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Published On: Mon, Jul 8th, 2013

Tribute to Sen. Pius Ewherido

Late Senator Pius Ewherido

DEATH is especially tragic because of its finality. It is also never expected and that is why everyone receives the news of the death of any acquaintance as something of a deep shock. Even for someone who passes on at the age of eighty, the news is still described as shocking.
This shock is therefore often more profound when death visits a younger person in the prime of his or her life.
Such is the shattering shock with which I received the news of the death of Senator Akpor Pius Ewherido who had just celebrated his fiftieth birthday a few months ago and whom I ran into and exchanged warm pleasantries with, just about two weeks ago at the NnamdiAzikiwe International Airport in Abuja as he moved to the lounge en route Benin airport while I went to pick up my boarding pass for my trip to Asaba.
The news of his sudden death immediately took my mindto Fr. Tony, his elder brother as he officiated just two months ago,at the burial of forty two-year old Engineer Henry Oru, a family friend of mine and the image of the Rev. Fr. standing over the casket and praying against the death of such young people in any family loomed large in my mind.
Today, my heart goes out to the Rev. Fr. as he mourns the passing on of his beloved and illustrious younger brother.My heart also goes out to the wife Doye and the young children at this terrible and tragic loss of their dear husband and father in the very prime of his life.
In the same way, I condole with my friend Barrister EdeworOmonemu, the Senator’s senior legislative aide as indeed I mourn with the entire Ewherido family and the entire Delta Central Senatorial District that he gave a vibrant representation in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria this past two years. Oh, what a colossal loss to the Urhobos and to Delta State and Nigeria.
Yes, Nigeriaindeed, for Senator AkporEwherido was a highly cerebral, dedicated and forthright law maker whose contributions to Nigeria’s development will be sorely missed.Senator Ewherido was particularly forthright and his forthrightness could sometimes make people to perceive him as arrogant but I can give some personal testimonies to debunk such impression.
As Commissioner for Economic Planning in Delta State, some of my decisions did not endear me to people who expected me to favour them in the prioritization of the State’s resource allocation.
Given the developmental challenges and the limited resources to allocate, there were bound to be sharp disagreements on the prioritization of our spending and I did not always agree with the House of Assembly where the Senator held sway thenas the Deputy Speaker and a highly influential member.
When therefore, Governor James Ibori dissolved his cabinet and re-nominated me for House screening, I went to the House expecting a hostile reception but to my utmost surprise, an honourable member stood up, upon my introduction and told the House that everyoneof them knew Clement Ofuani as Commissioner for Economic Planning and the good work he did for Deltans. He therefore moved that I be allowed to take a bow and leave.
The Honourable member was Akpor Pius Ewherido. The motion was unanimously adopted and I was asked to take a bow and leave. I was dumbfounded because I least expected such consideration from the House and to have been spearheaded by Rt. Hon.Ewherido!
Let me quickly state that I am not a fan
of ‘take a bow’ screening for cabinet or other political appointees as I believe that the screening exercise should be used as an opportunity to determine the fitness and propriety of the appointee for the high office of state. Therefore, the ‘take a bow’ option should be used with circumspection and only if the fit and proper assessment can be seen to have been otherwise made by the House.

This was precisely what the late Senator did in my case. More than anything else, I was touched by his open acknowledgement that our differences in opinions were purely professional and not personal and he was bold and forthright enough to demonstrate it to the House and the watching public. My respect for him from that day went stratospheric.
As a serving Senator, Akpor Pius Ewherido was elected to represent Delta Central Senatorial District and on the platform of a different political party from the PDP that we had shared previously but these did not stop the Senator from attending to me in Abuja and I can confirm recommending people from other parts of our Delta State for his assistance, to whom he duly did his best to assist. He was that great, that he saw his representation at the Senate as transcending his Senatorial District and his political party.
Indeed, I was pleasantly surprised the first time I visited him in his Senate office to find that one of his legislative staff was from Delta North Senatorial District.
In a manner of speaking therefore, I want to use this opportunity to share this experience of the great man that Senator Akpor Pius Ewherido was and hope that it will provide some sort of soothing balm to the family, that all of Delta State shares in this tragic loss.
Mr. CLEMENT OFUANI, a former commissioner in Delta State, wrote from Asaba.

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