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BY FIDELIS EGUGBO
WHEN Chief James Onanefe Ibori was the Governor of Delta State (May 29, 1999 – May 29, 2007) he had a deputy in the person of Chief (Sir) Benjamin Sunday Chukwueweniwe Elue. Democracy was still very nascent and fledgling as at then, but, Chief Elue’s loyalty to the Governor was never in doubt despite the fact that he was Chief Ibori’s elder age-wise.
Yours sincerely was the correspondent attached to the office of the Deputy Governor then and that was the period the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was groomed to become an enlarged family of Deltans from different walks of life, making it almost impossible till date for you to find a politician in the state who does not belong to the PDP family or have strong ties to it.
The former Deputy Governor carried out his functions as assigned to him by the Governor without complaint and the relationship between the duo rose to a situation that they were referred to as “two hearts that beat as one.”
They were so united that some democratic watchers in other states had to visit Delta State to know the secret behind the harmonious working relationship which trickled down to members of the executive council. At that time, most of the states of the federation were in turmoil with the word, “impeached” used as newspapers’ headlines almost on daily basis. It would be recalled that what is now known as social media was almost non-existent in the country and people relied on the conventional news media – television, radio and newspapers for information.
Chief Elue who was Chief Ibori’s senior by more than a decade carried himself with decorum and statesmanlike that no matter the situation, he knew what to do to the benefits of the government and the people of Delta State. Chief Elue never failed to tell us that he was on his way to his farm at his home town, Obior, Aniocha North local government area of Delta State when Chief Ibori called on him to be his deputy. Till date Chief Elue’s loyalty to the state and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is still sustaining him.
When Chief Ibori and Chief Elue left office, Dr Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan and Prof. Amos Agbe Utuama took over the mantle of leadership of the state as Governor and Deputy Governor respectively. Again, Prof. Utuama, a distinguished academic and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) also, carried out his functions without the ambition of removing the Governor from office to enable him take over which made the polity to be very stable until they handed over the affairs of government to Dr Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa and Barr. Kingsley Burutu Otuaro as Governor and Deputy Governor respectively.
It is worthy to state that during Chief James Onanefe Ibori’s tenure, while Prof. Utuama was lured from the four walls of the University to serve as the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General of Delta State, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan was the Commissioner for Health and later, became the Secretary to the State Government.
Few months after the duo of Dr Okowa and Barr. Otuaro clocked one year in office, Governor Okowa handed over the baton of leadership to his Deputy which I can say without fear of contradiction that he was the first among his peers to do such in the country to enable him proceed on an annual leave.
The situation in Delta State from the beginning of the Governor Okowa cum Barr. Otuaro leadership has been that of partnership based on trust, with the sole commitment of serving the people and achieving that dream state that the generality of the people desire.
From 1999 to date, despite the fact that constitutionally, the Deputy Governor can only perform the task as assigned to him by the Governor, the Deputy Governor’s office in Delta State has never been devoid of flurry of activities as the Deputy Governor has a lot of functions including the crucial roles of dealing with local government councils and the traditional institution. If the domains of the traditional rulers and the local government areas are at peace, certainly, the state can only be described as peaceful because, Kingdoms make up the local government areas which in turn, make up the state.
This gives credence to the fact that Deputy Governor Kingsley Otuaro has a busy schedule which he carries out creditably to the benefits of the people and without making noise about it.
Governor Okowa’s confidence in the working of democratic institutions have greatly cowed his critics who could not even find a dog to call a bad name but, had to admire his leadership qualities silently and also give praises to God for having such a man at the helms of affairs at this critical period of financial down-turn in the nation’s history. The Governor believes that due process must be adhered to and he has never failed to guide himself with the words of God and belief in integrity, knowing that as a leader, the people must at all times, have trust in him.
While on leave, Governor Okowa, celebrated his 57th birthday and the fact that his Deputy is yet to clock the golden age has made them to be among the active population in the right frame of mind, physically fit to do what is right for Deltans and prepare the state for a future they and members of their families will proudly be part of.
Barr. Otuaro who acted as Governor from July 5, 2016 to July 20, 2016 with the express approval of the Delta State House of Assembly following a letter titled, “Notice of Vacation” that Governor Okowa personally signed and sent to the Legislature for approval was born in Oporoza, Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State.
He was called to bar in 2005 after graduating from the Law School and has several years of work experience where he held positions of trust for the people before he joined the murky waters of politics.
As a recognized grassroots politician, Barr. Otuaro was the Special Assistant on Community Affairs at a time, Dr. Okowa was the Commissioner for Health during the tenure of Chief James Onanefe Ibori and based on track record of success in whatever assignment that was given to him, the immediate past Governor of Delta State, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan in 2009, appointed him as Chairman, Delta State Rehabilitation Committee for Internally Displaced Persons. That was also, the time Governor Okowa was the Secretary to the Delta State Government and he held that position till his elevation to the position of Commissioner representing the Ijaw ethnic nationality on the board of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC).
Saying that Deputy Governor Otuaro knows the pains of the common man on the street would be an understatement as he lost his father when he was still a teenager and by dint of hard work and God’s benevolence, he rose to become the number two citizen of Delta State and the first Ijaw man in the state to hold such position.
We cannot also forget that Governor Okowa lost his mother when he was just 23 years of age and this has made him to share a lot of things in common with his Deputy and one can say that their parts crossed severally while rendering service to Deltans before their emergence as Governor and Deputy Governor respectively on May 29, 2015.
The good relationship that exists between the Governor and his Deputy is very healthy for the growth of democracy in the state. They relate as brothers, having mutual respect for one another and this relationship which was built on trust has transcended to other arms of government. The state is blessed with a stable legislature and a judiciary that is committed to ensuring that even the common man on the street is not afraid of seeking for justice when he or she feels oppressed.
When there is peace among the leaders, the peace and understanding will trickle down among their followers and the electorates. Of course, peace is a panacea for positive actions, developmental actions to take place and we pray that the peaceful situation in the state will be deepened and encouraged in the interest of Nigeria’s democracy and in line with what has been institutionalized in the state as an exemplary state where democracy is in action.