Okowa: A Masterclass in Leadership
Conventional wisdom teaches us that it is better to under-promise and over-deliver than over-promise and under-deliver, especially in the world of business and politics. With the former, you earn the reputation of a promise keeper, which leads to higher credibility ratings. On the contrary, over-promising and under-delivering is courting disrespect, distrust and disrepute.
Soaring into the saddle as the fourth civilian Governor of Delta State on May 29, 2015, in an economic environment of anxiety and uncertainty occasioned by the fall in the world price of oil and a massive over-indebtedness of over $600 billion naira from his ruling predecessor, it seemed for a moment that Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa might have fallen into the latter category with his prosperity mantra for all Deltans. There were rumors that he needed to quickly backtrack on some of his campaign promises and smartly lower the expectations of the people. It was the politically expedient thing to do, and the average politician considers this doublespeak to be part of the political game.
But Dr. Okowa is no ordinary politician. And politics for him is not a game, however treacherous and tumultuous. For him, politics is the serious business of winning the mandate of the people through an electoral contest for the sole purpose of meeting their needs and expectations. His political philosophy is driven by conviction not convenience, commitment not compromise. Unfazed and unsubdued by doomsday predictions, Okowa pursued his SMART program with the patience, dedication and compassion of a family physician. Even the economic recession would not prevent him from keeping faith with the electorate.
This is the essence of Okowa. Unassuming but fearless, unassuming but unwavering, and humble but tough. His next moves were quick and decisive. To eliminate the deficit and restore the health of our public finances, he launched cost-cutting measures to reduce waste and plug leaks and insisted that spending must remain within revenue limits. In his inaugural budget speech, he painstakingly outlined the direction of his administration’s fiscal policy. “The (2016) budget,” he told the House of Assembly, “is certainly tight, but it is in line with our vision to maintain strict budgetary discipline. The health of our public finances is crucial for good governance, inspiring hope and confidence, attracting investors and ensuring the sustainable development of our economy as a whole. Therefore, we will continue to observe the basic principles of prudent management of public finances, strict adherence to due process, and keeping expenses within revenue limits, because every expense will be paid.
It was no longer as usual. And it would have been foolhardy not to expect resentment of this new political direction, especially from those who fed on the fat of the old order. There were grunts here and there but, being a man of steely determination, Okowa stayed the course. Its Delta State Medium Term Development Plan (2016-2019) set out the plan to revitalize the economy, ensure strict fiscal discipline, create wealth and employment, foster self-reliance and build a knowledge-based economy. Most importantly, the Plan prioritized programs and funding for ongoing projects/programs based strictly on their socio-economic value.
In seven years, the state has reaped considerable benefits from Governor Okowa’s prudential guidelines. Through the various strands of skills training and entrepreneurship development programs, in a radical departure from the previous practice of one-time cash empowerment, the administration is unleashing – and liberating – youth entrepreneurship. So far, his administration has trained and funded nearly 150,000 people to start their own businesses. The impact of these programs is already being felt with hundreds of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) dotting the state’s business landscape, resulting in wealth creation and improved living standards for our people.
More importantly, the young people of the state are no longer obsessed with jobs in the civil service or in the oil industry. Instead, they are now looking beyond their college certificates for jobs and livelihoods, as skill-based business owners and managers. As evidence of the economic impacts of Okowa’s entrepreneurship development programs, statistics drawn from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) economic data show that there has been an accelerated growth of the service sector in the state of Delta. It went from an average annual rate of 8.9% (2013-2015) to an average annual rate of 13.2% (2015-2017). In the same vein, agricultural sector interventions such as the Production and Processing Support Program (PPSP) have enabled agricultural growth of 8.6% on average per year (2013-2015) at 13 .3% on annual average (2015-2017). Judging by the trend, Delta is poised to become the country’s MSME hub.
Additionally, Delta was ranked the best state in human capital development in the 2017 State Peer Review by the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria. In 2020, Delta was ranked the second least poor state, just after Lagos, the economic capital of Nigeria, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS). This achievement is best appreciated when juxtaposed with the fact that Delta State was the 12th poorest state in Nigeria in 2010 in the NBS rankings.
In the area of infrastructure, Governor Okowa exceeded expectations, earning him the nickname Roadmaster. With over 1,800 km of roads and 977.84 km of drains, our urban centers and rural communities are experiencing growth and renewal. The many road projects in the river areas underline its commitment to road infrastructure of the most vital interest and consequences. What makes these projects unique is the difficult terrain in which they are located. For example, the 20.28 km Obotobo 1- Obotobo 11 – Sokebolou – Yokri road is located right next to the Atlantic Ocean. Depending on the number and size of the hydraulic structures, the terrain, the nature of the underlying materials, as well as the particular challenge of accessibility to men and materials, it could cost seven times more to build a kilometer of road in river areas than it is in mountainous regions.
Governor Okowa is leading the way in health care. Delta is the first state to begin universal health coverage with the creation of the Delta State Contributory Health Commission in February 2016. There are currently more than one million enrollees in the program, the highest in the nation, while that 510 health establishments are accredited to provide services. . The administration is advancing technical and vocational education in accordance with the new policy which emphasizes the acquisition of skills. In pursuit of this goal, the six existing technical colleges in the state have been rehabilitated and equipped with state-of-the-art equipment while nine new ones are currently in various stages of completion. The aim is to equip young people with the knowledge and skills to function as job and wealth creators, in addition to possessing employability skills.
In the higher education sector, three existing institutions have been transformed into universities in 2021, in order to widen access to university education for our brilliant students who, due to limited space, are not in able to gain admission into existing federal and state public universities, particularly in the fields of medicine, engineering, law, ICT, and architecture. The new universities are Delta University (former College of Education), Agbor, Delta State University of Science and Technology (former Delta State Polytechnic), Ozoro and Dennis Osadebey University (former Anwai Campus of Delta State University), Anwai, Asaba . The new universities have since started academic sessions.
Among Governor Okowa’s flagship projects are Professor Chike Edozien’s Secretariat, Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba Film Village and Amusement Park, Asaba Stormwater Drainage and Warri Stormwater Drainage. Meanwhile, Asaba has shed its rustic look and now looks like every square inch of a capital city; in fact, it is currently one of the fastest growing cities in the country, thanks to the Delta State Capital Land Development Agency, which Governor Okowa established within a week. taking office in 2015.
There is no denying that Governor Okowa remains a sign and a wonder to many. They wonder how he was able to accomplish so much in the most difficult seven years in our recent history. That Okowa continues to cross new frontiers in governance and service delivery despite the massive disruption caused by two economic recessions and the COVID-19 pandemic is testament to his visionary leadership, administrative acumen and execution. transparent. Leadership experts tell us that five elements must be present for an organization or government to be successful. These are strategy, structure, systems, skills and culture. If they need empirical evidence for this theory, they need look no further; Governor Okowa is the perfect case study, the symbol of a Masterclass in leadership and governance.
• Ekwugum is responsible for communications with Governor Okowa.