Deconstructing Malice Campaign Accusation Preferred Against Okowa


By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

In the words of Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States of America (USA), the experience of democracy is like the experience of life itself—always changing, infinite in its variety, sometimes turbulent and all the more valuable for having been tested in adversity.

In like manner, evidence abounds, if only sought for, that in every democratic setting, there are clear thinkers, muddled thinkers and people that fall in between. Clear thinkers are the ones that can cull everything down into the right points-are very hard to find. But if you get yourself a team of clear thinkers, the possibilities are endless. These are men who see tomorrow, trailblazers and high-level executives, but most often misunderstood by some fellow countrymen still stuck in the old normal of yesterday.

Ifeanyi Okowa, the incumbent Governor of Delta State, without any shadow of the doubt, fittingly falls into the bracket of a clear thinker. But like the case of every clear thinker, he is currently misunderstood by some fellow countrymen still stuck in the old normal of yesterday.

A typical instance to support this assertion is the recent drama and accusations in the ruling party in Delta State, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by some councillors of the party from Delta Central Senatorial District that he is trying to push them to vote for his choice in the forthcoming governorship primary to choose the party’s flag bearer.

According to the post, the Governor is using the instruments of government and instructed them to support his supposed preferred candidate, the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Sheriff Oborevworio.

On the first thought, the above narrative seems like a reality. It looks alluring to believe particularly as the nation braces up for the general elections; a period where like war, all is considered fair; where and when political players welcome every opportunity to continually dig the mud in search of political gold.

At this level, there is no single cause of conflict. Rather, conflict becomes context-specific, multi-causal and multidimensional and can result from a combination of the following factors which include but are not limited to the issues of mutual distrust, suspicion, prejudice and name-calling.

In Delta State, such development/occurrence is exacerbated by the feudalistic and oligarch nature of a power bloc/section of the state and collaborated by this power-hungry gladiators’ incapacity, sincerity and lack of trustworthiness to negotiate and resolve contentious issues without resorting to the present political gimmicks.

But beyond this peripheral prism, there exists something deeply troubling with this latest slant, scant and calculated accusation paddled against the person of the Governor.

Aside from wilful refusal to entertain alternative opinions through a number of credible sources of information openly and freely available in the public domain that might help produce a deeper understanding of the governor’s position on the matter, and their choice to focus on convenient untruth presented with a superficial, emotional and manipulative approach that is not worthy of our democracy, making the current development in the state a reality to worry about is that these accusers exploited a mixture of fear and propaganda among gullible Deltans and postured themselves as bold defenders of our state while weakening the foundation of our unity.

But for reasons that come in double folds, this piece is not surprised.

First and very fundamental, it is globally believed that when human beings develop a higher order of thinking, they gain the ability to conceptualize threats instead of just perceiving them. But they also gained the ability to conceptualize imaginary threats. And when groups of people are persuaded to conceptualize these imaginary threats, they activate the fear response as powerfully as would real threats.

This is the foundation of the present challenge.

For yet-to-be-identified reason(s), the Governor’s accusers appear to have activated a fear response as powerful as would real threats across the lengths of the state.

Qualifying the present attack as a crisis is an awareness that it is coming at a time when Okowa as a creative leader daily professes that the PDP, of which he is the leader in the state, has a policy of rotating the governorship among the three Senatorial Districts of the state for the purposes of equity and inclusiveness through equitable distribution of appointments and projects without influencing/interference with the process that throws up such beneficiaries.

In the same light, if there is any other reason as to why Governor Okowa will not indulge in the shenanigan as alleged, it is the fact that at no time in the history of our beloved Delta State have we been as united as we are today or witnessed such magnitude of trust of ourselves and of our state under the leadership of Okowa.

As we know, the state, to use the Governor’s words, is a microcosm of Nigeria because she is peopled by different ethnic nationalities. She has had inter-ethnic conflicts/clashes, fatal boundary disputes, especially over oil-bearing land, and political tensions. She has had high unemployment and poverty rates. Luckily, successive governments of the state have tackled the issues in different ways, and I am building on the foundation they laid.

Looking at the above words coming from the Governor himself, it becomes obvious that there is no way he will join in destroying a house he assisted to build or take actions that will be inimical to the sustained peace in the state.

Instead of the present attack, name-calling and campaign of calumny against the governor, this piece holds the opinion that what the Governor needs is support and not vilification.

There are so many reasons that informed this decision; it ranges from Governor’s disposition to conflict resolution and peacebuilding in the state to his superlative performance in infrastructural development of the state particularly in the areas of road networks.

To underscore this position, let’s listen to Okowa as he captured it during a recent function in Lagos; We have erected structures for conflict resolution and peacebuilding. They include the Office of the Special Adviser on Conflict Resolution and Peace Building and the Delta State Advisory and Peace Building Council with a membership of 42 (forty-two) respected men and women in various fields drawn from every local government area of the State. These structures have proactively prevented crises by promptly and effectively resolving disputes.

Continuing, he added that; We also have a deliberate policy to tackle youth unemployment through skills training and entrepreneurship development programmes. I believe that the way out of the unemployment quagmire is to equip the youth with the technical know-how, vocational skills, values and resources to become self-employed, as distinct from one-off empowerment.

This is what my administration has done by instituting various skills training and entrepreneurship development programmes, which include: Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP); Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP); Graduate Employment Enhancement Programme (GEEP); Rural Youth Skills Acquisition Programme (RYSA);  Girls Entrepreneurship Skills Training (GEST); and  Women Entrepreneurship Skills Acquisition Programme (WESAP).

These programmes are trainee-centred and service-oriented. The sectors and activities covered include agriculture, agricultural value chain services, vocational skills-based microenterprises and cottage enterprises. Furthermore, the training and mentoring processes aim beyond raising entrepreneurs to produce leaders and managers that have high levels of personal responsibility and effectiveness. I am pleased to let you know that after six years of faithful implementation of these programmes, we have trained and given business support packages to several thousands of youths.

Following the success of these interventions and other efforts in promoting technical education, Delta State was ranked the Best State in Human Capital Development in the 2017 States Peer Review by the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria. Also in 2020, Delta was adjudged to be the Second Least Poor State, coming only after Lagos, Nigeria’s business hub, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

The above efforts can only come from a Governor that is willing to save and serve his people.

On a final note, as the commentary continues, there are two striking attributes that stand Okowa out; first, well-meaning Nigerians are in agreement that he is a national leader that is well respected by all.

Secondly, he is among the few public office holders in the country that have played politics using global rules and dictates.

He is in the opinion of this piece exposed to the present attack not because there is an established link with the said allegation, but primarily because, the accusers feel that he occupies a public office and therefore, lacks the right to private living.

Jerome-Mario 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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