By: Babs Ajayi
Delta State has a great misfortune of having been subjected to the antics and bold and big-chested greed of James Ibori and the silent collusion of a few who benefitted from the flagrant looting of that state’s treasury over eight years by the former governor, who is now being parceled to the United Kingdom at the request of her Majesty’s law enforcement agencies. Ibori will face various charges relating to the looting of the treasury of Delta State. But Delta State is today in the hands of James Ibori’s cousin, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduagban. Uduagban was commissioner and later secretary to the state government in the administration of his cousin for eight years. He is now the state’s governor and he just turned 56.
Turning 56 years is a land mark for the Delta State governor to roll out the drums and for his sidekicks and errand boys to put thirty-two (32) full pages of congratulatory adverts in one single Nigerian newspaper! I flipped one page after another and decided to count. I counted thirty-two full pages of “happy birthday” adverts! A show of shame cannot be greater than that. Even for a governor whose predecessor did worse things with the state’s federal allocation, special allocation for oil producing states, and internally generated revenue and is being held in Dubai pending transfer to the British, I consider Dr. Uduagban right on the same path to perdition and destruction. He may never live to spend his loot in freedom and outside of prisons. At the moment I am more concerned and interested in the plight of Delta State and its people. When will development come to Delta State? Where are the billions of naira already allocated and looted? With so much unrest and hardship, is there hope for the youths of Delta State when the state’s allocations are stolen and looted? The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is actively investigating various financial crimes involving the administration of Dr. Uduagban. The Federal High Court in Lagos recently agreed with the EFCC and asked it to proceed with its investigation and prosecution. What has kept Dr. Uduagban off the hook for now is the immunity he currently enjoys as a sitting governor. Dr. Uduagban’s file with the EFCC is said to be kept in close view considering the unbelievable level of looting that has gone on in Delta State despite the huge levels of poverty, underdevelopment, unemployment and lack among the youths in the state, a situation that has degenerated and is still on a downward spin into kidnapping, gun-running, discontent, and frustration among the youths of the state. How has it become difficult to wrestle the state from the clutches of these few bad elements that are holding the future of young men and women in Delta State hostage?
The Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) was one of the agencies of the state government that used tax payers’ money to felicitate with the governor in a one full-page congratulatory advert in a national newspaper. The others were contractors and sidekicks who have everything to gain. DESOPADEC manages billions of naira in development funds, but most of DESOPADEC’s contractors are said to be fronting for the governor with substantial payments made to the governor and his fronts for contracts poorly executed and several abandoned.
It is very baffling that the attitude of “business as usual” has been at play in Delta State for more than a decade. No governor who is doing very well needs the congratulatory messages and advertorials in the newspapers to support their performance records. Only those governors who have failed miserably in their service to the people like Alao-Akala in Oyo State and Dr. Uduagban in Delta needed to pay so much money to newspapers to sing their own praise-songs of victory and success. I know Governor Raji Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State is not paying to have sycophants sing his praise in Nigerian newspapers; Fashola gets it for free. He had worked hard for it and toiled day and night; he paid for it that way and as such it did not cost him anything in monetary terms.
The work Fashola has put in and the improvements in the living conditions of the people of his state are enough evidence of his contribution and successes. One thousand advertorials and congratulatory messages will not buy that. I would have guessed that Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduagban will know that and should have known better. He wants to buy success and praise! All the sycophants around him will offer him praise in return for the crumbs they are lapping from under his table, but the jobless, hungry, homeless masses and the poor and needy senior citizens in Delta State have nothing to offer him beside curses and cry to God to get rid of him as soon as possible.
I suspected Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduagban’s congratulatory adverts must have flooded so many other Nigerian newspapers beside the nearly three dozens of pages I counted in the Vanguard. What do the congratulatory messages avail him? At the cost of more than N500, 000 a page when in colour, the money squandered on congratulatory messages in that one paper alone is more than N16 million and it should be enough to provide allowances of N10, 000 to more than 1, 600 senior citizens of Delta State who are going without as we write and read this article.
Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduagban has every reason to be displeased with the ruling of the Federal High Court in Lagos the very same way (and rightly so) the masses of Delta State are displeased, disappointed and frustrated with the way he is mismanaging the funds of the state. He will surely not be qualified to contest the next governorship in the state and the EFCC must stop him not only from contesting but also from fleeing the land as his cousin James Ibori did. Deltans have been so unfortunate to have their beloved state end up in the hands of common thieves who cared only about themselves, only considering their sidekicks good enough for crumbs. Delta State is also involved with Oceanic Bank in some shady deals dating back to the heady days of the former governor and current fugitive James Ibori. The people of Delta State must stand up and stand together to set the state free from those who want political office for solely personal gains.