By Egufe Yafugborhi
PORT HARCOURT – GOVERNOR Nyesom Wike says he owes his rising political career to Justice Mary Odili whose timely intervention saved him from being displaced in his 2004 second term bid as Chairman of Obio – Akpor Local Government, Rivers state.
Wike, at Sunday’s thanksgiving in Port Harcourt to mark Justice Odili’s 70th birthday and retirement as Justice of the Supreme Court, narrated his cry to the former Rivers First Lady when his was not listed among aspirants cleared to contest local government chairmanship at the time.
Speaking during the event held at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Chaplaincy, Catholic Institute of West Africa, (CIWA) in Port Harcourt, the governor noted that the manner Justice Mary Odili presented the matter got her husband, then Governor Peter Odili, to act on it immediately.
He said, first, Dr Peter Odili invited the then Rivers State Peoples Democratic Party chairman, Uche Secondus, to confirm the observation and thereafter put a call across to then National Secretary of the PDP, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor.
He relived that, “That time in 2004, the husband was the governor, so she was going to Bori Camp for women empowerment scheme. I was to run for second tenure as chairman of my local government (Obio-Akpor).
“Now, they were having lunch with her husband and the former State party chairman then, Prince Uche Secondus. And, I was told that my name had been removed in the list. So, I ran down to Government House.
“She had finished her own lunch, left her husband and was entering the vehicle. I said mummy I’m finished. She asked what happened, I said they’ve removed my name.
“She ran back straight to her husband and informed him. Her husband asked who removed his name. At that time, Secondus had left. The husband then called the security at the gate, they stopped Secondus and ask him to come back.”
He further added: “That was how I went back as second term chairman. For me, I can’t talk about my growth without mentioning her. If she was not around that day, to see the governor, you know is not an easy thing.
“Her being around that particular day saved my career in politics. And so that was how I grew from there to become what I am today.”
On the retirement after 44 years of public service, Wike pointed that a vital lesson of life he has learnt from Justice Odili is the determination to build capacity to be successful in one’s career while not ignoring giving requisite attention to the family.
He added, “I have never seen somebody so compassionate, very caring. The moment you’re around her husband, she takes care of you. She sees you as her husband’s person and will always relate with you. Some of us are direct beneficiaries of her care through our relationship with the husband.”
Justice Odili, in turn, expressed joy in the privilege to have Wike as a sitting governor, doing a vote of thanks in her honour.
“The good Lord knows that Peter and I don’t know how to properly thank God. Our journey in life has been such that the good Lord has always been there. There has been challenges no doubt, but the good Lord did not promise us that we will not have challenges, tribulations or difficulties. But the Lord has always stood by us and made us prevail in all those trials and tribulations.”