DELTA: Mixed Blessings In The ‘Big Heart’ State
TO some the answer to the puzzle seems very elementary. It hinges on the binocular you are gazing. The Delta State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Chike Ogeah, thinks there is no iota of doubt that Delta State Governor Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan is the very best.
After all, it is not for nothing that they say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In superlatives, he said events in the state have dramatically changed for the better ever since Uduaghan became the chief executive on May 29, 2007. But resilient opposition leader, Chief Tony Ezeagwu, who is the state’s Chairman of Labour Party, dismissed the eight years of Uduaghan with a wave of the hand.
His legacies, Ogeah insisted, abound. Even the purblind can see them. He readily reels them out. It depends on who is remembering him, he argued.
For those young women of child bearing age that could not have children in government owned hospitals because of lack of funds and used to go and meet quacks and get all kinds of problems in child birth, today they can walk into first class hospitals where everything is free.
Ogeah said that the free maternal health care, free zero to five years, free elderly care is one of the government’s novel programmes. At length, he talks of first class hospitals scattered all over the state.
There is the Eku Baptist Hospital, Delta State University Teaching Hospital, Oghara (DELSUTH), the Mother and Child Hospitals in Warri and Asaba.
These, he insisted are apart from the major hospitals that have been renovated. Also, the rural poor have health care brought to their doorsteps through ambulances and hospitals that have been refurbished and built for them. So, in the area of health, the government has done spectacularly well, he noted.
In the area of education, the Delta government spokesman explained that poor and lonely child of school going age, who could not go to school because he didn’t have money to pay for it before now, is, at present, going to first class model schools, which the government built across the state — about 12 of them.
Continuing, he remarked that there are those schools that were refurbished and brought to international standard such as Nana College, Warri; St Patrick’s College, Asaba, and so many others.
They are first class schools with recreational facilities and e-library. Not only are these children able to go to school, there is also a programme, the edu marshal, which compels them to go to school.
If any parent does not send his or her ward to these schools provided for them, they are liable to be taken to court. The commissioner disclosed that on Wednesday, April 29, he went with the governor to Issele Uku, Aniocha North Local Council to inspect the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises School of Entrepreneurship.
There is the footwear technology facility there and that the government gets support from United Nations International Development Organisation (UNIDO), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University, Cambridge University in the latest technology.
He said: “They have sent in the latest gadgets to help us set up the factory. I told the governor that this should be called the University of Entrepreneurship. By the time we finished, all these akwocha (white traditional cloth of Anioma people) will be produced there massively.
This will be the hub of all that we have done in the small and medium scale enterprises. Everything is under one roof. “These are people who were given very minute loans to start one, two-man businesses that has grown to 10-man, 20-man businesses. From micro, you go small and from small you go to medium and then big. We have seen all these things blooming right under our eyes.
This is just an icing on the cake. These are the soft infrastructure of human development that we have achieved with these SMEs.
That is a wonderful thing.” Still in Uduaghan’s defence, Ogeah said the government has also put up a five star performance in the area of sports, noting that it is on record that the country had not won anything in that area for a long time, but due to the fact that the state government had a precise programme, it took a bill to the House of Assembly for a term tenure for officials of the Sports Council so that they could sit down and plan short and long term programmes.
He said that it is strictly for that reason that the country got the Ese Brumes, Blessing Okagbares and the little children that are winning all the laurels.
Speaking with a little bit of bravado, he said: “All these didn’t just happen, but were planned. All these things I have been talking about come under the three points agenda of Uduaghan: human capital, infrastructure and most importantly, peace and security.
We have the Delta Beyond Oil, which is the strategy for achieving this.” The Asaba-Ughelli dualisation road project is not yet complete, he admitted but quickly added that two of the three sections have been completed. The Asaba section, which is yet to be completed, is due to the fact that the contracting process was not strictly adhered to.
He gave reasons for the delay: “We had to go back. I think they initially under quoted. The Ughelli and Kwale sides have been completed.” He said that only two weeks ago, ultra modern flyovers in Asaba and Warri built to lessen the kind of stress commuters go through on the road, wasting man and economic hours were commissioned.
Ogeah noted that the bridge in Asaba is a major connection between the Delta State capital and the northern part of the country, adding that about 67 inter state roads, which included the Refinery Road in Warri were constructed. The Commissioner said that so much have been achieved in the area of transportation in the state, which is 40 per cent riverine.
Airports have been built in Asaba and Usubi, near Warri, and ports in Koko and Warri, but the only thing that the state government could not do at these ports is, dredging, which is up to the Federal Government to do and has not been done.
Ogeah said that the whole idea is to have an integrated transport hub in the state involving land, air and sea. For the first time, big boats that carry people safely were bought.
He said: “We have built jetties for them. Through this way, we try to bring the dividends of democracy to our people, knowing that we also have riverine people.”
On Public Private Partnership (PPP), the government, he let it known, has done all that it was supposed to do in the two major projects — the Warri Business Park and the Leisure Theme Park in Udu. The image maker emphasised that the only impediment to the smooth take off of the projects is the financing on the part of private investors. He declared: “That is why they have not gone as we expected.
