After its creation in 1991, the task of developing Delta State needed a visionary political leadership, an efficient public service and, most critically, a set of skillfully trained, resourceful, innovative and globally exposed professionals functioning on both sides to formulate and translate policies into strategic action plans and provide required synergy for the achievement of set goals.
Away from the military and quasi-military era into the new democratic dispensation, to form a team, Chief James Ibori head-hunted Olorogun David Edevbie, then a young Deltan managing development investments for the Commonwealth Development Corporation in the Phillipines, Hong Kong, Malaysia and various other developing countries in Asia and the Pacifics.
On his resumption as Commissioner of Finance and Economic Planning, the State’s Federation Account Allocation of about N5b and internally generated revenue of about N1b barely scratched the surface of required funds to fill the huge physical and social infrastructure deficits, from Asaba, the new State Capital, to various urban, rural and riverine communities, neglected for decades.
Taking the bull by the horn, David Edevbie demonstrated marvelous financial engineering skills to raise the state’s finances to over N60b by 2003, which enabled Delta to actually commence an impressive capital development programme.
But, even the N60b annual was far short of the required funding. There had been agitations for greater allocations to oil producing states but, through the military regimes, the Federal Government had only conceded between 1.5 to 3% as oil derivation.
Aggrieved by the sustained neglect, youths of the region took to increased militant actions and, to control the situation, the new political leadership, especially James Ibori and Governor Diepreye Alamiesiegha, moved to institutionalise the agitation for Resource Control.
While the Governors did the political negotiations, David Edevbie headed the Committee of Commissioners of Finance of the region to provide the intellectual and technical framework for the realisation and implementation of the resulting 13% oil derivation.
In 2019, under Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Edevbie again headed another Committee to cause the Federal Government to deduct the 13% before transfers into the Excess Crude Account, meaning more money for the oil producing states, with Delta among the highest recipients.
DESOPADEC is funded with 50% of this fund while the state retains 50% to support its general budget.
These underline Edevbie’s role and efforts through the years in building up revenue for the development of Delta State.
At the Federal level, he distinguished himself as a problem solver when, as Principal Secretary to the President, he provided the solution on militancy through his conceptualisation of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
Before then, the resurgence of militancy not only endangered our youths and communities and constrained Nigeria’s oil production, it also led to the divestment and flight of major businesses from the region, but while the militants and security agencies battled in the creeks and the elders campaigned for restructuring, Edevbie intelligently conceptualised the Presidential Amnesty Programme which ultimately helped to douse the inferno.
The programme created a win-win situation for all the sides, providing a partnership between militant camp commanders and government, temporary monthly stipends to assuage the fighters, and a platform for the re-orientation and re-empowerment of militant youths through scholarship for higher education and skills acquisition in Nigeria and overseas institutions to enhance their employability and capacity for personal enterprise.
These measures resulted in the relative peace that has enabled the resumption of normal life in the creeks and oil producing communities and the restoration of Nigeria’s oil production output from 800,000 bpd to 2million bpd.
Besides the reintegration of thousands of militant youths from Delta and other states in the region, many persons who functioned as state coordinators, facilitators or service vendors thus benefitted from Edevbie’s social engineering skills, while he moved on.
Seeing that politics had come to undermine the administration of the Niger Delta Development Commission from effectively fulfilling its mandate for the development of the region, Edevbie also caused President Yar’adua to create the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs with the aim of providing an added development platform for the region that will be subject to public service discipline and supervision.
Edevbie’s initiatives in all of these do not only demonstrate that he understands the problems and has the sense of responsibility and commitment towards providing relief and development for the betterment of his people, but that he has invaluable intellectual capacity for resolving socio-economic challenges as a politician and administrator.
More than any of the other aspirants in the race for the governorship, Edevbie better understands Delta’s development history, the potentials, challenges and prospects for growth, and has proven that he has the creativity, resourcefulness and management skills to address them. These he has outlined in his Modernisation Agenda for Delta State.
