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By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi –

It is pedestrian information that Pursuant to the provisions of Section 72(1) of the Electoral Act 2022, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)  on Wednesday 29, 2023, issued Certificate of Return to Chief Sheriff Oborevwori , Delta state Governor-Elect.  The ‘ritual’ followed his electoral victory at the Saturday March 18 gubernatorial poll in the state as conducted by INEC.

With the victory, Sheriff who is the current Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, has clearly shown that history does matter and demonstrated that ordinary calculation can be upturned by extraordinary personalities. Most importantly, with his victory, the ancient argument as to whether circumstance or personality shapes events is settled in favour of the latter.

Aside from torrents of accolades from deltans of goodwill with more expected for this unique achievement, there are flashes of reasons to believe that the Governor-Elect may be laced with good public leadership qualities. Out of many, the first that comes to mind is the awareness that as the current Speaker of the Delta state of Assembly (DTHA), he ran a rancor-free house for four years.

Despite this logical, rational and practical belief, I must on the other hand confess that since that announcement, each time I remember this feat; fears which leave me lost in a maze of high voltage confusion come flooding. The reasons for this confusion stems from my concern as to where the Governor-Elect will find both will-power and political will to build a diversified and self-reliant economy that will withstand the shocks occasioned by the current physical, social and economic changes that have become a recurring decimal in the state.

However, evidence in my views, also abounds, and points to the fact that if Sheriff is ready to serve and save deltans, he may  face no confusion in this mandate as he is succeeding Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, the incumbent governor of the state reputed for infrastructural development and characterized by deep-seated sustainable visions, policies and programmes.

The above description of Okowa’s administration is a product of careful analysis of available public opinions and commentaries from deltans and visibly signposted in areas   such as;  values, fiscal discipline, robust and continuous community engagement, effective and efficient public communication, and excellent public service delivery for the benefit of this generation and the next.

His works in this direction consists essentially of construction of good road networks, renovation/reconstruction/construction of over 5,000 classrooms in the state, rehabilitation of technical colleges in Agbor, Sapele, Ofagbe, Utagba-Ogbe, Ogor and Issele-Uku, incubation/establishment of three additional healthy universities to cater for the academic yearnings of the people of the state among other achievements.

The above feats notwithstanding, the incoming administration will obviously have more work to do and more reforms to make as the state’s economy is still distressed, unemployment high, the infrastructure deficit intimidating, the education sector hard pressed, and  palpable despair in the land.

These are challenges in the state that will ‘’greet’ Sheriff led administration in the state upon assumption of office on the 29th of May 2023, and test his desire, resolve and preparedness to translate to action and result the ‘expect More mantra’ promised the good people of the state.

 More specifically, it is worthy of note that as the incoming governor of the state, the hope of achieving rapid infrastructural development, engender inclusive economic growth, reduce the worrisome high level of youth unemployment and pervasive poverty while improving the general well-being of all Deltans may be impossible if Oborevwori presents self as all-knowing, selfless, more intelligent or good looking than other stakeholders.

Like Governor Okowa that his administration made Delta state  Best in Human Capital Development in the 2017 States Peer Review by the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria  and in 2020, adjudged the Second Least Poor State, coming only after Lagos, by Nigeria’s business hub, Sheriff can as well win if he runs an all inclusive government and execute people-focused projects.

It will be convenient to argue that the incoming governor is capped with the manifesto of his political party as well as laced with envisioned personal programmes to aid his day-to-day administration of the state. But the truth is that the time has come for you to make those codified documents less rigid in order to accommodate sincere suggestions from well meaning deltans. 

Beginning with the education sector, the incoming administration must recognize that there are a large number of youths in the state that are knowledge/education hungry and daily project vividly and openly their potential, character, behavior, performance skills and talent that needs to be nurtured in a conducive environment and fairest fees. 

Oborevwori needs to internalize the truth that any developmental plan in the state without youth education delivered in a well-structured learning environment and fair fees will amount to a mere waste of time and effort. Achieving this objective will be seamlessly made possible via progressive recognition of the right to education as a human right. In fact, it is one vital point the incoming administration in the state must not fail to remember. He must acknowledge and uphold the fact that Nigeria belongs to a number of international conventions, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights where the right to education is paramount.

Very instructive, another reason why the incoming administration needs ample courage to fund the educational sector in the state is that without accessible and affordable education in the state, the children take to the streets where all forms of criminals and other social misfits who pose the actual threats in the forms of armed robbery thugs, drug abusers and other social ills that give bad names to the society are bred.

The plight of deltans living in the coastal part of the state is another issue that will in structure and context demand urgent attention. A visit to that part of the state will reveal that they have not vanished physically but only exist in the frames.

In the riverine communities, many children, particularly the children of fishermen and women, are out of school not because they are not willing to be educated but because the cost of education is beyond the reach of their parents. For the majority in school, no learning takes place as greater number of public schools sited in the area are short of teachers and dotted with dilapidated buildings- On the other hands, the private schools where the environment is conducive for learning are not only far from those communities but also capital  intensive.

To further support this position, I listened, a while ago, with rapt attention to King Monday Whiskey, Udurhie I, the Ovie of Iderhe Kingdom, speak on the challenges children of his kingdom need to confront to access education. King Whiskey, who spoke in Lagos, among other things, lamented that children in the Niger Delta must attain the age of 12 before starting from primary one because it is only at that age that children can be able to paddle their boat successfully to the other side of the community where their school is located.

From public affairs point of view, this piece believes that under this circumstance, the percentage of uneducated women will be very high since it is only at the age of 12 boys can be allowed to paddle boats to their schools. Readers of this piece can imagine what the fate of young girls in the community becomes. This further makes the global statistics feasible that just 39% of rural girls attend secondary school and this is far fewer than that of rural boys, which is 45%, compared to urban girls, which is 59% and urban boys 60%.

While this piece therefore calls on Oborevwori, to design workable and efficient ways of bringing primary and secondary schools close to communities in the coastal/riverine communities in the state, it is equally important to add that the area is troubled but not despondent, a situation that makes it easy for them to be managed and contained.

Very key, even as the incoming administration in the state will definitely succeed on the assignment of leading the state by providing deltans with standard of living adequate for their health and  wellbeing, job creation is vital as the large unemployed youth population is a threat to the security of the few that are employed.

Most importantly, the future of the state is full of promises as it is fraught with uncertainty. And the conventional leadership- system is giving way to the one based on knowledge, and to build the Delta state of our dreams, the Oborevwori led incoming administration must learn to be part of the knowledge-based world.

Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via [email protected]/08032725374

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