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Published On: Tue, Jun 11th, 2013

Delta State: Isoko Indigenes Boo,Manhandle Reps Deputy Leader, Ex-DELSU VC

Leo Ogor Okuweh


SaharaReporters has learnt that more than a thousand Isoko youths and adults booed and threw stones at Leo Ogor Okuweh, the deputy leader of the House of Representatives. Mr. Okuweh, who has been at the center of several controversies lately, represents Isoko federal constituency in the House of Representatives.
Our sources, who witnessed the melee, added that the irate crowd also manhandled the former vice chancellor of Delta State University, Abednego Ekoko, seizing his mobile phones and other personal belongings.
The dramatic events happened last weekend when Mr. Okuweh summoned more than a thousand people, most of them “youth canvassers” who assisted him during the 2011 general elections, to the Oleh Civic Center, headquarters of Isoko South local government area of Delta State. A source close to Mr. Okuweh disclosed that the legislator had wanted to thank his “supporters,” but that he rather got what he never bargained for.
Several sources said pandemonium broke out shortly after Mr. Okuweh and his entourage had offered the canvassers kola nuts, cash and drinks.
One of the angry youths, who simply identified himself as Omoro, said he and others were angered by the lawmaker’s offer of N5.6 million as a thank-you token to the canvassers spread across the 20 wards in the local government. He said the crowd figured out that each person would receive between N1, 000 and N1,500.
“We all flared up and started raining abuses on him that he should keep his miserable money,” said one witness, an unemployed graduate. “We told him that gone are those days when money would buy our conscience.”
Echoing the account of events, Omoro added that the youths and adults started booing Mr. Okuweh and then hurled stones at the lawmaker and his entourage. The lawmaker was reportedly whisked away from the venue by soldiers who came in four small trucks.
Some of the youths described the lawmaker’s action as demeaning. “Okuweh didn’t care to empower youths in the area, but once elections are approaching, he returns home to woo us with peanuts. We’re fully ready for him because all the youths are wiser now,” said another youth.
The youth added that somebody close to Mr. Okuweh had boasted that the lawmaker had put aside a billion naira to secure a return to his seat in 2015 election.
Speaking after the showdown, Lala Meeting, chairman of Oleh Youths and a member of Oleh Youth Political Forum, described the lawmaker as a big disappointment to Isoko people, adding that Mr. Okuweh had failed to redeem all promises he made to youth groups and Isokos in general. Mr. Meeting had openly challenged the lawmaker at the meeting just before it turned rowdy.
“Leo [Okuweh] lost contact with us as a group who assisted him during his election and all efforts to reach him were always fruitless. And then he came here with N5.6 million. When shared among all the 20 wards in Isoko South, each person will go home with less than N2, 000 as appreciation to canvassers,” he said.
Several Isoko politicians from a variety of political camps who were interviewed for this report accused Mr. Okuweh of neglecting the interests youths and people in the more than eleven years the lawmaker has spent as a member of the lower body of Nigeria’s legislature. One politician said the lawmaker had “cornered all NDDC contracts for his younger brother by name Jay Ogor Okuweh.”
The politician added: “As we talk, NDDC’s solar streetlights contract worth over a million naira was secured by Leo Ogor Okuweh for his younger brother.” He said the lights were mounted at ICB/old Emede Road. “And as we talk, they have all collapsed because of substandard materials used in the contract. The majority of the NDDC solar streetlights and roads in the two Isoko local councils are being executed by Leo’s younger brother with substandard materials. Within a month the contracts will begin to collapse. We need a change come 2015.”
Several witnesses told SaharaReporters that Abednego Ekoko, a former vice chancellor of Delta State University as well as a former Delta State commissioner of Education, was manhandled by youths who saw him escaping from the scene with monies used for kola wedge. “Some youths gave a hot chase. In the process of [his] stiff resistances, he was severely manhandled and the monies, handsets and other belongings taken away from him by the youths,” said an eyewitness.
Several witnesses condemned Mr. Ekoko’s action. “The painful aspect of the whole story was that Professor Ekoko came late to the event. But he was only concerned about the kola money. Immediately he took the money, he was about taking off to a hotel when the youths descended on him heavily,” one witness said.
Earlier this year, Mr. Okuweh was also booed and pelted with stones along with Senator James Manager (who represents Delta South) and Joe Ogeh, a commissioner who represents the area on a development commission set up by Delta State. The earlier attack took place at Ekiugbo-Iyede during what was also billed as a “thank-you” visit to the area.
When contacted by phone, Mr. Ekoko promised to return the call in an hour, but failed to do so. All efforts to reach Mr. Okuweh for comments also proved abortive as he did not respond to calls and texts to his mobile line.
But Godwin Ogorugba, an aide to the lawmaker, spoke about the incident, playing down the crowd’s violent reaction to Mr. Okuweh. “Hon Leo went to the Civic Center to greet his canvassers. When Eto announced the money some youths started saying the money [was] not enough, that Hon Leo should add more money. Hon Leo at this junction asked everyone to sit down.”
The aide added that, after calming the situation, his boss enumerated his achievements to the group, adding that his job was development of communities, not to come home and splash money on people.

Saharareporters

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