“For the information of my professor and Vice President, people here are already saying that this is how his grandfather-in-law, the late Obafemi Awolowo, once came to our region and unilaterally tinkered with the nomenclature of the traditional configurations in Warri thereby unwittingly creating a veritable template for much of the inter-tribal crisis that rocked the region for decades and still simmers beneath the surface. One would have expected that where his in-law made a mistake, it would be his unique privilege and dutiful mandate to correct it or at least to be careful not to repeat the same.”
By Jesutega Onokpasa
His Excellency, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON, is someone I hold in the highest esteem for a variety of reasons. Quite apart from the fact that he is our number two citizen and therefore deserving of our respect, he also happens to be the first lawyer in our history to rise to the number two position as well as probably the most highly educated individual to occupy that post. On a more personal basis, he was a professor of law at the University of Lagos, my Alma Mater, for which reason he will always remain a mentor. In any case, it would be extremely difficult even for an implacable detractor of His Excellency to tenably make the case that the Vice President is anything but obviously highly cerebral and incontestably gentlemanly as befits his background, career and position.
Nevertheless, the Vice President’s recent visit to Delta State ended up leaving such a sour taste in the mouth that it is most perplexing that such an alarming fiasco should be associated with such a well-read academician and diligent man of the cloth.
If I may ask, does the Vice President not have aides and are his aides not educated, enlightened, aware, exposed, and, up to their responsibilities? In planning for such a trip, is there not supposed to be some level of research undertaken to ensure that as much as possible, an optimal degree of mileage is derived from the effort at the end of the day? What do all these people do in the high offices they occupy in the corridors of power? One would suppose that for such a trip, sufficient intelligence would be gathered, research would be done and all bases would already be pre-covered before embarking on the visit itself in order for highly embarrassing mistakes capable of further worsening the situation the Vice President had set out to correct in the first place are not made! What do these guys even do in Aso Rock, anyway?
So our Vice President lands at Osubi Airport in Urhoboland, an airport within the traditional jurisdiction of the Orodje of Okpe, who is arguably the monarch with the greatest number of subjects in the whole of Delta State, with his kingdom encompassing two local government areas in which he does not share traditional power with any other monarch but His Excellency does not bother to pay him a courtesy call at a palace that is a mere fifteen minutes drive from the airport! No, rather my esteemed and most highly respected teacher rushes off to Oporoza and then to Warri township for visits to traditional rulers from other ethnicities, forgetting that even in the same Warri township, there are other monarchs of Urhobo stock who are not in any way under the jurisdiction of any other tribe.
As if to rub in more salt into the wound, His Excellency proceeded to add insult to injury by completely abandoning his earlier scheduled trip to Ughelli to visit another Urhobo monarch in that jurisdiction, as if to unambiguously make the statement that he couldn’t care less what the Urhobo’s thought of his itinerary!
Apparently not done with the barrage of insults, the Vice President’s organizing crew did not deem it fit to seat the Ovie of Uvwie, the monarch in whose territory he had decided to have his parley with Niger Deltan leaders, at the high table as if once more, part of the purpose of the visit was a determined intention to humiliate the people of Urhoboland.
This is of course quite apart from the fact that the Vice President had kept the traditional rulers, elders and leaders of the region waiting endlessly for him at the venue until, unable to bear the insult anymore, they proceeded to storm out of the hall! What was the organizers’ response? They simply locked the gates to the conference center thereby practically kidnapping the traditional rulers and holding them against their will as if the insulting delay was not already demeaning enough!
Did I hear some pathetic retard out there say the Vice President cannot possibly be expected to visit every traditional ruler in sight? Of course not, stupid! But our dear Vice President is certainly expected to visit the one in whose territory he touched down as well as the one he himself had planned to meet in the first place. Furthermore, His Excellency most certainly had no basis slighting the one in whose territory he held his parley with the people.
And before another nincompoop suggests that the Vice President simply could not have found the time to pay all these regards in a one day trip, well then why did it have to be a one day trip in the first place? What message was the His Excellency sending just breezing in and out of our region? Are we lepers that our own Vice President cannot spend two or three days with us? Is the problem of the Niger Delta not enough for a Vice President or indeed a President, for that matter, to spend a full month with us getting to understand our conditions better while fostering in us a stronger sense of belonging in the process? Why the hurry? What message can a one day whirlwind trip send other than to give the impression of “let me just show my face there so they can’t complain we didn’t come?”
Yet for all the missteps of our Vice President, one cannot but be compelled to interrogate the role of Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa in the entire debacle. In the very first place, what would give his minions the audacity to lock up the traditional rulers of our state and region simply to avoid embarrassment to the Vice President and himself more so when we must finger him for the entirely condemnable particulars of this most poorly thought out and even more poorly executed Presidential trip to the Delta? Does Okowa not know that it is an abomination to restrain traditional rulers?
