Uduaghan: ‘Done Things Worth The Writing’

BY CHUKWUDI ABIANDU
BENJAMIN Franklin once enthused that “If you don’t want to be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.” The foregoing quote, particularly, the aspect that has to do with “doing things worth the writing” would seem to have been satisfied by the out-going Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Ewetan Uduaghan.
His administration will be remembered for its visionary exactitude and the impact of his three-point agenda of peace and security, infrastructure development and human capital development. It is a vision well thought out, as it touches on all aspects of human endeavour in Delta State. So much so that today in the state, the people can conveniently attest that there is tangible peace and security, enough for business to thrive and boost the potential of the state as the investor’s destination.
In the area of peace, Delta State under Uduaghan is a state that enjoys freedom from war; there is impressive tranquility, mental calmness and serenity that are devoid of anxiety. You can feel the harmony as in freedom from conflict or disturbing disagreement among the people, and indeed, Governor Uduaghan will be remembered for leaving behind a state thriving with law and order, including absence of violence, or disturbances. And in the area of security, which is the state of feeling safe and protected, freedom from worries of loss, the governor did quite a lot to rid the state of the activities of kidnappers and the evil enterprise of the menacing Hausa-Fulani herdsmen. His intervention helped to arrest growing worries over kidnap incidents and the herdsmen, thus protecting the people against attack from outside and destabilization from within.
The achievements of Dr. Uduaghan in the area of peace and security can be appreciated against the background of what the situation was on assumption of office. The late dental surgeon, former commissioner for health, prolific columnist and public affairs commentator, Dr. Richard Tosanwumi put the issue in perspective in one of his columns entitled: “Still Searching For A Stable Polity”. In that write-up which he did on the 17th anniversary of the creation of Delta State, Tosanwumi stated: “Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, a veteran of the Ibori administration, succeeded Chief Ibori and on assumption of office in 2007 inherited on-going problems and challenges of peace and security in the state as well as inadequate socio-economic infrastructure. Hence, he laid out his three-point agenda of peace and security, human capital development and infrastructural development with which to advance the development of the state.”
Dr. Tosanwumi continued: “As Uduaghan’s administration settled down to embark on actualizing its policies and programmes, disagreements between some political leaders and groups erupted and have festered; depriving some parts of the state of the much-needed atmosphere of camaraderie and conviviality. However, some observers believe that with a little bit of effort, the feuding groups can work together for the benefit of the state.” Still from his observatory, Tosanwumi believed that “Some mileage has been gained by the Uduaghan administration in dealing with aspects of the Niger Delta crisis as it affects our state; and the youths are getting heightened attention compared to the elders, ostensibly to dissuade from continued restiveness.”
Today, youth restiveness, which was almost synonymous with Delta State, is now a relic of the past. Policies through human capital development initiative were put in place to positively engage the youths. It did so because it recognizes that the absence of peace and security are major constraints to the attainment of economic potentials as new private investment and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) are discouraged. And that it could also have adverse effects in terms of the realization of existing investment potentials. It therefore set as its priority, the initiative to significantly reduce youth restiveness and communal conflicts in order to create a conducive environment for business, wealth creation and employment generation. Accordingly, the government took the following steps to ensure that peace reigns in Delta State:
• Creation of Delta State Security and Waterways Committee, with the mandate to monitor and report on all issues that may breach security in the riverine areas.
• The government also engaged traditional rulers, chiefs, youth leaders, market women and security agencies to resolve conflicts, promote peace as well as ensure sustainable development.
• Developing the oil producing communities in order to reduce social tension and meet community expectation, the Delta State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (DESOPADEC) was created with the mandate to promote physical and social infrastructure development in the oil bearing communities with 50 per cent monthly allocation from the 13 per cent derivation fund accruing to the state.
The testimony from the initiative is the sweet smell of peace reigning in the state.
To keep the youths away from the proverbial idle hand that is the devil’s workshop, and properly engage them in ways that will enable to discover themselves and tap into their potentials, the Uduaghan government embarked on youth development programmes. It created the Directorate of Youth Development charged with the following:
• The promotion and continuous improvement of policies and programmes aimed at improving the welfare of youths;
• The prevention, control and minimization of youth problems;
• Mobilizing and ensuring the participation of youths in the social, economic, political and cultural development of Nigeria in general and Delta State in particular.
• Providing opportunities for skill acquisition in various fields for all categories of youths primarily towards self-employment and self-reliance.
• Encouraging active complimentary role of voluntary youth organizations in overall development of the entire youth in the state.
• Fostering of national, regional and international understanding, and unity among the youths, and
• Initiation and promotion of inter-local government, inter-state and international youth exchange programmes.
