For a very long time, Asaba, the capital city of Delta State has not been very busy on Saturdays until 21st of April, 2018 when the good people of Anioma nation, some of their friends from other ethnic groups in Nigeria and in the diaspora, gathered en masse not for a jamboree but to honour an illustrious son of Anioma in the person of Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Okowa, the Executive Governor of the Delta State.
The event was put together by Anioma people in collaboration with the Anioma apex socio-cultural group, “lzu-Anioma” and a few other organisations. That day will also remain indelible in the minds of people both far and near.
Who really are the Anioma people? Anioma people are from the Delta North Senatorial District of Delta State. They are people from Aniocha North, Aniocha South, Ndokwa East, Ndokwa West, Ika North East, Ika South, Oshimili North, Oshimili South and Ukwani. It is interesting to note that in most of the towns in these local governments, ANIOMA means “a good land, good area, a fertile land, productive land and a very good zone.” Suffice it to say that Anioma people are very hospitable.
The people of these local governments have a common culture of greeting or thanking someone who has done well or represented them very well. They therefore defied the risks on the high way, and in the air, harsh weather conditions and cancelled other engagements in order to honour a man who has distinguished himself uniquely in governance. He is currently the number one citizen of the State and the first Anioma son to occupy the exalted position in Government House, Asaba. There was practically no town or village that did not have a representative at the epoch making event which took place at the Cenotaph. The event was timely as it gave highly placed people and the masses an opportunity to eulogise the Governor for the giant developmental strides he had accomplished in Anioma and in the two other Senatorial Districts in Delta State in just three years in office. It is indeed unprecedented.
We need to call to mind that His Excellency, was sworn in as the Governor on the 29th of May, 2015. He did inform Deltans that there was not much fund for him to execute many projects and to fulfill his good electoral promises based on the dwindling oil price and the fall in both the federal allocation to the state and in the internally generated revenue. It is a common saying that it is only with enough money that one can prepare a very delicious pot of soup but in this case, everybody was only interested in the fulfilment of the promises and the delivery of the dividends of democracy. The slogan “Egho Aria” which translates to there is no money in Ika language also became a common language in Delta State.
Many persons were actually complaining that Nigeria was in recession but this was denied by the Federal Government of Nigeria until it was confirmed by the National Bureau of Statistics in 2016. Nigerians, Deltans, the rich, the poor, politicians, civil servants, business men and women, youths and children, had to adjust, cutting their coats according to their materials. Infrastructural development was also moving at a snail speed and virtually everybody was complaining. No explanation could calm the nerves of the common Deltans even at different fora where explanations were given that as soon as the economy improved, the situation would change and developmental projects would be very visible to all and sundry.
The Governor also initiated and embarked on town hall meetings, where he is dialoguing with traditional rulers, community heads and elders, political leaders and youths in various communities, in different local government areas for him to identify their greatest challenges and how best to proffer solution. It also afforded him the opportunity to remind them of some of his achievements. These were indeed smart ways for the Governor to reach out to the people at the grassroots levels, being also a grassroot politician. They were also means of taking governance to the grassroots. Many people heard directly from him instead of the usual phone in programmes in media houses which were adopted by previous Governors. The interesting thing was that he was always present at the meetings to listen to the people and from the communities concerned. He visited many of these local governments, times without number for meetings, during religious and social engagements too. The orientation changed, and people understood his challenges better.
As the economy continued to improve, people who had “eyes” began to see a working Governor, a Governor that loves developmental projects, a Governor that did not leave inspection of projects for his Honourable Commissioners, Advisers, Engineers, Project Monitoring Officers only, but one that is very much interested in monitoring projects to ensure that results were commensurate to the released funds. Governor Okowa has proven himself beyond all reasonable doubts to be a Governor that makes a promise and fulfils it. No wonder many refer to him as EKWUEME.
Today, many roads in all the local governments across the three Senatorial Zones have received the needed attention. While some are being rehabilitated, new roads are being constructed. It becomes extremely difficult for someone to convince me that the projects in a local government area are influenced by another person. It is a decision that his Government has taken in order to take Delta State to a new level. Kudos must be given to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa. The new song is that he is called the Road Master and one hardly hear of “Egho Aria” these days. It is mainly due to the fact that many roads are receiving attention in many towns in the three senatorial zones of Delta State.
Perennial flooding has been a major challenge to people living in the capital territory. Many lived in fear of their houses being swept away by floods whenever there was heavy downpour. They are also afraid of being caught on the road after a downpour. The Okowa led Government has taken a positive step in curbing this flood menace by massive construction of underground drainages to evacuate flood in Asaba to the River Niger. It is believed that when the drainage control measure is completed, flooding will be a thing of the past.
His administration has executed many visible projects, more than expected by his critics. Health care has not been left out. Being a Medical Doctor, he made sure that many hospitals in Delta State received the needed attention.
You will agree with me that the present day Nigeria needs graduate who should not only depend on Government jobs, but also be able to create jobs and be employers of labour. Hence, Governor Okowa has tried to make sure that most youths and graduates are able to do so through his job creation and skill acquisition programmes since the inception of the present administration. His administration has not employed people directly through recruitment processes but has done very well by training many youths in different fields and also empowering them by giving starter packs so that they could be independent and employers of labour.
There is a saying in Aniocha which says “onye na eme ofuma ka wa n’asi ji de ka iji” meaning only a person doing great works will be told to keep up the good works. This was the concept of Anioma people based on his laudable achievements. They recognised them and decided to acknowledge them by honouring him and telling him to keep it up. They went further to adopt him as their sole gubernatorial candidate from Anioma. The motion was moved by an Anioma born renowned environmentalist, a desert warrior and an elder statesman, Dr. Newton Jibunor which was unanimously supported.
What are then the implication of the adoption and a vote of confidence passed on the Governor? It means that the traditional rulers, the leaders, and the people of Anioma have endorsed the incumbent Governor. They are all encouraging him to continue with the good work. They are also ready to give him one hundred percent support if and only when he decides to declare for the forthcoming gubernatorial election. At the same time, it was a way of encouraging other ethnic groups and senatorial districts in Delta State as well as all the political parties in the state to do the same.
There is a proverb in Anioma which says, “Uno di ali onye mma, o ga uzo ugbo” meaning it is only when the family is settled or when the home is at peace that one can embark on a journey to the farm to work. This is a fulfillment of what happened on that Saturday as the people came out to honour and endorse him.
African culture also promotes “Greeting.” This was my submission in a book “Greeting As A Virtue…” after a detailed study in Anioma. The honour done to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa was a way of greeting him and appreciating him as he has proven to be Nwaezimmadu, a well-breed, truthful, humble and diligent son of Anioma. He has kept to most of his promises. The subsequent adoption is a right step in the right direction. I therefore join the good people of Anioma to tell our amiable Governor to keep up the good work as Nwaezimmadu.