In any event, even if the Vice President was himself so ignorant of the protocols he must observe in a place as peculiarly configured as our region, and, even if his aides proved to be so shamefully inept, intellectually impoverished and altogether rather markedly incompetent that they added no value whatsoever to their boss’s mission to the state, can Okowa, on his part claim not to know the intricacies of navigating within his own state that he would glibly allow the Vice President to stumble from one embarrassment to another while in his company all through the visit?
What might one make of our Governor with the S.M.A.R.T. agenda who wasn’t smart enough to guide his host properly in the norms, nuances and mores to be observed within the context of a trip such as the one he had chosen to undertake? Was it that Okowa knew all along that the Vice President, being a stranger to these parts, would likely make serious mistakes if left on his own and was therefore quite happy to keep mum while pretending to be loyally following him around as he made error after error?
Even if Osibajo can claim ignorance of the unwritten yet crucial rules he must observe, can the sitting governor of our state feign the same? How can Okowa stand idly by, pregnant with silence, while our traditional rulers and elders are treated with nauseating disrespect and unconscionable scorn when all he needed to do to save the day was to whisper good-natured advice in the Vice President’s ear?
Perhaps Governor Okowa knew what he was doing all along and his loud silence while Vice President Osinbajo was making mistake after mistake was merely part of a ploy to achieve a result to be best explained by him. What is crystal clear is that Okowa cannot claim not to know how things are done in this state, how balances are to be kept within the context of our peculiar realities or how not to rock the boat by needless slighting any stakeholder. The fact of a Vice President making such highly deplorable mistakes while in his company is as such a political case he simply cannot avoid having to answer for.
Nevertheless, we neither expect nor even demand any explanation from him. Needless to say, come 2019, we ourselves will answer the question for him and in no unmistakable terms for that matter! On our part, we of Delta Central and Delta South already learnt our lessons a long time ago. We are thus quite determined that divide and rule tactics will no longer work to put asunder the time hallowed bonds that bind us together. Anyone out there who thinks that by treating the traditional rulers of certain ethnic nationalities as more important than those of others, he would thereby be reigniting rested animosities that would keep us divided so that we wouldn’t be able to put up a united front come 2019 is only fooling himself.
If on the contrary or indeed as a companion to the above stated disunification agenda, the intention was to maltreat certain ethnic groups such that instead of mounting a similarly united front in asking for our collective rights as oil-producing Deltans and Niger Deltans, we would in anger be inspired by hurt pride to start bickering with one another while our detractors get away once more with empty promises to do justice to our region, the charade has already been exposed and the subterfuge has already failed woefully.
We remain all united and fully in support of the immediate take-off of the National Maritime University in Kurutie/Okerenkoko and it is our unyielding insistence that neither claims and counter-claims as to ownership of the site, on the one hand, nor technicalities of passage of the enabling law by the National Assembly, on the other, should any longer delay its commencement even for one day. The Federal Government is on record to have commenced the takeoff of numberless projects requiring enabling laws while the requisite legislative process was still in progress and our university should not be the exception. Thankfully, our noble Vice President has assured us it is a done deal in which case the university should open first thing tomorrow morning!
Anyone dreaming of disuniting the Urhobos, Ijaws and Itsekiris from mounting a united front come 2019 is a compound fool and will suffer the fate that awaits all miscalculators in the next elections. We are all united in our exasperation with parasitic governance since 1999 and we are unanimously determined to flush the insane PDP era down the toilet come 2019. Needless to say, no one should dream that there is any room to decamp into our party in anticipation of 2019 more so when blame for our Vice President’s mistake can be laid at his doorsteps!
For the information of my professor and Vice President, people here are already saying that this is how his grandfather-in-law, the late Obafemi Awolowo, once came to our region and unilaterally tinkered with the nomenclature of the traditional configurations in Warri thereby unwittingly creating a veritable template for much of the inter-tribal crisis that rocked the region for decades and still simmers beneath the surface. One would have expected that where his in-law made a mistake, it would be his unique privilege and dutiful mandate to correct it or at least to be careful not to repeat the same.
His Excellency our Vice President is a great man. He is without a doubt a man of good breeding and unquestionable gentility. Besides, he is unmistakably highly intelligent and I am yet to meet a genuinely intelligent man that was also a proud one. The Vice President ended up unwittingly disrespecting our Niger Deltan leaders in general while particularly injuring the entire Urhobo nation by his completely unwarranted, needless and unacceptable slight on our traditional rulers. Treating such personages as the Orodje of Okpe, the Ovie of Uvwie or the Ovie of Ughelli with such flippancy is an oversight of such intolerable proportion as to demand urgent amelioration. I prefer to say he unwittingly and as such unintentionally slighted them because I cannot imagine such a colossus as my former professor ever deliberately disrespecting his elders.
His Excellency therefore owes us another visit and I urge him this time around not to leave the planning to incompetent aides while ensuring that the time he allocates to such a high profile trip is adequate to fulfilling his mission. We look up to him for leadership and a sense of belonging and remain confident that he can provide both in tandem with his antecedents as a complete gentleman and consummate intellectual.
Barr. JESUTEGA ONOKPASA,
178 Sapele/Warri Road, Sapele, Delta State. [email protected]