The area of human capital development which is believed to be the greatest asset of any country, the Uduaghan administration in appreciating the necessity for regular capacity building for the public service workforce to take its rightful place and compete with the best in the world; the government embarked on the training and re-training of staff so as to update their knowledge and keep them abreast with latest development in service delivery including innovations in information technology. Besides, it recruited 1,135 graduates into the state workforce to strengthen the capacity of the civil service to implement government programmes. To develop education, the government distributed laboratory equipment to many state government-owned schools in the move to encourage science education. Out of sheer magnanimity that has truly assuaged the indignation of owners of missionary schools that were forcefully commandeered from them, Governor Uduaghan returned the schools to their owners during his tenure. He also rehabilitated and re-opened schools in the riverine areas of the state. They were schools that were closed down in the wake of the crisis in the state, following the recommendation of the committee set up to examine the issue. The administration will be remembered for being among the first in the country to implement the 15 per cent pay rise for workers as negotiated by the organized labour and the Federal Government. Similarly, he approved the payment of the consolidated public service salary structure for public office workers in the state
To promote effective teaching and learning, particularly in the rural and riverine areas, the administration recruited no fewer than 5,000 teaching and non-teaching staff into public schools. It went ahead to implement the New Teachers Salary Scale (TSS).
As part of his human capital development effort, Governor Uduaghan established a specialized office for talent development to nurture and harness the abundant talents in the state. Today, many hitherto unknown talents have been discovered, and are now making waves in the entertainment world. In addition, high priority was placed on the health of Deltans, especially vulnerable citizens of the state. In this regard, the free maternal health care programme where government provided free ante-natal, normal delivery, post-natal and infant health care services to pregnant women and infants in all public health centres in the state has been sustained.
In terms of economic empowerment; as part of fulfilling Dr. Uduaghan’s human capital development agenda, the government sustained and increased its micro-credit scheme operation through which it financially empowered beneficiaries to start their own businesses. The story of the impact is one of amazement. Folashade Adebayo of TELL magazine in a Supplement work entitled “A Microfinance that works”, wrote: “It was both a delight and a shock. When Ejiro Dennis walked into a branch of Shoprite in Kenya last year, she did a double take when she saw stacks and stacks of pepper soup ingredients and other spices, produced by the Delta State Micro-Credit Programme (DMCP). After shopping for more than one hour – it was the first time Dennis was encountering a product made in Nigeria, and she felt immensely proud. By the time Dennis was done shopping, she had a new spring in her step and a broad smile on her face. Since that day, many people in Brussels, America and Africa would have imitated Dennis, buying spices produced and packaged by Ireyeesorieseone Dry Spices, winner of the 2009 Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Best Marketed Product from Delta State. As the Kenyan shillings, South African rand and other international currencies change hands; the life of Ireyeesorieseone Akumgba Woods, maker of the spices has changed dramatically, helping more Deltans to exit the rank of the unemployed in Nigeria.”
And talking about the success story of the micro-credit programme, the woman charged with the responsibility of implementing it, Dr. Antonia Ashiedu, who is the Commissioner for Poverty Alleviation, told Tell in answer to a question: “So far in this programme, the governor has been able to inject N2.7bn into the programme from 2007 till date. And that is not inclusive of the 2013 budget that we have not accessed. So we can only tell you what we have accessed.” Asked to share some of the success stories, Dr. Ashiedu told TELL: “For the success, I will say that it makes me feel a lot fulfilled when you see a group that started off selling plantain, and then they graduated to taking it to the market for milling with the general millers. But from that to owning small factory and getting a NAFDAC number, for me, it’s a success story. It is also a success story to me in the sense that I go to the spice section of any Shoprite; be it in Abuja, Lagos, Ikeja anywhere, and I see our products there. At the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), this programme has earned the state awards as the best in micro-credit administration for three years at a stretch. And the governor has been acclaimed as the best in looking after the grassroots people.”
Besides proving access to education through numerous measures, a striking case is the scholarship incentives for students. Undergraduates, law school students, medical students and aviation college students have bursary benefits made available for them. For instance, every law student from the state gets a grant of N100, 000, while every beneficiary of the state’s scholarship for masters’ degree programme and Ph.D receives N3million. A graduate who hails from the state and who makes a first class degree gets N5 million for four years to pursue post graduate courses up to Ph.D.
On infrastructure development, Governor Uduaghan has been commended for having delivered. For instance, he is acclaimed to have delivered with the provision of road networks that are strategic to actualizing his economic diversification and integration policy. Aside from the massive road and bridge construction that have taken place under his administration, there is the construction of underground drainages, particularly in Asaba. It is to ease the debilitating effect of poor drainage in the state capital that has kept some major streets water-logged and in the process, rendered road impassable. Ditto for the transport sector where observers believe that Dr. Uduaghan has been putting the state in motion. In his tenure, Delta State has a brand new airport in Asaba to show for it. Transportation on better roads and water ways is a joyful experience. Numerous new buses were purchased such that hitherto, areas and places in the state where commercial private buses abandoned for being in the rural area have now found succour as government through Delta Line operations and the public-private partnership initiative now ply those areas, thus bringing a new lease of life to the people in those areas. Communities and businesses have been linked, the roads are expanding and businesses are booming.
To achieve safe transport policy, the Uduaghan government banned the use of commercial motorcycles, otherwise called Okada in some parts of the state. It replaced okada operations with Keke (the tricycles), and subsidized it by giving it to operators at a cheap price of N150,000 down from the market value of N450,000. The government also beautified the bus stops by making them attractive when it built new bus shelters in Asaba and Warri.
