Uduaghan – Finishing Strong?

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Some twenty three years ago when military president, Ibrahim Banbagida, (IBB), decreed Delta State (and others such as Akwa Ibom) into being, we’re all full of hope. We’d thought that the El Dorado that had eluded us while still annexed with the Omo’noba Nedo Okua’kpolokpolo’s enclave, now Edo State, would come quickly and soon. But alas! It’s remained a tall dream.

This is not a palatable synopsis of the state of affairs of ‘the big heart’ – it’s now ‘the finger of God,’ so I’ve come to learn. If this is the case, then it’s most likely due to the non-performing capabilities of those that have been at helm of affairs of this oil-rich state from its inception to date. The khaki boys that took over the running and management of the state’s treasury after the civilian regime of Chief Felix Ibru was put in the cooler, only came with a mission: to plunder the till. They came; they saw and carted away the spoils of the state. There is nothing to show for all the years they ruled and reigned in the Dennis Osadebe House at Asaba. Too bad!

In came a new dawn in 1999 where a certain James Onanefe Ibori bestrode the saddle in government House, Asaba. In his first term of four years, nothing much in terms of dividends of democracy was forthcoming. This may not have been unconnected to the fratricidal war that was then ranging between the three main tribes in the Warri axis. Perhaps, he was doing all he could in his powers to resolving the crisis and as ‘his excellencies’ are wont to mouthing in such circumstances: ‘security and sustenance of peace require huge input of state resources…’ At a time he’d to move the seat of government from Asaba to Warri. It’s that serious.

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Did he achieve that onerous task? The response to that inquiry can be generally placed in the affirmative because from then till now there haven’t been such altercations of that magnitude in that region nor anywhere else in the state. Thank God for His mercies. To say the least, it was a period better imagined than experienced. May it never happen!

In that administration was his cousin, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan. He served as the commissioner for health and later as the secretary to the government. In all these, nobody had the faintest inkling that he was going to be the ‘heir apparent to the throne.’

‘But we’re supposed to be in a democracy, where those who are supposed to assume positions are elected?,’ you may surmise.

That, my dear, is for the marines! In the politics of most states, Delta in particular, it’s mostly selection by the incumbent rather than election. Woe betides you as a gubernatorial candidate in the opposition. With the kind of nefarious stronghold the present leadership of the ruling party has on ground, it’s near impossible for another person outside this ‘Ibori clique’ to ‘smell’ power in Delta State. You may be very popular on ground and have the widest spread of supporters across board, yet on the final collation of electoral results, the coastal communities’ votes for this clique would always more than double those from the upland areas. This is the magic: if the elections took place, say, on Saturday, the number of votes from the hinterland would have been known to all latest by Monday.

Interestingly, the opposition candidate would mostly be on the driving seat as per the initial results. By Friday into the weekend, Delta Wonder would be unveiling. At the end of it all, the smart guys in the service of the ‘man on the throne’ would be reeling out ridiculous figures in favour of the candidate of the ruling party. These are the same communities and local government areas whose populations were earlier said to be so insignificant that they are not qualified for government hospitals. How come? You may ask.

It’s through this king of scenario and shenanigan that produced the present occupier of the Dennis Osadebe House at Asaba. Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan would have, by May 25, 2015, been in and around government for sixteen years! One of the mantra mostly mouthed during his electioneering campaign was that his would be a government of continuity hence he should be given the mandate to rule the state as we’d not have to start all over again.

‘He’d start from where Ibori’s government stopped…’ we’re told. However, what are we seeing presently? No doubt, it’s anything but continuity.

Elaborate and circus-sized roundabouts were built with gigantic elevated television sets were erected. Today most of these structures have become moribund and decrepit. The Olympic-sized circus arenas, called roundabouts, have been completely bulldozed to give way for ill-conceived BRTs that go to nowhere. Elsewhere, these roundabouts are now centres for destitute, overgrown weeds and dangerous reptiles. There seems to be a potpourri of ‘development’ projects here and there to give the first time comer an impression of ‘the state is working.’ All these have been taking place within the dying days of Uduaghan’s second term in office. What have been happening from the better part of the first term in office?

Some pundits would adduce that he’d been involved in post electoral legal battles, so there was no money to do government business all these while. The much activities of the state government can best be summarized as much motion and no movement because most of the roads in the Warri-Effurun-Udu axis of the state are in a sorry state. Checkout Effurun Market, Effurun/Sapele and Airport Roads. Others are Giwa-Amu, Apala, Okumagba Estate et cetera et cetera. It’s the same picture across the entire state. The state run radio and television stations in Warri go off air arbitrarily at the slightest change of the weather. The ones popular Uduaghan buses are now becoming derelict. Employment into the state civil service is usually based on political patronage. The closer one is to a political godfather(of the ruling party), the most likelihood of your being given the job irrespective of whether you sit for the interview or not.

What cannot be taken from this government is that it has perfected the act of using the electronic and print media for image laundering. They have succeeded in using edited video clips of some few projects and self-serving programmes to hoodwink organizations outside the state into giving them frivolous awards. They are very adept at sloganeering: ‘three point agenda, Delta without oil, finishing strong…’ Not too long ago, they came up with ‘Operation keep Uvwie, Udu and Warri clean.’ They went about demolishing illegal structures without cleaning up anywhere. How can the cities be made clean without creating durable drainage systems that can take the body of huge waters that abound after just a drop of rain? Now the entire city is in shambles due to heavy down pours that have rendered the ‘keep the city clean’ of the government useless. This, no doubt, is a glaring case of misplaced priority.

The many traffic gridlock that litter the major cities of the state due to bad road and drainage system coupled with lack of gainful employment for the teeming youth of the state is certainly not a good report card for the governor’s ‘finishing strong’ slogan.