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Good governance as catalyst for development in Nigeria: The Delta State experience

By Editorial board
18 May 2015   |   4:19 am
TODAY’S event affords me immense pleasure to be here as speaker at this forum organised by the alumni of this great university.


Text of a lecture delivered by Governor Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan of Delta State, at the University of Ibadan 2015 Alumni Association National Public Service Lecture on Friday, May 8, 2015.

TODAY’S event affords me immense pleasure to be here as speaker at this forum organised by the alumni of this great university. I know the quality of the audience here and the great tradition behind this citadel of learning where many lives have been moulded and leaders trained. I salute the foresight of the founding fathers of the institution.

Till date, the University of Ibadan remains a foremost Nigerian university. As a physician myself, I remember the place that the University College Hospital holds in this country even today.

The name is mentioned with awe in many circles. Again, I salute the current leaders who have preserved its standards and tradition.

In accepting to come here, I wish to use it to also bid you farewell, as this will be one of my last public lecture outside Delta state before handing over on May 29th to my successor, an alumnus of this university.

I am sure this university is proud to have trained and prepared the incoming Governor of Delta state. There is no doubt that he will perform excellently well in the best tradition of UI. .

The topic we are considering today is important at this juncture in the history of our country as we transit from one government, from one ruling party to another. It is happening at a time the yearnings of Nigerians to join the league of developed states are palpable.

On March 28 and April 11, the people spoke and we all heard. I think the decision of the people should not be taken lightly.

Both parties, my party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) that ran the affairs of the country for 16 years, and the new kid on the block- the All Progressives Congress (APC) should take more than a passing interest in this unprecedented phenomenon.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, let me now quickly look at the topic I have been assigned to speak on. I will not attempt to give theoretical, academic definition of the core terms and concepts employed in this lecture.

This is primarily because my audience comprises not just those in the academia, but people of diverse backgrounds and interests.

I have attended many academic conferences and I know the disputations that follow definitions. Most importantly, I believe the organizers invited me to deliver this paper because of my experience in the last eight years in Delta State. Had they wanted an academic paper, they would have invited a great Professor of Public Administration.

However, I believe operational contextualization of key concepts will suffice as we go along. For a start, we cannot avoid explaining what Good Governance means to us in setting the stage for this paper. I have chosen, in the spirit of the topic, to narrow it down to good governance in the public sector.

This is not because it is not relevant to the private sector where there exists much waste and mismanagement leading many private institutions to collapse.

But, here, we limit definition of good governance in the public sector to the effective use of public resources for general good. We remember the Social Contract Theory, which presupposes that leaders are recruited to ensure optimal utilization of resources—political, economic, social and spiritual—for the general good according to the terms agreed with the people.

In any case, the 1999 constitution has a working definition of good governance. Section 14 states that government exists for the welfare and security of the people. It then behoves every elected leader and indeed appointed one for that matter to ensure that the expectations of the people, are met.

Good governance in our age and time is therefore an integral part of democracy. Good governance is acting in accordance with the law; enthroning ennobling values and strengthening institutions of state with a view to getting them to perform to the expectations of the people. Good governance is dispensing justice without fear or favour.

Good governance is realising that today is a passage through which we approach tomorrow. It is realising that governance is a long continuum.

There is no end to it. Therefore, in conceiving and enunciating public policies, the leader, as administrator, should take both the short and long-range perspective of issues at hand. He must be a man of VISION and MISSION.

The vision is the plan, the map for the journey. It is usually spelt out in the party manifesto in a skeletal form. It is revealed through an ideology where there is one and subject to the approval of the electorate at the poll.

A leader who lacks vision is purposeless as there can be no mission without vision. The mission is contained in specific goals outlined and the modus operandi is clear for getting the deliverables across to the people. It spells out how the welfare of the people is to be taken care of.

In short, therefore, good governance is hinged on good vision. Good governance in our country at this time can only come through a leadership that would govern through leadership principles that represents the overall interest of Nigeria.

One such principle is accountability and transparency. Government exists for the people and everyone must be carried along. The President and governors are mere caretakers and should therefore give account of that which they have been saddled with.

There is much work to do in Nigeria as well as Sub-Sahara Africa to reduce poverty and achieve great economic progress.

