By Johnson Itodo
It is another election season, and it is no surprise that the media space has been awash with all manner of toxic tales, barefaced lies, deliberate misinformation and disinformation, blackmail, and dissembling by pen wielding political thugs. Granted, Delta has become notorious for this type of political chicanery, but one Basil Okoh’s article is the height of intellectual dishonesty and vile propaganda. Dripping with malice and hatred, the article was written with unmistakable diabolical intent to beguile and incite unsuspecting members of the public against Governor Ifeanyi Okowa. He tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to paint a picture of the Governor that is at variance with his well-heeled reputation as a decent, humble, peace loving, and incorruptible person.
It is obvious that Mr Okoh’s grouse is with the perceived growing popularity of Rt. Hon Sheriff Oborevwori, apparently the frontrunner for the Delta governorship seat among all the PDP aspirants. It would have been of greater value to his paymaster if he used the time he spent to throw stones at Governor Okowa, to sell his preferred aspirant(s). This strategy, if you will call it that, is turning out to be the major undoing of some of these aspirants; the more they attack the governor who is not contesting, the more they are sending the message that they are unprepared for the contest and have conceded defeat to Sheriff. It reminds me of how Omo-Agege boastfully said that he would dislodge Okowa in 2023. I chuckled when I read that. Apparently, the man forgot that Okowa cannot contest as Governor in 2023.
Mr Okoh’s disdain for Sheriff was palpable as he made a song and dance of Sheriff’s rough and tumble beginning. But it is a fact of life that it is not how you start but how you finish. Like many of us, Sheriff had a rough start – and it was rough – but you cannot but commend his sacrifice, dedication, hard work, resilience, and perseverance to get to where he is today. In saner climes, his grass to grace story would be celebrated, and used as an inspiration for others. That no matter your background, there is no limit to how far you can rise if you diligently apply yourself to study and personal development. They call it the American Dream in the USA.
Obviously, Sheriff’s constituents don’t subscribe to Basil’s disregard – and disdain – of their son having elected him twice to represent them in the Delta State House of Assembly. The same can be said for the House Members who also elected him back-to-back to lead them – the first Speaker to have such a distinguished honour. But wait a minute, was Governor Gabriel Ortom of Benue State not a one-time state Chairman of National Union of Road Transport Workers?
As a rule of thumb, I tell people to check the antecedents of aspirants/ candidates before casting their votes for them; what they have said and done in the past. It tells you more about them than their campaign promises. During electioneering campaigns, they need your votes so they will promise you anything to get it. But go dig into their past and you will be in a better position to know the REAL PERSON and make an informed decision.
Few months ago, I ran into two gentlemen within a space of one week at different locations. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was Okowa who as commissioner under Ibori saw them through school up to university level. It was the second person, now a university lecturer, who disclosed that Okowa actually set up a foundation in his local government for that purpose. As Commissioner. I am also reliably informed that Sheriff has a similar foundation. And lest I forget, before he was conscripted into politics in 1991, Dr Okowa as Medical Director of Victory Clinic, was renown for giving free medical services to the poor and assisting the underprivileged.
I am very wary – and distrustful – of people that are desperate for political office, who act as if public office is the ONLY avenue they have to positively affect people’s lives. We should be able to have a glimpse of their service orientation in their private and public lives.
Basil should be able to tell the public what his paymaster has achieved since 1999 when he was thrust into public office. Leadership is much more than grammar and academic qualifications. How many people has he really helped or empowered since 1999? Does he have a foundation to assist the poor, needy and vulnerable? Before now, was he accessible or was he a snob?
This was the problem I had with Buhari in 2015. This was a man who had held several high-profile political offices but never saw the need to have an NGO or foundation to give back to the society. Yet every four years he crawled out of his retirement to contest for the presidency. I warned people then, but they did not listen and look at where we are today as a country. I am using this opportunity to alert Deltans, especially the party delegates, of the dangers that lie ahead if they elect the wrong person. Governor Okowa has raised the bar of governance and set the right template for building a Stronger Delta standing on the tripod of prosperity, peace, and progress. Going forward, what we need is a leader, not a snob, a consensus builder, not an out-of-touch elitist with an ‘I-know-it-all’ attitude, and a man of the people, not an arrogant spoilt brat.
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