The Hon Commissioner, Chike Ogeah, also gives an insight into the kind of person his boss, Governor Uduaghan is.
How do you see your boss, the man Uduaghan?
Well, like I said when I started the job, I said he is like an elephant. It depends on which part of him. You know when a blind man is feeling an elephant, he will feel the ear and he will think that it is a massive fan. When he feels the tusk, he will say what kind of tree is this? The point I am trying to make is basically that he is a man that has so many sides to himself. And it depends on what side of him you are dealing with before you will be able to come to that conclusion.
The good thing about that kind of person is that he is always able to deal with all kinds of people around him and beyond. The truth is that for you to be able to govern Delta State, the state that is as multi-ethnic as Delta is, you need to have that kind of psyche.
In Uduaghan, I dare say you have a rugged politician, you have a consummate professional, you have an astute administrator, and you know he has the capacity and ability that goes with all those things depending on what side he needs to bring up to deal with a particular situation he is confronted with.
But in all, what I think I admire most time and say about him is that he is always very calm, always very collected, he sees things from all sides, so he is hardly ever surprised by any side you come from because he would have reasoned it through. He is a kind of person that thinks things through before he acts. So those qualities I think is why he has largely been successful in his time as the Governor of Delta State.
Delta state, I’m sure must be one of the most difficult states to govern being that we are difficult people, some of our cultures are as different as they come, some of our thinking, our reasoning, our behaviour you know, the potpourri of the whole cultural mix of people in Delta, what I think he has done is that he has harnessed it and has been able to bring out the very strong unifying identity from it and that is why at the end of the day, if you you begin to wonder where is this man from, people will tell you that he is from Delta North, because he has a house here, he lives here, that is why he has done such great things for Delta North.
Then, they tell you that his biological mother is from Delta Central and that men are always more inclined to where their mother is from and they say he is more Urhobo than anything else, but yet we know he is an Itsekiri man which is where his father comes from and a proud Itsekiri man for that matter and his people really appreciate him for what he has done for them. So in all, I think he has done well and the most important thing is his intention of finishing strong which is where I think he really got it right knowing that every second still counts as we go to the count down.
What is really unique in his style of administration?
Well, like I said to you before, he has a penchant of enough patience to deal with everybody and listen to everybody. I find that very unique in his style. Then another thing I find unique which we do not find with a lot of leaders in this clime is that when they give a subordinate a responsibility, they tend to do it for the subordinate, but he is not that way. He gives you a responsibility and he leaves you to handle that.
For me, to have trusted you to have given you this assignment in the first place means that he believes in your competence. Now, what I like about him is that, it is not that subordinates do not make mistakes; of course, we all fall short from time to time as humans, but he just takes you through what you should have done because the truth is that he has been thoroughly schooled in governance. A lot of our leaders and that has been the tragedy of Nigeria as a nation are not schooled in the art of governance as he is.
Some of them, the first position they occupy is usually the position they got into when they were elected and that is the first position of responsibility. Maybe for some of them, that is even the first point of call they have ever worked in their lives. So what then happens? You have an apprentice who is learning on the job but for this man, he was blessed. He was a commissioner twice and SSG in a state like Delta.
Sometimes, I marvel personally at his knowledge of this state in terms of things that needs to be done, in terms of prioritisation, in terms of the very unique political configuration of the state and the way he just navigates the waters. I think that is where he just scored a very high mark, but most importantly was that my experience around him during the campaigns when there was a lot of betrayals going on, when there were lots of treachery; the way he handled it, you’d begin to wonder and you’d find some of his subordinates who were getting even more annoyed and it is like hey! look at the man that they did the thing to, yet calm and easy.
So I think at the end of the day, when you look at these qualities of him, they are little things that make the great things. You know great leaders’ are made little by little through the things they do consistently and they get right and more importantly, I think the fact that he is able to come down to everybody’s level, very comfortable in the scheme is another factor. This is a man who will tell you the story of his life.
He had no eggs and graces, he doesn’t need to pretend to anybody. The other day, he was in Buckingham Palace and he was telling them how it was and how it went, when he was a young boy in the village and you needed to see how the audience was caught and they were listening to him with rapt attention. He was able to capture them with his real life experience and stories.
Some people do not feel that comfortable, so I think by the time you put the summation of all these together, this is what I think makes that man unique. In other words, that ability to be comfortable in his own scheme and who he is, many of us at some time or the other find it difficult to do that.
This issue of Delta state beyond oil, some people see it as very elitist, to the market woman, it sounds like big dream to her?
