By Jerome-Mario Utomi
Viewed objectively, I will agree that there is no event in recent history eloquent enough to demonstrate the true meaning of the saying; ‘Success is a lousy teacher that seduces the successful people to think that they cannot lose’, then the just concluded general election in the country. As the vast majority of the current public office holders notably entered the race to retain their positions with a similar mentality.
Such hope at the very moment has waned as the result of the electoral contest did not only turned the other way for these politicians but was characterized by surprises that left a bitter political taste in their mouths.
However, the same electoral contest that brought bitterness to the vast major of contenders also ‘carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment’.
Talking about victories at polls, it’s by no means an over-statement to situate, considering the hydra-headed nature of the political battle he confronted, that the resounding second term victory recorded by Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa was among the high points at the polls,
Supporting this assertion is the cold fact that the All Progressive Congress and other political gladiators were at that moment desirous of making in-road not just in the state but the south-south geopolitical zone- a fact that was though overshadowed by other factors but remained a reality that the governor’s supporters worried about.
In the light of this understanding, many may very honestly raise the question; what actually gave the governor victory at the polls?
Providing an answer to this will require first posing other questions; what has been the governor’s leadership value to the state in the past four years? What do the peasants think about him? And which class of Deltans has the highest voting strength? By analyzing each of these elements, in turn, it’s possible to situate the essential ingredients of creative leadership that ensured the governor’s success.
Let’s begin with reality.
Okowa in my views happened on the state and national limelight through his SMART agenda-an initiative used as a vehicle to promote and actualize integrated development of the state.
To Shedd more light on this initiative, while the conventional “SMART” acronym known and used in management practice represents the characteristics of a good plan which includes – measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. Okowa’s SMART initiative represents: ‘(1) Strategic Wealth Creation Projects and Provision of Jobs for all Deltans; (2) Meaningful Peace Building Platforms aimed at Political and Social Harmony; (3) Agricultural Reforms and Accelerated Industrialisation; (4) Relevant Health and Education Policies; (5) Transformed Environment through Urban Renewal.’
Most importantly, aside from the studied humility which the governor presented himself and his party to the state in the past four years, two other factors have so far worked for Okowa in his reelection agenda: his rock-solid believes that the ‘goal of every government should be to improve the life chances of the citizens’. And his early realization that any politician desirous of victory in any given electoral contest must be ready to connect, operate at the level and dress like the people whose votes he seeks.
These, apparently unknown to his opponents helped to protect him before his supporters -a mass of Delta youths, peasants, and civil servants, as a leader that has the interest of his subjects at heart.
Viewed differently, in fairness, it must be said that Okowa’s administration outperformed his predecessors in the state as his approach to governance was not just constructive and creative but both tactically and strategically fine.
And some may ask; what is the evidence for this?
To explain; first, that he has turned the state to a construction site where quality roads are delivered daily is now a living reality, I still remember with nostalgia the era of herdsmen/community clashes, when the voice of our constitution suddenly became unclear over Federal Government proposed cattle colonies. It was Okowa and others that opposed that plan stating that Delta state has no land for such project – a position that earned the state new respect from the watching world.
The above effort was further amplified recently by a peasant farmer who stated during a discussion with me that the governor did not stop at that point but went ahead to liaise with the security agencies in the state to ensure protection for all the farmers in the state throughout the period.
With this, expecting the farmers to go against him at the polls, in concrete terms, will not just be antithetical but expecting the impossible.
Another lesson politicians must draw from Okowa’s victory is that what the people expect from their leaders need not be found on the pages of the newspapers but must be seen likened to ‘‘justice’ which must not just be done but seen to have been done.
This fact is accelerated by the Governor’s democratized road construction prowess – an initiative that has touched the poorest of the poor in the state as well as earned the governor the ‘Roadmaster’ as a nickname.
Importantly, this move with other efforts of the governor, in areas such as; youth employment generation, sports development, agricultural development, and investment in human capital development terminated the spell of the bad road network in the state and ushered in the concrete manifestation of new Delta state.
However, despite these success stories, honesty impels me to remind the governor that the recent picture of uncivil activities at Okotie-Eboh Primary school Sapele all thanks to the Social Media are signs of acts possible of multiplication in many other fields- and stands as a proof that more work needs to be done and more reforms to be made.
As an individual, I may not have all the solution but there are a few places that a state truly interested in development could start from.
Succeeding on this job will among other efforts require the governor to rededicate his energy to job creation and human capital development as any development that is not targeted at developing the masses especially the youths will amount to a mere waste of time.
As we know, large unemployed youth population is a threat to the security of the few that are employed. And any transformation agenda that does not have job creation at the center of its programme will take us nowhere’
Jerome-Mario Utomi is a Journalist.