Chief Francis Arhiyor is the President of Urhobo Youth Leaders Association, Chairman/C.E.O., Fara-Zino Nigeria Limited, Chairman, National Union of Road Transport Workers, Uvwie branch and Delta State Auditor of the Union.
Oasis Magazine recently had an exclusive interview with him at his office in Warri. He spoke on issues relating to national and Delta State politics, UYLA and his personal life. He commended Governor Ifeanyi Okowa on his developmental strides in Delta State, but is of the opinion that the issue of youth empowerment is yet to be given enough attention. Read on…
Let’s meet you.
My name is Chief Francis Arhiyor. I am the Chairman/C.E.O, Fara-Zino Nigeria Limited, Effurun, Delta State. I am the current Chairman, National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Uvwie division and the State Auditor of the union. I am the current President of Urhobo Youth Leaders Association, an Urhobo group that has presence in the 24 kingdoms in Urhobo land and our activities is to promote and pursue peace in these places.
How do you effectively handle the demands that come with these offices?
The truth of the matter is that I have secretaries for each of the offices and whenever I’m to do anything I work it out with them. I understand delegation of responsibilities.
UYLA worked tirelessly for Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa during the last general elections in the state. How would you assess his administration so far?
Okowa has done very well. You know that for some time now, the federal allocation that usually comes to the state is no longer like before. But, the little that has come to the state has been used judiciously. He has done well in transforming the road networks in the state.
Are there areas you think he should improve on?
Yes! The area of empowerment of the youths has to be critically looked into. It is said that the youths are the leaders of tomorrow. If they are not empowered, given responsibilities and made to feel they are a part of the government, that saying will not be a reality and this can lead to restiveness in the state.
Talking about empowerment of the youths, what areas are you speaking of?
I am talking of agriculture. Though he has done some things in this regard, but I think he needs to do more. Lots of seminars have been going on but the youth can’t go back home to sit down. This is where the empowerment comes in. They should be given the opportunity to implement the skills and knowledge passed on to them at such seminars. This is what I think the government should channel their remaining two years in office to. They should be meaningfully engaged after such trainings. You will agree with me that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Youths can be employed in some of the fish ponds the government is acquiring from communities in the state. These trained youths can work in some of the farms owned by the government. If these individuals work from morning till 4a.m., by the time they get home, they will be tired and will not be thinking of crime and criminality, but rather go home and sleep to prepare for the next day’s work. This is one of the areas that the Okowa-led government should critically look into.
Do you think Sen. Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa deserves a second term in office?
Yes he does, because he is doing well. There are some projects he has started and would need a second term to complete. If he does not come back, then we will have a case of abandoned projects in Delta State. This will not be good for us.
As a PDP Chieftain, are you positive that PDP will remain in charge of Delta State come 2019?
Yes, without mincing words. PDP is the only party in Delta State. We don’t know if APC exists in the state because they don’t have structures. If you will agree with me they have over three party chairmen in Delta State. Like in my local government here they have more than four chairmen. All they do is foment trouble and make those at the federal level feel they are working and that is no structure. It is about miscreants coming together to call themselves executives. They don’t have executive members in the state.
Our readers would like to know what informed the birth of UYLA.
I discovered that there was a common thing among the youths on the streets. They were known for using the word ‘ose’ which is used is used to refer to ones father when he/she wants to beg the father for something. This is an Urhobo terminology and this was happening even in Asaba. So I and some other persons who have at one time or the other led or held youth leadership positions before in several communities, came together and deliberated on what to do to engage our youths in order to do away with the ‘ose’ phenomenon. Also, our intention was to speak on behalf of the youths to the government to get our youths empowered. By the grace of God, it has reduced to a minimal point now. As the Chairman of NURTW in Uvwie, in my capacity, I have over 500 staff working under me and this has gone a long way to reduce crime in the area. This is the origin of the peace we are enjoying in this area today.
As a strong political figure in PDP, can youths that do not belong to PDP join UYLA?
Yes they can. UYLA is not for PDP alone and as you can see it is a thing that concerns the Urhobo nation.
Has UYLA achieved the purpose for its formation?
Not 100%, but we have tried. If you go to several villages, you will see our member who have done well in terms of empowerment from DESOPADEC and also assistance is been given to some students in Delta State University, Abraka, through scholarship. I will score UYLA 60%.
What is your advice to UPU Youth Wing leadership as the body has split into factions once again?
If I may ask, was Igho elected? How can you be a caretaker committee leader for 5 years in an organization like UPU Youth Wing? It doesn’t happen anywhere in the world. Igho came in as the caretaker chairman and we expected them to stay for two years and conduct elections for new executive members. Rather than do that, they held on to power for over four years before Moses Taiga was elected as UPU President. Then, an electoral committee was set up to conduct election for the youth wing that produced the new executive. I think Igho needs to embrace peace in Urhobo land and join hands with those who are on board so we can work together. I think the issue of ‘divide and rule’ is affecting all of us. Igho should join hands with those on board now to push the Urhobo nation forward. I am in support of the new youth executive.
With the return of Chief Onanefe James Ibori from the UK, many thought peace would have returned to the Urhobo nation. Why is it taking so long?
The truth is that I led UYLA to welcome Ibori back home because you would agree with me that he is one of our great leaders in Urhobo land. During the visit to him, one of the issues discussed was that of the UPU and he did promise he was going to look into the matter and do his best to have an out-of-court resolve between Omene and Taiga. I think that matter is still on and they are working out peace between both parties. The royal fathers are a factor in this matter and I think in trying to broker peace they must be carried along because even the kingdom over which Omene claims his presidency is under a royal father and if he does not have his blessing there is no way he can succeed and say that he is doing UPU there.
Do you have any political ambition?
Yes I do. But I will wait till after the local government elections are over before I disclose what my political ambition is. It is certain I will contest, come 2019. But, I am lying low for now. In 2018, I will indicate my interest.
Have you held any political office before?
Yes I have. In 1999 I was the PDP Youth Leader in Uvwie till 2007. While handling that, I was made a member of the Delta State Sports Council board. Later during the 2nd tenure of Uduaghan, I was made a member of the Delta State Transport Council, which is Delta Line. I also contested for the House of Assembly seat in the last elections which I lost and since then I have not vied for any political office.
Nigeria at 57, what do you have to say to Nigerians?
I thank God that we are alive to witness this. I pray for peace in Nigeria. There are different groups agitating for one thing or the other. But, I think what we should be doing as a nation is to look for ways in moving our country forward and not to separate because we need each other. There are things the south produces that the north is in need of, and also the other way round. So we need ourselves. The ultimate thing is to have selfless leaders. I have travelled the world and what I see is that our leaders are only concerned with what they can amass for themselves while their counterparts in other countries live simple lives believing that their children will grow to get their own wealth. A leader here will have a house in Lagos, one in Abuja and then in the village. Then such goes overseas and still want to have a house there. Many African leaders don’t do such, though it is rampant in Africa. I have travelled to so many countries. Go overseas, you will see that their leaders have just one house for them and their family because they believe that after a while the children will grow up and leave. They don’t amass wealth, but live very simple lives. I pray every day that God gives us God-fearing leaders. That is the problem we are facing and if tackled, then will our country move forward.
What is your take on the ongoing debate of restructuring Nigeria?
Restructuring and resource control are the same thing. Just that in 1963, even though I was not born, but I learnt that states worked on their own and gave a percentage to the center and I think it would be better if we go back to that system of government. The issue of embezzlement started from the beginning. But, if we have God-fearing leaders and we all agree to stop this barbaric act, then it will come to an end.
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