The mantra, ‘Delta Beyond Oil’ is fine because at the end of the day, that is what we are trying to do with all the organs available to government. That is why I work very closely with the community newspapers, we have sessions with them, we brief them, we have our Information Officers in the different localities, the grassroot areas and all we are telling them is that a lot of these your areas are being opened up to the outside world.
All we are say is we are earning quite a lot of money compared to other states from our derivation money from Oil. Of course, you know we have a statutory amount we send to DESOPADEC oil producing areas for their own peculiar problems, but with the extra we have ,we want to build modern educational infrastructure, we want to construct roads, we want to construct bridges and train our people to be the best they can be.
We want to computerise our society, digitize our society, get our children to be digitally compliant and these are all options to oil so that tomorrow when the oil either runs dry or when there is an alternative to it and it is not such a scarce resource, anymore, we would have developed other areas and that is why, lately you notice we have been on a great shuttle for foreign investment to come into the state and that is why we have been telling them that Delta is ready for investment.
We have put in place a one stop shop where all documentation for your new business can take place. We want to make it as painless as possible: expatriate quotas registration; pioneer status; everything can be done in one place within a certain period of time. This office is in the office of the Governor.
He takes it very seriously and it is being handled by his Economic Adviser, and then we have shown them the areas where we have. We have built all the parks. We started them also with foreign investment because we want to industrialise our state, but I think at the end of the day, the game changer for us is the Ogidigben gas facility that is being built by the federal government which is going to be a petrochemical, fertilizer plant and also a gas city.
This is over 18 billion dollar. We have provided them with land, we have the national resource instead of flaring gas like we have all been doing. We can now start using gas for all the different constructive things it can be done with because the world is moving away from oil to gas.
That is the truth and that facility will create over 10 to 20 thousand jobs for Deltans and by the time it goes to the chevron project and all the other offshore projects in the Warri environ which is the oil and gas axis of the state, it is going to be a game changer not just for Delta but also for West Africa. So, these are all the things we have been looking at and trying to get foreign investors to come in here, that there are these opportunities everywhere.
Concerning the Ogidigbem gas facility, I recently interveiwed an Elder States man, Senator Nosike Ikpo who said that one thing he will give to Uduaghan is relative peace in Warri; that the governor brought peace to Warri. What is your take?
Yes, because you cannot build airport without peace. Our three points agenda is as follows: peace and security, Infrastructure Development and Human Capital Development. You cannot do anything without peace and security and that is why I say it to everybody that I think that is our greatest achievement in this administration. In fact, if you remember just like the distinguished Senator was telling you, the federal government borrowed the leaf from that amnesty programme that Uduaghan enunciated in Delta state.
At a time, he was going into the creeks, meeting these militants when the thing was so terrible, even without security.You see, these are the things a leader is supposed to do. You must be ready to put yourself and your life on the line and he did that for the state and he won the peace comprehensively and that is why we have been able to build on top of it before we started talking about Delta Beyond Oil and all of that.
So definitely, I think that is the greatest accolade that he has; that is being able to bring down the crisis. I mean at a time the Warri crisis was almost going to be like the Rwanda thing where brothers were going against brothers, he was able to resolve that. If I may tell you, there is hardly any household in Warri that you will not find the mother is Itsekiri and the father is Urhobo, and the Ijaws were also part of the whole strife at that time.
How are you coping with the job as Information Commissioner, because I know that in Delta state, there is this suspicion among the ethnic groups?
Well, when I came in, I saw that as a big challenge that no matter what I do here, I would first be seen as an Anioma man and maybe, as an Asaba man and all that, but I thank God that with time, we have been able to tell people that some of us even by virtue of our birth, my mother is of the Yoruba stock. We did not grow up that way looking at life from that prism and I have done to the best of my ability given to me by God, to make sure that no decision I have taking on this chair has been based on any form of ethnicity.
And it is easy for me to cope with because I copied this from my boss. He does not do that. So why should I want to do that? And we have just done things according to how they have to be done, giving to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar, and over time even when I came in, the suspicion was ripe amidst so many other ethnic problems and tensions and ethnic hatred and suspicion but to a large extent and with the mentoring of this great man, one has been able to navigate those waters and we have come to a stage where now, even the community newspapers I had some issues with have mellowed down. You find out that when a community newspaper is straight in one area, all it wants to do is try to see things from that area against anything else.
And we have been able to take that away from them and we are all working honestly together trying to realise that it’s better for us to bring in all our differences in one pot and then turn it into our strength.
What guarantee do you have for the sustenance of these programmes when you leave office?
When a government leaves an office, we practice party democracy in Nigeria, so the PDP will obviously have to be succeeded by a PDP government and I am sure we will do what we can to make sure that it happens.