Stories by Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Jimitota Onoyume, Asst News Editor (Warri), Festus Ahon ( Asaba), Perez Brisibe (Ughelli) Ochuko Akuopha (Oleh) and Paul Olayemi (Sapele)
Uduaghan’s unusual morning missile
IT was on December 19, 2019 morning that former governor of Delta State, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, whose re-positioning from Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to All Progressives Congress, APC, is not a newsflash, detonated, but he chose to use the word “unzip” on his Facebook post.
He started thus: “Good morning all, I shall be unzipping a little today, all internet terrorists must be careful coming close to me today.”
Nobody immediately comprehended what he meant until he began unzipping. “Julius Caesar’s Animal Farm and Things Fall Apart were some of the books we used in our literature classes at Federal Government College, FGC, Warri. The ‘cuts’ did not kill Ikemefuna or Julius Caesar,” he punched.
He added: “The shock of knowing who inflicted the ‘cuts’ killed them. Any ex-Governor has the capacity to ensure that his state is peaceful, or create a platform for crisis. You cannot fund and mobilize traditional rulers to Asaba to spite me.”
At this point, the picture became clearer for the Delta State Council of Traditional Rulers was going to honour that day the incumbent governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, the political leader of the state and ex-governor, Chief James Ibori and Okowa’s deputy, Deacon Kingsley Otuaro.”
Uduaghan continued with his outburst: “All of us get “smart cunny”. In spite of the lies out there, I was on the driver’s seat in 2014/2015, to midwife the current Delta state administration. The critical responsibility of any State leader is to ensure that all actions maintain the peaceful nature of the State. Today’s power is not in the guns you have acquired. Power is in the handset we are all carrying.”
“In sponsoring an action, do you assess the ethnic and political implications at all? Some actions are just damn silly!
“Congrats to those being honoured by “some” Delta State Traditional Rulers today! Interestingly, you are being honoured for: Peace and Security, human capital development, and Infrastructural development. I will not comment on Peace and Security and human capital development.
“Deltans know who did what. On the infrastructural development, those coming by air will be landing at Asaba Airport built and put into use in my administration. Asaba Airport had transported 100, 000 plus of passengers, including every past and current Presidents/Vice Presidents in Nigeria before I left office.
“I wish you a great ceremony as you use the Event Centre and Government House complex built by my administration,” he concluded.
Almost every Deltan knows that these were “missiles’ fired at Delta royal fathers and Governor Okowa in particular.
Clearly, it was the former governor’s communication of bottled-up annoyance against his successor and traditional rulers, who he believed were quick to forget yesterday.
However, not many blame Okowa for whatever happened to Uduaghan, which made him to dump PDP, they feel he brought it upon himself. But they are also those that think otherwise.
Governor Okowa, who took over from Uduaghan in 2015 despite the probabilities against him knew about his predecessor’s explosion before he filed out with Ibori and Otuaro for the award by the royal fathers on December 19, but he displayed no ill-feeling.
Okowa plays down attack
Speaking at grand reception and award of excellence organized by the Delta State Council of Traditional Rulers, Okowa acknowledged the role played by Ibori in laying the foundation for the development of the state and also praised Dr Uduaghan for building on the initial foundation.
While charging the political class in the state never to trample on traditional rulers in their respective kingdoms across the state, he lamented some instances where politicians and non-politicians had attempted to trample on the traditional authority in parts of the state and urged those concerned to retrace their steps.
He said the stools which the various kings occupy were created by God, adding that politicians and other stakeholders, who have issues with any traditional ruler should take steps to resolve such issues for the peace and progress of the community.
Earlier, Chief Ibori who appreciated the roles the traditional rulers play in facilitating peace and cordial relationship in their domain, encouraged them to sustain the peace while government should do everything possible to support them.
Chairman, Delta State Council of Traditional Rulers and Obi of Owa Kingdom, Dr Emmanuel Efeizomor II, said the governor deserved the award for his achievements in human capital development and infrastructural transformation.
…calls Uduaghan elder statesman
Earlier last year, October 22, when Uduaghan turned 65 years, Okowa paid tribute to him, describing him as “an elder statesman and leader of inestimable value” whose contributions to the growth and development of the state remained outstanding.
