In criticism I will be bold, and as sternly, absolutely just with friend and foe. From this purpose nothing shall turn me. – Edgar Allan Poe
As I walked into the venue of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa’s rally in Okpe, someone who knew me called my name from afar and some heads among the crew of media men turned. I wasn’t surprised at the reason for their turning as it was obvious that they wanted to know the modest me who was in their midst unknowingly. Hearing my name; I turned and winked at the caller, who quickly understood and walked away from me. But then, someone among the Journalists who might have seen me winked walked up to me later and said “Oh thou controversial Journalist, Uduaghan and Babangida Aliyu friend, it’s my honor meeting you”
I stretched out my hand for a handshake and we began to chat. He is a more experienced person in the job and over a decade older than me. What was a friendly chat turned into a lecture, as he tutored me on the Gov. Emmanuel Uduaghan whom I don’t know from the closet but a distance. After an interesting lecture, I knew that I had to look back and take a study of this man who I have antagonized for years and probably become his worst critics. I knew that it wasn’t enough for me to sit back in my home and documents concerning the governor rushed into my mailbox from unknown persons which I quickly delete after investigating and reporting, without having a closer look at the man called Uduaghan. I was bent on knowing the beautiful side of him and that I set out; a discovery that taught me a lesson for life.
Everyman in life has his tragic flaws and weaknesses and governance is not different. Whenever I write on the governor, I go into hibernation to avoid calls that will be made to me, but once I open my phone line, text messages are flooding in, some telling me on how bitter I am with Uduaghan and not looking at the beautiful things he has done.
Nigerians, for the records, I have not seen the governor before penning this, neither have I been paid to write this, but the same lips that spew out curses also pronounce blessings. Maybe this is just one of such or not. The Uduaghan we don’t know is one gentleman who I have realized is too innocent to hurt a fly, yet very furious at the beginning of a negative report but in matter of hours, he lets it go off his mind. Were it not so, the Department of State Security Service (DSS) in Delta State who have been on the hunt for me would have done everything possible to track me down, but Uduaghan will not let them do so.
How do I know this? I complained to a senior colleague in AIT on how my life is in danger from the Delta State government and this was the day that Senator Okowa campaign landed in Warri North and we went to the governor’s house for entertainment in Koko. My colleague who has known the governor for years told me how the governor would be pleased to see me who has written negative reports against him, and he will simply pull me over for a private discussion and tell me the realities on ground and how the media have lied against him while some use propaganda against him, “including you Fejiro”, he said. He completely cleared my memory that the Uduaghan we don’t know dreads to take a human life for whatever reasons.
My memory flashed back to when he came on an inspection tour of the Songhai Farm in Sapele and I was among the Journalists with him. Right with us was another critical publisher, Prince Orhomonokpaye standing before him. The Uduaghan we don’t know naturally in a Nigeria setting haven recognized him will order his security men to bundle the publisher away but he never did. Rather, he said, Prince, leave here now” and he continued on his inspection. That was an opportunity many Nigerian governors would never miss to deal with a critic, but not Uduaghan. It dawned on me that as a thorough bred Medical Doctor, he has imbibed the spirit of saving lives not taking and not even the dirty politics of Nigeria could take that away from him.
Neither I nor anyone can take away the credit from him that he has impacted the lives of women in various ways in Delta through his micro credit scheme and even when I try to pick faults in it; my conscience forbids me from doing so. It is no wonder then that he has always won every award of the governor with the best micro credit scheme. Again I know this, because I have followed the organizers of the project around the State. The Uduaghan I hit is still the same man that none of us can take away the credit of investing heavily in the health sector that has reduced to the barest minimum infant mortality rate in the State today. Yes, I may have written badly on him and will do again and again if I find anything bad in his government, but we cannot take away the shine off him for making Delta State the number one in sports today in Nigeria, while encouraging her indigenes like Blessing Okagbare to place Delta on the world map.
As I looked at the governor during the flag off of Senator Okowa’s campaign, I must confess that I saw a man through his eyes a one so gentle and truly wants the best for Delta, but probably surrounded by sycophants and majority of appointees who are only there to enrich their pockets and not do the work he has charged them to do. Like a friend and a brother who is aspiring for a political position told me during a phone conversation; “Fejiro, Uduaghan is one of the best man that has come out of Delta. He is one person who wants Delta to grow but forces beyond him spoils his efforts and he alone bears that bad name that writers like you have given him today. Believe me, if you speak with the governor today, you will see the passion he has for Delta.
I did see that passion in the rally. As I got to his house in Koko; I knew quickly that he has not been wicked to Delta and Deltans as we have made him look. The house he built I must confess will not be built by a Local Government Chairman, as it was so simple that I had to be convinced that he owns it, while directly opposite him sprawls a mansion own by a mere citizen, which out rightly dwarfs his. The house I saw showed me a man who may not be truly materialistic, but modest in living. Little wonder he drives himself most time whenever he visits a place.
For a state with so much oil and yet enjoys peace in Uduaghan’s administration is not an applause that despite all my criticism will wash away. I look at the North and know that Delta State ought to be in crisis due to inter tribal issues, but how he has managed them will be a question I will ask him when I seat with him one on one for interview. The Uduaghan we don’t know was one of the brains behind the reconciliation of the Ijaws and Itsekiri during the James Ibori days as governor. It was that Uduaghan that I knew to be so humble and masses oriented but how he lost touch with them is another question I have kept among my questionnaires to ask him someday. The Uduaghan we don’t know didn’t win election by rigging out Great Ovedje Ogboru like we always read in the media, but he was a man in touch with the people then who had no choice but to give him their votes while his opponents only come to meet them during election period.
I may have been hard on him and still will, but cannot hide this confession that whenever I see the State Model Primary Schools across the State; I proudly beat my chest that this is one area that Uduaghan has excelled far beyond Gov. Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State. On this he has crossed the average benchmark for education into a very good mark. With the Edumarshal team always on to push students into school, he takes the credit for making hawking among children minimal in the State. Friends, let’s give it to him on this.
While other States boil due to fraudulent PDP primary elections, Uduaghan has won the hearts of all the political class and Deltans by not subverting the will of the people, but provided a level playing field for all aspirants irrespective of the candidate that he may have supported. As I looked at him on the podium in Oghara smiling; I saw a statesman who will rather allow the people live in peace than sacrifice it for his personal ambition. The governor Uduaghan Nigerians don’t know research has come to show is never in search of power like he has been made to look, but one who simply feels as human that a particular product he knew was good for sale but humble enough to know that another product was preferred by the buyers.
His time winds up in office and truth be said of him; Deltans will miss him, especially for setting a pace for the next government through the Delta Beyond Oil project which Okowa has already swallowed hook, line and sinker. At a time when other of his colleagues were depending on Oil, kudos must be given to him for knowing that oil discovery has turned to a doom and must find a way for another wealth creation. Like he once said that the government and the properties belong to us all, I will be walking into the government house soon to tell him a piece of my mind; that apostolic truth that the sycophants have not told him and tell him what the masses want from him as he finish strong. Like a son to him, I will not be demanding for my on share of the inheritance but will simply utter “Father, behold thou son who has reported you to the media world; this is what we your children, the governed want before you rise for a rousing ovation”, and if he finds it right that the security men pick me up, so be it.
These little things matter…
Fejiro Oliver, Editorial Board Chairman of Secrets Reporters, Media Consultant and Human Rights Activist is also the Co-Convener of Coalition of Human Rights Defender (CHORD) and can be reached on +2348022050733, +2348160067613 (SMS ONLY) or [email protected]. Engage him on twitter on @fejirooliver86