One index that we must do everything in our power to reverse is our over-dependence on export of primary agriculture commodities and mineral resources. If we fail to do this, we shall remain permanent underachievers.

At independence, in 1960 much of Sub-Saharan Africa, including Nigeria, emerged from colonial rule with rural economy though we were relatively wealthier than South-East Asian economies.

Today, that has changed. South East Asia economies are two and half times richer than Sub-Sahara African economies. Between 1960 and now, South East Asian economies grew by six per cent while Sub-Saharan Africa by 3.5%.

South East Asia achieved great progress by diversifying their economies from export of primary commodities into manufacturing, agro-processing, value addition and subsequently, they moved up in the value chain of the global economy.

Sub-Saharan Africa remains exporters of primary commodities and mineral extraction. In Nigeria, oil export accounts for 90% of export proceeds and 70% of public revenue.

This narrow revenue base is responsible for high unemployment; low income levels and is simply not economically sustainable.

In Nigeria, I think everyone now knows that the oil sector has limited opportunities for employment. That is not all.

The revenue from oil while making it possible for government to obtain funding for government activities creates a problem of its own at the same time. As rent, oil income creates distortion in the economy as it leads government not to pay attention to other productive sectors other than mining of oil. I guess this is the theory of oil curse.

My point in the above is to highlight the thinking behind our policy of Delta beyond oil. If you wanted a conceptual explanation of Delta beyond—that is it. It made sense when we initiated this programme on assuming office eight years ago.

In the light of recent crash in crude oil prices, it makes even more urgent sense today. We knew that depending on export of minerals has even more damaging effect on the economy, if not reversed. It is unpredictable and it is volatile.

The external shock we face following the fall in crude oil prices is self-evident.

Yet, I believe Nigeria is the country with the opportunity to lead the African renaissance. Nigeria is well endowed with good soil; Nigeria has good weather good condition; Nigeria has quality human capital and a population imbued with entrepreneurial spirit.

But, somehow, we have managed not to harness our resources. Perhaps, the lack of vision and creativity is responsible. Perhaps, the political will.

Perhaps all of the above, I might even add. It saddens me greatly that because of our condition many Nigerians, including professionals are doing menial jobs in other countries, some even engage in crime and prostitution, thus soiling our collective image as a nation.

This is the challenge – the challenge of development. As Professor Okwudiba Nnoli once pointed out, development is not about the number of roads constructed – as important as it is, but the indigenous contribution to the provision of such amenities.

For instance, how well represented are Nigerians in the management and running of the oil and gas sector of the economy? How well have we done in building a robust industrial sector (at a time the developed world is moving to post-industrial age)? In this Internet age, are we creating content? If we are not creating content, and only consume what others produce, are we not doomed? Good governance therefore is all encompassing.

Ladies and gentlemen, I must declare that notwithstanding the earlier points I made about the state of Nigeria, I do believe some progress have been made but a lot more is needed. Far more has to be done.

I say this conscious of the fact that the question might be posed to me: ‘but are you not one of them’? As a leader, I understood the enormous expectations of the people, I did what I thought was best in the interest of Delta state. I made my own contributions to the strengthening of national unity.

I supported my party, the PDP and did not shy away from difficult political choices that confronted the party. I took positions I believe was in the best interest of the country.

But ultimately, I believe in the principle of collective responsibility. I did my best and the facts show that it was so.

But until Nigeria resumes its proper place in the comity of nations, until Nigeria becomes a powerful nation with powerful voice across the world, I cannot say that my own contribution alone is enough.

Therefore, the leadership of Nigeria must collectively fashion a new value system. This is because it is the responsibility of leaders to mobilise the people towards effecting the necessary changes in attitude. It is the leaders’ duty to impart nationalism and patriotism in the people.

The leaders have the sacred task of ensuring that there is sincere popular participation in conducting public affairs, rather than indifference, cynicism and apathy. I believe that the key to unlocking the great potential of Nigeria is to increase popular participation.

The people must be involved. But, before I turn my attention to Delta State and its government that I lead, let me quickly reflect on a couple of points at the critical juncture we are in as a nation.

The elections of March 28th and April 11th have introduced a new reality. Nigeria’s electoral map has been redrawn. It was the first time a ruling party would be voted out. It was also the first time that the defeated leader would submit so willingly to the verdict of the voters. President Jonathan has shown great leadership and statesmanship and we are proud of his conduct.

