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Published On: Fri, Aug 8th, 2014

Kenny Okolugbo: Bringing Governance to the People

DESOPADEC Commissioner in Ndokwa nation, Hon Ken Okolugbo

By Agbanashi Obinne
LAGOS AUGUST 8TH (URHOBOTODAY)-Azuka Ogujiuba and Adedayo Showemimo enter the colourful world of Kenny Kenechukwu Okolugbo, the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) Commissioner who was knighted and got married at the age of 37years. For the first time, the DESOPADEC job took him from his home in Lekki Phase 1-Lagos back to his roots in Obiaruku to see things with the eyes of an adult; and he is so thankful to Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan for this
Everyone calls him Kenny and it doesn’t matter that he is in one of the most exalted offices in Delta State. His is what many describe as a hot seat. There is another name known to members of his inner circle of friends. Anyone who calls him ‘Ken Plaza’ must have been at a certain ‘school days’ birthday party of his in a certain plaza hotel. After the party they started calling ‘Ken Plaza’ and the name stuck.
Of course, being a commissioner in the Delta State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (DESOPADEC), the stakes are high and he is aware of the huge expectation. So he carries on with appreciable candour and a child-like innocence. The purity with which he came to office has remained since he was appointed by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State.
There is no doubt that Uduaghan thinks highly of Kenny Kenechukwu Okolugbo otherwise he would not have appointed him into an office he thinks would complement realisation of his three-point agenda which are ‘Peace and Security’, ‘Human Capital Development’, and ‘Infrastructural Development’.
You may very well call Kenny the Delta State equivalent of Nigeria’s oil minister, even if the fame is restricted to kith and kin in Ndokwa. It would still be a relevant distinction in a state that is largely known for its oil wealth. That is big deal.
Kenny has a deep understanding of the fact that DESOPADEC is the last point between the governor and the masses in the oil producing areas. As soon as he resumed duties and in order to bring about an immediate impact, he went straight to where he thought the problem was – security. He assisted the security agencies with functional vehicles in his immediate communities – Ndokwa West, Ndokwa East and Ukwuani local government areas which is quite very huge in terms of population and land mass.
The largesse was securely tied to the objective of realising peace without which there can be no infrastructural development. This was not going to be so much of a problem, as long as he worked with the transition committee chairmen. “I made sure that every single project in the budget was completed or near completion. I made sure that the projects were awarded to capable contractors. Over 10,000 people had access to doctors, we’ve had over 150 successful surgeries. That is exactly how I was able to tackle the initial six months in office. By the time I was getting to one year in office, I was able to complete 25 of the 40 projects. We have completed over 11 new classroom blocks, five street light projects; 11 transformers have been installed, 11 vehicles were purchased, a gigantic solar water project serving an entire village is working. There is an ante-natal clinic, we also constructed an ICT centre fully furnished with over 43 computers which has trained over 50 people in computer appreciation.”
Like a well nourished pupil with a strong presence of mind, Kenny reels out the essence of the creation DESOPADEC. As the oil producing areas have been restive for a long time, it stands to reason that an agency like DESOPADEC be created to bring government nearer to a people who previously complained of neglect, degradation and abject poverty. “The idea behind the creation of DESOPADEC is that 50 per cent of the 13 per cent derivation that comes to the state goes directly to the oil producing communities. That 50 per cent is given to DESOPADEC to manage. DESOPADEC develops the area, justifies the money it receives so that the area can look like a place that lays the golden egg.”
As one saddled with a handful of herculean tasks, he recalls a few extraordinarily challenging projects. “The most challenging projects have been the road projects, you know in DESOPADEC, we share our money in terms of quantum, and I get the least, because Ndokwa is seen as the least in the order of oil production. Because I get the least, I find it very hard to embark on the kind of road construction I would ordinarily have intended to, so you find me having to phase my road construction because of financial challenge.”
But by far, what Kenny sees as the star on his crown of achievements is the Uduaghan Centre; “That is my star project. It’s a research and resource centre. It is supposed to cater to those who are predominantly from my mandate area. It is also open to the general public, because the centre is located close to Novena University and the Delta State University. The project will bring income to my mandate area, and it’ll also serve the purpose of advancing research for those in the tertiary institutions.”
