Nigeria: Delta – Still Searching for Democratic Bearing, 24 Years After

May 29, 2023, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, will be counting 24 years of governorship in Delta State. Chief James Ibori, who was the second civilian governor of the state,  handed over state power to Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan in 2007. Uduaghan took the state through some of its low and turbulent moments in history.

After spending eight years, he handed over power to Senator Ifeanyi Okowa in 2015 to complete a 24-year cycle of PDP administrations. In a contemporary Nigerian state, a 24-year-old daughter would have become a mother of about five children and with the firstborn almost completing secondary school. But what did we get from the PDP in 24 years of governance in Delta State? Not even one standard flyover bridge!

Some recent pictures from Rivers State represent some of the newly built roads and 12 flyover bridges, thanks to the state governor, Nyesom Wike. They are actually part of his achievements in less than eight years.

The flyover bridges and roads were built by the German construction giant, Julius Berger Nig. Limited, is a company is known for quality, durability and beauty. However, the contrary appears to be the case in Delta. For example, in 24 years, there is no single flyover bridge in the state that meets the Wike’s imprimatur of quality and beauty. Anyone in doubt can visit the Effurun roundabout, near Warri and see a Delta model of flyover or Asaba the state capital which has been described as a glorified village in many quarters.

Governments all over the world are established to serve the needs of their people – think out the areas of need and then fill the gap. Prior to Governor Wike’s assumption of office, Chibuike Amaechi, immediate past Minister of Transportation, was governor of Rivers State in 2007. Amaechi took over the reins of power and made primary education and healthcare infrastructural development his own areas of priority.

His ability to envision a development roadmap witnessed massive investment in the rebuilding and furnishing of all primary schools and healthcare centres in every community in Rivers State. At the moment, Rivers State to a reasonable extent can be said to have addressed critical issues of primary school education and healthcare infrastructures. Amaechi, within the same period, employed 13,000 school teachers and about 6,000 medical doctors and nurses to service both sectors.

On its own part, Delta State by its nature and topography is blessed with a rich agricultural landscape and it is a garri and starch-producing state. Farming is the main, and indeed, the only factory in the state. Yet tragically, in the last 24 years that the PDP has ruled the state, investment in farming that could lift up the agricultural potential of the state has been poor. Successive governments were not able to elevate the production of garri into a major source of revenue or made the commodity affordable to most Deltans.

Sadly, what is still in use is the garri production technique that has been in use since the 1960s. Yet Delta State boasts of highly educated men and women.

That is the sad irony! Painfully, the government appears to have no idea of the fact that in many ways, starch export can be a major source of foreign exchange earnings. What a government! As it is, Delta is not reputed for food production even with a vast area of fertile land across the length and breadth of the state. As of today, if Benue State does not convey yam to cities in Delta, the people of Delta would sadly have no yam to eat! Similarly, if Kano or Jigawa does not process its beans and transport the same to towns in Delta State, there would be no beans in the oil-rich state.

If Plateau does not give her tomatoes and onions, many Deltans would have to contend with meals without their good flavours! Is it not a thing of shame or irony that Benue State now supplies processed garri to Delta State and other Niger Delta states? Why do we as Deltans delude ourselves with the title of an oil-producing state yet we do not control the oil neither do the people truly enjoy the revenue from oil!

Yes, by May 29, 2023, the PDP would have governed Delta for 24 years, yet there is no tangible and indeed commendable physical infrastructure in the education and health sectors. For example, the Idjerhe Grammar, in Ethiope West Local Government Area of Delta State, was established as a boarding school with adequate hostel facilities for boys and girls, a well-stocked library, a science laboratory and a massive poultry farm.

Today, the hostel facilities have become open toilets and many of the classroom blocks are without a roof, while the two useable classroom blocks have no benches and writing boards for learning. One expects that government should have revitalised an institution like this for the development of human manpower! The same Idjerhe has about 40 autonomous communities and a conservatively estimated human population of about one million people.

Yet in 24 years, the jurisdiction known as Idjerhe has no single dependable healthcare centre in any of the communities to respond to the health challenges of the people, thus exposing them to untimely and avoidable death on a periodic basis. This narrative is the same in virtually many parts of the state.

Luckily, the very essence of democracy is that it is a system that requires people everywhere in the world to exercise their right to vote for a government that will serve the needs of the vast majority of the people. The PDP, as it is, has sufficiently shown it has no solution to the issues and challenges of development in Delta.

