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2023: Delta State Deputy Governorship and Christopher Ochor’s Competency

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Christopher Ochor

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

It is no longer news that the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Sheriff Oborevwori, has emerged as the gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.

It is equally relevant to the present discourse to underline that Oborevwori, who is also the National Deputy Chairman of the Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria, displayed uncommon resilience to clinch the ticket and presently celebrates his landslide victory with a call on Deltans to ensure they all have their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) before the 2023 general elections.

Expectedly, his victory has elicited reactions from stakeholders and the general public. The boundaries between both spheres/reactions have shifted back and forth for some days.

While some hailed his emergence, others are particularly not against but are of the view that looking at the re-boost working relationship that exists currently between Oborevwori and Deputy Speaker, Christopher Ochor Ochor, both should be encouraged/allowed to run on a joint ticket as Governor and Deputy Governor respectively.

Aside from the time-honoured belief that one needs not to change a winning team, the present argument is predicated on the seamless and mutual relationship evidently demonstrated in the last three years and enjoyed by the duo working as Speaker and Deputy Speaker.

Instead of allowing this relationship by these public office holders turned brothers to go with political winds, the Oborevwori/Ochor joint ticket should be encouraged and gainfully harnessed for the greater gain of the PDP, the state and for the greater good of Deltans, they concluded.

Indeed, the above argument, in the opinion of this piece, may not be wrong considering the fact that Oborevwori/Ochor co-existence and healthy relationship, which many see as not just a departure from the old order in the state, but a major factor and actor responsible for the sustainable peace the state House of Assembly and its members presently enjoy and by extension, sets the stage for a rancour-free relationship between the state executive and the legislature.

At about the same time, many have peripherally raised the question as to if Ochor is truly laced with the capacity needed to occupy and function at the level of Deputy Governor of Delta State? Does he really understand the meaning and requirement of being a deputy governor of a complex state like Delta or aware that it requires intensive efforts to keep the people of the state together? Is he ready to mix and interact with people of different types and classes in the state to benefit from their experience?

Does Ochor have the right temperament, positive mindset, flexible attitude and enterprise spirit to work hard with a concentration on the business of governance? Is he aware that as a state deputy governor, he needs to have detailed knowledge and sound experience before assuming such a sensitive position? Is he ready to gain adequate knowledge and experience with patience before May 29, 2023? Is he capped with patience, humility, tolerance and responsiveness to undergo this important phase of learning and experience? Is he cost and labour conscious? Is he aware that he is required to understand and follow public leadership rules, regulations and other restrictions and then conduct the business of governance each time his principal is not around?

Without a doubt, these are not just important questions but objective concerns.

However, while this piece is too short a space to establish whether Ochor understands or better still recognizes the fact that it takes prolonged efforts to govern the people well, it is spaced enough to underline fundamental factors that may not only work in favour of Ochor if chosen but more than anything else makes him the best man for the job.

Aside from the awareness that Ochor, current House Member Representing, Ukwuani constituency in the Delta State House of Assembly, will never be a liability to the Governor or the state as he is a certified teacher and graduate of Agriculture from Delta State University, with varying experiences in public service, there are indeed more sincere and applied reasons why he should be considered the best man for the job.

First is his experience which stands him out and sets him miles apart from the bunch of politicians angling for the position. Evidence abounds that in the early years of the 4th Republic, he occupied various positions among which are, Special Assistant to the Governor on Youth Matters and Special Adviser to the Governor on Youth Matters.

In the same, as a brief member of the Delta State House of Assembly between 2007 and 2008, he sponsored a bill targeted at the protection of public properties, while at the same time attracting government attention to his constituency, especially in health and road constructions. As a Commissioner for Special Duties between 2008 and 2010, his performance was not only remarkable but outstandingly glaring.

Equity and fairness consideration is the second very essential reason why Ochor must be considered for the position. There is no doubt that Ndokwa people, going by available records, have been active in socio-economic and political affairs since the days of Western and Mid-Western regions, Bendel State and now Delta State. In view of this spiralling fact, equity and justice should be the defining approach to the present political season/electioneering period.

