JOURNALISM is a profession which practitioners while on duty try as much as possible to distance themselves from what is going on emotionally as they have to tell the story as it is without bias, but, leaving the reader, the audience to pass his or her judgment.
But, on Wednesday, 27th June, 2018, they were carried away by the sincere way Delta State Governor, Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa reeled out the activities of his administration to make the state better that intermittently, the gentlemen of the press spontaneously applauded.
Governor Okowa, in his characteristic manner of ensuring good governance based on accountability and transparency, has made it a duty to have quarterly meeting with journalists under the aegis of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ). This was the second time he was having such press conference for the year, 2018 and expectedly, more than 200 journalists were in attendance.
The governor appeared without any written address, gave a brief about what his administration had done, what it is doing and what it will do to ensure that the state was repositioned to be among the best in the country in the area of peaceful co-existence, attracting investors, and making the people comfortable through the provision of needed infrastructure.
More than 10 questions that were well prepared and possibly designed to rattle the governor were asked and the sincerity and factual ways he answered the questions got the journalists on their feet, clapping their hands.
Before the briefing, the social media was abuzz with reports that the governor sacked more than 500 staff of Delta Line. Of course, he was asked that question and he answered with the full knowledge about what is happening at the transport company.
He said, “that Delta Line had over 400 drivers for just 200 vehicles, was totally alarming and it turned out that the functional vehicles were only about 80 and that functionality was failing because most of the vehicles were not doing well, and the remaining were just in mechanics.
Delta Line is a commercial venture and it is supposed to make money for itself and possibly also for the state government through some dividend payment, but, unfortunately over time, government has continued to pour out money into that place. I have witnessed the capitalization of Delta Line three times in the past, and after some time, we came back with millions and millions of debts and we could not continue in that manner.
We could not allow the mistakes of the past to repeat itself, so, we thought that the best thing was to bring in a private partner who can run the company efficiently because, one; is the provision of the services that you expect that company to provide and two; is sustainability of that venture to ensure that it does not go bankrupt.
We have already paid four months arrears of salaries of the staff before the take over and four more months will be paid and they are also to be paid a disengagement allowance which is being worked on now. They opted to move out probably, because of the allowance which they are entitled to receive and thereafter any one of them who wishes to continue with the company will be subjected to interviews. So, nobody was sacked because I know that some of them are going to be re-engaged and those who will be useful will be put to work and no form of nepotism will be allowed,.
Nobody was sacked, rather they were relived on their own accord, and over 100 workers will be re-engaged by the new management. I am sure that Delta Line is going to come up well because, with the plans that are on ground, we want the company to run in such a manner that as a government, and as a people, we can be proud of it and we can be sure that that when passengers are in these vehicles they can be rest assured of their safety and security; so, in the next few months, we are going to see brand new Delta Line buses, efficiency and quality of service will be the new order for the company.”
Governor Okowa who was at the briefing in company of his Deputy, Deacon (Barr.) Kingsley Burutu Otuaro, expressed surprise that since the inception of the current democracy in 1999, no single project has been executed by the Delta State government in Ugiliamai community, Onicha Ukwuani clan in Ndokwa West local government area of the state, on the spot, approved the construction of Ugiliamai/Ossissa road and also ordered the construction of classroom blocks in the schools in the community.
The governor in his down-to-earth approach to handling issues, stated that he preferred constructing classroom blocks and engage in activities that will make students and pupils comfortable. The people of Ugiliamai had complained severally that the Delta State government had not executed any project in their community and none of their sons or daughters has been given political appointment since 1999. Governor Okowa is really, a man of the people and the assurance has given a boost to the support base of his administration as the people are confident that he will deliver on his promises.
Okowa who was composed throughout the two hours he spent with the Journalists, used the occasion to caution politicians to avoid inflammatory statements ahead of the 2019 general elections. He was asked how he felt when Chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomole that he will ensure that Governor Okowa is sacked from the Delta State Government House in 2019.
According to Okowa, “I believe that Comrade Oshiomole is playing politics just as Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has a right to play politics, as well as any other political party. The only advise I have for all politicians both in PDP and APC is that there must be decorum; we must be cautious in the language that we use as they should be decent. I believe that what politicians need to do is to address issues and when issues are addressed the people will make their choice.
As politicians wherever you are, try to be civil in your approach to politics because that is the way it ought to be,” the governor said.
He expressed confidence that the drainage being constructed in Asaba will not affect free movement during the 21st African Senior Athletics Championships, dubbed, Asaba 2018 which will take place at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba. He explained that most of the affected roads would be reconstructed before the tournament while new ones will be opened to ensure a successful competition.
That the stadium will be ready before August 1 when the competition will commence is no longer an issue as he said, work was at its finishing stages while the runway at the Asaba International Airport has been completed. He also disclosed that contracts have been awarded for the construction of perimeter fence of the airport which was one of the requirements for the approval of the airport by the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
It was a revealing press conference which gave journalists the opportunity to ask questions, and get answers on issues that affect the public. In all, one can only say that Deltans will always have reasons to praise God.