By Pat Utomi
Dear Compatriots of Delta State. In beginning this conversation series on the way forward for Delta State, I cannot but again acknowledge that I need each and every Deltan to do some reflection on the subjects we discuss and give me your valuable insights as feedback. That way the ideas of rescue from state capture which has impoverished many will rightly belong to each one of us.
How does a state go from being the shining light of Western Region, to one that poverty rules and desperation is etched unto the faces of citizens.
In the old Western Region which led Nigeria in innovation and people oriented policies, the more admired entrepreneurs and civil servants were from the Midwest, out of which today’s Delta is derived.
Our country may have gone through bad patches but Delta has no excuse being the home of many poor. My view of the way forward requires that we see reason together.
Very little of relatively significant fiscal transfers from the federation account that enter the state circulate in the state. If the velocity of the money is such that it briefly touches a few more people, prosperity will visit many presently poor and consolidate with those thriving. But studies show that the monies enter state coffers and bolt out.
Secondly, Delta has become barren of Corporate life. Most companies have moved from Delta. Shell which was a live wire left Warri. Pan Ocean moved to Benin and many Manufacturers closed shop.
Have we asked why and sought a strategy for revival. These were the employers that paid our fellow compatriots the salaries which enabled them to live with dignity.
With population growth rates we have, not becoming obsessed with how we create jobs we will reap a whirlwind of anarchy. God forbid. But prayer is not enough. We must work and pray.
A strategy for rapid growth and massive job creation should not depend on fiscal transfers. Its possibilities have to come from private sector investments in value chains of areas we have comparative advantaģe.
Nothing stops Delta from becoming a network of Industrial Parks linked by world class infrastructure. Just look at what is happening with once laggard Ethiopia and fratricidal Rwanda.
Delta must rise up again. But it will take you and I working together, to build a development focused state for our children and not one being defined by excessive partisanship and ethnic chauvinism. So let us arise and push to redeem Delta for our children.
Pat Utomi is a Professor at Lagos Business School (LBS) and a former Nigerian Presidential Candidate