Unfortunately, many PDP gladiators and acclaimed leaders appear to have lost sight of the fact that Delta has simply lost 24 years! It has been a tragic story of stunted growth in the last 24 years! The political actors in these past 24 years seem to thrive mainly in mediocrity and quackery. And they mouth it with great pride that: “You don’t give power to intelligent people less you become irrelevant”.

Chief Matthew Edevbie, MD/CEO, Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company, PHEDC, once appropriately captured the pathetic situation when he described them as “Team 11th of Eleven” in a public function in Port Harcourt. Matthew Edevbie was obviously referring to this set of politicians who cannot compete strictly on integrity and honour without the help of political thugs!

Sadly, for 24years, Delta has assumed the unenviable status of a state with a sad history of intellectual deficiency! Yet, the people are dying and have no factory to work in. Even though some of our sons and daughters are well-educated and have travelled to places like Dubai, Doha, Paris and other beautiful cities and countries, their conduct when entrusted with public offices appear to be less than salutary!

They seem to be driven by pecuniary aims in thought and action, and they appear to lack the much-needed commitment to achieve laudable community goals for the good of the state. They need money but not the effort that creates money. They leap for joy and award to themselves vain titles when they construct roads that easily fade away in a few months after the commissioning exercise! Why has this been so? According to a school of thought, Delta State PDP from its very foundation was not known for merit, and consequently, for the past 24 years, it has not changed in orientation and ethical conduct.

For illustrative purpose, in 2003, I went to visit a PDP lawmaker in the Delta State House of Assembly with a proposal for a bill for an act to prohibit government sponsorship of pilgrimage to the Holy land in Delta. I took time explaining to him the spiritual invalidity of the annual voyage, its constitutional violations, social injustice, economic wastage and corruption elements. And after a moment of silence, the lawmaker told me on the spot: “E no go work”. No further word could suit him and so I left.

A few days later, he narrated his experience to somebody: “I just carry waka come from Port Harcourt that he should come and sponsor a bill to prohibit government sponsorship of pilgrimage when he is planning to go for pilgrimage. That kind thing go work?” In reality, the lawmaker actually went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem but the journey till today has not imbued in him any form of righteousness. It is a case of moral failure.

It’s the trademark of Delta PDP – mediocrity and mind emptiness. In a similar show of shame, another PDP lawmaker from Ethiope West came to Jesse a few years ago with a two-metre size caravan tagged: “PDP water spot”. The project, which seemed to have failed from the very beginning and was touted as a constituency project was designed to distribute N5 sachet water to market women every four market days. The project, which speaks about the quality of persons the PDP pushes into government in Delta, actually made a mockery of the party, whose insignia was boldly inscribed on the body of the caravan.

The project never distributed sachet water a second time more than the three bags it distributed on the very day it was launched. And until Senator Ovie Omo-Agege recovered his stolen mandate, the PDP Senator who was at the Senate was not known for any effective legislative representation. For the period he stayed in the Senate before he was eventually removed, the senator remained one of those without any known bill to his credit! Without a single motion or bill passed in his honour! The PDP raised people who become lions only at home.

As it is, we no longer need politicians who jumped from streets corners into becoming commissioners and assembly members; politicians who take us as an enemy for telling them the truth about their political irresponsibility and mismanagement of our commonwealth; politicians who become overnight millionaires; politicians who celebrate to high heavens invaluable chieftaincy titles that are daily thrown at whoever has few naira and kobo to display.

For 24 years, a PDP-led government was not known to have provided citizens-driven transformation. There are no social amenities, no electricity, no low-cost housing estates, no pipe-borne water, no transportation services and no commendable improvement in the health and education sectors.

In spite of all this, some unstable minds have said that both PDP and APC are the same. To the extent that the APC has some PDP defectors, I can agree, but until the PDP goes down, our state will not experience true development and it will not occur to Delta politicians that there is democracy in the country. As Professor Wole Soyinka puts it: “If the APC is not the answer to our problems, there is no reason to go back to the instigators of the problems”. He actually calls the PDP a “gathering of deceit”.

“There is a time for everything,” they say. It’s time to vote the PDP and its government out of power and allow Delta State to breathe fresh air.

Edafe, a social commentator, wrote from Port Harcourt.


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