By Timi Black
A Niger Delta veteran journalist and activist Mr Cletus Opukeme has applauded His Excellency Senator Ifeanyi Okowa over the readiness to complete the Ayakoromo bridge project in 15 months, following his open letter which was published in the media recently and calls by concerned activists.
The assertion was contained in an open letter he wrote and signed which was made available to Congress correspondent in Warri, Delta state on Friday.
Opukeme who is the chief executive officer of Dailywatch newspaper said senator Ifeanyi Okowa is a listening governor for responding swiftly to the calls for the completion of Ayakoromo bridge and other projects in state.
The UK trained journalist also appealed that the governor should ensure to complete the Ayakoromo bridge project as promised before leaving office by 2023.
The statement read partly: “I am using this same epistolary method to react to your final approval and show of commitment to complete and commission the aged long abandoned Ayakoromo bridge project.
“I wrote you an uncensored open letter on 7th January, 2022, drawing your attention to the abandoned Ayakoromo bridge. The letter is uncensored because the diction and tone were quite acidic in nature unlike the usual letters. It was full of sadness and total disappointment expressed in the face of the letter writer.
“The letter went viral in social media as well as drew reactions, commendations and condemnations.
“But in less than two weeks, I read in the pages of newspaper and social media that my open uncensored letter has been received and read by his Excellency which necessitated your calling of an emergency executive meeting for the approval of more funds from the original N 5billion after about 9 years to N10.5 billion with a marching deadline order to complete the Ayakoromo bridge project in 15 months. The governor also used the opportunity to approve other projects across the state, even though they were not captured in your original 2022 budget.
“Sir, I have known you to be a listening governor from other occasions before my personal letter to you which you reacted the same way. You are a good leader who listens to both the complaints of the high and low. If not your wisdom to listen, who am I to write you on matters of public exigency and you replied by acting in the affirmative.
“In 2020, as journalist I went into big trouble with the Niger Delta minister Senator Godswill Akpabio after exposing a massive looting in Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). Akpabio chased me with highly compromised police officers and I went into hiding, I wrote a similar letter for security and protection of my life after Rivers state Governor Nyesom Wike in a commando like manner rescued the former NDDC chairman Mrs Joy Nuneh. You quickly responded to my outcry provided a huge sum of money through your immediate past Senior Special Political adviser Chief Solomon Funkekeme. Many people did not know how you provided security to cover me because you are not the ”gragra” type of governors who do their things in media stunts. I received quite a large sum of money at different times. I have never had the opportunity to thank you openly for your kind gesture during in 2020 NDDC episode. I may not know the source of the money whether from your coffers or that of Chief Solomon Funkekeme’s purse as Funkekeme kept the good gesture till date, making it feasible to have financial security while under attack in the pursuit of investigative journalism in the country.
“One good thing about your Excellency, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa is his meekness and ability to tolerate even the vicious opposition, including negative media reports and criticisms like our organization.
“Sir, I can vividly recall late 2021, my organization focused on some public schools and showcased video clips of public schools children sitting on bare floor while learning. Instead of negative reactions from your government, you calmly read it like every other reader. If it were some state Governors, it would have ended in quarrels and chase..
“As a journalist who had had touch with global journalism of the British true media. I tried to keep to the creek of journalism by being on the side of the suffering society as a mirror of the society, even though, the reports are breaking personal relationships/friends.
“Sir, our country does not want truth as my brand of journalism is not welcomed and so not applauded by both those in government and the people. Many called me fool for not collecting money in the 2020 NDDC episode and drop my investigations.
“To be very frank, If I was in some States, over zealous politicians might have advise you to go hard on me, just like the way Niger Delta minister Akpabio did. Rather you paid me with kindness, honour and encouragement for saying the truth even though, it directly affects your administration. That is a civilized and democratic leader.
“Now, back to my first letter to you, I demanded two projects, University campus in Ijaw community and Ayakoromo bridge bridge. You have addressed one and left the University campus answered. I am not too greedy, but want to act like Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, kindly hold another emergency executive meeting and present the University campus request before your executive and legislative members. It is not too much as resources in Delta Ijaw communities have enough resources to run the state University.
