On June 30, 2015, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, who was newly sworn in then, promised the people of Delta state that his administration would provide 6000 direct jobs to the people of the state as part of the reward for voting him into power as governor of the oil rich Delta state. This goes to show part of prosperity agenda of the governor.
The prosperity agenda was the greatest slogan of the governor in the days of the campaign, the slogan with which he, his supporters and campaigners then hoodwinked Deltans to vote him into power believing that with the promise of prosperity, Delta will become an Eldorado, another Dubai, as the governor takes hold of the seat of power in government house. And the people fell in for it. The promise was quite encouraging, dreams then were high and hope for a greater Delta was in the mind of everyone.
The promise made by the governor did not include indirect jobs but direct jobs for the people so as to boost their living condition and create avenue for them to make wealth and empower others in continuous succession. The programme and dream was big and it was worth going into as Deltans were eager to come out of pains and live better lives, train their children and eat good food.
Having made the promise of the direct jobs, the governor said the jobs will be created through six entrepreneurship schemes that would create jobs and wealth, hence lead to diversification of the economy of the state and take people away from looking for government jobs that were noon-existence as his government was not interested in civil service employment.
The schemes included Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP), Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP); Production and Processing Support Programme (PPSP); Tractorisation; Extension of Loans and Development of Agro-industries.
The schemes were unveiled when the governor, speaking through his deputy, Kingsley Otuaro, addressed members of traditional rulers’ councils in the 25 local government areas of the state. He said the state government was determined and poised to deliver prosperity to everyone in Delta through its prosperity agenda.
According to Okowa: “These initiatives will create jobs and wealth, diversify the economy, engage youths in productive enterprises, nurture entrepreneurs and leaders as well as promote communal peace and security.” He said the state government was launching the job creation initiative to ensure that it delivers prosperity to everyone in Delta through its SMART agenda.
Okowa explained that the meeting with the traditional rulers was to get them acquainted with the government’s job creation programmes as key stakeholders and partners in the administration of the state.
“We want to take advantage of our revered traditional institution to ensure that beneficiaries are sons and daughters of our communities so that we can maximize the gains of all that we are putting into the programmes,” he said.
Explaining further how the scheme will work, Okowa said the royal palaces of traditional rulers across the state would serve as centres for collection and submission of the forms for interested participants in any of the schemes.
According to the governor, although the forms could also be accessed and downloaded online, the recourse to the traditional rulers to assist in the distribution and collation of the forms was to allay any fears of political marginalisation as the royal fathers are non-partisan.
While giving a graphic detail of the scheme, the chairman of the then ad-hoc committee on job creation and present commissioner for economic planning, Dr. Kingsley Emu, explained that under the YAGEP scheme, participants across the 25 local government areas will be screened and selected by a team of consultants after which they would undergo one month training at Songhai farms for life skills, attitudinal change and hands on management.
He revealed that upon completion of the training, the participants will proceed on a one-month internship after which they would be given starter packs to start their own farms and begin the process of job and wealth creation to achieve this noble objective.
Beneficiaries will be granted micro credit through available financing windows, subsidized bulldozers, tractors implements, chemicals and high quality seeds.
Emu thereafter advised artisans to organise themselves into cooperatives to enable them access the “micro credit and agricultural loans with liberal repayment terms in line with the extant micro-credit programme.”
At the announcement of the programme on June 30, 2015, many Deltans who have some mathematical knowledge took their pencils and did some calculations based on the six months plan by the government. It was believed that the programme would run on every six months, hence in a year, the state government is expected to empower at least 12,000 youths from across the 25 local government areas of the state.
In that case, if 12,000 youths are to be empowered in a year following the calculation, not less than 36,000 youths are expected to have been removed from the streets of Delta as Governor Okowa celebrates three years in office on May 29, 2018 next week Tuesday. But available facts show that less than 3000 youths have so far been empowered from the office of the job creation officer, Professor Eric Eboh, from the inception of the government till May 29, 2018. This is far below the number envisaged by the governor for six months.
The dream of many Deltans has been dashed as the programme, following the blueprint, has not met its aims and objectives. Expected 36000 beneficiaries minus 3000, it is short of 27,000 as envisaged from the beginning. While the few youths that have been empowered may have made a living for themselves, if they have not sold the starter packs and fled the state, the percentage of those not empowered is heavily on the high side. The reason for the governor’s inability to meet the promise is very much unclear.
The governor has not actually made good his promise. In the previous administration, the office of the state micro-credit programme, headed by Dr. Antonia Ashiedu, empowered over 100,000 youths and women in the eight years of the administration’s life span. In that case, one may not be wrong to conclude that the previous government empowered between forty and fifty thousand in the first four years. This is, however, subject to correction.
So many youths are in the state in need of jobs. Okowa has said from the beginning that his government will not employ civil servants, noting that he will create wealth for Delta people through the empowerment programme which has only reached less than 3000 people of the state for three years.
Every year, Delta youths are graduating from the university and looking for white collar jobs. Whether there are vacancies or not, the higher institutions will continue to churn out graduates in the society. But unfortunately, there are no jobs for them. They must seek means of livelihood for themselves. Even those who were employed at the twilight of former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s administration, Okowa sacked them promising to look into their case but that has died a silent death.
So much protest was made with petitions, including many vague promises from Mike Okeme, special adviser to the governor on labour and industrial relations, they were all unfulfilled. The state labour market has continued to swell and the population increasing on a daily basis. Many people had died and a great number retired from the state civil service but employment will not be made.
What hope do Deltans have as the administration moves into its fourth and final year? As it is now, politics has taken over and the noise is everywhere. It is good that promises are not made on political reasons but they should be made after a careful analysis of the possibility of bringing them to fruition.