Delta At 25: The Pains And Gains
The carving out of Delta state from old Bendel State by the military dictatorship of President Ibrahim Babaginda was received with mixed feelings. While the dreams of the people of old delta province was realised, the placing of the capital in Asaba at the extreme fringe of the state was like a sour grape and it created the image of a hunchback state that continues to plague its progress and development.
Twenty five years down the line, that grotesque historical and political mistake is yet to be corrected by the passage of time. The truth of the matter, however, is that majority of Deltans have come to accept the injustice as one of those ironies of life.
Speaking to the press recently, the Information Commissioner Patrick Okah disclosed that there was grand plan by the Okowa administration to celebrate the 25 years of statehood, look at the achievements and chart a more progressive way forward. Mr Okah said that the celebration shall be privately driven and that an eight- man organising committee has been set up for that.
He also stressed further that the aim of the celebration is to harness the unity and peace that bound the various ethnic groups together. Okah explained thus :`This administration resolved to celebrate Delta at 25 to take stock of the journey so far, achievements recorded and plot further and better approaches at peaceful co-existence among the various ethnic groups, new development paradigm and fundamentals of government to achieve greater and result oriented improvements in the lives of our people`.
Thus next month,(August) the drums shall be rolled out to celebrate the epic occasion and nobody is begrudging the government for that. The infancy of the state under the iron grip of military administrations is certainly nothing to write home about. The military administrators with the collaboration of the elites, some unpatriotic civil servants and some royal fathers bled the state dry.
Instead of using the resources to develop the state, they were behind the scene fanning the embers of disunity and disharmony so as to corner the wealth of the state under the veneer of fighting insecurity. This translated into the diversion of the state resources into private bank accounts and pockets and the critical areas of provision of social amenities were neglected. That political mistake and administrative mishap is still haunting the developmental strides of the state.
Asaba, the state capital is no more than a glorified local government headquarters. The sorry state of Asaba is better amplified during the rainy season. The DLA road which is the home of the roads construction intervention agency, the Direct Labour Agency, is one of the ironies and perhaps the mystery of government administration. During the rainy season, the DLA road is impassable and is in competition with the biblical account of Noah flood.
You simply shake your head in disbelief contemplating the millions of Naira down the drain that the agency got over the years since the Ibori administration. If the Okowa administration must be taken seriously about cutting costs of administration, the DLA must be scrapped.
Even within the Commissioners` quarters, the rainy season is a reminder of the neglect of the administration as the place is highly flooded. The annual flood in Asaba is yet another affirmation of the drainage problem of the state capital and utter planlessness of the government.
Whether there is Ministry of Urban Renewal, the Ministry of Works and the Asaba capital territory development agency, the fact remains is that Asaba is yet to be treated as a befitting capital of an oil producing state. The other towns in the state are not better off.
It will be uncharitable for one to run away with the assumption that the state has not witnessed development in the past twenty-five years. But the argument is that given the enormous resources at the disposal of the government and the monthly allocation from Abuja which some economists maintain dwarf that of the south eastern states put together, Delta State ought to be a shining example in terms of development.
True that in the health sector, every local government areas boasts of at least one general hospital and that there is a teaching hospital at Oghara attached to the state university, more needed to be done in terms of rural health care delivery as most of our people still die from preventable diseases. This is the task before the Okowa administration and as a trained medical doctor; the governor is in a better position to know.
There are tremendous strides in the education sector. There are three colleges of education, three functional polytechnics and a state university at Abraka with campuses at Asaba and Oleh. The multi campus nature of the state university has taken care of the three senatorial districts and no section can really complain of marginalization. But the fear expressed in some quarters is that undue attention is given to the main campus at Abraka to the neglect of the campuses at Asaba and Oleh. As for the Asaba campus, the infrastructures have not really improved from the days when it functioned as school of agriculture. You may be forgiven if you mistake the Asaba campus for a primary school. The case of the Oleh campus is a little shade better in terms of infrastructure but the two colleges (engineering and law) are yet to be accredited. That is why the Okowa administration must work round the clock to see to the full accreditation of the colleges of engineering and law.
Rather than celebrating, the state should be in a mourning mood. Pensioners since 2013 are yet to get their entitlements yet neighbouring Anambra state that is less endowed economically is up to date in the payment of pensioners’ entitlements. This is where the government must wear its thinking cap. Deltans ought to be better treated in view of huge allocations from Abuja and the internally generated revenue.
The fault may not be that of Okowa administration but it has the historical burden to correct the many years of misrule. The prosperity agenda of the government should be given practical ventilation. Delta may not be the richest state but leadership is not about throwing your hands into the air and doing nothing.
Leadership is about strategic thinking and inventing means of solving problems whether man made or natural. The demands for creation of more states from Delta State a la Anioma state, Coast state, Ndokwa state, proper Delta state and Urhobo state are clear indications that the state is yet to be moulded into one cohesive entity.
Certainly rolling out the drums will not bring the dividends of democracy to Deltans. A sober reflection of the inadequacies of the past 25 years and a resolve to do things differently could be a better way of marking the birthday in August.
Julius Oweh, A Journalist, Asaba,
Delta State. 08037768392