•Why they are after him
•‘I did not kill Ogbe Onokpite’
+How he changed the face of Delta State
By Sylvester O. Sylvester
The immediate-past governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan is on the verge of being tactically drawn into one of the high-profile blackmails in recent times. This comes on the heels of plans by a group of people, under the aegis of Urhobo New Face Youths Association to re-open the case of High Chief Ogbe Onokpite, an Urhobo chief who was allegedly killed by the police on Saturday, 26th November 2011 in a Warri, Delta State hotel.
The killing took place in Uduaghan’s domain while he was still governor of Delta State. Though there was no direct evidence from the outset linking the ex-governor to the death of the community leader, those who are after the medical doctor who held sway in the state for eight years as governor, believe that Chief Onokpite met his death because of his outspoken stance against the government of Delta State. However, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan confidently believes their aim is to truncate his next political ambition.
The motive of the murder has not yet been unraveled up till this moment, but the then Delta State commissioner of police, Mr. Tsafe at a press conference after the incident had said Chief Onokpite was arrested for gun running. ICON Newspaper was reliably informed that the late Chief Ogbe Onokpite who was the gubernatorial candidate of the Democratic Peoples Party, DPP, and the vice-president of the Urhobo New Face Youths Association had earlier led a protest over the government’s decision to award pipeline surveillance contract to some host communities where pipeline runs through.
The contract whose value was N2 billion, was awarded in favour of Oil Facility Surveillance Ltd owned by Chief Government Ekpemupolo who hails from Gbaramatu Kingdom in Delta State. Those who led the protest along with Chief Onokpite had kicked against the unfairness in the N2 billion contract which tended to favour only non-Urhobo indigenes even though Urhobo communities host 85-90 per cent of the outlay of pipes.
According to them, the other beneficiaries who included Mr. Michael Diden, Chief Dennis Otuaro, Mr Ayirimi Emami, Prince Koboya Seimodi and Lt. Col Satchie Ayomike Etoromi were either of Izon or Itsekiri stock.
Dr. Uduaghan who had constantly washed his hands off the dastardly act, has once again declared his innocence.
Speaking exclusively to ICON Newspaper, Dr. Uduaghan said he did not see any threat from the late chief to his government so he could not have possibly planned his arrest or his murder. He reiterated that the pipeline contract was not awarded by him or the state government in the first place but the federal government.
“The contract award was between the NNPC, the Presidency and the then Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke. They just by-passed me, and I initially had no knowledge of it.
“I know this rumour is the handiwork of my detractors who just want to ruin my future political career, but they will not succeed,” Dr. Uduaghan revealed.
He said that when the incident happened, he had ordered the police to investigate it, and even the IG’s office set up a special unit to investigate the matter. Chief Onokpite was lured from his suite at Beeland Hotels, Urhuwherun Road, Udu, Warri before allegedly being tortured and killed.
- ••HOW HE CHANGED THE FACE OF DELTA STATE
Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State took over from Chief James Onanefe Ibori as the governor of Delta State on May 29 2007. During the eight years that he ruled the state, there were unmatchable transformations recorded in the state.
In the area of free healthcare delivery, Deltans will not forget Uduaghan in hurry for instituting a special project to finance medical assistance to them. To date, the sum of N1.4 billion has been expended on the project.
His administration also embarked on health programmes as the Free-under Five health programme where all the children within the age bracket of 0-5years were taken care of irrespective of the ailment.
There was also a Free Maternal Health programme which enabled government hospitals attend to pregnant and expectant mothers from conception to the period of delivery free of charge. It was once reported that the Antenatal care unit of each hospital was recording up to 200 to 400 attendants on daily basis. The hospitals were made to handle serious advocacy issues on care during pregnancy aimed at reducing maternal and infant mortality.
