By Fidelis Egugbo,
Writing is such that when it becomes part of you, even when you are not pouring your thoughts onto paper because you are not in a conducive environment, it would amount to injustice to oneself if eventually such thoughts are not penned down.
I was going through my book, “Memoirs of a Journalist in Government Media” when I stumbled on chapter 61 at Page 209 with the title, “Remembering Madam Comfort Oji Ibori.” Out of curiosity, I decided to go through. Holy Moses! Madam Comfort Oji Ibori died at the age of 88 years. And again, she died during the second term of her son, Chief James Onanefe Ibori as the Governor of Delta State.
For my thoughts to further dance some Makossa, it dawned on me that Chief Ibori had paid a condolence visit to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa. The incumbent governor lost his father, Pa Arthur Okorie Okowa, recently. Pa. Okowa, like Ibori’s mother, died at the age of 88 years and during the second tenure of Governor Okowa.
However, unlike Ibori who, according to that my book, lost his father on January 16, 1995 – which means that he was already an adult before his father passed away – on Page 442 of the book is another chapter, “Okowa’s Rising Profile.” In that chapter, Governor Okowa, revealed then that his mother, Mrs Victoria Okowa, died on 26 July 1982 at the age of 44 years. Thus, Governor Okowa was still very young when he lost his mother. But, again, former Governor Ibori’s father died in January just like Governor Okowa’s father.
One may try to understand what may be going through Governor Okowa’s mind. At 61 years, he has lost his father 39 years after he lost his mother in a ghastly motor accident.
Certainly, a critical study of Governor Okowa will reveal that truly, “Life is not a bed of roses, neither is it full of thorns.” He was about 22 years old when he lost his mother and through consistent hard work, and trusting in the Supreme Being that makes all things perfect, he has ascended to the topmost leadership position in the state.
His unwavering dedication to duty also testifies to the fact that he had been well aware of the long journey to where he is presently and that the position is being held in trust for the people.
Nonetheless, with the passage of his father, a lot of individuals, corporate organisations and groups have steadily paid him condolence visits, some of who took out time to speak with journalists.
Some of those who have visited include former Governor James Ibori, former Deputy Governor Benjamin Elue, former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and Chief Godwill Obielum.
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, and National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus have also paid condolence visits to Governor Okowa.
Former Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Dele Ezeoba (rtd); members of Delta State Council of Traditional Rulers; the Bishop of Ika Diocese, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), His Lordship, Ifeanyichukwu Ekpenisi, and many other persons have visited the governor to commiserate with him and members of his family on the death of the patriarch of the Okowa family.
Governor Mohammed of Bauchi State said during the visit, “We are here on behalf of my family and the people of Bauchi State to commiserate with you on the loss of your father and the leader of the state’s House of Assembly.
“We owe you a lot of gratitude because you have become the doyen of stability in our party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the polity, and we are proud of the positive growth and development you have brought to bear in Delta.
“As a colleague in the Senate, we shared close affinity and I am proud of your contributions to the Senate.
“We share with you the grief of your late father but I will urge you not to grieve too much because Papa has left a good legacy; and, may God continue to give you the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss.”
Edo Governor, Obaseki said during the visit that, “We are here to condole with our friend and brother, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, on the passing of his beloved father and the Majority Leader of the State House of Assembly.
“We are here to let you know that we share in your loss. I know that you have very close and fond relations with your father. Having lived for 88 years, and he saw you become governor, why shouldn’t we thank God for his life?
“Please accept our condolences; and, this is to let you know that the government and people of Edo State are with you in thoughts and in prayers throughout this mourning period.”
Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, who visited accompanied by his wife, Roli, said, “I am here first as Uduaghan family and as the immediate past governor, to pay our condolence on the death of Pa Okowa.
“Pa Okowa was not just a father of PDP, but was first a father of GDM for those of us who know his history far back. He had been our father for quite some time; age wise, we wouldn’t say he didn’t live long enough.
“He lived for 88 years and that is quite remarkable in these times where you talked to someone last week and this week he is gone.
“No matter how old he was, his death is still painful and we cannot question God, because God cannot keep him forever with us.
“We know that while he was alive, he contributed a lot in several areas. As a parent, it’s not easy to bring up somebody to become Governor of a state, especially a state like Delta.
“It is part of your upbringing that gave you the leverage to hold various positions in government, especially becoming the governor of the state.
“So, we first of all thank him as a parent, as a teacher and as a politician, which he was until he died.
“We know you will miss his wise counsel. For us that he has left behind, it’s our prayer that God will keep us alive, grant us good health and keep us to the age he lived.
“I know these are tough times but I know both of you to be tough people and as the saying goes, tough times don’t last, tough people do. Please accept our condolences and sympathy on the death of Papa.”
During his visit, Chief Ibori said, “I knew him even before I became a governor.
“In fact, he was one of those that gave me encouragement to continue in my quest for Government House, Asaba.
“If you know who the junior Okowa is today, you will know the father; an amiable tactician and a politician extraordinary.
“He gave me everything that I needed to be able to carry Delta North, not just Owa. He was with me every step of the way and with humility; his commitment was indescribable.
“He lived a very good life. Ordinarily, we should not mourn but because of the kind of person that he was, I think we are all sad that he is leaving us.
“All I can say is to pray for junior Okowa, the governor of Delta State and his entire family, because there is no way you lose a man like this that you will not feel it.
“So, I hope he sleeps well in the bossom of the Lord.”
Naturally, soothing words will continue to flow in to console Governor Okowa and as a man who has seen the ups and downs of life, the present situation will only spur him to do more for the society.
Evidence abound to show that his coming as a governor has changed a lot of things positively to a lot of persons. As a grassroots politician who feels the pulse of the people, Governor Okowa does not play to the gallery, and he is sincerely blunt in his approach to governance as he believes that he is holding the position to serve humanity and God.
As he grieves, he should look back to the life and times of his father and give glory to God Almighty who knows the end from the beginning.
Egugbo is the Special Assistant, Media, to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.