Kenny thinks his community should not get the least allocation of all the oil producing communities in Delta, but this is something he is going to prove in a methodical manner. Since DESOPADEC was born in the first tenure of the governor, the oil production quantum has changed between then and now. His community now has five oil companies. “We have a marginal oil field in Ebedei, we have in Okpai, infact the only gas plant that was commissioned by President Obasanjo is located in Ndokwa, I stand to be corrected and today it’s still producing 448 megawatts and by the time they finish the second phase which is near completion, it would be able to produce 960 mega watts.”
Expectedly, he has very kind and affable words for Uduaghan. “He gives us the resources, the enabling environment and independence to operate. The only thing he tells us is not to embark on projects we can’t complete, because our tenures are almost over, which makes sense and today the bulk of the success we have recorded at Ndokwa nation still goes back to the efforts and support of the governor, because I wouldn’t have been able to record this milestone without his support.”
If there is one thing Kenny particularly thanks Uduaghan for it is for bringing him close to his people. But for his appointment as the Commissioner representing Ndokwa in DESOPADEC, he probably would never have known what it means to live with the people. That has afforded him the opportunity of knowing their problems. At least, he had to take a temporal leave of his Lekki Phase 1-Lagos home to live in his Obiaruku village. He could have stayed in Warri where his office is but chose to stay in the village. His intention is that this decision will serve as a lesson for his children. “I cannot sit in the comfort of my office in Warri to plan my budget. I have to be with the people to feel their pulse. Even though you deny yourself the pleasure of urban areas, it is worth it when you see the results like Uduaghan is doing.”
Recently, there was a story that Kenny was suspended from office for certificate forgery. He dispelled the tale as an unfounded. Laughing, he recalled a desperate action that earned the ire of his parents. “I told my mother that I was tired of coming second in my class, that since she was the headmistress, she could change my result. She couldn’t believe her ears. There were two girls in my class, Osaze and Mary who were very bright. Competition with them was very stiff. They beat me to it always. I got tired and told my mum to do something about it. She reported me to my dad and he was very angry.” His father was a lecturer while the mother was a headmistress. “My dad lectured in the Religious Studies Department at the Delta State University, he was an associate professor before he died. As headmistress the primary school we attended, my mother taught six of her children. My parents were very strict and I was quite stubborn.
I felt the environment was very hostile, but looking at it now I understand why it was like that. I couldn’t cope and it was that urge that made me start life on time. However, I learnt that it’s important to train up a child in the way he should go, so when he grows he won’t depart from it.” Kenny said with that kind of background it was not possible for him to be caught dead forging a certificate. “I graduated in 1996/97 from the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma with a Second Class Honours in Political Science.”
At 37, Kenny had attained an enviable mark in the church hierarchy. “Yea, that was in 2010, when I was nominated by my cathedral, I didn’t know about it until I was told, and I was quite taken aback. I think what the bishop did was to encourage and motivate me in dedicating myself more to the work of God and I think it has helped me a lot. I am always conscious of the fact that I have more responsibilities. There is a bit of history behind it too. My father was a “Very Reverend” in the Anglican Communion. He was the provost of the Anglican Communion in Asaba, Delta state.”
Talking about his wife brings a grin to his face. Could it be that it was the knighthood that opened his eye to the value of marriage in a man’s life, as he also got married in the same year that he was knighted.
“We got introduced to each other, and for me what really attracted me to her was her simplicity and youthfulness. I think marriage is just a necessity. Well, at 37. I needed to take my time and be sure I was taking the right decision and maybe probably because my parents were also not alive, so I didn’t really feel any pressure.”
As vivacious as he appears, Kenny does not brook nonsense. He is particularly upset when he is told a lie over and over again. And if he is permitted to be a judge in his own case, he would rate himself high empowering the youths. However, he desires to do more. “We were able to give out 100 tricycles, if I had my way, I would have given out 2000, because I found out that those who collected the tricycles came back to tell me how they pay school fees and feed their families with it, and that’s very touching. Another instance, we are doing ICT training now, but I can only do for 50 people because that’s what I can afford, but really 50 people is small, so I can’t be fulfilled. I wish I could do more. I wish I could tar all the roads I want, but the funds are not there.”
In his estimation what should engender healthy rivalry is that persons in public office set high standard of achievement. “I want to be remembered as the commissioner that commissioned over a hundred projects and raised the bar so much that it would be very difficult for the next person to match.”

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