On the Free Rural Health Scheme programme, the government of Delta State under Uguaghan attended to the rural people in all parts of the state, treating various health needs of the people irrespective of the nature of the ailment free of charge. The scheme cut across all ages and sexes as issues bordering on fibroid, hyenia, partial blindness and other sundry health challenges were tackled by health care professionals.
This magnanimous gesture of his government brought succour to people who ordinarily would not have been able to access the needed medical attention.
The Uduaghan administration also ensured the fees of all students sitting for the secondary school final examinations were paid. It was a policy he underpinned by the observation that some students even after going through the free school programme, were unable to pay the fees required before they could sit for the National Examination Council ( NECO), and the West African Examinations Council (WASC ) exams.
He blazed the trail in with the state government’s First Class Scholarship Scheme under which indigenes of the state, paternally or maternally, who made first class in any university were offered an annual N5 million scholarship to study for higher degrees up to PhD anywhere in the world. In four years, his government provided scholarship to 1,760 students in the following categories: 247 for First Class Aviation and Overseas Postgraduate and 1,513 for students at the local level. The government also approved scholarship for 792 students in all the categories and inaugurated the Delta Education Marshall (Edu Marshall) to eradicate ‘street culture’ and pave way for ‘learning culture’.
The former governor also initiated a policy which ensured that missionary schools were returned to their original owners. As at the last count before he vacated office, forty missionary schools were returned to their owners while the government built parallel schools.
The governor, fully aware of his target in the education sector said the huge investment in education has a lot to do with the ‘Delta Beyond Oil’ initiative of his administration, stating that “for anything you are doing to succeed, the bedrock is education”.
According to him, “we cannot be talking about ‘Delta Beyond Oil’ if we have our populace not educated. You must educate them first for them to even understand ‘Delta Beyond Oil’. If they are not educated, they will just believe that so much money is coming from oil, so, let’s just get the money and share it”.
Under Uduaghan, primary and secondary schools witnessed a new lease of life in the state with the construction or rehabilitation of over 200 primary and secondary schools. The state fully implemented a compulsory and free basic education policy.
There is also a policy of giving scholarships to deserving and brightest students. Among the fresh-looking schools in the state under Udughan were Abuator Primary School, Asaba; Baptist Model Girl’s School, Agbor; Omado Primary School, Issele-Uku; Mary Magdalene Grammar School, Ashaka; Owessei Primary School, Utagbe-Ogbe, Kwale; Government College, Ughelli; Etako Primary School, Okpare; Otovwodo Primary School, Otovwodo; Ugboroke Primary School, Ugboroke; Ogharefe Secondary School, Ogharefe; Okotie-Eboh Grammar School, Sapele; Alder’s Special School, Warri and Ogbe-Ijoh Primary School, Warri. Others are Emede Grammar School, Emede; St Michael College, Oleh; Anglican Girls Grammar School, Ozoro; Hussey College, Warri; Atuwatse Model Primary School, Warri; Igbudu Model Primary School, Warri; Eke Model Primary School, Utagbe-Ogbe, Kwale; Model Primary School, Abigborodo (Swamp); and Model Primary School, Burutu (Swamp).
Dr. Uduaghan’s administration achieved so much in the area of infrastructure, housing scheme, roads construction, street lights and provision of modern transport facilities and hospitals and others too numerous to mention.
The state partnered with the federal government on an independent power project, IPP. This started during the former president Obasanjo era with a commitment of about N15.7 billion. He also built a Delta State Independent Power Plant in Oghara and invested in transformers, distribution and transmission lines to upgrade power distribution in both urban and rural communities in the state.
