By Peter Danjuma Kwali
Delta State governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa was recently selected by PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar Abubakar as his running mate. The choice of the 63year-old medical doctor over other prominent rivals has understandably elicited a lot of interest across the nation. Here are some interesting facts about PDP vice presidential candidate, Ifeanyichukwu Arthur Okowa
1. OKOWA HAS ACHIEVED A LOT AS GOVERNOR:
Okowa’s SMART Agenda development focus has delivered 120,000 direct and 1,000,000 indirect jobs through targeted job and wealth creation programmes. 13,000 entrepreneurs have also received targeted government support.
Under his watch, 798 road projects spanning over 1,800 kilometres of road have been completed. Over 20 kilometers of these roads are in riverine areas which testifies to Okowa’s commitment to ensure that development gets to all Delta people including those who live in areas with difficult terrains and poor access.
Also, over 970 kilometres of drains have been done while work on 22 bridges, both new and ongoing, has attained significant progress.
As a result of his strong focus on human capital development, Delta has also made exceptional progress in the education sector under Okowa’s watch. Massive investment in this area is delivering significant dividends.
These include 3 new universities upgraded from existing institutions: University of Delta (formerly College of Education, Agbor); Delta State University of Science and University (former Delta State Polytechnic, Ozoro); and Dennis Osadebey University (former campus of Delta State University) Anwai, Asaba.
The government’s landmark achievements also include 9 additional technical colleges, 45 new secondary and model schools; 17 primary schools and 8,617 classroom blocks – all completed over the last 7 years.
In the health sector, Okowa’s achievements include a a reinvigorated primary health care system and the establishment of a contributory health insurance scheme with over 1,100,000 enrollees. Beneficiaries include children, widows and pre-maternal patients as well as other public and private sector clients. In all, 540 primary health centres have been deployed in the 25 local councils and and 270 wards of the state.
2. OKOWA IS AN IGBO MAN FROM THE SOUTH SOUTH:
The Delta governor who goes by the Igbo traditional title of Ekwueme, that is “one who keeps his promises” is an Igbo son whom providence has placed among his kith and kin of Anioma in the South South of Nigeria. He is very proud of the double heritage and the unique status that comes with it.
This could bode well for the PDP presidential ticket as he identifies with NdIgbo which are yet to produce a democratic President and also with the general South which is clamoring to be in power come 2023.
3. OKOWA IS BRILLIANT:
He received the second-best result in the Higher School Certificate Examination in the then Bendel State in 1976, before proceeding to the University of Ibadan where he obtained an MBBS in Medicine and Surgery, graduating in 1981 at the age of 22.
After his youth service the following year, Mr Okowa worked briefly as a medical officer with the Bendel State Hospital Management Board.
He later went into private practice when he established the Victory Medical Centre at Igbanke, a border town between Delta and Edo states.
4. OKOWA IS A HIGHLY EXPERIENCED PUBLIC SERVANT:
A key reason for Okowa’s strong performance as governor is that he understands the workings of government works and the inflection points of good governance. This is because of his wide ranging experience at the local, state and federal government levels. His public service CV is very rich. He has served in up to five different roles in government, including Local Government Secretary, Local Government Council Chairman, Commissioner, Senator and Governor.
He was first appointed the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources from 1999 to 2001 and was redeployed to the Ministry of Water Resources where he was until 2003 when he was reassigned to the Ministry of Health.
After serving as Secretary to the Delta State Government under former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, Okowa would later serve as a Senator, and eventually, Governor.
5. OKOWA IS A SERIOUS CHRISTIAN:
The Delta Governor is a tolerant and cosmopolitan public servant who has a deep respect for all religions. As he said in his recent Eid-el-Kabir message to Muslims, Nigeria benefits when citizens embrace peaceful co-existence and genuine brotherhood. Okowa also takes his own faith, Christianity, very seriously. His devotion has been demonstrated through various gestures, including a recent N25 million donation to Living Faith Church, Asaba, for the completion of church building projects. Also, he received a merit award by the Asaba Diocese, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, for his development strides in the State and for his support to the church.
Other impressive accomplishments of the Okowa administration in Delta include the Ultra-modern Prof. Chike Edozien Central Secretariat Complex, the Stephen Keshi Stadium as well as the Asaba Storm Water Drainage project and the ongoing Warri Storm Water Drainage project.
Clearly, Okowa, a calm and inclusive leader who prefers to let his work speak for him is leaving a solid and impactful legacy in Delta State. This is good news for the Atiku-Okowa ticket.It is also an additional reason for Nigerians to support a team which has the capacity to unite the country, fight poverty, grow the economy, create opportunities and make Nigerians proud of their country again.
*Danjuma Kwali is a public affairs analyst.