Patrick Ferife is the outgoing Commissioner for Special Infrastructure in Delta State. He was former Commissioner for Lands and Survey before he was transferred to the Directorate of Special Infrastructure on the resignation of the former Commissioner, Barrister Orezi Esievo. In this interview with Omos Oyinbode in Asaba, Ferife speaks on the success of the directorate and commends Uduaghan for giving the commissioners a road map and what he thinks the next administration can do for Delta State. Excerpts:
Do you think this administration has been fair to all Deltans in his administration?
Yes, it has been fair. The governor has been fair to all. He could have said all the projects should be in Delta South, then we begin to put all the projects in one senatorial district. That way, you can say such a person is not fair in the distribution of projects, but now you cannot say that, because he has ensured that all the senatorial districts are not left out. He has ensured that all the senatorial districts are developed and that they feel the presence of government. And also the projects are equitably distributed in the three senatorial districts. This is to say Uduaghan is one governor that has very deep thinking, and very balanced.
Going by what you said, government is a continuum and the Governor-Elect, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, has been an insider in the government, both at the state and federal level. Which area do you think his government should give priority to?
I will like the incoming government to focus on education, schools, and also the health sector. These three are key areas because you need a healthy and well-educated citizenry to bring about development. For instance, now we have been able to complete 50 schools, but I tell you that we still have a number of schools that this government has not been able to reach. Like I told you, government is a continuum. So if the government has been able to do 60, the next government can do 120 schools; rebuilding, remodeling and reconstructing, so that by the time he is leaving after eight years, the improvement will be clear for all to see.
Also, the next administration; rebuilding, and re-equipping them to meet modern standards can handle government hospitals, which this administration has been unable to reach. That will speed up the social development of the state. Also, the polytechnics; since this government has laid the foundation for four new polytechnics, some of which are already at the roofing level, the next government should be able to complete them and open them so that they can be operational.
And if I am to suggest, the way to do it is to strengthen this directorate so that it can continue to perform its roles. That would be my encouragement to the incoming government. Okowa is an excellent and adept administrator, so I have no fears. I am sure that somewhere in his agenda, infrastructure has a place. Because I have come to the realization that there are some things you do in government that can be measured, and there are things you do that cannot be measured. For instance, if you give a child good health, it cannot be measured unless through medical reports, but if your child is going to a beautiful, conducive and well equipped school, you can take the picture of the schools; that is infrastructure.
From your knowledge of the incoming governor, do you think Governor-elect Okowa can do some of the things that Governor Uduaghan did to succeed?
Dr. Okowa is a man of steel. He is experienced in administration and he is a man that has faced and overcome a lot of challenges. So, I believe that he is going to take on these challenges head on, and he is going to vigorously develop this state. I wish Governor Uduaghan all the best, because I know that history will really favour him because of the amount of work he has done in Delta State.
Now, you are leaving this government May 29. What is your personal feeling, having served in this government?
Of course I am very satisfied having served in Dr. Uduaghan’s government. I don’t have any regrets. I am satisfied because I personally observed that Governor Uduaghan was able to give his commissioners a clear road map, and because of this, all of us understood where he was going, and it was very easy for us to key into the policies and vision of the administration. If he did not give a clear direction, we would have been running around in circles, but he stated it clearly, and we fully understood. We knew the role of each ministry in the road map, and that is why I am very satisfied.
Secondly, he listens to people. Whether what you have to say is relevant or not, he will listen to you, and then tell you what he expects from you. Indeed, I have enjoyed his administration. Also, if you have erred, he will kindly correct you. He wishes us all to be successful. He is not someone that you are working with and you are so scared of what to expect. We knew where he was going to, and if you observe, all of us that have worked with him have travelled on the same boat, in terms of work. I am not referring to politics. In terms of working on the three point agenda, every commissioner has a basic understanding of these policies. When he gives directives, it’s very easy to key into it.
What did the Directorate of Special Infrastructure achieved over the years?
This is the directorate of Special Infrastructure; it was created by the Uduaghan administration in 2011. It was created so that the bureaucracy in our infrastructural development will be removed. That means there are projects that would be delivered at a specific time before the end of the administration. Basically that has been the focus of this directorate. And after it was created, the areas of infrastructural development were clearly spelt out by the Governor. We looked at education infrastructures, we looked at roads, we looked at the hospitals, and it gave a clear definition of what the directorate needed to do in order to achieve the goals of this administration.
You know that infrastructural development is one of the three point agenda of this administration. So he directed that 60 schools should be reconstructed and rehabilitated, and from among the 60 schools, some should be repaired, and the directorate has effectively carried that out. They have been completed. These are 50 primary and secondary schools and 10 model primary schools. After the completion of these 60 schools, he gave a directive for another phase to be started; those schools to be rehabilitated or reconstructed. And as we speak, all the contracts for the second phase have been given out, and are being executed. They are from the Delta North, South and Central. No senatorial district was left out. His belief is that once the environment is conducive for learning, the students can come to school and be comfortable to do all their assignments. Also, the level of rehabilitation, reconstruction and rebuilding is so sophisticated that you can see for yourself. Go to St. Patrick’s College in Asaba. Move around the schools in Asaba, look at the state primary school opposite the Event Centre and you will see all what we have done.
Apart from schools, you can see major development of infrastructures in the state, and I want to refer to two major ones. The first one is the remodeling, rehabilitation and rebuilding of the Eku Baptist Hospital. It was completely remodeled and reequipped. It is a masterpiece. The second one is the Mother and Child Care Center in Warri. That infrastructure is specifically dedicated to women and children to back up the free maternal health programme of this government. It is a beauty to behold when you go there and it has attracted a lot of our women who hitherto used to go to herbalists for one medical attention or the other. Now they go to the hospital for adequate healthcare. It’s completely equipped with modern facilities. I made reference to these health centres because these are infrastructures that this government has delivered.
We have also delivered in the area of easing transportation. We were given the mandate to build 30 bus shelters for Asaba and Warri. As we speak today, those bus shelters have been completed. We were also given the mandate to remodel twelve junctions. We have been able to deliver four out of the twelve, and the other ones are being worked on. One of them is the Enerhen Junction, another is Jakpa junction, and they are working on the Effurun Junction.
Going back to education, the Governor gave approval that four new polytechnics should be established in the state, so that our children that cannot get access to university education, will not be left on the streets. They are situated in Abigborodo, Bomadi, Aboh and Sapele, and they are all on-going and moving rapidly. And I believe that the creation of the Directorate of Infrastructure is a divine creation because you will agree with me that it has helped this administration to deliver on its projects, and also to showcase what this government can do.
What, in your opinion, is the best legacy that Governor Uduaghan is leaving for the next Governor out of all he has done for the state?
I think the best one is making us to believe and have confidence that we can and we must go beyond oil. If you go to the primary school and ask a child, that child should be able to tell you why Delta must go beyond oil. The Governor has shown us that there are a lot of things we need to do to ensure that Delta does not solely depend on oil; we need to have infrastructures, we need good roads. He has come down to tell us that this is what we must do. It’s just like when a father comes down to tell you that if you want to be rich, you must go to school. He will not tell you as a child to go and look for work. He has shown us, that no matter what we do, we should think beyond oil. We should go beyond oil, and that will lead to massive industrialization and massive job creation.
Apart from the physical things we see, which I don’t want to talk about, that is the biggest legacy Governor Uduaghan is leaving for his successor. The things that we don’t see that he has passed to us as a father that is leaving us, Delta Beyond Oil is the key legacy.