By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South & Festus Ahon (Asaba)
ONE woman, who has being around with four successive governors of Delta State, starting with the first civilian governor, Olorogun Felix Ibru, Chief James Ibori, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and the incumbent, Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa, is the present Commissioner for Women Affairs, Community and Social Development in the state, Rev. (Mrs.) Omatsola Williams.
There appears to be something inimitable about her that past and successive governors of the state observe, which people afar do not immediately know. Married to Chief Saka Adebowale Williams of Lagos State and blessed with a son, Rasheed Adebowale Williams, the four governors tested her in different capacities and she proved her mettle.
Olorogun Ibru appointed the seasoned administrator, scholar, professional nurse and nurse-educator as Member of the Delta State Sports Council Board from 1992-1993 before she bowed out as a Director of the Delta Civil Service in 1994. A military putsch threw the then civilian government out of power and when the whistle for democratic rule was blown again, she launched into full-time politics as a founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in 1999 and since then, it has been no looking back for her.
Under Ibori, she was a Member of the Delta State Urban Water Board from 1999 to 2003, Member, Governing Council, College of Education, Warri, 2003–2006, Project/Programme Monitor for Warri North Local Government Area of Delta from 2006 to 2007 and Assistant Director, Women Mobilization for Uduaghan/PDP Campaign Organization, Asaba in 2007.
Dr. Uduaghan appointed her as Commissioner, Directorate of Youths Development and Okowa saw no reason to retire her from active politics when he came on.
But, what is the ordained Reverend of the Church of the Lord (Aladura) Worldwide, CLAW, doing in politics, instead of the pulpit, where she should be dispensing the word of God and releasing thunders of divine mysteries?
Saturday Vanguard encountered the Commissioner at her office in Asaba. Dark-complexioned and blunt, Rev. Williams obviously believes in attack as a form of defense, as she confronted our team with complaint that journalists were no longer hunting for news these days, but money. She recalled the old days when reporters stayed close to government ministries and kept tab on people for news stories, bemoaning that the today’s journalists have a completely different orientation to news reporting.
She wondered what brought Saturday Vanguard to her office. As for her, she said, journalists only like to interview big people and the team told her that she was one of the big fishes, hence the visit. She retorted that we came to pull her legs.
“How has it been as a Commissioner for Women Affairs, Community and Social Development?” we asked as she reclined on her seat, adjusting her eyeglasses and “born again” women cap. She replied: “As Commissioner for Women Affairs, I am saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that the policies laid down for this Ministry are adhered to and executed accordingly. My impression of the Ministry of Women Affairs was very different from what I came to see.
“People from outside would say that the Ministry of Women Affairs has responsibility of handling all women activities in the state, but women activities in this ministry are just minimal and that is why I always insist that it is Ministry of Women Affairs, Community and Social Development, not just Women Affairs. Therefore, we have more activities in community and social services.”
She explained: “Apart from the statutory Departments of Planning, Research, Administration and Finance, this Ministry has a Department for Rehabilitation. In addition, when you talk about rehabilitation, you are talking of the destitute, you are talking about people with disability, you are talking of the disability in terms of deaf and dumb, the blind, those who have been treated of leprosy.”
On her plans for the Ministry, she said, “My vision for the less privileged in the society is how we can improve in their status. Talking about destitute for instance, you know we do not have psychiatric hospitals or homes in Delta State as you have in Edo, but God has used some people to create homes for such people; traditional medical homes and I have had cause to visit these homes and was taken aback.
“The only way we can help is to encourage such people, assist them where necessary to improve their environment; where there is no water, we see that they have water. To manage one psychiatric patient is quite a lot, not to talk of some homes having up to 70, some up to 80, so I really feel that government should not leave these people alone.
“It is true relations bring some, but some they picked from the streets themselves. By the grace of God, in one of such homes, the man said he had managed to sink a borehole, but cannot afford the tank, so we decided to provide tank for them and today he is happy that they have water running in the place. That is how we can come in. They treat and discharge, we, on our own have to follow up to see how well they settle with their people and how society receive them back.”
What exactly does she want to do differently as a politician in the Ministry? She said: “Politics is reaching out to the people, giving to the people what you promised them. Moreover, by the special grace of God, the SMART agenda of His Excellency, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa drives that home. If you look at it, it is more of social services, but people do not know.
Child trafficking racket
The Commissioner asserted: “Now talking of orphanages, there are people that have established orphanages; we have about 28 accredited orphanages in the state that we know.