“I suggest BOMADI town be made campus of the proposed state University. Reason is that Bomadi is a central place to the Delta Ijaw and more favourably because Bomadi is motorable and the community loves strangers who have been living friendly and peacefully over several decades.
To get clear understanding about the choice of Bomadi. I am not from Bomadi town, my community is Okpokounou town which is few kilometers away,, located in Burutu LGA.
“His excellency, your words are like words of God. You just pronounce the Ijaw University establishment in Bomadi and leave the construction job for your successor, just as you inherited the Ayakoromo bridge project from former governor Emmanuel Uduaghan.
“Sir, it is not true that Ijaw youths are bad as they described them with violence and militancy. When we react over high magnitude of marginalization and neglect in all fronts by both multinationals and successive Nigerian administration, the result becomes unbearable like wildfire.
“To my Ijaw politicians working with our listening governor, do not see your appointments as privilege to serve in the Delta state government or much like one being employed in CHEVRON or SPDC solely defending his monthly salary without mind the general welfare of his immediate community. That is the clear scenario of the crop of Ijaw politicians in your administration. But it is your right as Deltans and as Ijaws who are major stakeholders in the state.
“Therefore, I urge all of you to be bold and strong enough to lobby with diplomacy by not being confrontational, making your demands logical and with consistency (even reminding the governor in lawn tennis grounds, weekend outings and several unusual outings) on behalf of the Ijaw people.
“What we see among the Ijaws in Delta government is that nobody talks for general interest of Ijaws. But rather everybody is busy pursuing their selfish agenda.. Ijaws lost out in Uduaghan’s eight years administration and same also replaying in your administration. I know many will be angry in this attestation on their gross incompetency. But the good thing is that I do not have even the phone numbers of many of these top Ijaw politicians who have betrayed the trust reposed in them. They should bury their faces in shame. Cowards! There is one London returnee who speaks always British accent in your administration with no single impact felt by the people. Good leadership goes beyond blowing big and sweet sounding grammar, but making impact.
“Let me apologize here by calling you in my first letter by accusing and labelling you as an enemy of Ijaws. It is not true by your prompt reaction to the Ayakoromo bridge demand,you showed exceptional quality and uniqueness in this clime of political deceit and self aggrandizement. What is true is that there is a big communication gap between Ijaw reps in government generally and the governors. Nobody was bold enough to present the real Ijaw problem as they all dance around you for personal favour. You are not Ijaw enemy and my harsh words were intended to push you into action which you have done for the wholesome benefit of the Ijaw nation as a whole.
“Although, Senator James Manager made a difference during his days in the state as he used his position then in Chief James Ibori’s administration to lobby and negotiate tactically for the Ijaws which resulted in the construction of the Bomadi bridge project.
“Governor Okowa is a listening and enlightened modern digital governor. He will never relieve you of your appointments. Stop serving like ”House Boys” in Delta government. The government belonged to all Deltans.
“This Ijaw ” House Boys” mentality in Delta government did not only undo the Ijaw communities from projects that should have been allocated to Ijaw communities. It took Ijaw backward in the scheme of things during former governor Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan eight years in government. Though, Uduaghan initiated the Ayakoromo bridge project in 2013, but left thereby turning the pillars to a huge security threat to those who ply the river. And they, the politicians kept mute, waiting to correct the infrastructural imbalance in 2023.
“Sir, before concluding this epistle, I want to thank you once again and urge you to make your words your bound as your usual saying to complete and commission the Ayakoromo bridge to prove to me wrong and thousands of others that you are truly a friend indeed of the Ijaw people and not enemy.
“May the God Almighty continues to bless you, give you the wisdom to pilot the affairs of the state to finish strong, while my media organization Daily Watch has promised to give you and the world live progress report on Ayakoromo bridge as one of your legacy project. I plead for logistics and security ( security, I mean, help me to direct the company handling the project to cooperate with our camera crew in our monthly visit to the their site) to enable us carry out this onerous task. You can reach me through the Honourable commissioner for information, Mr. Charles Aniagwu who has been one of the amiable face of your administration as a media friendly person”.