If the above argument is considered and given a favourable consideration, Ochor, without fear of contradiction, remains one of the most visible and relevant politicians from the area with impeccable experience and records to benefit from such an arrangement.

Away from the support given to other ethnic groups to produce state governors at different times and places, the Ijaw ethnic nationality, the Deputy Speaker has represented his people well and, therefore, should be rewarded with a higher office as it is a known adage that the reward for good work is more work.

This claim on performance is evidence-based and speaks for it.

He facilitated the construction and equipping of the Umutu Magistrate Court to ensure persons don’t have to travel far to seek justice in the law court, amongst other economic contributions to the lives of the people of Ukwuani, such as the construction of the Drainage to check the erosion at the mouth of the source of River Ethiope.

Between 2012 and 2014, he was the Transition Chairman of the Ukwuani Local Government Area Council. His tenure as Chairman of the Council hallmarked his beliefs that security is the bedrock upon which development can be achieved through peace.

On assumption of office, Ochor inherited an area infested with rampant kidnapping, intra and inter-communal rift, cultism, youth restiveness and ritual related killings. Day and nightlife were a nightmare. Security report on the Local Government Area was debilitating. He tackled these hydra-headed monsters through various security based strategies. Through his facilitation, the State Commissioner of Police set up the ASP Lucas led Anti-Kidnapping crack team. He changed the suspicious relationship between his office and the law enforcement agencies on one hand, and the public on the other hand.

Operational vehicles, accommodations, and welfare arrangements were made which boosted an effective intelligence gathering and community policing of the area.

Ochor is a leader that appreciates Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to forestall the breakdown of law and order and he used this effectively to achieve peace amongst the communities in the LGA and border communities between Delta and Edo States.

In 2015, he was appointed as the Executive Director Social Services Development Directorate on the Board of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC).

As an Executive Director, Social Services Development, a directorate charged with carrying out social, community and cultural needs of the people of the oil producing communities in Delta State, he created a system of checks and balances, for the commission, and ensured that programs that will impact on the people directly are implemented, such that the Directorate was able to plan, and ensured that a skilled training manual was produced, which became a reference point for the skill acquisitions programmes of the state.

He initiated the survey of the school facilities across the various schools within the mandate area of DESOPADEC, this brought the awareness that many of the schools are in dire need of learning facilities, including buildings, which caused the renovations, and furnishing of identified schools.

In 2019, he took another shot to represent the people of Ukwuani at the state House of Assembly and won.

As a member of the Delta State House of Assembly, he had while carrying out his primary duty as a legislature, supported that effective bills are passed into law for good of the state.

In this he had supported the passage of the Governor and Deputy pension Rights Amendment Bill 2019, Delta State Corporate Social Bill 2019, Co-sponsored the bill on HIV/Aids Anti-Discrimination Bill, 2020, a Bill to Eliminate Violence in Private and Public life, and other bills that had been passed into law for good of the state.

Another bill sponsored by him, passed and signed into law is the State Assembly Fund Management Bill 2021, which was for the full autonomy of the State House of Assembly.

He had in relation to the executive, attracted effective development of the area, such as youth empowerment, road, school, and market constructions.

Ochor, as a promise he made to his people, has more than 120 persons under his payroll crossing all wards, and beyond his constituency. He had empowered various persons with seed money for businesses and equipment, including 23 girls he publicly empowered with various business equipment and cash tools to take off, and 156 market women through various cash to boost their trades.

He has at various levels been recognised by different organisations, including the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) as the best performing local government chairman in financial management in Delta State, the best Chairman for the utilisation of the SURE-P fund to train, and empower youths, amongst others, including the media, students, and security awards.

This piece thinks that it is the likes of Ochor that Delta as a state currently needs.

Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy) at Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374

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Schneider Electric: Driving the Digital Transformation of Nigeria with Augmented Reality

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Schneider Electric

The future impact of Augmented Reality (AR) will significantly transform businesses and consumer marketplaces in Nigeria, should its adoption be accelerated across various industries and platforms, says Schneider Electric.

