One of the most invaluable ingredients in food preparation for most reasonable people in the world over is salt, yet this essential product is not advertised. Its importance is known by all and sundry irrespective of tongue, tribes, or nation.
In 1998, by share provident and God’s favor, the political landscape suddenly changed following the demise of the then strongman, owner/occupier of Aso Rock. This death was immediately followed by another death, this time an epochal one, a sad event that has been difficult to explain or understand to date. The Man, MKO Abiola, himself an enigma of that time, the presumed winner of the 1993 Presidential election, acclaimed to be the freest, and fairest election ever in Nigeria died in prison. The Military led by the dribbler, Maradona, General Ibrahim Babangida (IBB), had denied him his victory at the polls leading to IBB’s unceremonious exit from power.
The quasi-government put together by IBB was sacked by General Abacha who then became president. He incarcerated MKO Abiola until his sudden death under questionable circumstances yet to be understood to date. May the soul of Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, MKO Abiola, GCFR a businessman, publisher, and politician. The Aare Ona Kankafo XIV of Yorubaland continue to rest in peace. I have recounted the events leading to the opportunities that presented us with the democracy that we have in Nigeria today hoping that every strongman or woman privileged to be in a position of authority would know that it is God’s provident and that such positions are transient
Becoming the Executive Governor of Delta State
The events above paved the way for different shades of people who were bold and somewhat prepared to show interest in the leadership of various offices in Nigeria. It must be said that some of us core professionals were not trusting nor bold enough to take that step. In the Delta, one of the bold and vibrant young men was Chief James Onanefe Ibori. He was considered the dark horse of Delta politics at that time. His victory at the polls was the hand of God, a David, chosen over and above the most prominent and perceivably prepared senior brothers to lead the people.
I was privileged to meet His Excellency Chief James Onanefe Ibori in 2000 about a year and a half into his administration. We had mounted a training program using my firm Imperial Consultants to organize the training on corporate management and governance for all the directors of Delta State Parastatals and Agencies. The program paraded boardroom leaders such as our revered Mr. Gamaliel Oforitsenere Onosode (RIP), Sir Omonigho Osevwe(RIP), and several other prominent Deltans who were Boardroom gurus. This was the first task that took me from Lagos to Delta.
My second assignment had been an invitation to meet with the then Hon. Commissioner for Finance and Economic Planning Chief David Edevbie who is currently one of the gubernatorial aspirants in the State to possibly suggest how best to automate the state Budget, a task that my company discharged creditably in all its ramifications.
It was during this time that I had the opportunity of noticing the life-transforming projects of the government under His Excellency James Ibori covering all the nooks and crannies of Delta State. One of such projects that immediately came to mind was the road from Oviorie to Isiokolo, a 7 kilometers road, that was in a bad state, it took close to an hour to travel before the coming of this sagacious gentleman. I remembered spending over an hour plus on that road with my father’s remains in 1994 as I made way to my village to lay him to rest. I can confirm that such projects dotted all the nooks and crannies of the Delta State by the time James concluded his 8 years in office.
I travelled and visited several States and governments during the first four years of his government. I can confirm that Delta State was one of the fairest in terms of administration and governance. The automated system we designed and installed was fully implemented and was largely not subject to manipulation. Every month, the system was allowed to produce a list of all creditors and the government simply ruled a line of payments to be accommodated subject to the availability of funds. His Excellency was fair to all, he was not nepotic or clannish. Consequently, it was one big Delta, where people from the North, South and Central were home and comfortable. He was easily one of the best out of the 36 governors of that time, and this was reflected nationwide. He also championed the resource control pressure team which resulted in the 13% derivative the oil-producing States enjoy today.
The political activities starting from the re-election bids of the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Vice President Alhaji Abubakar Atiku and the interest of former Vice President Dr. Alex Ekwueme (RIP) brought about most of the trumped-up charges that His Excellency had till date. I still remember the night before the primaries of the PDP when His Excellency President Obasanjo visited the Delta State house in Abuja. Ibori is no doubt bold and resourceful, he stood firm to the end on agreements and decisions the governors had reached. Unfortunately, before 6 am on the day of the primary, the tide had already changed in favour of the General. This was one of the major reasons for the severe persecution that James had endured to date. The administration had, like all the then governors of the federation focused more on politics than governance between 2005 and 2007. Chief Ibori had been very successful at his political decisions, unfortunately, he was to be frustrated by the strongman, owner, and occupier of the seat at the time. He nevertheless put all his energy and resources behind the gentlest of them all fellow Governor, Alhaji Umaru Shehu Yaradua, who succeeded Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as President. His contribution to the Nigerian political space was exemplary and worthy of note. The death of President Yaradua brought Ibori face to face with those who had marked him down for punishment for his roles, political interest, and doggedness on resource control campaign. Chief Ibori was no doubt an astute politician with the interest of his people at heart and it could easily be said that dividends of democracy were evenly distributed all through Delta State during his tenure.
