OKOWA IS WORKING TO CHECK SOCIETAL VICES – UZUM
BARR. Eugene Uzum is the Executive Assistant to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State in charge of the Directorate of Orientation. He is a man of many parts; and recently, the group he convened, the Ika Village Square organized Ika Economic and Investment Summit. In this recent interviewed by The Pointer Chief of Bureau, Government House, FIDELIS EGUGBO, he talked about the summit, his activities in terns of positively, changing the minds of Deltans and he also appraised the Governor Okowa’s administration, concluding that, based on his track record of service delivery to Deltans, Okowa would earn a second term. Happy reading:
Recently, your group, the Ika Village Square organized an economic summit for the Ika ethnic nationality. What prompted you to do such?
Ika nation is in dire need of an internal direction. Without prejudice to the political direction in the state, Ika nation being a very pivotal and formidable part of Delta State in all ramifications, needed that internal direction. Ika nation has a lot of economic endowment, It has a lot of solid minerals and is endowed with great human capacity and there was the need to utilize these potentials. Going forward, we came up with the Ika Village Square, a socio-political entity, with the aim of reuniting the Ika North-East and Ika South and the Ikas in the Diaspora, especially, those in Edo State where they occupy four local government areas to be able to enthrone prosperity. We needed that socio-political cohesion to be able to tap into government initiatives. So, the Ika Village Square embarked on a unity tour of all Ika villages. Ikas in Delta State consists of 11 clans. The Ika Economic Summit was to exploit the potentials of the Ika nation and such had to commence by talking to ourselves. We talked about security, the benefits of having solid minerals, capacity building, Agro-business; we needed to talk about our own that is in power because, at present, the Ika people are the only ones with two governors in this country. We have the Governor of Delta State, Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa and the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele. We have the Nduka Obaigbenas, the Nduka Irabors, we have the Emefieles, and the Jim Ovias of this world. We have a whole lot of resource persons. We were able to bring all of them together for us to look at what we have and that gave birth to the Ika Economic Summit which had as its theme, ‘harnessing economic potentials of Ika nation through strategic partnership.’
What did you achieve with the summit?
A whole lot was achieved and more are still coming by way of achievements. First of all, we were able to bring the egg heads to sit down together and discuss, and we were able to put data together to know where what lies where and the quantity. For example, we have bitumen in Ute-Ogbeje and people never knew about that. We have Kaolin in Ozanogogo axis, we have lignite in commercial quantity. We are rich in agriculture and we have the tomatoes hub, the maize hub, cassava hub, the palm oil hub and then we have rich human capital resources from those at the top, the middle class and those at the lower class. We also, have a healthy youth population that need to be encouraged to key into the initiatives of government. Government is constructing a lot of roads, building schools, hospitals and generally, developing infrastructure across the state. The Job Creation Office is doing a lot but how do the people key in? We want to let the world know that we are ready in terms of security and the acceptability of the fact that we have to work hard. We also brought our traditional rulers to play their roles in terms of partnership because, what government provides in most cases is land equity; so, there is need for there to be synergy between the government and the communities. Our people needed to know that land is not for subsistent farming alone and we thank God that our people are becoming more enlightened. The benefits have started manifesting. A strategic team has been set up in agro-allied, strategic team has also been set up in the area of solid mineral development, among others. Before now, they say the journey of 1, 000 mile begins with a step; no, the journey of a thousand mile begins with you agreeing that you will move. So, the fact that the Ika people met means the development has started.
Some people are of the view that the Governor of Delta State is sponsoring what you are doing?
(Cuts in). No, it is a private sector-driven initiative. You know people talk and we sympathize with them bearing in mind that it is their level of understanding and, again, some persons also need clarifications. The government did not put a penny, it is not the duty of government to put money into such projects, it is the duty of government to create the enabling environment, it is the duty of the people to let the government know about what they have. Remember, despite the fact that the Governor is an Ika man, he is the Governor of the whole of Delta State. So, it is totally private sector-driven initiative. The Governor was excited when he came to the summit because, he saw that the Ika people were ready for development. We are also, reaching out to Ika sons and daughters to come in and key into the development of the area.
From what you said, it is not possible for only those from Ika to tap the potentials of the area. What are you doing to ensure that people who are from outside Ika ethnic nationality invest in the area?
Like I said, strategic teams have been set up to harness the economic potentials and we know it is not for the Ika people to invest in alone. It is an open market and we are reaching out to potential investors and we are getting good prospects.
As the Executive Assistant to the Governor of Delta State on orientation, how far have your office gone in changing the mindset of the people?
Orientation in my view is the life wire of every administration because, the mindset of a people, informs their behaviour and the behaviour of a people comes out most times as the benefits of government. When the government and the governed are on the same page, governance becomes a lot easier. And they can only be on the same page through orientation. The manifesto of a candidate for elections determines a lot about what he does. Those policies are implemented in phases and people can only buy the policies when they have the right information and orientation. So, the government of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa has taken the bull by the horn by creating the Directorate of Orientation to talk about the policies of government, take it to the doorsteps of the people, even in the rural areas and bring back feedback to the government. To a very large extent, we have been having town hall meetings. We have been talking to the people about the SMART Agenda and we have been able to let Deltans know what the government of Governor Okowa portends for them. Beyond that, we looked at hydra-headed problems facing the society, especially, the issue of cultism which has cut across institutions, families, to the extent that it has become a social menace. We have taken our campaign against cultism to the grassroots, we have started the re-orientation programme of secondary school children and we have the Chief Inspectors of Education, Principals of schools, students who are the key stakeholders, parents, traditional rulers, market women, we talked to them about the dangers of cultism. We have gone round some local government areas of Delta State and our advocacy programmes have started yielding results as the rate of cult-related activities have drastically reduced in some local government areas of the state. But, more still need to be done for the families to be actively involved in the fight against cultism and mould our children appropriately. We are also looking at having a mega summit for all the guidance counsellors in the state, the Chief Inspectors of Education, teachers, the Directorate of Mentoring, the Christian Association of Nigeria and all relevant stakeholders, so that at the end, there will be associations like the science club, the junior engineering club, debating society, anti-cult society and CAN will be mentoring them by talking to them about the dangers of cultism. We are also talking about voters registration because, from the records, Delta State has the largest voting strength in the whole of the South-South region because, it has a voting strength of more than 1.2 million people. So, we are trying to create that awareness because, between the last election and now, many Deltans have crossed the age of 18 which has made them to be eligible to vote. They need to register, those that lost their cards need to register and those who have changed locations need to also know what to do. To a large extent we have jingles running, we have also reached out to many groups in the society.