Again, we will leave to the incoming government to bring its blueprint on how to move the projects forward. All around us, there are legacies and landmarks of this administration all over the place. Every Deltan can see all these except those who want to be blinded or have other agenda.”
“We also empower our people why trying to do all these things. Delta State is now the Mecca of the movie industry. So many Nollywood films are shot here in Asaba because we have built the city and made it conducive. All these boys you see are the legacies of Uduaghan.
Just the other day, comedians organised a party for the governor with their own money just to show appreciation and love. So many artistes were discovered by the Delta Talent Quest.” In the educational sector, Ogeah explained that N500 million was given out recently to 100 people.
Each recipient, a first class graduate was given N5 million, a scheme, which the government has been doing for about eight years. The recipients are allowed to further their education in any institution in the world. Unimpressed with Ogeah, Ezeagwu said that the only legacy that he could remember Uduaghan for is the flyover in Asaba, which he insisted was constructed where it is not needed.
He started: “As far as I am concerned, I don’t see any legacy left by him. All that his government has succeeded in creating in the last eight years is just problems because any serious government that comes into power in this state, will have to re-do everything that has been done before for it to be able to make any impact.”
Buttressing his assertion, the Labour Party Chairman said that with the kind of drainages in the capital, Asaba, anytime it rains, there is flood everywhere. And for that reason, Ezeagwu argued that any reasonable government that wants to work and give dividends of democracy to the people, will have to use say, N5, 000 for a job that was originally done with say, N1, 000 for the simple reason that such a government will need to uproot all that had be done to be able to do another one. He charged: “
So, they ended up creating more problems instead of achieving any legacy. As far as I am concerned, I can’t look around and say this is the legacy they left behind.
Take a look at the legacy the government is supposed to leave behind, I mean the street light project, which no longer comes on after several millions have been pumped into it. Only God knows if they still collect money for the diesel to power the generators.
I remember that the last time the light on the Benin-Asaba Expressway was turn on, was when President Goodluck Jonathan visited in March. After he left, the light went off, so what do we have to show?” He demanded to be driven round Asaba and take a look at roads and drainages to determine, which one is fantastic, lamenting that all the public taps have since run dry in a town which is situated right on the bank of the majestic River Niger.
One question naturally comes to mind. What of Asaba Airport? He adjusted his seat and coughed slightly, thundering: “Have you crossed that airport at night? This is an airport where planes do not land once the time is 6pm. Is that an airport? What is there is an aerodrome, not an airport.
The runway is bad. It is a sub-standard airport, which cannot be compared to what we have in Akwa Ibom. When the airport at Uyo, Akwa Ibom was opened, it was celebrated. The president was there. Why was our own not commissioned like that of Akwa Ibom? At the end of the day, there is nothing to show. It is just making a tarred road and putting a house beside it.
The equipment is not there. The place is already degenerating. Ezeagwu alleged that the television sets and some of the air conditioners at the airports no longer work and with only one and a half airlines plying the routes because, one is not constant on that route, he said that planes only land there in the afternoon, but in the evening, there is no such thing.
He further pooh-poohed: “Each time, the pilot wants to land at the airport, he always apologises, saying that the run way is not too good and pleading with passengers to bear with him. You might think the pilot is not landing well. The pilot and the airlines do not want to take the blame and so have to prepare you for a rough landing.
It is not always smooth. There is nothing to applaud the 16 years of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government misrule in Delta State.”
Ezeagwu advised that for real development to take place, it should be total, as anything done should be well done so that another man does not come and start all over again, adding that renovation takes more money than building a new structure.
He said that the Asaba township stadium, which was started by former Governor James Ibori but has not been completed by Uduaghan in eight years. Against the backdrop of the numerous schools that have been renovated and built by the administration and bursary, another question readily comes to mind.
What of the educational sector with the massive renovation of schools and giving out of bursary and scholarship to students?
“The renovation of schools is done on a counterpart basis. It is through counterpart funding and that is why in most cases after building the schools, the government cannot open it because it has not paid its counterpart money. How many schools in Asaba? How many in Delta State? It is only St. Patrick’s College and Osadennis High School, both in Asaba. Where else can you find such schools in Delta? There are still schools that do no not have roofs in Delta State.
There are still schools here in Delta State that do not have seats for pupils to sit. So, what kind of legacies are we talking about? I don’t think I have any credit to give to the administration.” As for scholarship and bursary for students, Ezeagwu said that so many questions are still left unanswered.
“How many real people got the scholarship and bursary? Where are they? Who are those that got it? It is only on the pages of newspapers that we hear of scholarships and bursaries.
You should go to tertiary institutions and find out from the students if they get it.” The opposition leader concluded that if one takes a look at the amount of money that entered the state as revenue, both from the federal government and Internally Generated Revenue in the last eight years, one will nave no choice, but to fully concur with him that it is not commensurate with the facts on the ground.