Is The Okowa Administration Drifting?
The DLA road in Asaba has a unique but dubious distinction. It is one of the famous roads in the state capital as it hosts the Direct Labour Agency, a government interventionist agency meant to construct roads and fix bad ones. But the notoriety of this road is marked out by its crater and gully infested nature and during the rainy season, the residents of the area bemoan their fate as they compete for infamy with the biblical Noah flood.
This metaphor of indifference, uncaring and unthinking leadership at this government agency duplicates itself round the state. And this unfortunately paints the campaign promises of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa in the canvas realms of slogans and intentions. But every patriotic citizen knows that government is not run on intentions but practical and visible delivery of democratic dividends to the people, the owners of electoral sovereignty.
When Okowa came on board in May 2015, there was great optimism in the air as he campaigned on the twin policies of prosperity for Deltans and a pan Delta agenda. Today both policies are still in womb of time and Deltans are patiently waiting for the birth of the promises.
The prosperity agenda of the government suffered a major setback when the governor on assumption of office in May, sacked thousands of civil servants under the veneer that they were not employed following the laid down guidelines and that the appointments were skewed towards the favour of unnamed senatorial districts.
For a man who promised prosperity for Deltans, this was a betrayal of promise and such people are not amused at all. At the time of writing this piece, such people are yet to be called back despite the cold comfort of some overzealous aides that the governor was looking into their cases. Seven months down the line, such unfortunate Deltans are still gnashing their teeth in the winter of unemployment.
This is clearly how not to spread prosperity to the people. Even the skill acquisition programmes of the government and the office of job creations are mere cosmetic and tokenism that would not address the problems of unemployment in the state.
The government is pretending to be solving the problems of unemployment and the crowds of sycophants are applauding him as the best phenomenon yet to happen. This delusion must stop and the government should wear its strategic thinking cap and do that that would sit well with the vast majority of the people.
The war cry of the Okowa administration is that it has limited funds to tackle the problems of the state and in one of his appearances before the State House of Assembly complained of the debt burden of N637.22 billion yet within a space of seven months, the government has borrowed N15 billion. The people of the state are yet to be told the purpose of the new debt burden. But for a government that is weeping over lack of financial resources, it is as absurd as ridiculous to accommodate the over bloating administration. I am talking of political appointees. According to a source close to Government House, there are over three hundred political aides excluding commissioners. Only the media aides to the governor are in the neigbourhood of twenty-five shaming the two media aides of President Muhammadu Buhari. There is water way security of sixty members, and an elder advisory council of thirty-one. These people are drawing salaries and allowances from government purse and most of them do not have clear cut job description. Only the governor knows why he has such crowd as government appointees. This is certainly how not to run an efficient government that has the interest and welfare of the people at heart. If the governor is not aware, his administration is already drifting from its stated mission and vision, and the earlier it is corrected, the better for the state.
Furthermore, there are too many duplications and overlapping functions of government ministries and departments. What is essentially the function of the Direct Labour Agency that cannot even build the road where its headquarters is situated and that of Ministry of Works? There is a Ministry of Urban Renewal and the Asaba Capital Territory Development Agency. The other day, the director-general of the agency gleefully announced the purchase of waste bins and a cynical smile played on the face.
Yet there is the Waste Management Board that is empowered to do just that. It bears repeating that the over bloated government is a drain on the resources of the state and something urgent should be done about that. The question on the lips of patriotic Deltans is how much is the state government expanding on the salaries and allowances of these agencies that cannot really justify their existence and relevance in the developmental ethos?
Okowa may mean well for the state but going by the size of his administration and the manner in which the prosperity agenda is being implemented, even the most loyal fan of the governor in his heart of heart knows that the government is drifting. It may be difficult for the governor to reduce the number of political aides and the many idle and unproductive committees. But government is not run on sentiments or to satisfy the cravings of a few while the dividends of democracy remain elusive.
The initiative to fire the engine of growth and development is that of Okowa as he remains the driver. If he allows himself to be hoodwink by the advice of the sycophants weaving tortoise like stories that he is exceptional, then he has himself to blame. But the press like the little boy in the fable would continue to tell the king that he is actually naked and not beautifully arrayed as portrayed by the sycophants.
Governance that feeds on delusional slogans and intentions remain in the realms of imagination. It is rather unfortunate that the Okowa administration is drifting in that ignoble direction and perhaps now is the time to apply the brakes and reinvent strategies so that all Deltans truly feel the impact of democracy and the social contract that he freely entered with Deltans.
Julius Oweh, a journalist, Asaba, Delta State. 08037768392