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Omo-Agege: An edge over others

Omo-Agege: An edge over others
May 18
10:04 2022

I fully expected some of the reactions I received from colleagues, friends and a few seniors when I was announced to design and execute the communications and media strategy for Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, the deputy senate president’s bid for the governorship of Delta state.

Of the many reactions, two stuck with me. One was from a younger colleague and a close friend who currently edits one of Nigeria’s biggest newspapers. He said: “On this your appointment, I don’t know whether to tell you congratulations or ask what the heck you think you are doing”. I chuckled. I knew what he wanted to say, but I asked him what he meant anyway. “I am just here wondering why you a former presidential spokesman and former News Agency of Nigeria MD, would accept to run a state governorship campaign media,” he said.

The second reaction that stuck was from a senior colleague. A very well known retired TV executive of Delta state origin. “Congratulations,” he said. Before I could say thank you, he fired off rapidly: “I am happy you are doing this, but are you not backing the wrong horse? APC? Delta state? You know Delta is a PDP state, so what do you think you are doing?”… and so on and so forth.

My response to both men forms the basis of what I’m going to say here.

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To my bright young friend, I explained that Delta state is in a desperate situation. And where we are in our state, there’s no longer any big or small man. There are no former presidential spokesmen or former NAN managing directors. It is just us, the people, against them the government.

I told him that since the beginning of 13% derivation from crude oil receipts, Delta has earned close to N20 trillion. In simple math, that’s N20,000 billion. I challenged him to ask his reporters in Warri and Asaba to capture the state in one word. “Deplorable,” he said. “ I know Delta very well. I have been there many times”.

The fact is it is worse than deplorable. In Delta, poverty walks on four legs in unpaved streets of filth and mud. There are only very few parts of our cities that you come upon and say; “I’ll want to live here”. Criminality seems to be deliberately condoned, maybe even encouraged. Almost everywhere else outside the capital, Asaba, seems besieged.

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There are police and military checkpoints every few yards on almost every major road. But in between these checkpoints are black spots of horrendous criminality and tales of woe and helplessness.

In private circles, there’s a conversation that suggests that criminality is condoned as a sublime weapon to scare well to do indigenes from coming home. This way, thugs, goons and their sponsors in power won’t have to answer too many questions to the elite and others about how the state is being governed- and misgoverned.

Only last week, journalists in Warri who cover the two southernmost senatorial districts, Central and South, decided to stop reporting the activities of the state government. Their reason: the government has been totally unfair to the people of the area. The journalists under the aegis of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) in a statement accused the government of not being in touch with the needs and challenges of the people. They said the government was distant and unable to give any coherent account of their activities in these very large parts of the state.

If the situation in Delta was caused by just corruption, it would be a straightforward issue. But when you compute incompetence, greed and man’s sheer inhumanity to man into the mix, you will find that compassion, natural intelligence, a sense of balance and a record of performance are perhaps all we need to reshape the narrative.

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And in all these, Senator Omo-Agege stands head and shoulders above the entire field of governorship hopefuls in Delta today.

The quite unhelpful argument about Delta being a PDP state is naturally a non-starter. In the contest for the hearts and minds of Deltans, we are first individuals before we are party men. Then I ask, show me one politician of note and clout in Delta that isn’t the product of PDP. Those of us that left did so in protest of the wickedness that governance has become in the state.

With the weakest infrastructure possible, a sea of unemployed and sometimes unemployable young people, and governments that have since stopped pretending to offer anyone hope, Delta is today a bubbling cauldron of pain and anguish.

The resultant anger is expressed in inter-ethnic violence, street fights, armed robbery and prostitution, as each group engages with red-eyed vigour to catch the scraps from the tables at Asaba.

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But APC has a different plan. And it’s not about a party playing a sanctimonious holier than thou. It is instead about a party that is a protest movement against the evil that currently stalks our home state. A national party that warts and all represent in Delta, a powerful counterpoint to a band of very bad people. Persons denuded of conscience, and whose legacy is not on the streets of Delta, but in offshore accounts and acreages.

There’s a common joke about Delta that surfaces often on Facebook and elsewhere. Young, angry Deltans would copy pictures of six-lane highways and gleaming infrastructure from elsewhere and caption them, “my xyz village in Delta state”. Beyond the sardonic laughter that these posts cause is a story of total disillusionment and frustration over what is and what could have, and really should be.

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Enter Omo-Agege.

Someone recently asked me, what is he going to do differently? This was the precise question I asked him when he requested me to execute this crucial aspect of the campaign.

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This is what he told me: “I will re-engineer governance in Delta. I would create wealth and employment by building industrial hubs and open them to manufacturers at rock bottom, but reasonably competitive leases”.

“I will invest our wealth in independent power plants to power factories, streets and homes. I will drive ICT and make my state the new Nigerian Silicon Valley. My plan is to build a new Delta, so I will embark on an immediate infrastructure revolution as part of my industrial strategy. The ultimate goal will be to create the best infrastructure possible without incurring untold, untenable and prohibitive costs.”

Today’s Delta, he maintained, is a reminder that as a people we must reflect on our journey and assess where we are as against where we ought to be. As part of this reflection, we have come up with a developmental blueprint within our manifesto that encapsulates nearly all aspects of our existence as a people.

His words: “Our strategy is captured as employment and empowerment, development, good governance and enduring peace and security. In the short form, we call it the EDGE to BAND ( Build a New Delta), and it is our governance strategy from micro to small and medium enterprises, women and youth empowerment, skills acquisition, social safety nets, pension policies, infrastructure, agriculture, deliberate and forward-looking industrialization, sports, entertainment and the entire works.

“Take infrastructure, for instance, I plan to immediately embark on a large scale investment in industrial estates, schools, hospitals, good road network, top class but affordable transportation systems, housing, portable water, power infrastructure, ICT, and more as part of the strategy to put industrial development back on track.”

In my brainstorming session with Omo-Agege before I accepted the job, and in others thereafter, I have come to observe his passion for people and development. And he backs it with concrete evidence. As a senator and later, deputy senate president, without any executive power, he successfully brought in a slew of projects to Delta.

These include the Federal Polytechnic at Orogun, the elite Nigerian Defence Space School, as well as a Federal University of Agriculture and Technology, and a campus of the Nigerian Law School, both of which have been approved by the senate.

He also embarked on an ambitious power programme with the aim to help solve electricity distribution challenges: bringing in brand new transformers and replacing obsolete ones in many areas statewide. He also single-handedly embarked on the mass provision of solar street lighting across all towns and villages of Delta central.

While a senator, Omo-Agege carried out mass renovations and furnishing of select schools right across the state; constructed water schemes, dragged in additional funding for several stalled and struggling federal infrastructure projects and on and on. There’s so much more he has done that to chronicle all here will be to have a hagiography of sorts. But to my mind, Omo-Agege has a proven record of service. And in such a short time (he’s been less than three years as deputy senate president).

His far-reaching plans to lift Delta back to its feet ring true and are punctuated with clear doable and concrete milestones. As for willpower, he made it clear to me, as he has to others, that he is not afraid of breaking eggs to make an omelette. Anyone who knows him well knows that he’s a fairly tough guy.

“I am not going to pussyfoot over issues. I will be decisive and do what needs to be done when it needs to be done, in the interest of our state and people,” he says.

Omo-Agege clearly has an edge over all the other aspirants for Government House, Asaba, and I chose to trust his promise to build a new Delta.

I insist that every Deltan should.

And after we win the governorship for him, we can together hold his feet to the fire, and as one united people ensure that he keeps his promises to us!

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