An Encounter with Uduaghan and Okowa
By Fejiro Oliver
LAGOS DECEMBER 15TH (URHOBOTODAY)-“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” Martin Luther King Jr
Meeting Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa (SIAO) gives you an idea on the work that he does, looking down consistently on papers while answering calls. On the day that we met, it dawned on me that he’s most times not with his phones; hence no one should be angry that the governor no longer picks calls.
I have told some friends who told me that SIAO no longer pick or return calls like he does before he became a governor, and I play out the scenario for him. I was not there to see for personal gains, for a time for that will come, but to see him to ask questions which my immediate constituency (Online and Social Media) always wanted to seek clarification for.
And face to face the questions flew and not a single one was dodged but SIAO, but in a cool, composed, collected and calm manner; he answered every single one, so well that one would think that he was prepared for them. But No, this was an unscheduled meeting, with questions carved straight from the Airport.
For months, the rumor of his defection to the All Progressive Congress (APC) travelled round the State. His journey to India with President Muhammadu Buhari just a day after his court case at the tribunal fueled the speculation as well as his closeness to Ibe Kachikwu, the Minister of Petroleum (State) and his two time visit to Buhari, and while it raged, none of his media appointees could tell us the mind of the number one man, for they do not know. Now this is authoritative, SIAO is not going to be a member of the APC family, at least not now; he told me. He wondered why he should be thinking of joining a party which he stated is highly factionalized into four. Even though he made it known that his party is facing a serious leadership challenge; he’s not going to abandon them now. To him, it’s too early for a governor to begin to think of 2019 election and the party to join when the fresh mandate given is yet to be fulfilled.
He went down memory lane on how close he has been with Kachikwu many years ago. “Kachikwu is not a politician but a technocrat”, he told me, “and party must not separate us who are friends”, he ended. On Buhari, SIAO did not visit him for personal gains but for the good of Deltans. He was there to plead with the President concerning the dredging of the escravos river, which when done will enable the Warri Seaport function effectively, and bring economic good to the state. He was there to draw the attention of the President concerning the gas plant in the state and the $16 billion oil investment of EPZ, which cannot be allowed to go moribund simply because the party is no longer in power. None of these visits centred on his decamping to the APC, he assured Deltans as we discussed.
I was not going to leave there without asking him what he intends to do to the flood ravaging the State, including the front of the government house. SIAO spoke so slowly now, in pathetic tone, admitting the challenge before him. But he has a solution to it, a permanent one that will cost the State over N9 billion. He did not blame the past administration, but acknowledged the efforts to make Asaba a flood free area, which was thwarted by others, not necessarily by the man at the helm of affairs. He recalled that the James Ibori regime built a dam to curtail the flood, even though the dam is too small for the kind of rain that has fallen in the past years. He will not leave Asaba the way he met it, but stop the flood. The big question is, will Deltans ever understand that over N9 billion will be used to solve this problem once and for all, as estimated by the company brought to evaluate it?
Done with SIAO after demanding for a favor to remember the lady who lost a five month old pregnancy campaigning vigorously for her, who he promised to do something about, I left the man who sees me as a son and I call “daddy” to see the former governor, Emmanuel Ewetan Uduaghan.
Since the part one of my meeting with Uduaghan hit the public, I have received more condemnation than condemnation. Many were bold to send me text messages on how they were informed that the former governor gave me the money which I used to put up my new mansion, for me to do the public relation stunt. For the records, the first series was NEVER a PR neither will this be. It’s a sincere account of what transpired between us and I will not add or remove to please the crowd of men who wants to stone him. Again, I have never received a dime from the Medical Doctor turned politician prior to then, to enable me live a luxury life or have my apartments. Those who the former governor empowered and are now fighting him know themselves. The only Deltans who can take the glory of some of such assets and luxury life are the woman we fondly call ‘Mummy’, Dr Mrs Ngozi Olejeme, the current governor and my friend, Hillary (They deserve mention at this stage before the year ends). The many questions I have received from Deltans to Uduaghan will be thrown to him when next I meet him.
I will not disclose where we met, but it was an encounter that when his book is published will be an eye opener for all. I am only a forerunner to the yet to be published book.
For those who may not know, Okowa ought to have been the Deputy to Ibori, but destiny never wanted him. Uduaghan revealed to me the intrigues that played out, on how two names were submitted from Anioma. Benjamin Elue was not even known to Ibori, but providence brought his name on the list. I will leave Uduaghan to personally tell the world the role of Faith Majemite (positively) in the emergence of Elue who was sleeping when she met him as the Deputy Governor. But one thing was clear that if Okowa had been Deputy Governor, his chances of being the governor today would have been very slim.
As the Commissioner for Water and Natural resources, Okowa was so powerful in the Ibori government, Uduaghan made me know. However some Urhobos who were scared of his larger than life political future conspired to split the ministry. It was Uduaghan who told Ibori not to do so, reminding him that Okowa ought to be his Deputy, but for fate that played out and that was how the plans of the evil commissioners failed. These same people who had long plotted his fall politically are still around him today, maybe known or unknown to him.
Uduaghan opened up to me on the 2006 primaries which threw him up as the candidate, where he and Okowa agreed that whoever emerged as winner will support each other. Mother luck made him win, but the manner in which he won never went down well with Okowa. A day after the primaries, he drove to meet Okowa in the hotel, where the current governor bared his mind and Uduaghan pleaded with him to be his campaign Director General, which he accepted.
After the general election, Okowa was made the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), a position that Uduaghan refused to tamper with, giving Ekwueme so much power that he could literally do and undo. It was in that era that Uduaghan will minute to Okowa and Okowa will minute back. It was a battle of intellectuals, where “Yes Sir” was not the order of the day or the governor having the final say.
I listened with rapt attention as Uduaghan took me down memory lane on how he personally told Okowa to resign as his SSG to contest for Senate, telling him clearly on how he cannot make him SSG for two tenure and therefore must climb up politically. This was not an easy decision as Uduaghan met a hard rock in the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan whose wife who Mariam Ali while he preferred another against Okowa. Against all odds, even when Jonathan gave a marching order to give the ticket to any other person but not Okowa, Uduaghan could not imagine doing so, not after telling his friend and political ally to resign as SSG. Again, I will let us read it in his books how he pulled the string through.
I expect to be asked why he never supported Okowa initially to be governor in 2015. Permit me dear readers to go back and ask him which will be given to you raw when I do.
His private affairs was not left out, especially as I accused him in one of my reports of laundering N2 billion through the Warri Regional Manager of Sterling Bank, Juliet Mowarin, who I also accused him of paying his bride price. He laughed as we discussed it, acknowledging that Sterling Bank manages DESOPADEC account, but how untrue it is that he has married Juliet. As an Urhobo man, he noted how foolish it will be to launder money through a woman if he must; explaining the source of the story linking him and Juliet to me. And now don’t ask me if he’s dating her; for he’s in a better position to answer it. But when I do get the answers, I will be here telling us the details of it.
These little things matter…
Fejiro Oliver is Editor In Chief of Secrets Reporters News