I borrowed the word of Paul Middleston from his book ‘The end of Oil’ and marry it to Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan vision when he was the governor of Delta State where he launched ‘Delta Beyond Oil’ being a man who visualized into the future of our dear nation.
Dr. Uduaghan like a fortune teller made a projection into the future of Delta and by extension Nigeria and offered solution to the Imminent economic depression that was about to befall our country.
He could be very well described as a man who saw tomorrow. Long before Nigeria’s economic downturn, occasioned by the slump in oil price, Uduaghan who surrounded himself with technocrats and results oriented exco members as he sail the ship of the State launched the Delta Beyond Oil initiative.
The economic strategy is aimed at tackling poverty and facilitating the growth of the non-oil and informal sector of the economy through job creation and the development of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, SMEs.
In the prime of his administration, Dr. Uduaghan envisioned that since crude oil, which contributes about 90% of Nigeria’s export earnings will dry up some day or no country would be interested to buy crude from Nigeria as a result of crude oil envisioned to be found in their land someday, it makes economic sense to use what the State currently earns as oil revenue to diversify the economy in readiness for the rainy day as we currently experienced in our country, Nigeria.
Looking back at how it all began, Uduaghan said it when he came into office as governor, haven seen the ups and downs of relying on the oil and gas it struck him that these resources will not be there forever, even as man does not live forever.
He also thought about the impact of crude oil price floatation on the economy as it makes budget implementation quite challenge. He then got his team together, they brainstormed and resolved that government must evolve an economic policy that will deal with the envisaged situation. That was how what was initially conceived as ‘Delta without Oil which later metamorphosed to Delta beyond Oil’.
Gradually, a new dawn emerged in Delta State during Uduaghan administration. It was not out of place therefore when Ngozi Okonji-Iweala, former finance minister and Coordinating minister of the economy in the twilight of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan administration spoke on Nigeria Beyond Oil at a session during the World Bank/IMF spring meeting in Washington DC.
Interestingly, she emphasized the need for the administration of President Mohammadu Buhari to diversify the nation’s economy, pointing that if well implemented, the diversification policy would address the shortfall in the country’s oil revenue and in the long term, end poverty as envisioned by Mr. Uduaghan’s vision for Delta State.
No doubt, Delta State has abundant oil resources but Uduaghan realized that Delta State even has more abundant human talent and energies. That was how the government began to disbursed interest free loans to the largely unemployed in the State, especially youths for the establishment of small businesses. And gradually the philosophy of sharing oil money and engaging in illegal bunkering began to fade out as small businesses grew into cottage industries, yielding impressive returns for the entrepreneurs.
For Mr. Uduaghan, human abilities, unlike oil wells that will dry up some day, are inexhaustible and should not be allowed to go to waste, he believed that unemployment and poverty can be scaled down, and that everybody including the physically challenged can do more than earn a decent living. He also believes that the State can survive without being dependent on crude oil proceeds.
Under Uduaghan Delta beyond oil initiative, he gave the people of Delta State a new direction. Both rural and urban poor people in the State are setting up SMEs. The entertainment industry was taken to the centre stage due to the fact that talents abound in the State. For encouragement and motivation provided by Uduaghan administration.
Uduaghan encouraged young Deltans to go into agriculture which was the driving force of the Delta Beyond Oil, Uduaghan also encouraged Delta to venture into the film industry and sport.
In affirmation of his commitments cum driving force for his Delta Beyond Oil initiative, In 2013, Uduaghan signed an MOU with UNIDO to establish a shoe manufacturing and leather work production and training center in Asaba, in the said MOU sighted, Delta State Government under Uduaghan provided the land and a counterpart funding to the of $820,000 while UNIDO will manage the project.
Truly, Uduaghan prepared Deltans to what we are currently/about to witness in the country, where the hitherto oil bumming will come to an end soon. Are Nigerians prepared!
Kparobo Ehvwubare writes from Delta. Could be reached at [email protected]