By Doris Aboh
FOLLOWING the Delta State Governor, Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Okowa’s SMART agenda, encapsulating strategic wealth creation project and provision of jobs for all Deltans, meaningful peace building platforms aimed at political and social harmony and more, the Deputy Governor of Delta State, Deacon (Barr) Kingsley Burutu Otuaro, has evolved more than a few measures to define the peace program of the SMART phenomenon.
Given his tutelage in peace and conflict resolution from the premier University of Ibadan, between 2004 and 2007, it is not unexpected that Otuaro has become a rallying point in conflict resolution and peace initiatives in the state.
Programmed for greatness
Born April 16, 1968 at Oporoza, Warri South-West Local Government Area (LGA), Delta State, to family of Mr. and Mrs. Napoleon Burutu Otuaro, who hail from Okerenkoko and Obotebe in Warri South-West and Burutu LGAs respectively of Delta State, he attended Asoro Primary School, Benin City, in the then Bendel State and in 1980, obtained his Primary School Leaving Certificate.
He began his Secondary School career in Immaculate Conception College, Benin City, Edo state, from 1981 to 1983, and later completed same in Isaba Grammar School, Isaba, Delta State, from 1983 to 1985 when he obtained his West African School Certificate (WASC). On completion of Secondary School in 1985, he worked with NISCO Nigeria Ltd at Jones Creek Flow Station in SPDC Northern Swamp Operations as a Technical Support Staff and later with Nigerian Dredging and Marine, Warri, Delta State, as Deck-Hand in the Marine Department. Otuaro subsequently got admission in 1994 into the Edo State (now Ambrose Ali) University, Ekpoma where he obtained his LLB with honours in 1999/2000. He afterward attended the Nigerian Law School and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2005.
Between 2005 to 2007, he served as Special Assistant on Community Affairs to Delta State Governor, His Excellency, Chief James Onanefe Ibori. In 2008, he was appointed by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan as a member of the Delta State Technical Support Committee, led by Prof. Sam Oyovbaire. While in 2009, during the Military Joint Task Force bombardment of the Niger Delta agitators, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan again appointed him as Chairman of Delta State Rehabilitation Committee for Internally Displaced Persons.
Square peg in square hole
His Masters Degree in Peace and Conflict Resolution was propelled by his quest to learn new ways of achieving peaceful environment, the comprehension that properly fit him into the implementation of Okowa’s SMART agenda, principally pivoted on peace-building. Barr Otuaro, who could be likened to an army ‘Lieutenant’ that believes in achieving the goals and chains of command of his ‘General’ in enhancing the military, obviously has been driving Dr. Okowa’s peace-building plan in retrospect to conflict resolution from contending parties, across the state.
For over 365 days in office as second-in-command to Dr. Okowa, Barr. Otuaro, bearing in mind that no meaningful agenda can succeed in an atmosphere of rancor, has not relented in making sure that every community and communal conflict is matched with adequate and appropriate actions to maintain cordial relationship.
Putting knowledge into action
He had waded into the crisis between companies and oil communities employing persuasive techniques and warning that government would not hesitate to invoke the full weight of the law on communities involved in the breach of peace, law and order where necessary. Otuaro adumbrates the fact that the present administration under the leadership of Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa believes in equity, fair play and justice, assuring that nobody will be short changed and no one will be intimidated in the process.
In a case between SETRACO and Gbaregolor community, where the community pressurized the firm to sack some indigenes and replace them with others, he ruled that it was unhealthy and thus, pushed a Memorandum of Understanding, (MoU) between SETRACO and the community that put the matter to rest. Also, following the shutdown of Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) operations by host communities, he moved in, held meetings with president generals and community leaders to reconsider their decision and re-open the shut down oil facilities of NPDC for operation.
“We have come a long way, we have a common future and together we must salvage this common future, you cannot do it alone and government cannot do it alone, so there is need to be a great synergy among us in order to move forward. While frantic efforts are been made at the top level to resolve this matters, the communities and government must work hand in hand until the issues are resolved”. Barr Otuaro stated.
The synergy that works
Of course, there are several dimensions of communal conflicts, community disputes and oil companies/ host communities feud, as well as traditional stool tussles, kingship and administrative struggles, orchestrated as if to truncate the peace and smooth leadership of the Okowa-led administration, but with Governor Okowa acting as the ‘General,’ giving matching orders, his ‘Lieutenant’, Barr. Otuaro, armed with his expertise on conflict resolution and peace building, readily availed himself to wade into the storm of disputes from across the state.
