Delta State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Engr. Lawrence Ejiofor, is a grassroots politician who has come to the culture and tourism sector with a rich background in Engineering and Project Monitoring. He spoke convincingly on the prospects of a Delta State Cultural Centre and a Tourism/ Leisure park and Film Village with COLLINS AGWAM of Classic International Magazine, insisting that with the roadmap currently in place, Delta will in no distant time, be emerging the most compelling tourism destination in Africa. Enjoy the excerpt
Tell us a bit about your person.
I am Lawrence Ejiofor, from Ubulu-Uku in Aniocha South Local Government Area. I studied Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri and after my National Youth Service program in Abuja I joined one of my cousins in Gepon Telecommunication Company where we did much of maintenance and installations and also was involved in a lot of travels. Those were the days of NITEL as the communication establishment and under it, we were involved in lots of travels but at some point I decided on Politics as a pathway to lasting contribution to my community and society at large. I have been in politics since 2001 and has contested for the State House of Assembly seat in my constituency against an incumbent. I have been steadfast with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) working from the background during Chief James Iboris time till now, I was always in the forefront.
I was one time PDP Financial Secretary in my Local Government, Publicity Secretary until 2015 after His Excellency, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa won the election as the Executive Governor of Delta State, and haven played a major role in the forefront, I was appointed Special Assistant to the Governor on Project Monitoring and after much dedication to the job assigned to us by the governor, where we adopted a new style in our activity and haven found me worthy, the governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, in his second term reappointed me as the Commissioner for Culture and Tourism.
You were a member of the State Project Monitoring Team and the State EXCO, recently came up with the idea that contractors especially road contractors will be held liable for another two years for any defect in their jobs
What is your take on the quality of jobs being delivered?
There are two sides to the story. You gave an example of the old roads that had been done so many years ago, I am not trying to excuse the contractors doing the job that they are doing now but before we begin to give these comparison, we must know that when those you are comparing these new roads to were tarred, our roads were not very busy and were also not carrying heavy loads like trailers and heavy trucks. They were designed for specific capacity and I think they are still going through the way they were designed.
And if you must know, those heavy trucks you are talking about carrying heavy tonnages, do not ply that road and if they do, those roads would not last for a week.
Most of our roads are not designed for heavy trucks especially our internal roads. Roads are supposed to be left until they set and are made durable before use but in our country here, people would even start using a road facility the next day after tarring it.
Have you considered the possibility of a decline in the quality of materials being used?
No, it is not the quality of materials that is being used but it is a two way thing which needs clarification. The roads in the foreign countries are constantly monitored. There are some roads you do not allow those big trucks to ply and the normal ones they can ply on and they are also monitored. There is a weighing machine at every corner of these roads so trucks dont cut corners. Before these trucks move on these roads, they would have to weigh to ensure they do not exceed the capacity. At any point, there is a machine monitoring these vehicles as they ply these roads to ensure that you do not carry more than what the road can take. It is not the fault of the contractor but the system has to monitor the roads to ensure that the capacity of the trucks do not exceed what the road is supposed to take.
We are not putting blame on anybody; however, it is a two way thing. After constructing these roads by the contractors, it is now the duty of the government if possible, to monitor most of these trucks on our roads.
Being a vastly multi-lingual state, there are fears that the upcoming generation would find it difficult in communicating in their mother tongues. In what way is the revival of native language in schools integral to you?
The problem lies within you and I, everybody has to be involved in making our languages outlive us. Like you said, Delta State is a multi-lingual state, so you cannot say that we would accommodate language studies in our curriculum. If we do that, which would we choose and which would we leave out, it is easier for some states to adopt it because most of them speak one language. It would be easier for Hausa language to be adopted for example, but in Delta State, you dont expect it to be that easy given that we are multi-lingual.
The National Policy on Education says at the Primary School level, the language of instruction for a child should be the language of that immediate environment. Again the State Broadcasting Service was known for broadcasting in the major indigenous languages but has now stopped. With all these, where exactly are we headed?
If we consider this, a lot of issues will come up. The proponents of the national policy can say their postulations in states that have a common language but here in Delta, you cant impose a single language on everybody. And if you want to include all the languages, it means different schools at different locations in the state would be running different curriculums.
At the family level, responsibility is on us to force our languages on our children and wards to ensure that our cultural heritage, especially language does not become extinct.
At our level in the Directorate of Culture and Tourism, I have told them that as from next year, every last Friday of the month would be designated for the showcasing of our traditional attires. Everyone is expected to dress traditionally as a way of promoting our rich culture.
Can you lead us into the operational state of the designated tourism sites in Delta State?
What we do is to pick them one at a time with the aim of developing them up to a standard level. We have taken Lander Brothers Anchorage from Delta North and next would be the Ethiope Resort to be followed by the Abiara Bible site. Our goal is to develop them to a level of becoming tourist sites. We also need to understand that for a place to be referred to as a tourist centre, it has to be a centre of attraction.
There needs to be something unique that would always make people want to come back. These and many more are factors we are considering in setting up these places. People now travel to Dubai, which used to be a desert simply because of the things on ground.
For instance in the leisure park being constructed, there is place for a huge tower comprising ten storey buildings that house so many things.
How do you cope as an Engineer heading the state tourism industry?
I am coping very well; as a matter of fact we are looking at re-engineering culture in the state. As an Engineer, I have found out that there are really not much things on ground for proper interface of the various activities. I am spicing up the directorate with experience in engineering to ensure that the right facilities are in place.