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Olisa Ifeajika, he stated: “On behalf of the government and people of Delta, it is with profound joy and gratitude to God that I express very warm felicitations to you on your 65th birth anniversary.”
“As an administration, we appreciate the enormous contributions you made and continue to make for the peace, growth and development of our dear state through the laudable programmes you initiated during your tenure as Governor between 2007 and 2015.
“As we vigorously pursue our Stronger Delta vision, we remain irrevocably committed to a sustainable future that requires us to open our hearts and minds to the values of love, courage, discipline, cooperation and commitment as exemplified by you during your reign as Governor.
”I join your family, friends and well-wishers to thank Almighty God for His continued guidance, protection and provision for you in the past 65 years of a life of many accomplishments,” the governor stated.
Notwithstanding the good wishes, it is apparent that Okowa and Uduaghan were no longer enjoying a warm relationship, especially since Uduaghan, following irreconcilable differences between them, left the PDP.
Political and psychoanalysts construe that it will take a really stretched time for both men, who were close buddies to bond together like in the past, after Uduaghan as governor worked for another person to succeed him, only for Okowa, relying on political structures outside him (Uduaghan) to outpace his preferred candidate in the party’s governorship primary.
Delta royal fathers never intended to undermine Uduaghan, say HM Ayemi-Botu, Kalanama VIII, Ukori I
ROYAL fathers in the state, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard, said they near no hostility against the former governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, saying they treasure him as they do Okowa.
Therefore, why was he not in the roll call of honour on that day or did Uduaghan misjudge the monarchs?
Bringing PDP, APC together for honour is like oil and water
Former National Chairman, Traditional Rulers of Oil Producing Communities of Nigeria, TROMPCON, and paramount ruler of Seimbiri Kingdom, Delta state, His Majesty, King Charles Ayemi-Botu, aka Lion of Niger, presided over the Planning Committee of the Delta Council of Traditional Rulers that gave the awards.
He told Saturday Vanguard: “People might look at it from a different perspective. The Delta state traditional institution gave the awardees because of their track records. And also it is like blazing the trail in the annals of the history of traditional institutions in the country.”
“I do not think any state has done what we did. When you have governors who leave good legacy at the end of their tenure, it behooves on the people to commend them. Governor Ifeanyi Okowa just did the first term and it was quite impressive, that was why he had to be given.
“Traditional rulers offer title to people for services rendered even to expatriates. That is the way to express our gratitude to spur them to do more and also set examples for others to follow.
Why we skipped Uduaghan
“This could be why the litany of reactions. In my opinion, former governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan was a good governor. He served well. He started from the inception of the PDP government in 1999 through his cousin and former governor James Ibori. From 1999 to 2015, he was in government. He was first as Commissioner for Health and the second tenure of the government, he was sworn in as Secretary to State Government. He became two- time governor on the same Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
“I think if for any reason, it is something one has to think on dispassionately, Dr Uduaghan now defected to All Progressives Congress, APC, and you know Delta is PDP- dominated state. How do you bring PDP governors and somebody, who left to APC to be honoured together? It is like putting oil and water or white cloth and oil together.
”He might be a politician before Chief Ibori became governor, but I do not remember, I think it was this civilian dispensation after former Head of State, General Abdusalami Abubakar (retd), that he had positions in civilian government. He was former Health Commissioner, SSG and two- time governor. See what spurred you to that level and he now left it and went to APC, which is the situation, you are honouring PDP governor, former PDP governor and a former PDP governor now in APC, it does not sound well. To me, this may not be the consensus opinion.
“Having looked at the profile of the governor of the state from 1999 as a Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Commissioner of Health, SSG under Governor Uduaghan and a Senator and a Governor today and development in the state, as royal fathers, we were convinced that in four years he has been able to transform every sector in the state.
“Be it education, human capital development, infrastructure, security and of course, his relationship with traditional rulers is a good one, we felt he needs our commendation and that is the reason we gave him the honour. Since he has done the first term, our honour to him will further propel him to do more in this his second term.
What about James Ibori?
