By Fidelis Egugbo
When a thanksgiving service was held in honour of the Deputy Governor of Delta State, Sir Monday Onyeme, FCA, on Sunday, July 16, 2023, I wrote a piece titled, “Onyeme: When God Blesses A Man …” and gave several reasons why people will turn out in their large numbers for the thanksgiving service.
One reason that came out strong was charity. The Deputy Governor’s works of charity have become legendary and his level of identifying with the masses is unrivalled as he dines with the rich and the poor without discrimination. He is one politician that can visit anybody without considering where such person lives – whether it is a farm hut, mud house or palatial home, Sir Onyeme would readily visit a person and will be at home with the host.
That he is a cheerful giver is no longer news; his multifarious philanthropic activities are summed up in the Bible book of 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
As such, the turnout of people for his thanksgiving service was unprecedented in the history of Onicha-Ukwuani, Ndokwa West Local Government Area of Delta State where he hails from and where the event took place.
Most people felt that since they have no cash to give him in appreciation for all that he has been doing for them, the only way that they could say “thank you” or reciprocate his kind gestures was by attending his ceremonies. So, when the programme for the burial ceremony of his mother-in-law, Ezinne Gold Obinnaya Catherine Egege, was released, there were some uncertainties.
Yes! Uncertainties because, the venue for the burial ceremony was the heartland of Nigeria’s South-East, Abia State, and those travelling there from Delta State, would require passing through Anambra and Imo States, especially given that the security reports from that area would make the lily-livered to shudder and find excuse to stay away from the trip to the Ibo heartland.
The question was ‘would the burial ceremony be elaborate knowing the nature of the person of the deputy governor or would it be a low-key event?
However, from the condolence visits and assurances by individuals and groups that they would attend the burial ceremony, it soon became obvious that no matter the situation, people were ready to stay with Sir Onyeme.
Some of us left Asaba earlier than the date to the commercial city of Aba which was the nearest city to Amuke Autonomous Community, Isiala-Ngwa South Local Government Area of Abia State, where the burial ceremony took place. We made it clear that it would be a hitch-free journey and encouraged those in Delta that while the roads were motorable from Asaba to Aba, there was no sign of security threat and, of course, at the burial ceremony proper, the people of South-East felt the presence of Delta State.
Almost all the major hotels in Aba and its surroundings were fully booked by people who came but those who passed through Port-Harcourt complained seriously about bad portions of the road.
It would be recalled that Sir Onyeme had on many fora, played down on the issue of security threat on the road saying, “there is no fear; it is only those who hurt others that are afraid and the burial ceremony would be hitch-free.” And so it was… a very successful event..as the Governor of Delta State, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, led the team from the state which included the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Emomotimi Guwor, and other top politicians to the burial ceremony while his counterpart in Abia State, Governor Alex Otti, led members of the Abia State Executive Council to the event.
Naturally, Sir Onyeme has very wide tentacles and it did not come as a surprise when the Deputy Governor of Abia State, Engr Ikechukwu Emetu made available some of his aides to be part of the organisers of the burial ceremony and in all, all hands were on deck to ensure a successful ceremony.
The joy of seeing the huge turnout of people at the burial, no doubt, excited the Governor of Delta State, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori whose activities with his deputy could be easily deduced as an elder brother working in union with his younger brother to deliver the goodies of democracy to Deltans.
Oborevwori, who mobilised his Abia State counterpart to the occasion and obviously, contacted his counterparts in Anambra, Prof. Charles Soludo, and Imo, Mr Hope Uzodinma, that he was passing through their states, in his speech at the occasion, said, “You will not be remembered for the wealth you have acquired or the things you have achieved but for the lives you were able to touch and impact in the community.”
His statement elicited a lot of applause from the people as it also showed that those who are in charge of the affairs of Delta State are humanists.
The presence of Oborevwori at the burial ceremony was electrifying and it is possible that through his efforts, Otti visited the community for the first time as a Governor. But again, it shows that Delta is at peace because, when the leaders are working together as members of one family, the people that they have taken oath to serve will be relaxed.
Otti also alluded to the peace that exists in Delta State when he spoke profusely and thanked Oborevwori for informing him about the burial ceremony.
He said, “I didn’t know about the burial and little did I even know that our daughter is a wife of the Deputy Governor of Delta State until you, my brother, the Governor of Delta State called me.
“So, I said if you are coming to Abia, just come, we will go together. But I am very happy to be here, that is what it is about, life is about relationships.
“So, I want to thank you for the privilege, my colleague, Governor Sheriff, because, you could have come in, attended the burial, and gone back and I will hear days later that you were here, but you are my brother you can’t come without letting me know that you are in my state.
“I am happy that you are here, and I celebrate Ezinne that was laid to rest not too long ago for producing a wonderful Catherine Oyeme, who is the wife of Monday Oyeme, the Deputy Governor, I also met him today.
“Even what I know about the choice of your Deputy Governor must be something that is well considered, all the story I hear is that he is very loyal, and I pray he remains loyal till the end.
“The truth is that it is not an easy thing. If it was the Deputy Governor’s mother, yes, but the Deputy Governor wife’s mother; so, if he hasn’t been what he is to you, you could have just sent a commissioner to represent you.
“But because you came in person, you redefined everything. If people have doubts before now, I think those doubts have disappeared and you didn’t come alone, you came with Her Excellency, your wife
“I want to thank you, Governor Sheriff Oborevwori,for the important things you are doing for Deltans, especially your care and love for human beings.
“It has come to my knowledge that you have set aside so much money in paying salary and pension arrears and even supporting struggling families.
“That is what governance is all about because each time governance moves from human being to some other things, you have failed as a leader.
“This is not about stomach infrastructure but a structured system to move people out of poverty and a system where people will have money in their hands to buy whatever they want.”
Sir Onyeme spent days in Abia State, and, of course, he was not there alone. His friends from all walks of life were with him. He has, in practical terms, lifted a lot of people up and he is still doing that which greatly contributed to the hitch-free burial ceremony.
Kudos must be given to those who worked behind the scene for the success story of the burial and in particular, the wife of the Deputy Governor, Ezinne Catherine Onyeme, who was seen on her feet ensuring that everything went well.
“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” – Booker T. Washington
COMRADE FIDELIS EGUGBO, IS THE SENIOR SPECIAL ASSISTANT, MEDIA TO THE GOVERNOR OF DELTA STATE