I am pleased to address you this morning in view of the significance of today’s event. With the swearing in of the first batch of Commissioners and Special Advisers, we have begun the process of assembling the team for the herculean task of building the Delta State of our dreams.
The men and women who have been sworn in today as Commissioners and Special Advisers have been carefully chosen through a rigorous selection procedure to determine their suitability for the office they will occupy. Effective statecraft in modern democratic governance calls for astute, dynamic, and irrepressible role players. I am glad to inform this gathering that these men and women have met the requirements for public office and I warmly congratulate all of them on their appointment and successful confirmation by the House of Assembly.
But let me quickly add that it is only a first step in a long journey that is bound to be as exacting as it would be fulfilling. We were voted into office by the overwhelming majority of Deltans because they believe in our S.M.A.R.T agenda with the unambiguous promise of prosperity for all.
Our S.M.A.R.T agenda is all about wealth creation through growing micro, small and medium-scale businesses, reforming our education and health sectors, upgrading our infrastructure, modernising and deepening our agricultural sector.
As Governor, my priority is to grow the economy of this State and ensure that every person has a chance to pursue his or her dreams of success. By accepting to serve as a Commissioner or Special Adviser in this government, you have accepted this responsibility. It is, therefore, incumbent on you to make the attainment of these lofty goals your watchword; they must be the focal point around which all your decisions and actions revolve.
The true test of leadership is when we are willing to find meaning in something bigger than ourselves; it is when we don’t consider ourselves to have succeeded until those we have been appointed to serve have succeeded. As leaders, servant leaders I should say, real greatness is measured in terms of the value we add to other people, not the value we add to ourselves. It is the difference between success and significance.
As I made clear in my Inaugural Address, job creation is the common thread running through our policies and programmes in agriculture, education, health, industrialisation, and infrastructural development. You are expected to embrace and embark on projects and programmes only when you are convinced and satisfied with their job creation content. For those of you who still have not got a copy of that Address, I suggest you get one as soon as possible to get yourself sufficiently acquainted with the policy direction of this administration.
In the course of this week, our Job and Wealth Creation Scheme took off with the launch of six entrepreneurship programmes namely; 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.
These initiatives are designed to create jobs and wealth, diversify the economy, engage youths in productive enterprises, nurture entrepreneurs and leaders, and promote communal peace and security. At least six thousand direct jobs are expected to be created through these schemes within the next six months.
The flag-off of these programmes underlines our resolve to actualise the vision of prosperity for all Deltans. It is a vision that says if people are willing to work hard and take responsibility then they will have the opportunity to make their dreams come true and achieve greatness in life. I am delighted with the responses we have received so far from prospective participants. They are clear indications that these programmes meet the yearnings and aspirations of the majority of our people.
As a government we are resolutely committed to creating the enabling environment for micro, small, and medium-scale enterprises to thrive and flourish. They are the heartbeat of any economy and I am confident that with strategic thinking, careful planning, fiscal discipline and the cooperation of all and sundry, that we can put the current challenges behind us and lay a solid foundation of prosperity for this generation of Deltans and those coming after us.
Last week I briefed the State House of Assembly on the financial status of the State. Typically, political hirelings and mischief makers have attempted to make political capital out of the debt profile, while ignoring the more enduring message of hope and belief that was the thrust of my address. Not surprisingly, a few are disturbed and wondering if we would be able to deliver on our campaign promises given the debt overhang. But let me sound it loud and clear. I have never been more hopeful about our beloved Delta State than now. Indeed, I have never been more hopeful about our future as a people. And I urge you, as members of the cabinet, to sustain that hope.
The Bible tells us that “hope maketh not ashamed.” Now, hope is not the same as wishful thinking. Neither is it blind optimism that tends to ignore the magnitude of the problem and overlook the difficulties that confront us. On the contrary, hope is knowledge grounded in facts. It is the firm assurance in our hearts that as we dig in and refuse to give up and continue to knock at the door of economic prosperity with innovation, hard work and fiscal discipline, things are bound to get better over time. The situation we find ourselves calls for drive, innovation, prudence and, above all, ingenuity and resourcefulness in managing our assets and in our internal revenue generation processes. Ladies and gentlemen, it is no longer business as usual.
At the risk of repeating myself, I dare say that our current economic predicament may well be a blessing in disguise. So, I implore all of you, and indeed all Deltans, to muster the can-do- spirit and problem-solving mentality that our people are known for. I am a firm believer in the dictum that Delta no dey carry last. The task before us is to begin to treat the business of government as a business. Hence every Ministry, Department and Agency of government is expected to be more conscious of its revenue generating potential.
As Commissioners and Special Advisers, you should lead that process, and a large part of your assessment will derive from your success or failure in this regard. You must stay the course of our vision and agenda and be prepared to run the affairs of government with diligence, honesty, loyalty and accountability, paying careful attention to the needs and aspirations of our people. You should consolidate the gains where we have made progress, and bring reform and innovation where we are lagging behind. Only then can we can truly deliver the dividends of democracy to our people.
Let me now touch on two things that are of great concern to me and the future we seek to create. The first has to do with ethnic politics. I want to make it crystal clear that this administration has zero tolerance for sectionalism and nepotism. Given the pan-Delta mandate that brought us here, we cannot afford to do any less.
As Commissioners and Special Advisers you must be above board in this regard. Always remember that you have been appointed to serve the entire State. Hence, you must treat - and give - every citizen equal opportunity and the chance to realise his or her potential and benefit from our programmes. People will be looking to see in you, the qualities of fairness, equity and justice that are the articles of faith of this administration.
Finally, let me reiterate my call for honest leadership and responsible government. To be sure, corruption is not a Nigerian problem. It is, undoubtedly, a problem of the human heart and common to every society. But it is self-evident that in Nigeria it has assumed a crisis proportion. From the clerk in the office who will not attend to a simple file unless he is bribed, the attendant in the fuel station that capitalises on the shortage of fuel to extort money from his fellow citizens, the trader who dupes his customer to pay a premium for a substandard product, and the political leader who uses his or her public office for private gain, corruption is impeding our development.
Corruption in government starves the State of valuable resources that could be used for infrastructural development, improve our educational system, bolster our healthcare system and take care of the poor and needy. But even worse is that when official corruption is allowed to fester, the cost of governance and of doing business becomes prohibitive. In this regard, it constitutes a stumbling block to aspiring entrepreneurs – the wealth creation agents in any society - who will be hard put implementing their business ideas.
I seek the support and partnership of all public office holders to lead the fight against corruption in their respective offices. That is the only way to retain the trust and confidence the people have bestowed upon us. Once those attributes are lost, then we have lost everything.
- Speech at the swearing-in of Commissioners and Special Advisers at the Event Centre, Asaba.