To me, a politician’s job is to listen to constituents’ problems and try
to sort them out.
There’s an unwritten rule in various State House of Assemblies in Nigeria
that prevents a first timer from ever becoming the Speaker. It breeds
mediocrity and incompetence. It is everything anti democracy. To put it
raw, it is bad.
When Delta State House of Assembly decided to break this coven law, it
fell on the shoulder of a first timer, who arguably has never contested
election before, even though he has been a major financial pillar to some
elected officials in time past. If he was told during the electioneering
period that he will be made the number one man in the legislative house,
he would probably have claimed it in faith but doubted its possibility.
And so it happened, there was change of guard and the mantle of leadership
fell on Sheriff Oborevwori. Sheriff is not the everyday Nigerian
politician who came to loot, embezzle and then squander on women and
drinks. He’s not the owambe partying politician. The very first time he
came to unwind in the club was in solidarity with a friend and most of the
time, he was outside the club hall, gisting with others, no drinking and
no rocking of the waist of the daughters of Eve.
Wherever he found himself and the need to help arises, he has always risen
to the occasion. And so it was, when he paid a visit to my eatery in Uyo,
and we were outside talking when he saw the mini buses driven on the
roads, painted in the State color. He has seen in countless time, but on
this day, he saw it from a different point of view. He asked himself if it
will be a crime to give twenty of such buses to his constituents alongside
the tricycle called keke.
As he wondered aloud to himself, he asked me for the price which was a
little short of a million Naira, excluding the painting, which when done
will run over a million Naira per bus. Right there on the spot, he began
to order for the buses, twenty in all. This was early 2017. He was bent on
having the biggest empowerment in the history of Delta state and went
beyond buying of the buses to secure additional TVC Tricycles and other
empowerment tools. The ground was set to set history in 2017, but
The empowerment date fell on the same period that the local government
campaigns and election was going. Not known for grandiose and show off,
his mental faculty played on him and he cancelled it. When I asked him
why, his answer was epic, “It’s empowerment not politics. We do not have
to play politics with everything. Na me and you plan this thing come from
Uyo and no be to use campaign but to give back to them and release money
from their constituency projects. You know how people think, they will
feel I am doing it now to campaign for the local government elections and
help PDP win, which is not so”.
The words till date rings like the Roman Catholic early morning bell in my
hell. It gives me different thoughts about Nigerians politicians who think
about the people’s feelings first even when his intention is good. It
tells a mindset of an elite who sees things from the perception of the
masses and not political. Give it to him; this act is not studied anywhere
in the school of politics, but inbuilt like phone batteries. This manner
of thinking is derived from years of associating with the streets and not
throwing it away when you join the political class.
While it was postponed, he was getting more things to be added, all in a
bid to make every ward in his Okpe local government get a feel of
democratic empowerment. The day came.
Right in the popular Osubi Trade Fair centre was the biggest empowerment
programme in the history of Delta State, beating National Assembly members
who did theirs in the past with only sewing machines and motorcycles
without helmets to give to their people, to ride, crash and die. But not
Sheriff, motorcycle was old school to him, buses and tricycles befits
those who stood under the sun to trust him with their votes. He needs them
alive while they drive, under cover, not under the sun or rain again.
Deep down in the mind of the State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, he must have
counted Okpe out of the local government areas that he will come for
campaign. The things he saw on ground was enough campaign and he admitted
it, that his campaign for 2019 has been made easier by what he saw on
ground. Like a carnival or a political gathering, it was crystal clear
that Okpe which is a major home of the opposition party may be an easy
ride for the PDP in 2019.
What political preaching of sixteen years couldn’t do and the threat of
not getting anything from government couldn’t achieve was made possible by
sincerity of purpose, keeping to campaign promises and giving back to the
constituents money budgeted for constituency project.
It was not an empowerment of praise singing. It happened live, with N10
million from his foundation also given to his people for scholarship. The
empowerment knew no APC or PDP, it had no coloration of party but given to
deserving Okpe sons and daughters. “Election is over and everyone is a
constituent and should benefit”, he once told me.
If there was anything significant, it was the presence of fellow lawmakers
who saw live what their colleague did with his constituency funds, without
diverting it and lying that none of such money was released by the
Governor. the PDP State Chairman forever punctured the lies when he
categorically told them in clear language that every legislator have a
duty to carry out empowerment programme even though it mustn’t be in the
magnitude of Sheriff. There you have it, the Speaker’s event gave Deltans
the right to vote out any lawmaker who is yet to empower them during the
next election and vote in another who will not use their funds to build
new mansions but empower them.
Sheriff has set the bar of empowerment high for his colleagues but a
statement has been sent out that first time members of the Assembly can do
better than third term members who have turned the chambers into their
inheritance. Everyone agrees that he has carried out the biggest
empowerment programme in the state and all eyes are now on other lawmakers
to carry out a similar event or beat it, without seeing wheelbarrows and
motorcycles on display. Who will bell the cat?
The lesson to take home from Sheriff action is that there are men that
travels, sees good things and replicate it back home. Imagine if Sheriff
becomes governor tomorrow and what Delta State will be like having
travelled round the world and see the beautiful cities and country sides.
If he could come to Uyo, see mini buses and decides to replicate such back
at home, then Imagine Delta State under him in the era of plenty not
recession. One thing is certain; everything you see in developed countries
will be stamped on the soil of Delta. We need not argue this. He has
proven it. A man is known by the little handed over to him and if this is
what he could do in less than four years in office, the rest should be
Okpe people are not ungrateful, they have never been. They know how to
reward a man for keeping to promise. Surely, they will reward Sheriff with
their numbers when the time is ripe, even if he stands as an independent
These little things matter…
Fejiro Oliver, an Investigative Journalist, Media Consultant and Human
Rights Activist is also the Co-Convener of Coalition of Human Rights
Defender (CHORD) and can be reached on +2348022050733 (SMS ONLY) or
firstname.lastname@example.org. Engage him on twitter on @fejirooliver86.