Governor Okowa certainly knows why he promptly chose him as his Commissioner of Finance at the inception of his administration as he has severally testified to Edevbie’s exceptional capacity to offer genuine leadership, invaluable professional contributions towards the development of the state and personal disposition “to doing things differently as they are done in developed climes.”
Edevbie was born in England, brought back to Nigeria at age 10, attended Igbobi College, Lagos, Federal Government College, Odogbolu, and studied Economics at the University of Lagos for his First Degree. He went back to the United Kingdom for his MBA in Development Economics at the Cardiff Business School and started work at Barclays Bank where he grew to managerial positions before joining Hill Samuel Bank as Executive.
He thereafter joined the Commonwealth Development Corporation where he grew to subcontinental Development Investment Executive for Asia and the Pacifics from where Chief Ibori saw him and requested him back home.
Ironically, that Edevbie is such educated, professionally skilled, experienced, globally exposed and does things differently as it is done in developed climes is the crucial divergence between him and his opponents in the Governorship race.
They seem to be arguing that since he was born in England, did his MBA in Cardiff Business School in the UK, attended Havard Business School Programme for Advanced Studies in Development Economics in the US, returned with very high educational and professional qualifications and belts huge international experience in the private sector, he is therefore elitist and not a Deltan.
They hide the fact that, since 1999, spanning over 23 years, Edevbie has worked and supported successive Governors of Delta State and even the Presidency in producing strategic initiatives and sourcing funds for socio-economic development, all of which have sustained the success and dominance of the PDP in Delta State and at the point it held sway at the national level.
The whole reference to home base, attempts to urge disregard for educational excellence and the propaganda against global exposure and personal finesse in the campaigns simply express the cowardly paranoia of a few partially blind political middlemen who have through deceptions, intimidation and thuggery, attained unmerited high offices of State with which they have held our common folks politically hostage and disrupted the steady growth of our state through their diversion of resources meant for the development of our communities.
These thrive by the political exploitation of the people and are always threatened by the prospects of higher knowledge, new ideas and global perspectives in political economy.
From the introduction of the likes of Soludo, Okonjo-Iweala, Akinwunmi Adesina and many others into our body politic, it has been increasingly obvious that for our society to advance beyond where we have been held down, we must understand that leaders of the modern world are no longer rent collecting chieftains but persons who bring new-age knowledge, information and high skills to complement political power.
To be scared of modernisation is therefore not only an anathema to progress but highlights the ludicrous hypocrisy of those who send their children to overseas schools, own houses and frequently travel to developed countries on holidays but insist that development ideas from the advanced countries are not welcome in the political leadership back home.
Two things need be said. That the Nigeria constitution provides for primary and secondary education as minimums for political offices does not mean that we must settle for the minimum and disregard excellence. That is a recipe for arrested development and, invariably, retrogression. We must therefore be wary of the Michaels that suggest they can govern Delta from motor parks.
It cannot also be over emphasised that development is only achieved by the intercourse of diverse, new, intelligent and globally current ideas that address the present and project into the future.
The urban areas and advanced nations that we drift to are developed mostly because they attract a diversity of new cultures, knowledge, information, technologies and globally resonant perspectives on development. This is what Olorogun David Edevbie represents for Delta State, hope for the present and brightness of the future.
Interestingly, his opponents do not doubt his capacity to modernise and industrialise Delta to recreate a vibrant economy for the upliftment of the people.
They know he will excel in doing so. They are only afraid he is likely to introduce globally modern concepts in development which obviously will liberate the people from their social, political and economic stranglehold and free up the landscape to emancipate our common folks such that, in the long run, with reduced unemployment, increased personal enterprise and rekindled self esteem from economic independence, we would no longer have youths running after same politicians that have stagnated them and calling “Ose, Ose, Leader, Leader,” just for them to have a meal.
These are the two sides of the coin in the Delta PDP Governorship race.
Fred Edoreh, a journalist and public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos