A trailblazing journey: Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s legacy of transformation
Eight years ago, amidst a wave of anticipation, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa solemnly placed his right hand on a Holy Bible in the heart of Asaba, the bustling Delta State Capital. In his usual calm, cool and collected style, he pledged to faithfully execute his duties, protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and, above all, serve the people of Delta State with unyielding integrity.
Moments after taking office, the former Senator, now Governor, articulated his resolute vision with conviction: “Our people deserve opportunities to pursue their dreams of happiness and prosperity in an environment of security, peace, justice, and understanding. I will drive the process by God’s grace,” the new Governor said.
Today, as Governor Okowa’s term draws to a close, his legacy speaks volumes. Not only did he fulfil his promises, but he exceeded expectations, embodying a leadership style that embraces tranquillity and composure, demonstrating that resounding achievements can be attained without unnecessary fanfare. This is a brief account of how Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s exceptional leadership, dedication, and visionary thinking have transformed Delta State.
Throughout his eight-year tenure, Governor Okowa has focused on six strategic imperatives. He has a laser-like focus on generating employment, fostering wealth creation, providing skills training, and nurturing entrepreneurial leaders. His ultimate goal was to reduce reliance on the government as the sole provider of jobs, tackle youth unrest, and enhance economic diversification and competitiveness.
This is why under Governor Okowa’s guidance, Delta State has witnessed a revolution in education that produced globally recognized intellectuals, innovators, leaders, and managers. His unparalleled commitment to transforming the education sector in Delta State is unprecedented in Nigeria’s history. Sixty-two new public primary and secondary schools were established, with over 80% of existing schools undergoing significant upgrades.
Now, gone are the days when Delta State had only one university and three polytechnics. Today, the state boasts of the University of Delta in Agbor, Dennis Osadebe University in Asaba, and the Delta State University of Science and Technology in Ozoro. These institutions were established by Okowa to broaden access to tertiary education, addressing the pressing issue of overwhelming demand and limited admissions. Governor Okowa has also ensured that these new universities are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and cutting-edge equipment — creating an environment conducive to knowledge and innovation.
Similarly, the revitalization of existing technical colleges in Sapele, Agbor, Kwale, Issele-Uku, Ofagbe, and Ogor, along with the establishment of nine new Model Technical Colleges located in Asaba, Obiaruku, Orerokpe, Oghara, Uvwie, Irri, Omadino, Akugbene and Owa-Alero has transformed the landscape of technical education in the state. These colleges offer a unique blend of technical skills and academic knowledge, attracting students from private secondary schools across Delta State. Since 2015, the administration has also provided technical and vocational education to over 11,599 youths, equipping them with essential skills for the workforce.
Recognizing the significance of employment opportunities for Delta State’s youth, the Okowa administration has also supported the establishment of over 15,000 entrepreneurial ventures, creating more than 250,805 direct jobs and over 1,325,750 indirect employment opportunities through programs like the Girls Entrepreneurship and Skills Programme (GEST), the Youths Agricultural Entrepreneurs Program (YAGEP), the Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP), Information and Communication Technology – Youth Empowerment Program (ICT-YEP) amongst others.
As an avid healthy lifestyle enthusiast, Governor Okowa’s focus on sports as a form of human capital development has propelled Delta State to unprecedented victories. The state achieved remarkable success at the 19th, 20th, and 21st National Sports Festivals, securing a staggering total of 1,420 medals. Delta State’s triumphs stand as a testament to the transformative power of dedicated leadership and a pursuit of excellence.
The most visible of Governor Okowa’s accomplishments are his remarkable accomplishments in the area of Delta State’s infrastructure. During his tenure, the state has witnessed the construction of an impressive network of over 883 road projects, covering a remarkable distance of over 2,000 kilometres – as well as over 1,400 kilometres of drainages in Asaba, Uvwie and Warri environs. These roads and drainage channels have not only connected communities and mitigated flooding across the state but have also paved the way for economic growth and improved mobility.
Additionally, as a medical doctor, he embarked on a mission to revolutionize healthcare in Delta State. His commitment to improving healthcare access and services is evident in the establishment of the Delta State Contributory Health Commission. Over 1.3 million residents have been enrolled in the commission’s healthcare program, ensuring that quality healthcare is accessible to all.
Under Governor Okowa’s leadership, the General Hospital in Asaba has been completed and equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, enhancing institutional capacity and service delivery. In addition to numerous primary healthcare facilities, hospitals, and cottage hospitals that have undergone extensive renovations and upgrades to meet the evolving healthcare needs of the population, the Advanced Diagnostics Medical Complex and the Mother and Child Medical Center in Owa-Alero and Warri have also been constructed and equipped.
We cannot end this piece without touching on one of Governor Okowa’s landmark projects — the Multibillion Naira Ultra-Modern Prof. Chike Edozien Secretariat. This edifice, which has drastically reduced overhead costs, improved operational efficiency, and ensured optimum service delivery in the civil service, houses 27 ministries and accommodates over 5,000 workers. Governor Okowa has always prioritized the welfare of Civil Servants in Delta State, this is why, currently, Delta State has over 50 thousand regularly paid workers in the state civil service, and the state is one of the largest employers of labour in Nigeria.
As we bid farewell to an extraordinary era and embrace a promising future, we reflect on the remarkable journey led by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa. His dedication, innovative thinking, and transformative actions have left an indelible mark on the lives of the people he has served. Delta State owes its progress and prosperity to his visionary leadership. We remain grateful for the era of positive change he has ushered in and eagerly anticipate the bright future that awaits our state.
Veronica Abang-Gwam is the Special Assistant on New Media to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa. She tweets with the handle @abangdove.