By John Oghojafor
Against the backdrop of increasing pressure from Deltans for the governor of the State, Sen. Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa to address the issue of backlog of arrears of Local Government workers and primary school teachers’ salaries, arrears of retirees, scrapping of scholarship scheme, inexplicable deductions from civil servants’ salaries, non-refund of workers’ cooperatives contributions, among others, the governor has explained that his administration cannot be held accountable for any issue that is not contained in its SMART Agenda blue print.
It would be recalled that in an address to Deltans shortly after subscribing to the oath of office in May 29, 2015 at Asaba, the Delta State capital, Governor Okowa declared that his administration was anchored on a four-point programme which he ascribed an acronym, SMART agenda.
SMART, according to the governor, refers to Strategic wealth creation projects and provision of jobs for all Deltans; Meaningful peace building platforms aimed at political and social harmony; Agricultural reforms and accelerated industrialization; Relevant Health and Education policies; and Transformed environment through urban renewal.
However, while delivering a lecture titled: “Objectivity versus Editorializing (A case Study of The S.M.A.R.T Agenda”, during a one-day capacity building workshop for community newspapers in Asaba recently, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Charles Aniagwu, stated clearly that the government cannot be held accountable for issues that are outside the definition of its SMART agenda.
Emphasizing that the state government has delivered on its SMART agenda programme, the governor’s spokesperson however said that the recurring issue of Local Government workers’ arrears of salaries which is running into several months across the state as well as that of primary school teachers, are outside the SMART agenda programme of the government.
He wondered why Deltans should ever take the governor to task on issues that are not contained on the SMART agenda, adding that the government policy thrust was very clear and unambiguous.
A cross section of Deltans who have been condemning the governor’s position through his press secretary to the effect that anything outside the scope of his SMART agenda is outside his responsibility, are of the conclusion that retirees’ outstanding pensions, withdrawal of scholarships, lack of basic infrastructure, poor health facilities in public hospitals and reckless deductions from workers’ salaries are all outside Governor Okowa’s SMART agenda.
The New Diplomat investigation also revealed a section of the Delta society urging the governor to explain if his SMART agenda was the manifesto of the PDP which he used for his electioneering campaign or, more appropriately, a social contract with the people of Delta that was mutually agreed upon in the process of seeking their votes.
Deltans, it was gathered, are also querying whether the Governor Okowa’s mantra of ‘prosperity for all Deltans’ with which he secured the peoples’ votes exclude the welfare of primary school teachers, local government workers and retirees’ benefits.