“Let me say that as Chairman of the Planning Committee, in my opening remarks at the event, I made it clear that Chief James Ibori was governor from 1999 to 2017 and every politician in the state accords him that respect as the political leader of the state, irrespective of their political divide. If you look at the political landscape of the state, virtually who -is -who in Delta politics in the various political parties see him as their national leader. There is one thing he did while in office that is entrenching the rotation principle.
”While leaving office he handed over to Delta south and through the gentleman’s agreement, he also influenced it to Delta north though he was far away in London, he played a major role. On the day Senator Peter Nwaboshi celebrated his 60th birthday, right in the church, I was there, he said in his testimony that it was Chief Ibori in far away in London that influenced the position of governorship to Delta north. We felt he had brought sanity, peace to Delta state,” he said.
King Ayemi-Botu added: “When Ibori came on board he brought peace in Warri. In Edo state here you can see the brickbat between the governor and his predecessor. In Bayelsa state, they just concluded their governorship election and do not forget there cold war between the outgoing governor and the former President , then if you go to Rivers state the governor and his predecessor formerly in the same party are now in different parties and poles apart
“We saw that it was God if not the last election would have been something else. In Akwa Ibom, we see the governor and his predecessor in a power play, it is only in Cross Rivers that you have tolerable crisis. We felt Delta state is the only state that is stable in politics and the major actor is James Ibori, which is why we decided to honour him,” he explained.
His words: “There were insinuations that we were honoring a former governor we should have done same to Uduaghan, we never had need for a comparative analysis among the past governors and the government of today. Like we always say, any government that comes in should improve on what the past did. We expected Uduaghan government to do this and we saw it. We also expect Okowa’s government to improve on Uduaghan’s government, it is what we are seeing. Any other government coming in after Okowa’s government should do same. It is a progressive curve. It is not a diminishing curve. We honoured Ibori for the stability he brought into governance in the state with the rotational arrangement.”
Monarchs didn’t criticize Uduaghan – Kalanama VIII
The traditional ruler (Pere) of Akugbene-Mein Kingdom, Burutu local government area of the state and 2nd Vice Chairman, Delta Ctate Council of Traditional Rulers, HRM Pere S. P Luke, Kalanama VII, told one of our reporters, “Well, in fairness to former governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, no traditional ruler in Delta state will say he did not touch the traditional institution . Let me put it on record that I consider myself as one of those close traditional rulers to him when he was governor even from when he was Secretary to State Government.”
”We never said as governor that he did not do anything. Let me go back memory lane. When Chief James Ibori was governor between 1999 to 2007, two days to his handover, the Delta State Council of Traditional Rulers paid a visit to him to bid him farewell and wish him well at his country home, Oghara, Ethiope East local government area . I was part of the delegation.
“Then again when Dr Uduaghan took over as governor, two days or so to when he was to leave office, the entire Council of Traditional Rulers met with the governor at the Banquet Hall and as royal fathers, we presented some souvenirs to him. We also prayed with him because as a governor, he was very close to the traditional rulers. We had this quarterly meeting with him either at Government House, Asaba or Government House Annex, Warri.
“There is no traditional ruler that will say he did not do anything for the Traditional Council or the state. Like I said in my address at the event, we were not comparing governments. Nobody maligned him. In my opening remarks, I made it clear that we were not comparing governments.
”When former governor Ibori returned from UK, Oghara Elite and the Oghara Traditional Council hosted him to a church ceremony, Dr Uduaghan was there and he also called Chief Ibori our leader. The day Chief Ovuozorie Macauly played host to former governor Ibori , Uduaghan was also there and said he was one of the beneficiaries of the Chief Ibori political family. On that day, he cautioned Deltans not to destroy our leaders, that Chief Ibori was a gift to Deltans and Nigerians. He admitted that Chief Ibori made him governor.
”What we as traditional rulers have done is a way of encouraging Governor Okowa to do more for Deltans. It is also to spur Chief Ibori to continue to share his experience for the good of the state. We did not malign former governor Uduaghan.
”I have always said I am one of the primary beneficiaries of the Governor Uduaghan administration. If we had the list of beneficiaries in category, may be stage 1, 2, 3, I will say I was in stage 1. We never in any way undermined him. In his address, the chairman of the Council of Traditional Rulers at the event showered praises on the former governor.