Eventually, we would go in because we are social welfare officers now. I have been given the directive to look at their various places to give us list of orphanages in their various local government areas. Why, as at the time I came in here, the issue of selling children was the order of the day – child trafficking. Thank God; this year it is no to violence against child trafficking.
“So we are moving on that seriously. If we must nip it, we must start from home; they say charity begins at home. By home, I mean my staff. There has to be a re-orientation of what is expected of them, which we have started. Recently, one of the staff was dismissed for being involved in child trafficking.”
On the difficulties in executing her mandate, she said, “The challenges that I have are not new. You are aware of the situation we find ourselves. Naira has dropped and financing has become a problem generally in the country and we cannot be ruled out.
“Secondly, staff; we know that the staff strength of Delta State is high but we want more redeployed to us because monitoring children on the street is not a one man affair; it is a team work because ours is to follow them down to their homes. So even if they say normal closing time for work is 4.00 pm, you might find out that as at 7.00 pm, you are still in a family’s home trying to educate or trying to make them accept a child back home or whatever and even educate them on child psychology, which many parents do not know,” she stated.
She cited an instance: “Like two children they brought from Benue State, saying they were taking them to Lagos, but believe me, they ended up at Oleh. By the special grace of God, we got those two children, took them back to Benue State through our social development officer and handed them over to the Commissioner for Women Affairs there and they were excited.”
Why is a Reverend, an oracle of God for that matter, in the political terrain, instead of the pulpit preaching the word? Rev Williams said: “You see, what people do not know is that every human being is a political being. If you go to our ministries, you will see pastors, you will see deacons, you will see reverends, and you will see reverend canons. That you are in the ministry does not mean you should not work for God. That does not make you to differ from the altar of God. You might be surprised that majority of the bishops of some churches are retired civil servants or public servants.”
According to her, “In my own case, as a reverend, I started as a church worker before I was ordained and being in the system, I am supposed to be a mentor to many; I am supposed to use that knowledge, that spiritual gift to reach out to others. So is not just limited to being in the altar; ministration is not about altar, ministration can be anywhere and your ministration is not just by carrying the Bible and preaching; your ministration is let others see Jesus Christ in you, through your attitude, your behaviour, your way of talking, your association; as written, show love to everybody, establish relationships. It is not more than that.”
So, how, for about 21 years after she retired as a civil servant, did the governors from James Ibori to Emmanuel Uduaghan and presently, Ifeanyi Okowa, always call her to serve the state in one capacity or the other? What is her staying power?
She chuckled for the first time during the interview and went religious, saying, “It is the grace of God; loyalty and service.”
She was, however, quick to add: “I believe in what Richard Annie said. If you read 39 Steps, it said ‘the act of enjoying any job is by putting yourself into it.’ I was a founding member of PDP; when we started, we came from different associations to form PDP. After I retired from Delta State Service as a Director of Sports in 1994, I happened to be the first female Director in any ministry in this country.
“But as a civil servant, we were doing underground meetings with politicians. Therefore, by the time I left the service, going into politics was not new to me but I met with a lot of resistance because as at the time we came in, it was an uphill task, being a woman and educated. However, endurance, patience was what brought me up.
“So, I made myself useful each time, and was able to prove a point because many people always feel that for a woman to move up in politics, you must have associated yourself with as many male as possible, which is what I want to say: It is not true. If you want to succeed as a woman, show who you are and people will respect you; they will acknowledge you, you will not be a clapping-event person.
“If you are given a responsibility, you do it even more than what is expected, and if you are given one naira, you spend it as expected and give your report. Then, there is a level of trust and confidence; others see that confidence built by you.
Commenting on media report, some months ago, about alleged conversion of a skill acquisition centre under her ministry to a sex den by commercial sex workers and invasion of the facility by hoodlums, who carted away computers and other facilities, she said: “It was a false report and I even refuted it.
All the things are there intact; they did not remove anything from the Family Support Programme Centre at all. I have taken pains, quietly and unknown to anybody, to go to the FSP centre in the evening; there was nothing like that there. Therefore, it was something that was published just to create a bad image for us, which is not right.”
As a Christian, is using her position to affect other politicians around her? The Itsekiri-born politician told Saturday Vanguard: “Our status in government is Christ-oriented. Our head, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa believes in God and appreciates the grace of God. If you go the Government House Chapel in the mornings, you will be taken aback. If you did not even know God before, you would be forced to know Him; you are made at all times to re-acclaim your faith in God.
“In this Ministry, for instance, we do not start anything here without going to God and at such periods, little messages are given; workers’ behaviour and attitude towards work are touched,” she said.