By Godwin Oghre
Barrister Gabriel Otuedon Eyide is a man of many parts. He is an economist, management consultant and lawyer in Sapele, Delta State. In this interview with Vanguard, he juxtaposes the earlier great fortune of the ancient town of Sapele and its current palpable willful abandonment by successive state and federal governments, especially its political class whom the people have consistently entrusted their mandates, leading to the declining fortunes of the area in recent times. He also spoke on major political issues in the state and the nation. Excerpts:
HISTORY has it that Sapele was once a bubbling town, a centre of social and commercial activities, can you confirm that?
There were so many companies operating in Sapele during the colonial and post colonial era, even up till the 1980s. The port, market, commercial vehicles garage, thermal hydro station, good net work of roads where all in Sapele, functioning very well. There were companies like, AT&P, John Holt, MDS – a division of UAC, CNEINCO, and several rubber factories like, MGS, KB Rubber Company, D. O. Oghene Rubber Company, OTC, Osio Rubber Industry, JK Rubber Company, Tropical Rubber Company and many others. The Sapele Athletic club, the stadium and recreational sites where functioning optimally. So Sapele was a place to behold then.
What factors can you enumerate led to the rise and fall of the area?
Sapele has a nice river. The water is saltless. The environment is serene and the ambience and all the natural endowment attracted both black and white people here. Besides, the people were peaceful and friendly.
Ease of description
They see themselves as one family and there were no ethnic rivalries. Every Sapele boy was a buma boy and everyone was known to his family root for ease of description. Sapele was a one family town. The present head of WAEC, Charles Akpoyibo Igburudu, Mrs Folake Soyinka nee Doherty, Mrs Titilola Adenuga nee Adewale, Uti Nwachuku’s maternal side, Blessing Okagbare and many others have their roots in Sapele.
So what led to the present decadence in Sapele?
It all started when Chief David Dafinone started personalizing Sapele. He added ethnic undertone to Sapele. He started referring to some people as strangers and others as free born. When he could not succeed, Chief Monday Igbuya came to complete what Dafinone could not do. Igbuya came, saw and destroyed every legacy of our forebears. It was he who rendered Sapele to the abysmal level of socio-economic and political decadence that we all found ourselves today. He has never won any election but today he foists himself on the people as their representative in the Delta State House of Assembly where he currently holds sway as the majority leader. He imposes candidates and a case in point is my ward 2 where he has continually imposed persons on us as our councilors. There is one Omene whom he has imposed on us twice, now against our collective wish to have one Monday Egbrogun as our councilor.
Is there hope that Sapele can rise again?
My answer is yes, once the people take the bold step to vote Monday Igbuya out of office in this general election, the glory of Sapele will bounce back to life. That’s all we all need to do. For now he is the political god father in Sapele.
He is the first family and the face of Delta government in Sapele. As we speak, his name sends a negative sign in the area. The city is grounded under his misrule, and this dates back to when he started as the local government council chairman sometime in year 2000.
In the last 16 years, Igbuya has remained the face of Delta government in different capacities in Sapele. He was instrumental to three care taker committees of Godfrey Enita, Williams and Julius Egbedi. Ejaife Odebal was in the House of Assembly and stepped downafter two tenures.
Campaign of experience
Atose has been the council chairman. Both of them left for others to come in and, as such his campaign of “experience” does not hold water. Those who were there and left have laid a good precedent for him to follow suit.
At what point can you recall that the area began to witness the greatest deplorability and what do you considered should be done for a solution?
First of all, when Joyce Overah who was the secretary of the local education authority, became a member of the House of Representatives representing Sapele in Abuja. He was instrumental to the award of several projects, including road projects, which were handle by Monday Igbutya and his cronies. The projects were not done but the government paid large sums of monies to the contractors.
Up till now as we speak, the authorities from time to time Joyce Overahis called upon to explain why certain projects he influenced as constituency projects were not executed but paid for. Sometimes he has to sell some of his properties to offset some of the monies. Eventually most of the roads are in deplorable conditions till date. The government did not help as they left every other sector of the economy of the town to decay.
The general elections are very close, who in your own opinion among the three contestants in Delta State should govern the state and why?
For the sake of equity, let the Delta North people have a taste of governance. Delta Central has had it twice; Delta South is currently has it and by April 11th, let Delta north have it.
This is for the sake of equity and it is without any condition. Delta state belongs to all of us and no section or senatorial district should be deprived of having a taste of the Government House.
As an individual, has Governor Uduaghan satisfied you?
No, he has failed to satisfy not only me but majority of Deltans. His relationship with his people, I mean the Itsekiri people, has been a fiasco. They have not benefitted from his government. The Asaba airport, which is not of core importance to the core Delta man, is the only achievement he has recorded, even though I hear that it also has not been completed. He could not deliver properly in his three point agenda, save security where there is now relative peace.
At the national level, who do you think should govern the country?
President Goodluck Jonathan should have it again, as a second tenure. He has tried so much and he should be given the opportunity to complete all the good things he started. Jonathan is from the humblest background, and he has always tried to be humanistic which many people interpret to be laziness. Some even say he is acting out the script of Ijaw president. That is not true, he is not lazy. He is from the Niger Delta which account for the higher percentage of the GDP and GNI of this country. We are the hen that lays the golden egg.
In view of the security situation in the country, do you predict a successful general election?
Yes, the election would be successful. Jonathan has tried even though he has not used the instrument of government to rein in law breakers.
That is why his opponents see him as a weak president, but he is not weak. He is only using the humanity in him as a mortal man.
But there are claims in some quarters that the president has not been able to fight corruption, what do you have to say about that?
In the area of fight against corruption, he does not know where to draw the line. He has however brought sincerity into the national discourse in the sense that whoever is not corrupt should throw the first stone as written in the Bible. For that he is seen as corruption personified, whereas, there are institutions that are suppose to handle corruption in the country. No one is blaming them but all blames go to the president. Normally, such institutions should be blamed and not the president.
If you are opportune to meet with the president what advice do you have for him?
That he should not be a sectional president. He is perceived as an Ijaw president, but it ought not to be so. He should look at other ethnic groups in the Niger delta region, if he wants their votes. I will tell him, let’s all arise and take our Sapele, our Delta, our country out of comatose.
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