“The governor in his address said he was building on the legacies of former governors Ibori and Uduaghan. So nobody ever said Dr Uduaghan never did anything as governor. Olu of Warri was there, his revered monarch and his cousin, Chief Solomon Areyenka was there. Nobody ever compared his government,” the Ijaw monarch stated.
No problem with Uduaghan – HRM Ogurime-Rime, Ukori I, Ovie of Agbon
Ovie of Agbon kingdom, HRM Ogurime-Rime, Ukori I, told Saturday Vanguard: “When former governor Emmanuel Uduaghan was in office during his winding down as governor in 2015, we honored him and presented to him an elephant tusk as a mark of honor. We actually do not have any problem with him by considering if he performed or not as it is not in the place of the traditional rulers to decide that, but Deltans.”
“But as monarchs, from time to time, we decide to gather together and express joy and this was one of such times. It was not deliberate not to honour him.
“We honoured Senator Ifeanyi Okowa as a governor, who has performed as he is not seeking for a third term as governor. So there is no political undertone to it for someone to appraise him if he has performed or not, neither is Ibori going for any political position in 2023. It was not a spontaneous action by the traditional rulers to gather and come together. Good people always find a way to come together as a people for joy.”
“For us traditional rulers, it is not all the time that we come together for merriment. So we said let us bring this people (Okowa, his deputy and Ibori) in to make merriment together and that was what occasioned the award.
”Okowa does not need any accolade from anybody because he is not going for any position at the moment. The next political position he can go for is for President or back to the Senate and in going back to the Senate, its left for the traditional rulers and indigenes of Delta north to do that, so we could not have been involved in any politics of Delta north. These are the things that people should know and there is no need castigating Okowa that he is doing this and that, as the event was just an act of merriment,” the monarch cleared the air.
According to him: “We did same for Uduaghan, so I do not think it is right that people are making a mountain out of a molehill. Nobody is castigating Uduaghan saying if he performed or not, as it is not the position of the monarchs to decide on that because we are not assessment officers, but only used the opportunity to honour the governor, saying you are a jolly good fellow, let us be together.”
The monarch asserted, “And that as far as traditional rulers are concerned, we are happy with him (Okowa) as he has recognized us as a formidable and useful body within the geographical expression of Delta and has done many things for us, just like Uduaghan, who also did many things for us when he was governor and we also honoured him, and came together like this as well.”
“So, we cannot come out to start saying this and that because we have no problem with Uduaghan and he is one of us unless people are trying to place a wedge between us. We are not politicians, everybody is for us,” he concluded.
Award not to demoralize Uduaghan, says monarch
A royal father, who preferred anonymity, confided in Saturday Vanguard: “Initially, the honour was for the incumbent governor and his deputy, but while we were embarking on the planning of the event, someone hinted the idea that it is good to add Chief James Ibori because he stood out uniquely as a past governor in the state.”
“Though we did not want him included initially, the yes voice for him was resounding because of his uniqueness as a foundation developer of the state and someone, who reached out to everyone as governor, but unfortunately, nobody in the Planning Committee and general meeting of Traditional Ruler’s Council dropped another name and honestly, Uduaghan is a personal friend, it was not deliberate that he was left out. “But when we realized it, we did not have it in the back of our minds that people will read a different meaning to it. If I had known, I would have brought up his name to avoid all these confusion, but it escaped me as well. The intention was not to take him out as someone, who did not perform. It was not a deliberate thing to exempt him. I personally am grateful to him and it is wrong to say that Uduaghan was not recognized because he did not perform.
“The event was not an avenue to honour all governors in the state, but Okowa and his deputy alone, I have already explained Ibori’s name was brought in because of his uniqueness.
“It is strange that people are complaining because if we are to honour governors tomorrow, I will be the first to nominate Uduaghan, hence I do not see any reason to castigate traditional rulers on this as it was not in any way to slight Uduaghan at all.
“Even Olu of Warri personally contributed to the idea, but when this idea that we did not honour Uduaghan came in, it changed the whole complexion of the event. If it’s time to honour all governors tomorrow, Uduaghan will stand out.
“We picked Ibori because of his position and not to slight Uduaghan. I hope this corrects the wrong impression in the public space and it has nothing to do with his defection from the PDP,” the royal father stated.