As more breakthroughs in technology continue to take root, the group has remained consistent in sensitizing its partners on the potential of AR, being one of the keys to digital transformation in the industry. Companies must therefore capitalize on AR and pursue the opportunities that can significantly boost operational productivity and enhance efficiency.

Speaking on this innovative technology, Belema Koleoso, Territory Technology Lead, Schneider Electric, says although much progress has been made since 2019 when Schneider Electric’s AR technology EcoStruxure Augmented Operator Advisor (EAO) was launched as a global hero offer, which works to enhance data accessibility for quicker and more accurate decision making, there remains a lethargy in the Nigerian market to adopt this technology.

Company campaigns have been run to sensitize clients to understand how EAO uses AR technology to optimize the operation and maintenance of industrial sites and equipment, AR aids effectiveness, helps to optimize human assets, and bridges the prevalent generational skill gaps. In this regard, she specifically highlighted the workforce crises that Schneider Electric foresees in the next 5-6 years, with the aged industrial population as the search for well-trained workers sometimes poses a challenge.

Belema says with AR, companies do not need to lose the experience plants cultivate with the exit of personnel, instead, years of training and experience can be “retained” through iteration of workforce turnover. For example, templates, assets, and manuals can be aggregated into the EOA application, customizable by the client; it puts real-time information at your fingertips, whenever and wherever it is needed, enabling operators to superimpose current data and virtual objects onto a cabinet, machine, or plant. This software combines contextual and local dynamic information for mobile users, enabling them to experience a fusion of the physical, real-life environment with virtual objects. It becomes a mobile work buddy for employees commencing the learning curve and in all reduces operational cost while increasing plant operational efficiency. This ensures that people who are put into the system meet the experience that others who passed through the system left behind.

AR presents completely new ways of executing tasks, with instant diagnosis, contactless maintenance, increased efficiency, and lower cost. Industries, including construction, aviation, consumer packaged goods, energy and chemical, mining and minerals etc., can use EOA to enhance their operations. The cloud-based software rides on any controller to learn activities and aggregates assets, moving past proprietary original equipment manufacturer parent protocols to focus on the tasks.

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Schneider Electric believes increased industry leaders across sectors can therefore use EOA to their advantage, where data drives processes and decisions metamorphosizing to “smart decision makers,” riding on data to make optimal decisions smarter and faster.

In retrospect, Belema says the pre-covid in Nigeria technologies like AR were seen as typically “nice to have.” She says she highly anticipates a time when more people will understand the immense benefit of this innovation and evaluate this technology as a necessity. “Often, the feedback on this is a nice-to-have, after a review of what AR offers. But I will push for people to look at it like this – When you have something that will optimize your processes, it moves from being a nice-to-have to a must-have.”

To drive this renewed mindset, the AR expert opines policies, such as the environmental sustainability policy, can bolster digital transformation. Stakeholders would need to advocate an optimized use of energy sustainably. Enforcement of which would naturally drive the adoption of technology across industries quicker.

“When people see that sustainability policies are enforced, for example, you are penalized for not meeting a target, or incentivized for meeting a target; you would see that the case would be different. Naturally, people will begin to adopt technology to meet their goals.”

She also advocates for Nigerians to consider AR as a total cost of investment that enhances optimal output, as customers are more prone to adopt a baseline approach, where they are satisfied with running their operations minimally without incurring additional costs.

With technology improving and becoming more widely available, it is undeniable that AR will become essential for businesses to thrive in the upcoming years. Schneider is optimistic that its position as a thought leader and industry partner in the digital transformation of energy management and automation is about to gain new ground, enabling the emergence of a new landscape of energy, paradigm shifts for the industry, and a revolutionized experience.

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Climate Change: Between Harriman and Kayanja Ideologies

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climate change

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

The debate on climate change is among the most presently discussed topics on the earth’s surface. All these years, I have, going by the commentaries from the Western world, believed that Africa’s non-commitment to the call for global action on climate change was responsible for the real and imaginary challenges confronting the continent.