Ibori and his Urhobo people (our people)
Ibori has faced so many challenges since he left office. The first major grudge against him by his people was the emergency of his immediate successor His Excellency Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan. The Urhobo people saw this as a major assault on their rights as the perceived majority tribe in the State. From the various discordant voices amongst the Urhobo and in the spirit of rotating power between the three senatorial districts, the Urhobo’s probably would have preferred an Ijaw or Isoko man on the seat considering the long-standing frail relationship between the Urhobos and the Itshekiris and taken into consideration the statistical numbers of the Itshekiris, the Possibility of an Itshekiri man becoming Governor was relatively slim but Ibori made it possible without much stress. I could still remember the Inaugural speech of Governor Uduaghan when he said, he never thought it was possible and if not for the tradition of our people where the older one doesn’t kneel for the younger, he would have kneeled to Ibori for making it possible for him to become Governor. This became the first major trouble for the man who by all standards had performed brilliantly as the governor of the State amongst his Urhobo people.
Urhobo nation and the 2006 Population Census accusation
The Victory of HE Uduaghan at the poll led Ibori’s Urhobo people to erroneously think or believe that Chief Ibori may have tampered with the population figures of the Urhobo’s during the 2006 Population Census. Unfortunately, this was absurd as it was not a possibility at all. Governors did all they could to encourage their citizens to be counted. The then Governor James Ibori did exactly that. I could remember running into the Governor at the Lagos Local Airport and he instructed me as an Information Technology Expert to meet his then Executive Assistant now His Excellency, DSP Ovie Omo-Agege, to ensure that the population data of the State is well preserved at the collation regional office. Ibori neither gave any other instructions inimical to his people nor any other tribe in the State. As a Governor, I can say without any doubt that he saw Delta State as one progressive place desiring even development. Leaders at the time made effort to ensure that their people were counted, and no one could have reduced another’s census figure. Some of our people took the census with levity and later turn around to accuse an innocent man. JAMES IBORI did not reduce the figure of any tribe during the census, he provided resources to all government functionaries at the time to mobilize their people and those who did, registered more of their people. Another Census is on the way, be prepared to avoid unnecessary accusations.
I had been at some fora’s in the past where some notable Urhobo’s argued that Ibori reduced the census of Urhobos. I have tried unsuccessfully to counter this erroneous belief. It is this injustice and wrong accusation levelled against James Ibori, that has endured and refused to go away that makes me want to express my little knowledge of the events at that time otherwise, I have no reasons as a professional, an Information Technology Expert and a Chartered Accountant, two professions that are still relevant today and for the future to jump into the fray.
Delta is on the move again and without a doubt, it is clear to all citizens of the State that it is the turn of Delta Central to produce the next governor of the State. Evidently, the rotation doctrine is one of the legacies bequeathed on Delta State by Chief James O. Ibori. Delta Central today has the unimpaired right to lay claims to the governor’s seat comes 2023. The sign of leadership is in the establishment of policies that encourages peace and tranquility among their people. Ibori has scored maximally, in his encouragement of rotation amongst the people.
I am happy to note that Chief James Onanefe Ibori is by all standards a man loved by God. God has seen him surviving all manners of persecutions both by his people and various strong men that the Nigerian State has produced. That he has survived is without a doubt the providence of the Almighty God.
Delta Central (Urhobo), it is now your turn, how you play it depends wholly on you. The seat is for only one person, my recommendation is to put all the candidates out there into a single room and each of them tells us their manifesto, thereafter, we vote for our choice amongst in-house and present that man to the rest of Deltans. You cannot vote for yourself. The process is simple, we know you love yourself, but you cannot select yourself, select one of the other aspirants other than yourself. This may lead to a straight winner or to a tie that will reduce the multitude. DC23 over to you!
let me conclude this write up by making a special appeal to the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed forces. The current government has been in the saddle of power and running government for about 6 years now and they will be in a position to give a honest verdict on governance. I have no doubt in my mind that they know that Ibori does not deserve the names he has been called over the years. I therefore plead that he should be granted state pardon by The President.
He has been out of government for nearly 14 years plus, and we can all see that his legacies still stand till date. I believe that he still has a lot to contribute to nations building and Nigeria would be better for it if she provides that opportunity to James Ibori. During his time. He was a bridge builder and his benevolence cut across parties, tribes and tongue. Above all, James has seen the very dark side of Nigeria, he is a survivor. I know without doubt that better days await him to put his God given talent to use in building Nigeria. My only prayers for him are for good health of mind and body with long life. Thank you for your reading time.
Okakuro J. O. Emadoye. Urhupe’ra Agbon. Agbon Kingdom