected Governor of Delta State on April 11, 2015 and was sworn in on 29 May, 2015. The S.M.A.R.T agenda of his administration, which has now evolved into “Stronger Delta’’ in his second term, which began on 29 May, 2019, embodies policy priorities for inclusive economic growth and sustainable development through job and wealth creation, urban renewal, health and education reforms, agricultural reforms and development of agro-industries inculuding peace building and security.

In spite of the economic challenges that greeted his assumption of office in 2015, Governor Okowa has displayed remarkable resourcefulness, resilience and strong managerial acumen as reflected in the spread of diverse infrastructural projects across the three senatorial districts of the state, employment generation and audacious transformation of the education sector.

So far, his administration has embarked on the construction and rehabilitation of more than 800 road projects, including drains. Under his watch, Delta State became the first in the country to domesticate the National Health Act, with the introduction of Universal Health Coverage and consequent establishment of Delta State Contributory Health Commission. Today, Delta leads the nation in Universal Health Coverage as over one million Deltans have been enlisted into the State’s Contributory Health Insurance Scheme, making it a model in the country.

Thousands of youths have been trained and established in their choice businesses through various entrepreneurship development programmes. Signature projects of the Okowa administration include the completion and total turnaround of (hitherto abandoned) Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba, into a world-class edifice; the Asaba Storm Water Drainage Project; the re-modelling of the Asaba Airport to meet international standards; and, the new Central Secretariat Complex in Asaba.

In 2018, the state successfully hosted the 21st edition of the African Senior Athletic Championships that had a record of 800 athletes from 52 countries participating. The Storm Water Drainage project is currently being replicated in the Warri and Uvwie area of the state, while the dualization of the Ughelli-Asaba highway, begun by the previous administration, is advancing towards completion.

In recognition of Governor Okowa’s outstanding accomplishments and contributions to good governance in Delta and Nigeria, he has been honoured by many reputable groups and organisations. These include Mandela Medal of Human Rights Award – 2016; University of Ibadan Alumnus of the Year Award – 2016; University of Nigeria Dignity of Man Award – 2017; Man of the Year 2018 (Silverbird Television); Governor of the Year 2018 (Vanguard Newspaper); Governor of the Year 2018 – Human Capital Development – (African Independent Television)! and, Man of the Year 2017 (Daily Independent Newspaper).

Other awards include Governor of the Year 2018, Human Capital Development and Infrastructure (New Telegraph Newspapers); Special honours award for promoting track and field athletics in the African Continent – 2018 (CAA); Award for Peaceful Oil and Gas Exploration in the Niger Delta region, 2018 (NUPENG); Niger Delta Lifetime Achievement Award (Gbaramatu Voice Newspaper); Best Governor, Grassroots and People Development, (African Leadership Good Governance Award, USA) – 2018; and, the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) Merit Award.

In 2017, Delta was ranked number-one among the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory in Human Capital Development by the National Competiveness Council of Nigeria. At the Third THISDAY Healthcare Policy Dialogue in July 2017, Delta was honoured for its Universal Health Coverage with a focus on the poor and vulnerable population covered mandatorily with public financing.

Earlier in 2020, Delta was ranked behind Lagos as the state with the least poverty ratio in the country. This feat was corroborated by the World Bank’s endorsement of Delta State Job Creation Schemes for funding support in recognition of the massive empowerment and entrepreneurial programmes of the Okowa administration in Delta State.

A lover of sports, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa has continued to fund sports administration in Delta State, a fact that has been testified to by the state maintaining its number-one position in all sports competitions in the country. It emerged three-time consecutive overall winner of the National Youth Games, and has won the National Sports Festival, clinching the last edition with a record of 163 gold medals. In recognition of the state’s contribution to sports development in the country, Delta was awarded the hosting right for the 21st National Sports Festival to be hosted in Asaba the state capital this year.

On the national political arena, Dr Okowa has carved a niche for himself as a true democrat and a man of sterling leadership integrity. As Chairman, Special National Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party in October 2018, he conducted the freest, fairest and most transparent presidential primary election in Nigeria’s recent political history. In fact, the national convention was the third within two years that he was saddled with such responsibility by the PDP as it began re-building of its ranks after some crises that threatened its existence. Okowa’s successful discharge of these national assignments stood him out as a man with immense organizational capacity and administration, especially at critical times. Indeed, this feat stands as a record in the history of the PDP and Nigeria’s political landscape.

A devout Christian and Knight of the Anglican Communion, Dr Okowa is married to Dame Edith, and they are blessed with four lovely children and four grandchildren.

Suffice it to say, therefore, that the national award by Mr President is a befitting recognition for the achievements of a committed leader and patriot who has consistently striven to build a Stronger Delta. Interestingly, Okowa has made Asaba a state capital worthy of the status with several landmark projects. And, with the nascent Leisure Park and Film Village in the state capital, Deltans and Nigerians are poised to savour the new status of Asaba as the next tourism destination in the country.

To be given such a distinguished honour from a president from an opposition party shows clearly that the award for Okowa is well-deserved. As a PDP governor, he has collaborated sincerely with the Federal Government in several ways; most importantly, to ensure sustained oil production in the state, oil being the nation’s economic mainstay, by ensuring peace in the creeks of the Niger Delta.

As a man with passion and love for his people, his government has brought smiles to the people especially through his many job and wealth creation programmes which have made many youths entrepreneurs and employers of labour.

It is gladdening to know that after October 11, 2022 ceremony in Abuja, the governor shall be duly addressed as Senator Dr Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, CON – Commander of the Order of the Niger. To God be the glory!

*Egware is a Senior Special Assistant (Media) to Governor Okowa

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