Making this perceived climate change challenge look real was the recent news report that to tackle the problems, the World Bank Group has committed about $70 billion and urged governments of different nations to set up structures to engage and access the fund.

However, such a belief system recently underwent a positive transformation while listening to Professor Tosan Harriman of Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria.

Tosan, who spoke at the GbaramatuVoice Niger Delta Economic Discourse series held in Warri, Delta State, among other things, said; “the truth is this, we saw the hypocrisy of these people (Western worlds) recently when, because of the Ukraine-Russian war, they are not talking anymore about clean energy, rather, we see them go back again focusing on coal, getting out coal to drive the heat.”

“Africa cannot give away its resources because Africa doesn’t need the English of climate change. Our continent is blessed, our continent has resources, and our continent is galvanizing on those resources to ensure there’s a global world order. Taking Africa’s resources from Africa is like committing Africa to another new colonial tendency that will finally incapacitate and make it useful in the global situation of things, and that’s exactly what my argument has been.

“So, quickly, therefore, let’s have our mindset reconstructed about the fact that we are not a danger to Europe and America; we are not a danger to politics of climate change. The only grammar behind climate change is the economy.

“If they take from you the resources that offered you a comparative advantage, it opens them up to their economic value in the context of a global chain, in the context of a global productivity chain, it opens them up to their economic value where they now begin to sell clean energy to people like us in Africa who don’t need it. It’s so important we have these facts properly straightened out before we get into this other issue.

“The world has been talking about clean energy, what we call resistance against greenhouse gas emission. The kind of carbon deducted from the exploration of our crude oil, those are the carbons that we have, and that’s what the world has been talking about. They needed clean energy that would help the Arctic Circle maintain its height and then help the entire ecosystem to be properly balanced along the lines of certain determination that they thought had been there from the beginning and all of that.

“In Europe and America, if you actually desire clean energy, you should not in the 21st century be talking about coal because coal is all about greenhouse gas emission. If you go to the home of the Queen, you will see them using coal, and I keep making this argument that if Norway as a nation has the level of oil we have, nobody will be talking about greenhouse gas, nobody will be talking about climate change, and I have always held the position that every nation should be allowed to grow within the context of his own resources.”

He said that the best the world can do, which is an issue he raised at the Cairo 27th conference recently held, is that we should look at the conditions of African nations, what we call the dependent nations and all of that, dependent on the global world situation and all of that.

“We should look at their conditions, and then we can’t take them; we can’t take from them the issues that directly propel their sustenance; we can’t be talking of climate change when the entire nation of Africa depends on what creates a greenhouse. The best we can do is to scientifically, now begin to look at this resource and then redesign it in such a way as to mitigate the fears that are already being expressed by these other groups fighting for climate change. Those are the issues we raised, and it’s so profound that the world needs to hear us,” he concluded.

Comparatively, while Professor Tosan’s ideology/argument made a whole lot of sense to me, I, however, still recall how Mr Ronald Kayanja, Director of the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), spoke on the same topic (climate change) but maintained a different view.

This was at a function on Friday, September 20, 2019, in Lagos to mark the year’s International Day of Peace, which had as a theme Climate Action For Peace. Kayanja’s understanding and postulations about climate change were the direct opposite of Tosan’s argument.

Apart from Kayanjas’ definition of climate change as changes in these weather patterns over several decades or more which make a place become warmer or receive more rain or get drier, what made the lecture crucial was the awareness of the dangers of and warning on the urgent need to address climate changes which he said have become even clearer with the release of a major report in October 2018 by the world-leading scientific body for the assessment of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC), warning that in order to avoid catastrophe, we must not reach 1.5 C and 2oC.

In a similar style, Kayanja in that presentation used an analytical method and properly framed arguments to underline how; the current conflict in North-East Nigeria is not unrelated to the changes in climate in that region over time. As well as provides a link as to how; the climate change challenge also sets the stage for the farmer and herder violence witnessed in parts of West Africa and many countries that face violent conflicts in Africa: Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Sudan (Darfur), Mali and the Central Africa Republic.