From the chairmanship tussle at Ojobo community in Burutu local government area, the leadership dispute at Alagbabiri in Ewu town, Ughelli South local government, land and boundary dispute between Ozoro and Oleh community, Isoko South and Isoko North local governments respectively, Ofagbe crisis, Emuebu and Obiaruku dispute, Nsukwa Patriotic Union and Obi of Nsukwa, Aniocha South local government imbroglio, Otuaro, acting on the orders of his boss, spared no bound at nipping the conflicts in the bud.
From state to federal advocacy
As Chairman of Peace Advocacy Committee Against Oil Facility Vandalism in Delta State, Barr Kingsley Otuaro and members of his committee was marshaled by Governor Okowa to the creeks to campaign for an end to pipeline vandalism. It was not an easy task for him, the governor and members of his committee because the constant crisis between the youths of the region and the Nigerian nation is hinged and powered by the philosophy of moral relativism, arising from the secularization of human existence, which has no connection with God and religion.
The implication is that every action and conduct is justifiable, a notion which makes personal gain more justifiable than anything else. Thus, many are of the view that in an oppressed society, terrorism is justified. But Deacon Otuaro and his committee members were able to push for peace.
As the ‘general,’ Okowa found his lieutenant a veritable asset in energizing the peace-building plan of the Federal Government. He was in the thick of the earlier efforts by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, and later the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, to return peace to the region. The behind- the- scene moves culminated in the fact-finding mission of Osinbajo to the Niger Delta, as endorsed by President, Muhammadu Buhari .
The endeavors are already paying off, ranging from the firm assurance by the federal government on the take-off the Nigerian Maritime University, NMU, Okerenkoko, Osinbajo’s order on oil companies to relocate their headquarters back to the region, willingness to support establishment of modular refineries and collaborate with illegal oil refiners and lots more.
God revealed my deputy to me – Okowa
Governor Okowa has not failed to acknowledge the good working relationship between him and his deputy. During a meeting with leaders of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, from Delta South senatorial district, he disclosed that God revealed his deputy to him (Okowa) even before he chose him. The governor stated that on several occasions, he tried to wave off the revelation, but the celestial revelation kept hitting him that his deputy would come from the Christ Embassy Church.
“So when Mr Otuaro’s name came, I had to confirm to find that he was truly of Christ Embassy Church, God did not make a mistake, so we will continue to work as brothers in this government,” Okowa asserted.
Okowa’s confidence in Otuaro dates back to the very beginning! This explains the understanding and partnership between the two, which has placed the state on the path of prosperity, despite daunting economic challenges. Not long after they took over the reins of administration of the state, Okowa permitted Otuaro to chair the first state Executive Council meeting of the administration, a testament to Okowa’s liberal disposition and his assurance in Otuaro’s loyalty. And sooner than later, he went on a two-weeks leave break, but not many Deltans knew in point of fact that he went on leave because they did not sense the void. This was due largely to the bond between the duo.
Consequently, Okowa had delegated many demanding assignments on his deputy,ranging from,Representing the governor at Nigeria Governors forum,’NGF’ National Economic Council Meetings and Other notable federal function,another very rare act of Liberalism from a ‘Sublime General’ not minding what those who do not understand the power at play would say. And like a committed deputy who would never betray the trust of his commanding officer, Otuaro, during the absence of his principal, re-enacted the wisdom of Biblical King Solomon at the Unity Hall, Government House, Asaba, at one of the sessions where feuding factional women leaders of a market women association in Asaba threatened to pull down the roof.
The ensuing fierce altercation almost disrupted the event, as the two women claiming to be the president of the association wanted to respond on behalf of the women to the statement of the Federal Government that the state had keyed into the initiative. Protocol officers and security personnel battled to return the situation to normalcy, but to no avail. Calmly, Otuaro called the protocol officer and implored him to allow both women to speak in turn. This diplomatic and democratic resolution immediately brought tranquility and you could hear a pin drop in the hall.
By the time Otuaro mounted the podium to explain the programmes encapsulated in the SMART agenda of the Okowa-led administration in a down-to-earth manner to the people, what followed was a manifestation, as even commissioners and other government officials in the hall wondered if Otuaro sat down with his boss to plan the prosperity blueprint before he made him his deputy.
Soul winning continues
For Deacon Otuaro, political office is not and cannot be a hindrance to the Lord’s work. To this end, he has continued to champion the redemption of souls through ministerial messages in the vineyard of God. Interestingly, Otuaro has committed himself to delivering gospel messages and ministration in various churches and prisons, a ministry he has maintained passion for, several years before becoming the deputy governor. Unarguably, the meeting of Governor Okowa and his deputy, Barr Otuaro can be described as a physical actualization of what was programmed spiritually.
By Doris Yeri Warri Aboh, SSA, Media, Deputy Governor’s Office, Delta State