30 MINUTES EXCLUSIVE DISCUSSION WITH GOV. OKOWA; WHAT HE TOLD ME THAT BROKE OUR HEARTS
I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.
I take this oath this day 27th of November 2015 that everything I will pen down here will be the truth and nothing but the truth. So help me God.
The day was Friday, and I had just left my Hotel in Ikeja, called Bovey Hotel, one of its very best in Lagos straight to the Murtala Muhammad International Airport, local wing to catch up with the 11.00 am Dana Airline flight that will connect me to catch up with an event. The flight was supposed to be by 4pm but it was rescheduled for 11am which I was not so happy with.
Done with my check in and with my boarding pass, I decided to call my friend, Hillary, just to know what’s happening and pass information across. When I told him I was in the airport, his voice sounded low and said “I be think say you fit come meet oga for lodge”. After some time of thinking, I decided to cancel my flight with extra fare paid though and went straight to the Delta State Governor’s lodge. This palatial building outweighs that of Abuja, where I had lodged during my trip to Abuja. Homely and welcoming, I was brought before the number one man in Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa whom I christened SIAO and he wore his customary blazing white native cloth. The journey of our discussion that opened his bosom to me began.
“Na wa, e don till wey I see you”, SIAO said to me and I answered in the affirmative. “Abi Hillary don hide you from me too”, he said again and I laughed saying “Daddy if I have seen Hillary, I have seen you”. I was led to the private discussion corner and exactly 1:05pm, the governor came to sit in a sofa close to me and we began to talk. The tone was set for heart to heart discussion as I called him “daddy” in my usual self, while he sees me as a son.
I opened up to him on my personal desire to be the first to have an exclusive interview with him, following an article I wrote in June 2014 titled “What Governor Uduaghan personally told me about 2015 elections”, where the desire was expressed and want him to grant the desire and secondly for private discussions, which he agreed to and the gear kicked.
Firing the first question stating how he feels knowing that he didn’t expect to meet a near empty treasury when he was making those lofty promises and how he intends to achieve it, it dawned on me that I had met a rock interviewee who when unprepared will give the best answers under the sun, calmly and truthful, without the usual “erm erm erm”, you hear from government officials.
SIAO agreed that times are ahead but removed the blame from his predecessor, Governor Emmanuel Ewetan Uduaghan, but attributed it to a national issue. Like a Shakespearean speaker, he reeled out his hearts on how he would have loved to do all he promised in record time, but will still “do it, even though they may not be fast like we expected. We really wanted to empower youths as can be seen through our skills acquisition programme and while we would love to have everyone onboard, the current challenge makes it hard to expand the programe to cover all, but we will do our best.
For a man who should protect his fellow ‘big me’, I’m surprised that he’s planning the days of Sodom and Gomorrah on them just to side with the poor. He could not imagine why “the poor man who earns just Thirty Thousand Naira will pay tax yet you see all these men with big cars not paying. We are trying so hard to increase the Internally Generated Revenue, but we will do it in such a way that it will not affect the ordinary men. The rich among us should pay their tax”, SIAO shocked me. I immediately scanned my heart for all the big men in Delta State with intimidating cars to begin to find the nearest state where they will run to evade tax, as Delta will soon be too hot for them.
With smile in his face, the governor opened up to me on how the state was being run with little funds, so much that official cars are yet to be completely bought, against the standard norm practiced in true democracy. He told me how he pleaded with the Commissioners to cope with the below standard furniture’s in their ministries for now, while using some of his campaign cars for government duties. As we spoke, there was no sign of a man unprepared for the job, but a man born ahead of 2015, who knew from the womb that a time such as this will occur when the burdens of Delta will rest on his shoulders.
“I am not surprised at the turn of financial events in the country. As a matter of time, in the course of the election, I saw that this will come, and my team and I planned ahead of it. Going to the Senate also helped me in knowing some of this things and hence not overwhelmed by the duty of the job”, he told me. SIAO is not in government for frivolities or to enjoy the pecks of office, for if it was so, he won’t give out his campaign office that is well furnished for government use, without collecting rent like some state governors do with their properties. If he wanted to loot the treasury, he won’t allow his wife, as First Lady to use his office for government use. May I shock you; his wife has no official car, but uses his own private vehicles.
His heart is humane, ever ready to know the least details. This came to be again when I told him about a lady who was in protocol and worked all for him despite being pregnant. Yes, I did tell my governor that the lady in question lost her five months old pregnancy working for him, and the lady seems to have been forgotten. Surprise he was as he admitted not knowing of such and demanded some answers from me which I provided. The man who should be bearing the toga of ‘my governor, my governor’, gladden my heart when he said “tell your friend to remind me”. No excuse on why he cannot help was given, neither was unrealistic promises made, and then I knew; this governor is not a politician, but first a father and then a servant ever willing to lead and help.
Will SIAO defect to APC? Why is he now a favorite of President Muhammadu Buhari and a close ally to the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu? What is his plan to curb the flood ravaging Asaba and what is his plan towards the Warri Seaport? These and many more, beyond what you ever imagined and all the gossip you ever read that SIAO revealed to me. In 30 minutes private meeting with him, I met a governor who Deltans and Nigerians never knew as one who plays politics beyond party lines. “I am not elected for the PDP but the people”, a word that still rings even as I pen this down.
WATCH OUT FOR PART TWO & MY EXCLUSIVE 1 HOURS 30 MINUTES HEART TO HEART DISCUSSION WITH FMR GOV. EMMANUEL UDUAGHAN…
Fejiro Oliver (Investigative Journalist & Human Rights Activist)
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