BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, HENRY UMORU, DEMOLA AKINYEMI, DAPO AKINREFON, GBENGA OKE & JOSEPH ERUNKE
THE cold hands of death dealt Nigeria’s political and sporting firmament a devastating blow yesterday by snatching Senator Pius Ewherido (PDP, Delta Central) and ex-international, Thompson Oliha.
Ewherido, 50, the only Democratic Peoples Party, DPP, senator died a week after declaring his intention to run for the governorship of Delta State in 2015.
And Oliha, 45, died after helping Kwara Football Academy where he was a coach beat Ben Machezie Football Foundation of Northern Mali on Saturday.
Oliha, a Benin boy from Ogbe Quarters, was a member of the Super Eagles of Nigeria to the United States of America, USA, FIFA World Cup in 1994. He was said to have slumped in his toilet yesterday morning and was subsequently rushed to a hospital in Ilorin where he died.
Ewherido passed on at the National Hospital, Abuja at 5 pm where he was rushed to after suffering stroke last Thursday. He died in the presence of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State.
Announcing Ewherido’s death yesterday, the Delta State Government, in a statement by Comrade Ovuozorie Macaulay, Secretary to the Delta State government, said the senator died at the National Hospital, Abuja after a brief illness.
Macaulay said: “The Government of Delta State wish to commiserate with and express deep condolences to the family at this trying moment. Government advises Deltans, particularly members of his constituency to remain calm. We pray that God grants his family, constituents and all of us, the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss”.Jonathan shocked
President Goodluck Jonathan received with shock and sadness, news of the passing on of the senator. Dr. Reuben Abati, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity said: “On behalf of himself and members of the executive arm of the Federal Government, President Jonathan extends heartfelt condolences to Senator Ewherido’s family, the Senate President, Senator David Mark and all of the late Senator’s colleagues in the upper chamber of the National Assembly.
“The President joins them, members of the Ewherido family and the government and people of Delta State in mourning the distinguished legislator who served commendably as a member and deputy speaker of the Delta State of Assembly before his election as the Senator representing the Delta Central Senatorial District in the 2011 general elections.
“President Jonathan prays that God Almighty will comfort Senator Ewherido’s family, relatives, colleagues in the National Assembly and all the people of his constituency.
“He further prays that God will, in His infinite mercies, grant them the strength and fortitude to bear the painful loss of the very promising politician at the relatively youthful age of 50.”
His death is devastating – Senate
The Senate described the death of Senator Pius Ewherido, DPP, Delta Central as devastating and shocking.
In a statement by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Publicity, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe noted that Ewherido only took ill weekend and was not able to make it.
Abaribe said: “Senator Ewherido was one of the most articulate, erudite, urbane and easy-going senators who brought his wealth of experience as a Deputy Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly to bear on the floor. He was always concerned about his constituents and Nigeria as a whole”.
Mark weeps, cuts short trip to Ghana
Senate President, David Mark, yesterday, wept over the untimely death of Senator Ewherido whom he described as a forthright and vibrant parliamentarian.
Senator Mark lamented that Ewherido was one of the foremost and hardworking senators in the Seventh Senate.
In a statement by his Special Adviser, Media, Kola Ologbondiyan, the Senate President noted that Ewherido had within his short but eventful membership of the Senate displayed patriotism, commitment and truly distinguished himself as a parliamentarian of a very high standard.
“We have lost a true friend and colleague. We lost a vibrant and a very articulate senator. We have lost a patriotic Nigerian who stood to be counted when it mattered”.
Senator Mark noted that one of Senator Ewherido’s bills on how to address the issue of manslaughter in the land was currently under going through legislative works, adding that the deceased should have been alive to see his good works aimed at saving mankind.
He added that the Senate would do the needful to ensure that the immediate family of Ewherido did not suffer.
He told the government and people of Delta State, especially the bereaved family to take solace in the fact that the late senator lived an accomplished life worthy of emulation.
Senator Mark, who was in Accra, Ghana, for a golf tournament had on receiving the sad news, cut short his trip and returned home to mourn his departed colleague.
Ekweremadu, Ojudu, Harriman, Okocha, Gbinije mourn
Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, described Ewherido’s death as “sad and shocking” and a great blow to the legislature and the nation in general.
He said: “This is one death too devastating as Senator Ewherido was a staunch believer in the Nigerian project, a patriot, and hard working lawmaker who gave his very best to the nation. We have lost a legislative treasure, especially given the rich experience and insight he brought to the Senate having served as a lawmaker in the Delta State House of Assembly and the House of Representatives.”
Erstwhile Member of the House of Representatives and Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN chieftain, Ms Temi Harriman expressed shock at the development recalling her brief but cordial political relationship with the dead senator who was set to formally declare for the fledgling All Progressive Congress, APC.
“My deepest condolence to the family on this shocking news of a bright star who had achieved so much from the Delta State House of Assembly to the Senate. We pray for his wife and family and political associates and my deepest prayer for him is that God will grant him eternal peace.”
In his reaction, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, who represents Ekiti Central Senatorial District, described the late Ewherido as a “promising man, highly intelligent and very friendly”.
Ojudu said: “It is a big loss to the country because he was one of the progressives that was always showing concern to the plight of the poor and always thinking of one thing or the other to do to alleviate the plight of the poor. His death is a very devastating one. I am told he suffered a stroke on Thursday and died just on Sunday. It is a very sad one and may his soul rest in peace.”
A former governorship candidate in Delta State, Mr Peter Okocha, described Ewherido’s death as “colossal loss to Nigeria and Delta State in particular.
He said “Pius Ewherido was senator of senators, a gentleman, bridge-builder and somebody who touched many lives in different ways. May his soul rest in perfect peace.”
Also, the initiator of a non-governmental pressure group in Delta State, the Mandate Against Poverty (MAP), Chief Bobson Gbinije described Ewherido’s death as a horrific blow to the Urhobo nation, Delta State, Pantheon of Democracy 2015 and the Nigerian nation.
Ewherido was reported to have on June 6, inaugurated the Uvwie chapter of a pressure group co-ordinating his campaign for Delta State government in 2015 at the Ugborikoko Primary School, where he was described as an iconic leader and hope of the people of Delta State.
The man Ewherido
Senator Akpor Pius Ewherido, who was born May 4, 1963, was a member of the Delta State House of Assembly between May 1999 and May 2007. He was elected Senator for Delta Central in the April 2011 elections on the platform of the Democratic People’s Party, DPP.
Born in Ughelli, he attended Notre Dame College, Ozoro and Urhobo College, Effurun, Delta State. He attended the University of Ife where he studied Philosophy.
After his National Youth Service, Ewherido became a businessman in Warri. He also read Law at the University of Benin and was called to the Bar.
Ewherido joined the United Nigerian Congress Party, UNCP, during the botched Third Republic. After the transition to democracy was aborted by Sani Abacha, he left politics and returned to business. In 1998 he joined the PDP and in April 1999 was elected to represent the Ughelli South Constituency in the Delta State House of Assembly.
He was appointed deputy speaker of the House when it convened in June 1999. From May 15, 2000 to March 20, 2001, he was leader of the Assembly. Ewherido was re-elected in April 2003, and was Deputy Speaker of the Assembly from May 2003 until May 2007.
Ahead the 2007 elections, he aspired to be governor of Delta State but lost out in the primaries of the PDP