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Delta: So Sad a Song

By Julius Oweh - Asaba
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During the zenith of the resource control struggle under the Obasanjo administration, a northern politician took the advocates of resource control to task, asking them what they have done with the 13 per cent derivation fund given to them. No reasonable answer was given and the Niger Delta governors were hiding under the veneer that the way the money was used was none of the business of the said northern politician. Today as the economic crisis strangulate the nation, that message continues to haunt the leadership of the Niger Delta states especially Delta State.

Last month, the 26th anniversary of the creation of Delta State was not marked and it was a reflection of the state of underdevelopment akin to the singing of a dirge. Inadvertently, the Okowa administration passed the message to Deltans that there was nothing to celebrate. The abandoned multibillion Naira leather factory at Issele-uku and the unending construction of Okpanam road are vivid testimonies of the decay and rot in the state. There are other gory sites of neglect reminding Deltans of a drifting leadership.

Time was when the state was getting huge allocations from the federal government and it was more than the allocation of all the south east states combined, yet the state has nothing to show for it. Let my readers not get me wrong. The thrust of this piece is that given the huge allocation and the 13 per cent derivation, Delta State ought to be a shining example of development both in infrastructures and human capital development. Neighbouring Anambra and Edo states with lesser resources are constant reminders of the uncaring and indifferent leadership that has plagued the state since 1999. And this dirge is not likely to end in future because the present class of leadership are more interested in the welfare of self, families, friends and the horde of sycophants that pollute the state.

The Okowa administration may not be the cause of the present underdevelopment and decay of infrastructures but two years is enough to make some differences, after all they all belong to the same party – the PDP. During one of the heavy rains that turned Asaba into a mini-lake, the governor apologized to the people of the city for the havoc, promising to find solutions to the perennial flooding of Asaba. This was a mark of statesmanship but the people of the state did not vote for him to offer litany of apologies. He was elected to fix the problems. Deltans are yet to see the dividends of the much touted `prosperity agenda`. Maybe, the variant of prosperity agenda in the state is that workers are regularly paid their salaries. Pensioners since 2014 are yet to be paid their dues and it is unfortunate that these senior citizens that used their salad years in the service of the state are left in the winter of hunger and disease. It is not too late for the Okowa administration to reverse the trend.

Equally not excusable is that some ministries and government agencies are still in rented apartments after many years. The state government should be able to house all her ministries and agencies in the two state secretariats. As you read this piece, the Ministry of Agriculture headquarters is under lock and key because the government fails to pay rents to the landlord running into four years. This is a great embarrassment to the state. The revenue allocation from Abuja may be low but Deltans are yet to be told the money generated internally monthly. During the Uduaghan administration, the board of internal revenue was racking in about seven billion Naira monthly. What the state generates monthly is a closely guided secret and this should not be the case in a democracy. Democracy is about openness, transparency and accountability, unfortunately these virtues are in short supply in Delta State.

The problems of Delta State are in two fold – duplication of services and sycophancy. There are too many government ministries and agencies doing the same thing or with overlapping functions. There is the Ministry of Environment and Delta State Waste Management board, yet Asaba is not a clean city as refuse dote all parts of the city. We have Ministry of Works and the Direct Labour Agency (DLA), yet the Okpanam Road and even the DLA road are the worst, and the DLA road is the greatest argument against the existence of the Direct Labour Agency. In the development of Asaba, we have the Ministry of Urban Renewal and the Asaba Capital Territory Development Agency, and you just shake your head in disbelief on the state of development of Asaba, the capital of oil bearing state.

In the realm of sycophancy, the traditional rulers, religious leaders and opinion leaders who are supposed to speak for the people are dumb. These people have been given contracts by the government and since most of the contracts are not executed, they do not have the moral right to criticise the government. Even the legislators that are supposed to act as check on the executive arm are more of rubber stamp hiding under the veneer that they are not supposed to act as opposition party. Yet the very road leading to the legislators` quarters is in a sorry sight and this clearly shows the chemistry of our legislators.

This sad song may continue for a long time unless there is a political miracle. Politicians that run for elective positions are not seen after election and become only visible some months to another election. Such politicians are holed up in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt and come around during election period. There is no opposition party in Delta State. The APC that claims to be the opposition party is in disarray. And if election is held today, the ruling PDP may come back to power and in the words of born-again Christians, the gnashing of teeth shall continue. It is rather unfortunate.