The election, however, also showed deep division, perhaps more than anyone could have anticipated. It was the first time the entire North would speak with one voice, and the old Eastern region also with a voice.

The North Central, contrary to traditional pattern, backed the opposition party – the APC. In voting, the entire North West voted massively for General Muhammadu Buhari, the APC candidate, while those in the South East and the South-South voted generally above 90 per cent for the PDP.

The state elections were even worse for PDP. In Plateau State where the PDP managed a slim victory in the presidential election, the people hopped on the APC platform. Benue State unequivocally voted for the APC candidate.

My interpretation is that these developments have placed a huge burden on the President-elect and his team to begin a unification and healing process of the country.

The situation is so bad that not a single member of the National Assembly was elected on the platform of the APC in eleven of the twelve states of the old Eastern and Mid-Western region. I hope the APC leaders will listen to my voice as this will greatly help in moving the nation forward.

I can speak of these things because as a member of the PDP that has governed Nigeria in the last 16 years, I am not without some understanding of what lies ahead.

My opinion does not make me less partisan or less chieftain of the PDP. I am a patriot, but a card-carrying member of the PDP and I believe that my party, despite its shortcomings and mistakes, is still a great party with a profound vision for Nigeria and Africa.

I believe that the PDP had a great vision for Nigeria and still has. PDP has done a lot for the country. PDP in 1999 was the party that took over from the military and within 16 years was able to consolidate civilian democratic rule. This is an achievement.

Had PDP not been so successful in deepening democratic values and institutions, there would be no APC as opposition about to take over office. I accept PDP can be criticized for many things, but this party, which did not exist before 1998, came together and with many strange bedfellows and was able to stabilize the polity and began the process of massive economic reforms that have never been seen before in Nigeria.

As far as I know, PDP is a true National Party. APC was a vehicle to capture power. APC has to be tested before it can become a National Party.

For the records, PDP governments initiated reforms in telecommunication, agriculture, power sector, expansion and reform of infrastructure such as road, airport, seaport, manufacturing, the rebasing of our economy showing the growth of our GDP as being the largest in Africa. There has been a lot of progress under the PDP within this period.

You know I wish to state that, I have not taken a lot of time to study the ‘change’ APC is promising Nigerians. Now they are about to resume office, I hope they get serious about it. Recently, APC chieftains, including the President-elect are saying something to the effect that they cannot perform miracle and that they will need time to make an impact.

Nigerians are not that patient. And it is for this reason, that I am calling on the PDP to reinvent, reoragnise and reimagine itself.

The PDP has to show that it is a party of credible leaders with robust and visionary progamme. As opposition party, the PDP has to be effective as a party and as the conscience of the nation.

Gone are the days when party’s leaders boasted that the PDP would hold on to the reins of power for sixty years. It took only sixteen years for that dream to collapse. This is not the time to despair.

This is the time for hard work. I call on all committed, knowledgeable and mature leaders to step forward to pick up the pieces. If the New Patriotic Party and National Democratic Congress could do it in Ghana, the PDP could yet bounce back.

It has the resources to do so. We may have lost the election, but let us not lose the lesson of the defeat. As Confucius, the Chinese philosopher once said: “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall”.

In 2007, Deltans gave me on the PDP platform the mandate to govern, and we have, I believe, done so to the best of our ability.

Delta State, with this administration, set out on a journey of transformation, anchored on the three-point agenda of Peace and Security, Human Capital and Infrastructure Development aimed at diversifying our economy from over-depending on oil.

We christened our transformation goal: “Delta Beyond Oil”. It was a tall ambition but it was worth every effort we have so far put into this initiative of building a politically, economically and culturally inclusive society in the midst of our diversity. No part of Delta has been left behind. No part has been neglected. It was not easy.

At the beginning, we felt people did not quite understand what we were trying to do. Overtime, however, that changed. We found the people had a growing understanding of our ideas, programme and vision. Our mission of building a Delta beyond oil has proven not misplaced if the recent crash in oil prices is anything to go by.

The fall in oil prices has led to decline in public revenue, budget cuts, depreciation of the Naira and rising inflation. I am happy that we had already started the journey of shifting Delta from over-reliance on oil income.