In his determination to reposition Asaba as a befitting state capital and a hub of social, economic and political activities, an airport at a cost of N17 billion was built. When the idea of Asaba International Airport came, those who did not understand his vision said it was not a priority venture at the time, but as they later found out, it was just one component of a larger dream, a revolution to make the state the economic hub in the West Africa sub-region. Creating special economic zones and industrial clusters: (Koko/Ogidigben Free Trade Zone, Warri Industrial Business Park and Asaba Information Communication Technology, ICT Park; embarking on dualization of Warri-Ughelli-Asaba to attract Onitsha traders to import their goods through Warri port; and expanding the Osubi Airport were all part of the broader initiative to take the state to the next level. Also, following sustained drive in tourism and hospitality industry, a $240 million Delta Leisure Resorts, the biggest in West Africa was to be set up at Oleri, Udu Local Government Area in partnership with a private investor, Sarner PFM, while a Wildlife Park was planned for Ogwashi-Uku in Aniocha Local Government Area.
With inspiring ideas, Dr. Uduaghan recorded developmental strides in the state that are felt by both rural dwellers and those in urban areas. His landmarks of achievements in the state speak volume and are indelible.
Unforgettably, is Governor Uduaghan’s foresight that the oil-rich South-south region of Nigeria may naturally in future face depreciation in oil output, enough to sustain the region and indeed the entire country. And applying the wisdom of King Solomon, Uduaghan embarked on actualizing his vision of diversification of the state economy that is not overly depended on oil revenue.
Armed with that foresight and to prepare his people for the possible fiscal pitfall of oil as major revenue, Governor Uduaghan has today carved a niche for himself, as the people’s governor with his conceptualization of Delta Beyond Oil agenda.
Governor Uduaghan perhaps keyed into the philosophy of South African man of conscience, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who once said that Africa is destroyed by disease, poverty and violence. The inclusion of violence in this context, is an indication that it is a cancerous cell that any governor or leader thinking to rescue Delta State from under-development must first tackle.
And that was what Dr. Uduaghan set out to do on assumption of office in 2007. On assumption, Dr. Uduaghan anchored his efforts on the conviction that there can be no meaningful development in an environment of insecurity. In the same vein, the governor believes that there can be no lasting peace in an environment of injustice, poverty and frustration.
While he tried to calm frayed nerves, he critically looked at remedies to calmed nerves that should never get frayed again. As a medical doctor, there is a saying in medical parlance, ‘give first aid and reduce the pain while searching for the real healing prescription.’
With that kind of approach, it is no wonder that Governor Uduaghan summoned courage and made several “uninvited visits” to the creeks to engage the warlords in dialogue, with a view to sheathing their swords. The meetings were a big success for the Federal Government’s Niger Delta Amnesty Programme, because the warlords accepted the governor’s assurances. Having successfully tackled insecurity as panacea to development, Uduaghan set out on massive and vigorous development of the state in every sphere of the society.
Deltans cannot easily forget Uduaghan’s regime in the area of free healthcare delivery. Interestingly, the Ministry of Health still gives financial assistance to many Deltans who request for such assistance for treatment both locally and abroad. So far, the sum of 1.4 billion was provided and exhausted for financial medical assistance. Thus, the administration has such health programs as the Free-under Five health program where all the children within the age bracket of 0-5years are taken care of irrespective of the ailment. The Free Maternal Health program which enables the government hospitals attend to pregnant and expectant mothers from conception to the period of delivery free of charge. In fact, one of the senior officials at the Warri Central Hospital disclosed that the Antenatal care unit of the hospital records up to two hundred to four hundred attendants on daily basis. The services include serious advocacy issues on care during pregnancy to other is- sues aimed at reducing maternal and infant mortality, which, she said, had greatly reduced since the pro-gram was introduced by the government.
On the Free Rural Health Scheme program, the government of Delta state under Uduaghan has attended to the rural people in all parts of the state, treating various health needs of the people irrespective of the nature of the ailment free of charge. This is a scheme which demographic reach cuts across all ages and sexes as issues bordering on fibroid, hyenia, partial blindness and other sundry health challenges are tackled headlong with health care professionals who are relevant in different areas.
This magnanimous gesture on the part of the government has brought succour to people who ordinarily would not have been able to access the needed medical attention required for attending to their health needs either because of money or other unforeseen shortcomings.