One month of page-by-page analysis of the imprints of Dr. Uduaghan’s governorship in Delta State will not be enough to fully catalogue his achievements, but suffice to say that under his administration he grew the state’s internally generated revenue growing steadily from N12.262 billion in 2007, new industries are being created, entertainment blossoming in Delta State, and the stride towards achieving two digits in maternal mortality, while youths are being taken off the streets with the provision of sustainable jobs through skills acquisition centres, construction works, micro-credit and transport schemes. In Delta State under Uduaghan, education became an awesome delight in many respects. Government now pays for WASCE and NECO fees for students doing JSS3 and SS3 examinations. The huge financial burden of paying examination fees by pupils in order to enroll for WASCE and NECO has been removed. Similarly, a policy was introduced making it mandatory for every child in Delta State to go to school. Also Uduaghan’s government introduced Education Marshal, (Edu Marshal) charged with the responsibility to draft all children of school age to school as a weapon to give effect to the Child Rights Law. There is an agency in place under this law to take children off the streets and put them in schools. Today, parents are aware and the fear of Edu Marshals has become the beginning of wisdom for them. They must get their children to school during school hours. Of the 1,216 primary schools and no fewer than 400 secondary schools in the state, most of them have been thoroughly transformed through rehabilitation and reconstruction and the equipping of the institutions, making them beautiful and attractive edifices.
Has the Uduaghan administration made a difference in its eight years of being in the governorship saddle in Delta State? Deputy Governor, Prof. Amos Agbe Utuama told TELL Magazine: “I think we have been able to do that in the programme we run. The peace and security agenda is being pursued with greater vigour and we have ushered in peace more than ever before in Delta State. Kidnapping is a general thing. Before we came into government or just when we were coming into government, there was uneasiness in the waterways. That has been cleared now. The summit of it is the automatic scholarship for first class students of Delta origin. Once you make first class in the university, you are entitled to scholarship in any university in the world. That is a big mileage; you cannot appreciate what that is going to do for the beneficiaries and even the state, except you are a visionary leader. In the near future, we are going to see Deltans commanding the various positions, enviable positions in the world. Then of course, we have the free medical care, the free maternal care for pregnant women. What is that going to do? We are going to see that in the near future, we will begin to have healthier and stronger Deltans arising from the fact that they have been well nurtured during their pregnancies. It will take some time to materialize, but it will surely manifest.”
For the Commissioner for Works, Chief Funkekeme Solomon, Uduaghan is leaving Delta State better than he met it with 64 township roads commissioned in Asaba alone; a feat he said has never been achieved elsewhere in the world. According to him, Uduaghan met Delta State without a single flyover but between 2010 and 2015, he has completed two flyovers, one in Asaba, the other in Effurun-Sapele interchange. He has built an international airport at Asaba, as well as expanding the Osubi airport near Warri.
And for others, including the Head of Service, Mr. Patrick Origho, Uduaghan is leaving behind a transformed civil service. He told TELL magazine: “We have the Project e-Delta with the software that we are using and they have all come to enhance our work. There have been benefits in terms of increasing our productivity. Now we no longer go through the arduous manual system. Rather, we have electronics that enable us do our jobs.” Just the same way he is acclaimed to have done his best to reposition the judiciary in the state, and has done so much to encourage the entertainment industry that Delta State has now become home for the entertainment industry. Afam Valentine Nduka, movie writer, producer and director is quoted as describing Asaba today as a popular entertainment centre for reasons not unconnected to support the state government. He told TELL: “What they are doing in Asaba is encouraging. The government provides an enabling environment for entertainment to thrive, while the people are accommodating. The people of Asaba are also hospitable and it is very safe to shoot a movie in Asaba.”
It is, therefore, not a surprise that Dr. Uduaghan was honoured by leading practitioners in the entertainment industry recently. In his report, Ayorinde Oluokun of The News wrote: “At a ceremony which had in attendance leading practitioners in the Nigerian entertainment industry including Opa Williams, Orits Wiliki, Ras Kimono, Daddy Showkey, Ali Baba, Sammie Okposo, Emma Ogosi, AY, Gordons, Iyanya, Fred Amata, Zeb Ejiro, Emma Grey, DJ Humility, Mandy, Omoni Oboli and a host of others; the occasion was a Thank-You Concert/Dinner organized to appreciate Governor Uduaghan’s innumerable support for the Nigerian entertainment industry. They acknowledged his vision to transform Delta State Beyond Oil. Fallout of this is the gain being made in the entertainment industry, which now accounts for more than 2.5 per cent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
In all, there is no gainsaying that Uduaghan has made indelible prints on the sands of time of Delta State. His eight years in office has been quite eventful. Although not a perfect person, yet it must be acknowledged that he has done his bit in his effort to keep faith with his vision encapsulated in his three-point agenda. And like Benjamin Franklin said, he has done things that are worth the writing.
•Abiandu, a journalist and fish farmer, lives in Asaba.