By Onochie Anibeze
SIR Tony Obuh described him as an accomplished man of peace in his goodwill message on his facebook, last weekend. Sonny Areh, his media assistant, had also posted, on his facebook page, a birthday message to Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, the immediate past governor of Delta State. He turned 62 last Saturday.
What followed was an avalanche of birthday and goodwill messages.
There were some in the newspapers too. And so the goodwill that marked Uduaghan’s two tenures as governor is still on the high. And people showed this at a thanksgiving service at the Guiding Light Assembly Church at Parkview Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos, last Sunday.
Uduaghan was at the church to thank God for His mercies all these years. People turned out in numbers in the church where the pastor preached about the Holy Spirit. The word of God was good. And the people reveled in it. As the service was about to end, the pastor invited Uduaghan to make a brief remark after the church had prayed for him and his family. When he was done, the pastor prayed that more good things would continue to follow him.
Uduaghan recalled one moment, as Governor of Delta State when he was caught between life and death and God saved his life. Part of his testimony went thus:
“There are two things associated with governance. I call them the two Ps. They are Power and Pain. You see a governor and you marvel at the power he commands. He can order the arrest of somebody, he moves in a convoy, he has so much power that he earns tremendous respect everywhere. People see the glamour and the glitz, etc. But they don’t see the pain. There’s pain in governance. You can only rely on the grace of God to guide and guard you.
”When I came in as governor in 2007, the violence we battled then in Delta was more than what is happening now with the Avengers, etc. Kidnapping was high and expatriates were leaving. Militancy was more than what we have now. President Yar’Adua called me and said ‘what’s going on? These things are happening in year state.’ I told him that there are two ways to handle the militancy in Niger Delta. I asked that the Federal Government should do their own and I would do my own. We set out to work. I had to go to the creeks. We had to dialogue with these people.
”I remember one Sunday, my family and I had prepared to go to church and I received a call that they were going to burn Chevron terminal. The facility they planned to burn was so huge the impact would have been terrible for our oil production. I told them I would come after church service but they insisted I should come immediately otherwise the militants would destroy the terminal. I had to leave.
I told my family to pray for me at the church. It was just one of my trips to the creeks. I took helicopter and then did the final journey by boat. And you know that when you go on such trips to the creeks you don’t take escorts or when you take them they don’t carry guns. I went with only my ADC. No guns. It was a huge risk but one that I had to take to engage them and stop the blowing up of the oil facilities.
”It was a terrible place. I got to the place and after discussing with the militants they told me that there were higher authorities further inside that I must meet and that what I had just done was a preliminary one. They were all armed to the teeth, fierce-looking and ready to pull the trigger. You could imagine how dangerous it was in that terrain. I continued the journey further into the creeks to meet their superiors.
I got there and they led me into a room. They were kind enough to offer me a seat. With their guns, some pointing at me, they sat on the floor while we held talks on why they should spare the oil facility. I spent hours with the them. I finished with them and left for the journey back home.
”While on the boat going back, we noticed one speed boat racing to where we were. They caught up with us. We didn’t know if it was another group but they caught up with us and one of them pointed his AK 47 at me and put his finger at the trigger. It was terrifying. It was a moment of life or death within seconds. You could see the anger on the face of the militant, who pointed the gun at me. He wanted to shoot. It was terrifying.
There was nothing I could do but to pray silently. I was praying. Silently, I prayed and I waved the white handkerchief (peace signal) I had. The man steadied the gun at me. Suddenly another speed boat from nowhere dashed in between and and after some seconds they all sped off. ‘I believe that The Holy Spirit appeared in that white handkerchief and saved my life and I live today to give this testimony.
”There were other terrible encounters one had as governor but people would not know about these pains. What they know is the glamour or power they associate with you in governance. I thank God for what he had done for a village man like me. I come from a village setting where there were no roads, no electricity, no facilities, just village life – our parents were farming and fishing for us to go to school.
I remember when I eventually had a Beetle car and how my wife prayed for us to have a better car, a better air conditioned car possibly a Mercedez Benz. And she used to sing a song about this. Today, God’s blessings have gone beyond owning a Mercedez Benz car. And if He could do it for a village boy like me He can do more for you all here.”
Applause greeted this and the pastor prayed that good things would continue to follow Uduaghan.
“You’ll preach and touch lives even if it is not from the pulpit,” the pastor told him. And so, that was how quietly Uduaghan marked his birthday with a thanksgiving service.
Many turned out for him including former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi. They still admire him. He made peace his trademark throughout his tenure. He was a symbol of humility. He liked sports so much. He played and still plays tennis.
As governor, he would even officiate as an umpire while others played. He was that humble. He worked tirelessly for peace in Delta and towards the end of his eight-year tenure he made unbelievable sacrifices for the interest of peace. Nothing can be more apt than Obuh’s description of Dr Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan as an accomplished man of peace. Many Happy returns.