The administration following us has something to build upon. We knew that the boom and bust circle were inevitable and that was why we began diversifying our income stream by building fiscal buffers by investing some of our oil revenue in high-yielding financial instruments and enterprises, but more importantly, we began developing other sectors of the economy for the sustainable growth and development of Delta State.

In truth, Delta beyond oil is a generational vision, expected to last far into the future. It is definitely a vision that will outlast oil. So, my belief is that the PDP government, led by Dr Ifeanyi Okowa from May 29th, will continue on this track.

And that even beyond his administration, the next one will not deviate from the set path of sustainable growth. My point in this context is that if we pursue this vision with firmness and creativity, before long, poverty will reduce and be replaced with sustainable economic development.

Dr Okowa talks about prosperity for all Deltans, I know he is not thinking of a prosperity driven solely by oil economy. It is a prosperity that will come from the foundation of Delta Beyond Oil. An economy that will attract investment, create industries, increase access to wealth and empower our people to become job creators as well as open opportunities to other promising sectors of our economy.

One key step we took on assuming office was to secure and stabilize Delta State. If you recall, in 2007, the great issue of the day was militant uprising in the Niger Delta region. Kidnappings of expatriates, frequent attacks on oil infrastructure and general insecurity were at such a level that Nigeria’s crude oil production declined dangerously.

Something had to be done. Delta State was a leading state in fashioning different strategies to contain this.

We set up the waterways security committee and through that and other initiatives, we were able to bring stability to the state. Our method was, I should say, the successful forerunner to the amnesty programme announced by President Umaru Yar’Adua and implemented by President Jonathan.

And we did not stop there. We moved from there to build ethnic harmony and unity in Delta State. We gave every part of the state a sense of inclusiveness in project allocations, developments and appointments.

One of the first big projects we began was the Asaba International Airport, a project I doubt would have happened in the Delta of years before. By adopting a fair and balanced approach to development, we brought down animosity and division and replaced them with unity and cooperation. We knew that without peaceful and united Delta State, it was impossible to initiate, let alone implement long-term projects.

Our infrastructure programme was designed with the eye to diversify and encourage non-oil business to enter the economy of Delta State. With abundant gas in the state, we set out to invest in the power sector by initiating the construction of 148-megawatt Oghareki Independent Power Plant. The turbines have been procured; access road constructed and civil works completed.

However, in view of the reforms in the electricity sector, which completely privatized this sector, we are changing our business model.

The Oghareki IPP will be privatized.

That process is ongoing. We also executed over 415 power supply projects. The state government has investment in some of the recently privatized power companies such as Transcorp Ughelli power plant, Vigeo power plant and Eurafic power plant.

In many ways, the landscape of Delta has changed with the level of physical infrastructure development spread across the state.

What we have done is quite staggering. For instance, the Asaba airport is operational, while the Osubi airport construction is ongoing. We have constructed over 1,206-kilometre length of road, 663-kilometre length of concrete-lined drains, 17 bridges of various span have been completed.

Twenty-five bridges are in various stages of completion. Some of the notable roads that we are constructing are 149-kilometre Asaba-Ughelli dualisation, Trans Warri-Ode Itsekiri bridges and access road is a 24-kilometre length road with 22 bridges, the dualisation of the 33.6 kilometre Ugbenu-Koko road and the Effurun-Osubi-Eku road amongst others.

We have completed and commissioned the Nnebisi/Okpanam/Anwai road flyover and Effurun Roundabout flyover. Our administration planned junction improvement work in 12 locations but due to revenue constraint has succeeded in delivering Enerhen junction.

To successfully build a Delta beyond oil economy, we are investing in knowledge capital. Our investment in education is huge. Through various scholarship schemes, we are reducing burden on parents while stimulating competition in our wards. We have scholarship scheme for Deltan students in Law, Aviation, overseas postgraduate, first class degree, children of deceased civil servants, physically challenged and local government scholarship schemes. In total over 1,651 Deltans have benefited from government full scholarship. That’s not all. As you know, we are paying bursary allowance of N20,000 to Deltan students in the tertiary institutions across the country. Government investment also extends to infrastructure, notably the Faculty of Engineering, Oleh Campus of Delta State University (DELSU); male accommodation at Anwai campus; the senate/administrative building at DELSU Abaraka; the library complex at Anwai campus amongst many others.

