By Gladys Abugoh
Dr. Gregory Oke Akpojene, 65  takes oath of office tomorrow as president general of the Isoko Development Union (IDU) in Oleh, Delta state. He is the only Isoko man to be elected as President of IDU for the third time after a successful two term tenure that lasted from 1993 to 1996. He speaks to Saturday Vanguard on issues involving Isoko nation, Delta State, and Nigeria in general.

How has been your life from childhood and what are your interests?

I have been an ambitious person from my childhood. My parents were farmers and I grew up as a farmer. I did not spend my time wastefully when I was young, in fact I started business from childhood because I like working without wasting my hours of the day. As a child, I always dreamt to be an employer of labour, that one day I would like to have a company where people will work. That has been my ambition from childhood and that is indeed what inspired me to come to what I am today.

How did you emerge as IDU President?

Akpojene...Isoko will rejoice

From 1992 to 1996 I served as President General of Isoko Development Union, that gave me two tenures and having served as President of IDU, my performance impressed Isoko people who gave me as a reward an IDU Merit Award for service to Isoko nation. Besides that, Oleh, the then headquarters of Isoko also gave an award, the Otosu of Oleh Kingdom (a worthy leader). Before my service as President of IDU, I served as Chairman of Isoko Local Government Council for two years between 1980 and 1981 and due to my performance in the Isoko Local Government Administration, Isoko people converged in 1981 to do me a rare honour by conferring on me a joint chieftaincy title by Isoko kings, the Okpobrisi of Isoko Land.

In fact, it was my activities as a political leader that made Isoko people make me a cultural leader, the President of IDU from 1993 to 1996. Over the years I have continued to serve Isoko people in my private capacity and I have been serving also as a patron of IDU.

But when last year the position for President General became vacant in Isoko after years of legal tussle, Isoko people felt that they wanted an experienced hand to handle their administration this time around, because there had been an interregnum of leadership for over four years without a President General of the Isoko nation. So instead of electing a new man into the position they decided to make another history by making me again the leader of Isoko people. So I have entered records as the first Isoko man to be leader of the people on two different tenures. My election came by a consensus vote, as everybody agreed that I should take over the leadership based on my past performance, having been adjudged the only person who could take the Isoko people ashore from the mess they found themselves in the previous years. That is how I emerged as the President General for the second time now.

What to expect from him

They should expect much from me. In the previous tenures I served, I left legacies such as the Delta State University Campus, Oleh, which I influenced the government of Ibrahim Keffas to give to Isoko people. Also the Isoko house which I conceived the idea and laid the foundation and was abandoned by my successors is still there and people are still expecting that that house must be completed. There are other things I did for Isoko people which I would not be able to mention now.

One of the things that has bothered the Isoko people after my exit is the strain in relationship between the Government House and the Isoko nation. It was because of the rapport that I had with   the State Government that gave me the University Campus at Oleh.

The Government House after I my exit became far away from Isoko people. In my time I erected a very strong bridge that linked Isoko people with the Government House and that was why I got these results. So my preoccupation in this tenure is to see that relationship that has been smeared is restored. I will repair and replace the rail line that I erected previously this time around as leader of Isoko people.

Secondly, the Isoko House which my successors did not complete is also focused upon in this administration and thirdly the Isoko people are not pulling their weight as we have no industrialist in Isoko land. For any nation or community that wants development, the only way out is industrialisation, and industrialisation cannot come about without laying the foundation of producing business men.

Already after leaving office as president general, I have been working in my different private capacities to ensure that the Isoko man is emancipated economically. That is why I have been at the forefront of trying to use the cooperative movement to transform Isoko land to a developed area. I have got societies that are already producing millionaires who build industries and develop communities. It is left for the rich in an area to develop their place and when industrialization comes rural-urban drift is checked and rural areas develop to become townships.

What are some of the ills in Isoko and IDU that you hope to address and how do you intend to do so?

One of the ills is lack of industrialization like I said. That is already occupying my mind and I have stated that through the cooperative movement.

The establishment of Iloho Isoko which is the best organized cooperative society in this country is a case in point. I have also established the Isoko Cooperative Federation of All Cooperative Societies in Isoko Land where people are taught the rudiments of business management. Industrialists will be produced to transform Isoko Land to an egalitarian society and finally reduce the unemployment in the area.

Secondly, everybody in Isoko knows that there are a lot of intra-communal crisis which are caused by oil politics. You see community leadership fighting against traditional rulers in various communities because of the way oil companies operate. Their method of operation is such that it knocks the head of traditional rulers against community leaders and development unions. So one of the things that I will do is to ensure that IDU educates Isoko people to stop inter-communal crisis. We will embark on campaigns and crusades around Isoko to see that internal quarrels arising from oil policies are reduced or avoided.

Subsidy ?

The action taken by the Federal Government by the removal of oil subsidy to me as an individual is a right step in the right direction.


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