•‘My Warri regency story’
Prince Emma Okotie-Eboh, son of Nigeria’s first Republic Finance Minister, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, and the ex-regent of the Warri Kingdom, in this interview, speaks on 2023 elections, the country’s leadership legacies, party politics, the political class and his role during the regency. Excerpts:
What are your thoughts on Nigeria’s leadership legacy?
The paper giant of Africa will be heading to the polls once again to elect or select another President and governors to mount leadership comes 2023.
From 1997 till date when our political gladiators launched a comeback on the political turf of this country, the geometrical strides backwardness, in all ramification and growth index, is catastrophic in all dimensions and calls for a sober reflection by all well-meaning Nigerians. By simple estimation, infrastructural development and economic growth have stagnated after President Shehu Shagari’s regime till date.
Shagari built on the solid foundations of the First Republic politicians and founding fathers of Nigeria before they were booted out of office by the military which further rode roughshod over whatever was left of our socio-economic cum political lives, dragging the nation into an abyss. When it became crystal clear to the military that they had overstayed their welcome and Nigerians were truly fed up with the shenanigans, they tactically quit power. But Nigerians persisted, resisted, and conquered the retrogressive forces through NADECO agitations and bounced back to political power, and played politics with ideological identity, integrity, and conscience. They played politics without bitterness wherein only the best candidates were fielded to vie for political offices with the genuine belief that the dividends of democracy would be spread across the board without regard to ethnicity and religious jingoism. It was during the era of the founding fathers of Nigeria that all the legacies of the 3rd Mainland Bridge, the 2nd Niger Bridge, the National Stadium, Gulf Oil Company and so on were conceived and built upon till date. There was no talk of a zoning system where indolent illiterates, miscreants and all manner of politicians with no enviable antecedents were encouraged into positions of authority and responsibility far above their cerebral capability and capacity as we have it today.
The Nigerian political structure as of today appears to consist of purely a conglomerate of greedy and selfish persons bereft of ideas that can grow our socio-economic landscape and remove us from the self-imposed underdevelopment and stunted growth milieu we find ourselves currently. Our modern-day political leaders have constituted themselves into a vicious circle, re-cycling from one governor to another and not giving opportunity for young Nigerians with fresh ideas, sharp intellect with cutting-edge technological mindsets to aspire to leadership positions at the federal, state and local government levels.
They have stood with one leg for too long presiding over the imminent death of Nigeria and, therefore, there is a dire need for a change of baton on the rulership ladder in which case only the best will be good enough to rule the country irrespective of political party affiliation, primordial activism and religious bigotry.
We must now look at the character and content of the person and his noble antecedents to enable us to make an informed choice devoid of extraneous and financial inducements and barefaced bribery and thuggery…and truly, too, without dancing to the whims and caprices of demi-gods and political chauvinists.
How are things in Delta?
Well, for Delta State, it has been a case of a one-party system where only one group of persons calls the shots for the past 23 years, re-cycling themselves and moving the state economically and politically backward with tricycle (Keke) driven by both illiterates and graduates as the only surviving business in spite of our enormous oil and gas wealth and revenue base. Truly, we need to change the narrative and bring on board fresh hands and minds that could take the state out of this quagmire and take us to the desired enviable developmental height. These spent-out political gladiators must give way somehow. For those familiar with my write-ups all these years, my position has remained that we should do away with zoning that provides the springboard for the emergence of misfits as political leaders. Only the best should be supported to power, be it Christian-Christian or Muslim-Muslim ticket. I have maintained, over the years, that there are no bad tribes or bad religions but bad individuals. I have also not been a card-carrying party man. I stand for what is best for the country.
We need a winning team not minding if all the players come from one family like we had the Atuegu brothers in the national team winning laurels for Nigeria. At age 67 today, I will continue to contribute to the nation’s political growth with my wealth of experience by aligning with a candidate, bearing in mind my belief in standing by what is right always. Federal character is absolute rubbish as it only promotes mediocrity to the detriment of meritocracy. Things should be done the right way to move us from our present ways.
We need to copy from the advanced democracies. It is sad to note that we always say Chief James Ibori, our former governor, was good but could have done better, but, regrettably, none of his successors has achieved one-tenth of his developmental strides and legacies by all indexes of growth, empowerment and physical infrastructure across the three senatorial districts in Delta. It is against this background that we must not look at the supremacy of political parties again, but at the character of the politician aspiring to lead us. And that should be our mantra, going forward. Somebody with impeachable antecedents in Delta, irrespective of his political party, should be given the opportunity to rule the state; let us see the difference to be able to juxtapose and make a wiser choice in the next election.
Tell us about your regency period in Warri Kingdom…
I was summoned to come and assume the position which I gladly accepted with the understanding that I will not be a tool or stooge in the hands of anybody or group of persons in the course of discharging the arduous responsibilities of that office. My regency was made possible by the grace of God.
Anyway, it was quite a trying period for the Itsekiri nation with all the unwarranted problems that came with it. Some of us staked our lives to ensure the Itsekiri nation came out of the difficult period to the glory of God. Today, one year on, we have a world-class royal father naturally endured with brain, wisdom, administrative acumen, broad mind, accommodating, detribalized, a philanthropist, industrialist, and a business mogul par excellence with the digital touch, charisma, sociability and inter-continental reach. He has in just one year on the pristine throne impacted so many souls positively and received several awards here in Nigeria and the Diaspora.
He has initiated phenomenal programmes in the kingdom and embarked on voyages never before undertaken by past Warri monarchs. Indeed, His Majesty, Ogiame Atuwatse III is God ordained to take the Itsekiri nation out of the woods. Today, we have a vibrant Itsekiri FM Radio Station, he has done the groundbreaking ceremony for the first-ever Warri University at Obitugbo along Koko Road and many more milestones in his one-year reign building harmonious relationships across Delta State in particular and Nigeria in general. He is God-sent and works with men and women of integrity, patriotism, and the collective interest of Itsekiri at heart. We should remain united and steadfast in our support for him to take the Itsekiri nation to greater heights.
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