Our state university is a multi-campus institution spread across the three senatorial zones, Oleh, Abaraka and Asaba. In addition, we have three operational polytechnics at Ozoro, Otefe and Ogwashi-uku. Due to genuine need, four more new polytechnics have been established by government in Abigborodo, Aboh, Sapele and Bomadi.

We also have three colleges of education at Agbor, Warri and Mosogar. At the basic and secondary school level, we are making sure that education is virtually free with quality and quantitative improvement all around.

Right now, over 142 primary schools and 34 secondary schools are being remodelled with the state-of- the-art facilities. In addition, 13 selected secondary schools have been upgraded to international standard with St Patrick College and Nana College completed and commissioned.

As a state that believes in education, it is not surprising that the demand for education keeps growing which led us to build additional 147 primary schools to add to the existing 1,146 public primary schools in the state, bringing the total public primary schools to 1,293 schools.

At the same time, 54 new secondary schools were built and added to the existing 412 public secondary schools, making them 466.

Yet, demand for more schools continues unabated. In addition, since 2008, government has been responsible for the payment of all levies and fees for pupils and students in the state, including external examinations conducted by WAEC and National Business and Technical Examinations Education Board (NABTEB).

We have also encouraged the retraining of 32, 565 primary school teachers to improve their teaching ability and through Education Marshal, we have contained the incidence of out-of-school children in the state.

So far, 500 boys and 480 girls making a total of 980 out-of-school children, have been rescued from the streets and returned to schools. You can see education is an industry in Delta State. Our people have a strong desire to be educated.

Amidst our big projects and programmes, we initiated a couple of quick-win initiatives, to tackle poverty and unemployment; we introduced the poverty alleviation programme with creation of a ministry to drive this process.

It made sense to do this, so our people can be productive and have a cushion pending when some of the big initiatives mature and can contribute to the economic development of the state.

For the micro-credit programme, over 100,000 Deltans have been empowered by this progamme. Some of the micro enterprises have migrated to small and medium scale businesses with some of the products now sold overseas and in prominent shopping malls.

Our partnership with UNIDO to develop a leather and footwear works facility, the construction of this facility is making good progress. This facility is estimated to create over 2000 jobs and should improve quality of shoe production for both local use and export.

Delta is an oil-producing state, so we believe it is the responsibility of government to ensure that oil-producing communities, already suffering from the devastation of their environment, of their wellbeing and productivity should receive some benefits from the proceeds of exploration and export of crude oil.

We set-up an intervention agency, Delta State Oil Producing Development Commission (DESOPADEC) which collects 50% of the 13% derivation to address some of the concerns like poverty, tackling infrastructure challenges such as roads, schools, hospitals, electricity, water, environmental remediation, employment generation etc.

DESOPADEC is changing lives and making things better, however after eight years of operating DESOPADEC, we have observed some serious shortcomings and pitfalls in the work DESOPADEC is doing and have decided that there is need for reform.

Presently, there is a bill before the House of Assembly to restructure DESOPADEC; we hope to accomplish this mission before handing over. I call on the House of Assembly to move fast to pass this bill. Our people are anxious to see a reformed DESOPADEC that will deliver more dividends quickly.

My comments concerning development in Delta State is as brief as I can possibly muster. A lot more could have been said but time presses upon us. However, as I conclude, I wish to say that I am leaving Delta State better than I met it.

I am handing over to a worthy successor, who has the experience and the competence to lead the state to impressive heights. The foundation has been laid for greater growth and development of the state. PDP in Delta state is very stable and united. This was not always the case.

Today, it is the case. Deltans have shown that they can live in unity and that they can be their brother’s keeper.

We have successfully ensured the transfer of power to Delta North without rancour and bitterness. This is an excellent example of political inclusiveness; tongues and tribes may differ, but Deltans are one. If this spirit is sustained, the sky is the limit for Delta State.

Finally, I feel like Julius Ceaser who wrote to the Roman Senate after overcoming many obstacles against the king of Pontus at the battle of Zela. Ceaser wrote: “I came; I saw; I conquered!”

In other words, for me: I came; I saw; I succeeded!
I thank you for your attention.