Maris Lecture Dissects Catalysts for Democratic Growth

By Sunny A Ijomah

The Maris Annual Public Service Lecture, in existence since 2019, has reiterated the reason for which it was instituted, primarily to tackle societal challenges and to enlighten the public on sundry relevant issues.

The 2023 edition, took a shot at the theme: “Provision of Infrastructure as Catalyst for Growth of Democratic Governments”, with many adjudging the panelists as having done justice to the annual lecture.

It was observed that the 2023 Maris Lecture, held on Wednesday, April 12, 2023, at the Unity Hall, Government House, Asaba, Delta State capital, had all the trappings of a worthwhile discourse, with an array of informed discussants, prominent among which were the special invitees- Governor Ifeanyi A. Okowa; Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, former Governor of Delta State and Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly (DTHA) and Governor-Elect of Delta State.

Others were the MD/CEO of RainOil Limited, Dr. Gabriel Ogbechie, OON, who was Chairman of the occasion and Lady Esther Elue, wife of former Deputy Governor of Delta State, as Mother of the Day, among other respected dignitaries.

It was heart rending, yet memorable to note that the Maris Annual Lecture came about as a result of a promising young girl, Stella-Maris Chukwufunimnenya Egugbo, a student of Patricia Group of Schools, Asaba, who about midnight, on All Souls’ Day, November 2, 2010, was pronounced dead at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Asaba. Her father, Comrade Fidelis Egugbo, Special Assistant (Media) to Governor Okowa, was instrumental to immortalizing her through the lecture series named after her as the Maris Annual Public Service Lecture in 2019.

An extensive lecture, delivered by the Guest Speaker, Delta State Commissioner for Finance, Chief (Sir) Okenmor Fidelis Tilije, followed by a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Anthony Kemi Emina, were respectively described as thought-provoking and robust, while there was an accompaniment of contributions by a lively audience.

Chief Tilije, enunciated that the Delta State example had demonstrated that infrastructure had a role to play as catalyst for growth of democratic government.

He said Governor Okowa had created strong institutions and all-round infrastructural development in Delta State, being the reason he was eulogized as The Road Master and a pace-setter in general development.

His words, ‘As we speak, Delta State, under Governor Okowa, is a criss-cross of democratic dividends, spanning all sectors of human development, among which are roads, bridges, massive drainages, educational and socio-economic structures, ultra-modern workers’ secretariat, that put paid to rented government offices, floating markets…the list is endless, that one can exclaim that it is a stronger Delta State, with visible and fast paced development, that makes the state unrecognizable, compared to the return of democracy in 1999.’

He defined infrastructure as the capital inventory that propelled the supply of public items in a financial system, in addition to the supply of conducive dwelling for the individuals.

As part of his keynote submission, Chief Tilije stated that infrastructure growth entailed the process of planning, organising, coordinating and controlling limited resources to realize selected aims, ostensibly the Prosperity for All Deltans.

He also observed governments’ capabilities to deliver key infrastructure, making Governor Okowa one of such leaders, who made the best of his tenure in turning around the fortunes of the state in a most impactful manner.

Yet, Commissioner Tilije observed that for Governor Okowa, Infrastructure has been about conceptualising the mind, as can be seen by the establishment of three new universities by the Governor, revival of technical education in the state and general economic, social and political development.

His views was roundly canvassed by former Delta State Governor, Dr. Uduaghan, who spoke through his daughter, Orode Uduaghan, whose summation, was that people would be happy and contribute to growth of democratic governments when they trust their governments, institutions, as well as trust in the ability of leaders to deliver democratic goods.

Discussants at the lecture included the Chief Strategist of Delta State Government, Dr.  Festus Okubor, the Commissioner representing Isoko ethnic Nationality on the board of Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, Dr. (Barr) Paul Oweh, former President, National Union of Local Government Employees of Nigeria, NULGE who is also, a Commissioner in the Delta State Civil Service Commission, Comrade Olumami O. Oyibo, and Dr. (Mrs.) Augustina Erah, Provost, College of Health Technology, Ofuoma, Ughelli. The session was moderated by Dr. Kemi Emina of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Delta State University, Abraka.

Discussing the topic, the discussants said that the fundamental issues facing Nigeria should make people pessimistic, but urged that Nigerians should have belief in God.

‘Nigeria has no sectoral cultures, thus everything is corrupted,’ they said.

They also said that infrastructure must be properly catered for. It was also pointed out that it was expected that Deltans in Asaba should have appreciated the doings of Governor Okowa by voting for him to be vice president during the last elections. They called for the remaking of the Nigeria Constitution, even as they identified that there is virtually no local government in the country, pointing out that the ones around exist onu8onu88 will help to enhance human living.

Each discussant acknowledged that the Okowa led administration in Delta state has done marvelously well in the provision of road infrastructure, adding that there is virtually no area of the State that the governor has not touched. “There’s no area in the State that Okowa has not touched including the floating market.’

Comrade Oyibo scored Governor Okowa 90 per cent, Dr. Erah said the Governor has done “efficiently well, fairly and effectively,” Dr. Okubor scored the administration, while Dr. Oweh, scored him a Distinction.

Chairman of the occasion and the Group Managing Director,  Rainoil Nigeria Limited, Dr. Gabriel Ogbechie, OON, commended the Maris Trust Council for the choice topic for this year’s Maris  Public Service Lecture, describing the topic as timely. Ogbechie particularly appreciated the Secretary to the Maris Trust Council, Comrade Fidelis Egugbo for finding the inspiration that gave birth to the yearly public service lecture, even as he prayed for the continued repose of the spirit and soul of late Miss Maris Egugbo.

‘Today, they have chosen a very exciting topic and that topic is Provision of Infrastructure as Catalyst for Growth of Democratic Government. As a matter of fact, I found this topic very timely because for those of us who are living in Delta State in general and Asaba in particular, we are all living witnesses of the impact of provision of infrastructure can actually do as a catalyst to for growth in democratic government,’ Dr. Ogbechie said.

The Chairman, Maris Trust Council, Chief (Dr.) Sir Kenneth Olise, stated that Maris Annual Public Service lecture holds every Wednesday before Easter Sunday, that is the Wednesday of the Holy Week, disclosing that this year’s edition was adjusted by one week because of the 2023 general elections.

He thanked lovers of democracy for coming out every year to attend the lecture, asserting, ‘It is a thing of joy that the lecture is getting better every year as people come out to identify societal challenges and proffer solutions to them using the Maris Lecture as a platform.

‘For next year, by the grace of God, it shall hold on Wednesday, March 27, 2024, kindly join us and engage in activities that will deepen Nigeria’s democracy; God bless you all,’ he said.