In the past, politicians have been accused of encouraging cultism as cultist were used to win their elections. Few years to another elections, how do you intend to cope because, if you used cultists in the past, there is that tendency that you will use them again?
First of all, there is a school of thought that political thuggery is bad and bad enough; so, we don’t patronize that. I mean the Okowa led government. Secondly, we believe that everybody is part of the government. So, if we are talking about cultism, let us look at the decayed minds over time, let us look at what is happening in our institutions. Let us look at the families, what are the parents telling their children? Unfortunately, the situation is so bad that parents these days, pay fees for people to write examination for their children. Parents no longer perform the responsibilities to their children. This is the corruption of the innocent. What are the religious institutions doing? So, we needed that change of mindset. Also, look at the economic situation. That does not justify people running into crime or cultism. The menace of hunger, unemployment have created so much problems to the extent that illegitimate actions have been legitimized because people are looking for sources of livelihood. Again, where are the societal values when kidnappers are applauded and given chieftaincy titles? What happens when people who are supposed to rot in jail are being exonerated, even in our judiciary? So, we have a great challenge. The dangers of cultism cuts across. In the days of Prof. Wole Soyinka, cultism was to instill discipline and designed to achieve the best for the society, a free and egalitarian society for Nigerians, but as the years went by, people started breaking away from that because they did not agree with those norms. So, meddlesome interlopers came in and it was polarized, and because of the polarization, they went into armed robbery and as you said, politicians started making use of them. So, it became a source of livelihood for some persons, it became a source of pride that if you get to school and you want a girlfriend, you must belong to a cult; if your father is rich, you must belong to a cult; if you must pass in your exams, you must belong to a cult, all these stemmed out from mental rot over time. The government of Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa is making concerted efforts to change these vices and we started by taking it to the grassroots, the primary and secondary schools for us to nip it in the bud.
In going forward, how do you rate Governor Ifeanyi Okowa in terms of empowering the youths which will encourage them to avoid the vices?
Before I score His Excellency, Senator Dr Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa, I want to take you back to where we were so that you may be able to have a balance. Before now, we had a youth population that was so disenchanted to the extent that they do not understand that production, self sustainability, working for yourself devoid of oil company and civil service was the way to go. Today, we have youths well over 3, 000 who have direct jobs created for them and when you look at the value chain of jobs, then, you will appreciate that we are in for some revolutionary good time. Remember that the Job Creation Office is novel. That also tells you about the leadership style of Governor Okowa, that it is geared towards job creation and to a very large extent, Deltans are not longer scrambling for white collar jobs. I score the government 75 per cent in job creation initiatives, going to infrastructure, you will agree with me that Delta State is a construction site viz-a-viz the paucity of funds from the APC (All Progressive Congress)-led government at the centre. But, amidst that, you will agree with me that most if the township roads in Warri axis, Sapele axis, Ughelli, Agbor, Asaba and other places are getting attention from the government. A lot has been done in terms of infrastructure development. When you look at the social media, we must have some pockets of disenchanted people who are talking, but, at the same time, when you take an over view of what the government is doing for the people, you will score the government 85 per cent. But, we have a challenge, the challenge of changing the status quo ante and we call on God to give His Excellency the political strength, the wisdom and will to do more for the people of Delta State and we call on Deltans to give their maximum support to the Governor.
If you have scored him so high in terms of performance, which area do you think he has failed?
The area people are looking at as a minus, is his capacity to forgive and embrace his friends. They take it as a form of weakness, some describe it as fear; but, to a very large extent, that is where there is supposed to be a challenge. But, he has told us that he is the Governor to everybody, he has no political enemy and is always ready to work with people with good ideas on how to ensure that things are done right.
The Governor has just done two years in office and beating in mind that elections will come up in the next two years, what are the chances of his re-election as the Governor of Delta State?
If you have gone through the message from the able Chief Press Secretary to His Excellency, Mr Charles Ehiedu Aniagwu, we are not looking at 2019. That is the least of our problems. When you deliver the dividends of democracy to the people, that will be the decision of the people. What the government is doing is to deliver on its electoral manifesto. Deltans are very reasonable, very understanding and very sensitive.
What should Deltans expect within the next two years of Governor Okowa’s administration?
Deltans should look at Governor Okowa enlarging the coast of the work he has started. He has a template for the SMART agenda which he is executing, I think as an individual, we are going to see more of human capital development, infrastructure development, we are going to see more of renewed peace in the state. We expect a robust administration and we also expect that Deltans will pray for the Governor.
(As published on page 18 of The Pointer Newspaper of Thursday, July 13, 2017.)
Source: Front line