He argued that local tensions over access to food and water resources could spill over into neighbouring countries as people seek to find additional resources and safety – placing more strain on the resources of those countries, which could amplify tensions. In these instances, climate change does not directly cause conflict over diminishing access to resources, but it multiplies underlying natural resource stresses, increasing the chances of a conflict.

As to what should be done to this appalling situation, the UN boss said that the UN Secretary-General had made climate action a major part of his global advocacy, calling on all member states to double their ambition to save our planet.

For me, as the debate rages, it is important to underline that Kayanja’s position looks alluring in principle. But then, this piece holds the opinion that African leaders and policymakers must not allow the propositions canvassed by Tosan go with political winds.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy) at Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374

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Economy: Simplistic Thinking in Africa and African American Communities

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African American communities

By Nneka Okumazie

There is caution in African American communities not to criticise each other to avoid appearing to take the side of others against the community. This agreement, useful in a few cases, has become part of the problem of the community where there is an appearance to condone horrible things.

If the problem is to avoid sounding like others, then another channel to criticize but not sound like others should have been sought.

In the community, the killings of the same kind, even for some who have made it, sometimes over absurd things, meets mute responses or fierce firestorm from the leaders of the community.

Do not criticize has allowed all kinds of comments and behaviours to fester in the community, and it keeps getting worse, but everyone minds their business because black people come first even if it is evil.

There is a limit to protests. There is a limit to heightened sensitivity over the past. There is a limit to ignoring internal responsibility. Proclamation of emancipation is a starting point, but every other way, as a people, to ensure more strength has to be sought. Civil rights are great but there is a need for the kind of economic success of Asia to be strong and not act or be seen as a victim because victimhood is limited.

There is a limit to entitlement for the sake of it, in a time when economic concerns are a priority for all. An individual success story is already old for a people with the majority on the lower economic and social side. A charity that benefits a small number of people in a small community is negligible for people. Speaking out for the sake of it, against oppression by other races, is also limited for a successful black. Whatever feel-good story on history or origin may promote fantasy, but ensures backwardness in reality.

As more blacks, everywhere, are getting prominent and failing in some positions, the other races have been able to lob criticisms without getting racial, something that many blacks do not attempt for each other.

There are streams of simplistic thinking that are static ends for a people, and breaking out of it, as a people is important for progress.

In Africa, most people keep saying the government is the problem or corruption. But there are different countries, structures, regions, states, governments, etc. yet there is hardly a major success story comparable with some in Asia.

Asian success is different people in different sectors making progress ahead and above the government so that government gets to adopt those into policy. If everyone with some responsibility or a few in different fields pursues major progress, the government does not have the power to crush all of them. The government would have to adopt or enable some. The excellence that made those would have them draw others. The government too would promote some policies whose success or adoption would meet the advancement the people are seeking, so it would work.

But what is obvious in most African countries is that the government often has the best answer, which is often really low, so from other sectors, things are lower, so most things are worse. And whenever there is a crisis, it is even far worse, because those who could try have failed, so left to the government, everything goes down.

Government is not the problem in any African country so long they have sectors and people who hold responsibility. Simplistic thinking says it is government.

Some have also said that they should use African religions for swearing officials into the office to prevent corruption. If enacted, some people would find a way around it, so it solves nothing.

There are desperate Africans who migrate to other continents, by the sea, desert and other ways, to find survival. Their move is parallel to professionals who run away too, because the place is bad, as a belief, not because they are actually in some dire situation.

There is a comment on brain drain, but brain drain is not a problem for professionals who are replaceable. Many of them would not do better than what government would do, so leaving or staying makes little difference, so no matter the certificates or certifications, it is not a brain drain if their work had not been consistently aiming at progress.

For many, success is seen as location or position when success is time or other things not related to material or resources. The things that are needed for progress, like courage, fairness, sincerity, honour, and selfless diligence for all that is not available, makes many to point to the wrong things.

[Psalm 144:4, Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.]

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