The seed of transformation planted by Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan in Delta State did not appear at first dawn. Like a woman in pregnancy, Uduaghan’s manifestation started with some queasiness, the kind of early morning sickness associated with pregnant women before the shaping out of the tummy.
Uduaghan’s blueprint for a greater Delta State was underpinned in three cardinal points, human capital development, peace and security and development of infrastructure.
As a matter of fact, the touch of Dr. Uduaghan’s administration on the citizenry in Delta State starts from the womb, just after conception. At the first contact with the Delta health service, the unborn child and mother are provided with free medical service through the duration of pregnancy to the point of delivery, surgical or otherwise. Following delivery, the mother is guaranteed free post-natal care for the first six weeks after delivery, and for the new born child, a free medical coverage is provided for the first five years of life.
The impact of this intervention in healthcare delivery has led to the remarkable fall in the infant mortality rate across Delta State from 545 per 100,000 births in 2007, to 241 per 100,000 in 2012.
The record which has been hailed across the country, and is now said to be the best in the country, was helped by the administration’s strategic initiative in putting consultation, treatment, laboratory investigations, free quality drugs and post natal care at the door step of the people of the state.
Since the commencement of the programme in November 2007, more than 300,000 women have benefited from the programme with increasing influx of women from neighbouring states to Delta State to enjoy the free services.
The free services are complemented with the abundance of specialists in many disciplines of maternal and child health.
Those who have been gifted with good health and have not had the opportunity of visiting the hospitals are, however, not oblivious of the enhancement of the health infrastructure across the state.
Most of the General Hospitals in the state have been upgraded into specialist hospitals with state of the art laboratory and diagnostic equipment.
The Uduaghan administration took over the Eku Specialist Hospital from the Baptist Mission following the fall in standards and infrastructure in the mission hospital which was for decades, one of the leading reference hospitals in the state.
The hospital has recently been rehabilitated and upgraded to a centre of excellence. Also upgraded to a centre of excellence is the Maternal and Child Health, MCH Centre in the Central Hospital, Warri.
Perhaps, what has turned out to be one of the sterling successes in the provision of health infrastructure is the ultra modern Oghara Teaching Hospital, one of the best equipped medical institutions in the country today.
The Teaching Hospital which was conceived by the preceding administration but completed by the Uduaghan administration is undoubtedly one of the enticing initiatives in the still evolving ambition of the administration to boost the economy of the state through medical tourism.
It is envisaged that in the long run that outsiders flocking for medical treatment would bring a big boost to the economy of the state.
From receiving attention in the womb to when it is born, the new born baby is catered for medically for the first five years in life until when the baby enters the school system.
At that point, the Uduaghan administration intervenes in another form in the life of the child through the free education programme that is obtainable in all public owned primary and secondary schools.
From 2007 when he took office, the Uduaghan administration has faithfully paid the fees of all students sitting for the Secondary School final examinations, a policy, the governor underpinned by the observation that some students even after going through the free school programme are unable to pay the fees demanded to sit for the National Examination Council, NECO and the West African Examinations Council, WASC exams.
As part of his policy of reinventing education in Delta State, the administration has commenced a rehabilitation programme under which it has commissioned 13 Model Secondary Schools and 54 Model Primary Schools. The administration has also remodeled more than 18,000 classrooms across the state.
Though tertiary education is not wholly free, the administration has conceived schemes to soothe the pains of less privileged students through bursary and scholarship schemes for deserving students across the state.
Recently, the administration has instituted a programme of boosting intellectual fecundity among indigenes of the state with the automatic placement of all first class graduates of the state origin in a scholarship package of N5 million each. As many as 185 students are currently benefiting from the scheme with a substantial proportion of the graduate students, studying abroad.
Those who are not intellectually minded and fall out from the administration’s education programme are not total losers. Provided for them is the option of benefiting from the well applauded Micro-Credit Programme of the administration. The micro-credit programme was one of the first success stories of the Uduaghan administration.
The Delta Micro-Credit Programme, DCMP was established on December 14, 2007 as a strategy towards empowering financially weak individuals in the society with a direct aim of alleviating poverty in the state.
The DCMP which has now been transformed into the Ministry of Poverty Eradication collaborates with strategic partners including micro-finance banks and the Bank of Industry, BOI in directing knowledge, skill and capital towards the poor and the rural populace. The pro-poor initiative of the administration has so far captured 111,312 persons across the state spread across more than 10,000 groups.
The success of Delta under Uduaghan in combating poverty is underlined by the recognition given the state by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. For three straight years between 2009 and 2011 the state carted away the CBN top prize in micro-credit financing.
Following the stretch of success and the state’s absence at the trophy presentations in 2012 and 2013, Governor Uduagahan was asked in an interview why the state was no longer winning the CBN competition. According to him, the state has now shifted its focus above winning awards towards wealth creation at the SME level.
“At a time people thought our micro credit scheme was all about winning awards. We have moved the scheme now to small and medium scale enterprises. Most of the initial micro businesses have now become medium and small scale enterprises. And some are even exporting their products, some now have NAFDAC certification. Some even have outlets outside Nigeria,” the governor said.
The CBN governor, Lamido Sanusi in giving his testimony of the success of the Delta micro-credit programme in 2011 said:
“We just awarded Delta State as one of the states where micro-finance has been effectively utilized to tackle poverty. We saw a cluster group that started with nothing, and now they are exporting to Europe”.
The Uduaghan administration has also taken major initiatives in road infrastructure, rehabilitating and where not, reconstructing some of the major roads it inherited.
The administration has also taken strategic steps in restructuring the transportation model within and outside the state. One of the most visible efforts in that direction was the decision to build an airport in Asaba, the state capital. That development also imparted largely in the economic bearing of the state especially in the state capital, boosting economic production in and around the state capital.
The construction of an airport has also made Asaba and its environs an attractive venue for meetings, conferences and also, boosted the town’s attraction as a camp ground for the movie industry.
The achievements of the Uduaghan administration in two of its key objectives of human capital and infrastructure development were tied to the third leg of the regime’s three point agenda, peace and security.
Dr. Uduaghan in his nearly seven years in office has pursued peace passionately, putting personal and political preferences to the background.
Dr. Uduaghan was an early advocate of the Amnesty Programme and has pursued peace with all stakeholders with a maturity that has calmed the tensions that hitherto characterized relations among the many ethnic groups in the state.
No doubt, the Uduaghan administration has been challenged in the form of insecurity with kidnappings, robberies and pipeline vandalism. The administration has, however, responded with a heavy investment in reshaping the security infrastructure to match the evolving techniques of the underworld.
The investments have largely paid off with drastically reduced breaches of the peace.
That ambience has recently allowed the articulation of a new socio-economic policy by the administration with a gaze towards putting the state’s economy outside the shocks of oil revenue.
The mantra in Delta State presently, is Delta Beyond Oil, a policy framework that focuses on positioning the state in good position to weather the vagaries of oil revenue.
Of course Governor Uduaghan has not changed Delta State into an El Dorado, but few doubt his focus or his steadfastness towards making the state far better than he met it. The challenge of addressing infrastructure needs in the state with the highest number of urban towns, calming frayed nerves in a multi-ethnic state and leading a state with one of the highest collections of intellectuals are undoubtedly enormous. But Dr. Uduaghan has in the consideration of Vanguard editors made positive strides in these directions and hence his nomination as the Man of the Year, 2013