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Silver Lining, As Ifeanyi Okowa Tackles Flood Situation By FIDELIS EGUGBO.

The Governor attending to press people.

GOVERNANCE, to say the least, is not an easy venture, especially in such a complex country as Nigeria where every sector seems to be grappling with one challenge or the other. Yes! Look around you, despite the fact that Africa is one of the oldest continents in the world due to its rock formation, the continent seems so young in terms of development that one wonders if it would have done better without trying to copy everything Western.

Apart from exotic cars, well designed individuals' houses and a few other items, Africa, Nigeria in particular seems to be comfortable chasing technologies that are no longer in use in most developed countries. 

For instance, most of the developed countries will have a good laugh when they see the coaches we are celebrating for our trains.   The challenges are enormous to the extent that one cannot but, pity those who have been entrusted with the leadership responsibilities of serving the people through the delivery of democratic dividends.

Asaba, for instance, in the last few days, witnessed a good amount of rainfall with its attendant flooding.  It is an unfortunate situation and naturally, people will blame the Delta State Government for failing to check the flood, despite the fact that the challenge preceded it, and even at that, it is doing well in that regard.

As an individual, I believe that as a people, most of us are guilty of contributing to the flood menace;, we should all share in the blame for failing to do the right thing.  Imagine a situation where a known water discharge point is sold to a property developer who, because of his financial muscle, goes ahead to sandfill such a place and erect structures.  Of course, water will find its levels and the victims of such may not know what to do or won't have the means to do it right.  Again, when you are aware that an area is flood-prone and you go ahead to erect structures, naturally, you will be living with fish and other aquatic animals.  All that a compassionate government can do in such situation is to set up a transit camp until the flood recedes because, you are already aware that annually, flood is virtually bound to sack you from your home.

Over the years,  residents of Asaba are aware of the Iyi-Abi River at Ibusa road; however, the road is being threatened not because the river overflows its bank, but, because, its route has been totally cut-off by a “sensitive developer”.  Of course, all those who lives around the area are already “enjoying” the benefits of having developers spending huge amount of money to build on the river after sand filling.

There is every likelihood that most of these buildings have no approved plans from necessary organs of government but, when government decides to pull down such structures down for the benefits of the larger society, the government will be labelled in a negative toga.  Again, those who are selling the plots of land; those who understand the terrain are not also having the interest of the masses at heart.

Governor Ifeanyi Okowa having been in the system for over 28 years that Delta State was created, knew exactly the challenges facing Deltans as he has never left the state in the true sense of the word apart from a four year stay in Abuja as a Senator.  So, there is no doubt that he is already equipped with the knowledge of what to do. But, the biggest question is, does he have the means to do those things?.  Naturally, finance has been a major obstacle, particularly at the threshold of his administration as he came with the sobriquet Ekwueme (the promise keeper) which, in a way, made it such that he must choose his words and be careful of his body language because, his words must be his bond.

Before, his emergence as Governor of Delta State, Asaba was already experiencing an annual sacking of homes by flood. In the 1990s, no one ever thought that Asaba would be ravaged by flood necessitated by rainfall but, physical development as stated earlier has changed a lot of things.  Though, subsequent governments tried to tackle the flood situation, Governor Okowa on coming on board, and having known that his administration was going to be hit hard by the populace who desire a flood-free state capital, got experts to look at the situation and took a systematic option with a view to profering lasting solution. 

Contracts were awarded by his administration for storm drainage projects which, on completion, will bring great relief to residents of Asaba usually hit by the annual flood.   As if aware that solutions to the menace are imminent, the rain in that past few days increased in great torrent, wrecking more havoc on the residents of the capital city.  There is even an unconfirmed report that it claimed the life of a young person.

Governor Okowa, as a leader, who feels the pains of the people, recently embarked on fact-finding mission to the sites of the drainage projects.  Of course, he trekked long distances, climbing hilly areas with gaits that made some of us to say that Deltans did not only choose a man who is intelligently fit as their governor but, also, one who is physically sound and will not always sit in the office and rely on second hand reports from the field.

Naturally, we asked him why he had to walk long distances to inspect the project and he said, “from what we saw during the inspection, we are working with specifications.  This current project (at Jesus Saves Road) is within its limit and we are being told that the houses around this project is affecting some of the work being done, but, work is going on and it will connect to the sewage by the Lion House while the other sewage drain will connect to the Agric road sewage.  These projects are all part of the drainage plans for Asaba.  

We have three major drainages that are being executed, but on the whole we have a lot more drainages to construct if we are to control the flow of flood water in Asaba,  We still need about five more drainage projects to effectively tackle flood issues in Asaba to the level we want but, we took the three most critical ones which we have been inspecting today.

We have to manage our finances.  We have to be wise in our spending because these projects cannot be abandoned and we also want to be sure that in our planning process that we are not taking more than we can chew, so that we do not get choked.  In the first four years, we have been able to keep up with payments and projections.  Obviously, there are lots of benefits derivable from the construction of these drainage projects and we will do more."

He added, "We will continue to do our best bearing in mind that we cannot attend to all the projects at once because, we are mindful of the fact that we need to pay our contractors and it is due to the fact that we want to ensure that  our contractors are well paid that we decided to start with the three major drainages out of the eight that were planned for Asaba and as we conclude payment for the projects being carried out now, we will be able to look into the process of awarding new contracts.

I believe that the completion of these ongoing drainage projects will remarkably reduce the water overflow in Asaba, but there is still a lot more to be done,” the governor said..

During that visit, it was also, obvious that while we look up to government to do what it is supposed to do, we should also play our part.  The tempo of work on drainage projects has been affected greatly by the buildings erected on its part; buildings that were out rightly erected on road.  Compensations are being paid on some but, is it every landlord that is ready to take compensation?  Is it everybody that is ready to make sacrifice for the good of the society?

While we share in the blame in the flooding of Asaba, how are we helping government to speedily solve the problem?  Is it by challenging the contractors, or, by erecting new fences in areas the drainage will pass through for us to get compensation or, using the drainages as our refuse dumps to further block existing drains or litter the streets with refuse to enable us turnaround to blame government for inefficiency?

As a state, we are still at a very young stage of development and there is still a lot of work to be done.  Governor Okowa has shown commitment to the development of the state, almost like laying foundation for future development.  That is why a Central Secretariat that will house all Ministries, Departments and Agencies is being constructed, and through his efforts, Asaba has become the destinations of all fans of the Nigeria's Super Eagles as it plays host to international football matches, almost on weekly basis.

The future is bright, there is hope, and as individuals, groups, organisation or whatever, we should adopt the right attitude, bearing in mind that we do not live in isolation.

God bless Delta State. 

(As published on page 10 of The Pointer Newspaper of today, Sunday, June 16, 2019.).

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