By Ima Niboro
Ovie Omo-Agege has a proven record of service. Omo-Agege clearly has an edge over all the other aspirants for Government House, Asaba, and I chose to trust his promise to build a new Delta.
I insist that every Deltan should… And after we win the governorship for him, we can together hold his feet to the fire, and as one united people ensure that he keeps his promises to us! I fully expected some of the reactions I received from colleagues, friends and a few seniors when I was announced to design and execute the communications and media strategy for Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, the Deputy Senate President’s bid for the governorship of Delta State. Of the many reactions, two stuck with me.
One was from a younger colleague and a close friend who currently edits one of Nigeria’s biggest newspapers. He said, “on this your appointment, I don’t know whether to tell you congratulations or ask what the heck you think you are doing.” I chuckled. I knew what he wanted to say, but I asked him what he meant anyway.
“I am just here wondering why you a former presidential spokesman and former News Agency of Nigeria MD, would accept to run a state governorship campaign media”, he said. The second reaction that stuck was that of a senior colleague. A very well known retired TV executive of Delta State origin.
“Congratulations”, he said. Before I could say thank you, he fired off rapidly, “I am happy you are doing this, but are you not backing the wrong horse? APC? Delta State? You know Delta is a PDP State, so what do you think you are doing?”, and so on and so forth.
My response to both men forms the basis of what I’m going to say here. To my bright young friend, I explained that Delta State is in a desperate situ- ation.
And where we are in our State, there’s no longer any big or small man. There are no former presidential spokesmen or former NAN managing directors. It is just we the people against they the government. I told him that since the beginning of the 13 per cent derivation from crude oil receipts, Delta has earned close to N20 trillion. In simple maths, that’s N20,000 billion.
I challenged him to ask his reporters in Warri and Asaba to capture the State in one word. “Deplorable”, he said; “I know Delta very well. I have been there many times.“
The fact is that the situation is worse than deplorable. In Delta, poverty walks on four legs, in unpaved streets of filth and mud. There are only very few parts of our cities that you can come upon and say ‘I want to live here.’ Criminality seems to be deliberately condoned, maybe even encouraged in the State. Almost everywhere else, outside the capital, Asaba, seems besieged.
There are police and military checkpoints every few yards on almost every major road. But in between these checkpoints are black spots of horrendous criminality, and tales of woe and helplessness. In private circles, there’s conversation that suggests that criminality is condoned as a sublime weapon to scare well-to-do indigenes from coming home. This way, thugs, goons and their sponsors in power won’t have to answer too many questions to the elite and others about how the State is being governed, and misgoverned.
Only recently, journalists in Warri who cover the two southernmost senatorial districts, Central and South, decided to stop reporting the activities of the state government.
Their reason: the government has been totally unfair to the people of the area. The journalists, under the aegis of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), in a statement, accused the government of not being in touch with the needs and challenges of the people.
They said the government was distant and unable to give any coherent account of their activities in these very large parts of the State. If the situation in Delta was caused by just corruption, it would have been a straightforward issue. But when you add incompetence, greed and man’s sheer inhumanity to man into the mix, you will find that compassion, natural intelligence, a sense of balance and a record of performance, are perhaps all we need to reshape the narrative.
And in all these, Senator Ovie OmoAgege stands head and shoulders above the entire field of governorship hopefuls in Delta today. The quite unhelpful argument about Delta being a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) State is naturally a non-starter. In the contest for the hearts and minds of Deltans, we are first individuals before we are party men. Then I ask, show me one politician of note and clout in Delta that isn’t the product of the PDP.
Those of us who left did so in protest of the wickedness that governance has become in the State. With the weakest infrastructure possible, a sea of unemployed and sometimes unemployable young people, and governments that have since stopped pretending to offer anyone hope, Delta is today a bubbling cauldron of pain and anguish.
The resultant anger is expressed in inter-ethnic violence, street fights, armed robbery and prostitution, as each group engages with red-eyed vigour to grab the scraps from the tables in Asaba. But the All Progressives Congress (APC) has a different plan.
And it’s not about a party playing sanctimonious and being holier than thou. It is instead about a party that is a protest movement against the evil that currently stalks our home State. A national party that, warts and all, represents in Delta a powerful counterpoint to a band of very bad people. Persons denuded of conscience, and whose legacy is not on the streets of Delta, but in offshore bank accounts and acreages.
There’s a common joke about Delta that surfaces often on Facebook and elsewhere. Young, angry Deltans would copy pictures of six lane highways and gleaming infrastructure from elsewhere and caption these “my xyz village in Delta State“. Beyond the sardonic laughter that these posts cause is a story of total disillusionment and frustration over what is and what could have, and really should be. Someone recently asked me, what is he going to do differently? This was the precise question I asked him when he requested me to execute this crucial aspect of the campaign. This is what he told me.
“I will re-engineer governance in Delta. I would create wealth and employment by building industrial hubs and open them to manufacturers at rock bottom, but reasonably competitive leases. I will invest our wealth in Independent Power Plants to power factories, streets and homes.
I will drive ICT and make my state the new Nigerian Silicon Valley. My plan is to BUILD A NEW DELTA, so I will embark on an immediate infrastructure revolution as part of my industrial strategy.
The ultimate goal will be to create the best infrastructure possible without incurring untold, untenable and prohibitive costs.” Today’s Delta, he maintained, is a reminder that as a people we must reflect on our journey and assess where we are as against where we ought to be.
As part of this reflection, we have come up with a developmental blueprint within our manifesto that encapsulates nearly all aspects of our existence as a people.
His words: “Our strategy is captured as Employment and Empowerment, Development, Good Governance and Enduring Peace and Security. In the short form, we call it the EDGE to BAND (Build a New Delta), and it is our governance strategy from micro to small and medium enterprises, women and youth empowerment, skills acquisition, social safety nets, pension policies, infrastructure, agriculture, deliberate and forward looking industrialisation, sports, entertainment and the entire works.
“Take infrastructure, for instance, I plan to immediately embark on a large scale investment in industrial estates, schools, hospitals, good road networks, top class but affordable transportation systems, housing, potable water, power infrastructure, ICT, and more as part of the strategy to put industrial development back on track.”
In my brainstorming session with Omo-Agege before I accepted the job, and in others thereafter, I have come to observe his passion for people and development. And he backs it with concrete evidence. As a senator and later, deputy Senate president, without any executive power, he successfully brought in a slew of projects to Delta State. These include the Federal Polytechnic at Orogun, the elite Nigerian Defence Space School, a Federal University of Agriculture and Technology, and a campus of the Nigerian Law School, the latter two of which have been approved by the Senate.
He also embarked on an ambitious power programme with the aim of solv- ing electricity distribution challenges: Bringing in brand new transformers and replacing obsolete ones in many areas state-wide. He also single-handedly embarked on the mass provision of solar street lighting across all towns and villages of Delta Central. While a senator, Omo-Agege carried out mass renovations and furnishing of select schools across the state; he constructed water schemes, dragged in additional funding for several stalled and struggling federal infrastructure projects, and on and on.
There’s so much more he has done that to chronicle all here will appear as a hagiography of sorts. But to my mind, Omo-Agege, has a proven record of service. And in such a short time (he’s been less than three years as deputy Senate president).
His far reaching plans to lift Delta back to its feet ring true, and are punctuated with clear do-ables and concrete milestones. As for willpower, he made it clear to me, as he has to others, that he is not afraid of breaking eggs to make an omelette. Anyone who knows him well knows that he’s a fairly tough guy, The Trumpet gathered.
“I am not going to pussyfoot over issues. I will be decisive and do what needs to be done when it needs to be done, in the interest of our State and people”, he says.
Omo-Agege clearly has an edge over all the other aspirants for Government House, Asaba, and I chose to trust his promise to build a new Delta. I insist that every Deltan should. And after we win the governorship for him, we can together hold his feet to the fire, and as one united people ensure that he keeps his promises to us!