Within a period of seven days, Delta State witnessed a flurry of activities as the world gathered in the state to celebrate the lives and times of two eminent personalities, Olorogun Senator Felix Ovuodoroye Ibru and Coach Stephen Okechukwu Keshi.
Deltans have excelled and continued to stand out among their peers in whatever they do. There is no sphere of life that Deltans are not doing very well, thus, contributing to the development of the society. In the National Assembly, Deltans have strong voice; in politics, there is no political party in the country that can also succeed without Deltans playing lead roles.
In the academic environment, the prowess of the indigenes of the state is legendary and so it is, in the field of music, comedy, banking, to mention but a few. The roles that Deltans have played and are still playing to the development of the country cannot be quantified in whatever terms and the late Stephen Keshi exemplified such roles as he did not only ensure laurel for the national team of the country as a player but, also, ensured that, as the Coach of the national team.
These two men made their marks in different fields. While Olorogun Ibru was a renowned politician and administrator, Stephen Keshi made name as an international footballer and coach. Unfortunately, the state lost both to the cold hands of death.
Last week, Government House, Asaba wore a new look, the trees were trimmed and the environment was garden-like, so serene and the Unity Hall, which has played host to major state government’s events was beautifully decorated. The event was the valedictory cum tribute session for late Olorogun Senator Felix Ovuodoroye Ibru who can be described as an architect of a united Delta State. He was the first civilian Governor of the oil-rich state and his activities while in government still echo till date.
At the tribute session, prominent Deltans came out to say what they knew about the former Governor whose political sojourn took him to the upper legislative chambers to represent the people of Delta Central Senatorial District, a job, he creditably did and later paved the way for him to emerge as the President-General of the apex body of the Urhobo ethnic nationality, the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU).
Governor Ibru’s administration as the Governor of Delta State was short-lived – January 2, 1992 to November 17, 1993 because of the shaky democratic structures erected by the Military junta as at then but, against all odds, he achieved a lot within that period.
Governor Okowa in his tribute at the occasion said, “it was as Governor that his (Olorogun Ibru) political dexterity and leadership acumen shown the brightest. Delta was one of the new states created by the Ibrahim Babangida administration in 1991. The people that currently make up Delta North – Ika, Oshimili, Aniocha and Ndokwa – had agitated for their own state to be called Anioma. But, in a deft move of political compromise and appeasement, the Babangida administration did not create Anioma State but included the people of Anioma in the new Delta State and made Asaba, the capital. Understandably, the new arrangement was greeted with mixed feelings as the Urhobos, Isokos, Itsekiris and Ijaws naturally felt short-changed with the citing of the capital in Asaba.
It was in this tensed political atmosphere that Ibru assumed leadership of the state. It fell on him to douse the tension and mutual distrust that threatened the successful take-off of the new state. It was his noble disposition, steely resolve, and unrivalled commitment to fuse the different ethnic groups into a unified, coherent entity that undoubtedly laid the foundation for the growth and development of Delta State.
Thus, his greatest legacy is that Delta not only survived as a state but also continued to flourish as a key component of the Nigerian project. In politics and governance, Felix Ibru was true to his professional calling, as a pioneer architect of modern Delta.”
Governor Okowa capped his glowing tribute of former Governor Ibru at the occasion which was attended by the representative of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, Senator James Manager, former Deputy Governors Amos Utuama (SAN), Benjamin Elue and Simeon Ebonka, among others by re-naming the imposing Delta State Secretariat after the deceased.
To Governor Okowa, nothing can be so much to immortalize the name of the late Ibru whom he also, described as a jolly good fellow as he also said that the new Senate building of the Delta State University, Abraka on completion would also, be named after the former Governor.
The Governor was also, actively involved in the burial ceremony of Olorogun Ibru as he attended the funeral service which was held at the All Saints Cathedral of the Anglican Communion, Ughelli, and also, attended his interment at his family compound at Agbaro-Otor, Ughelli North local government area of the state.
Worthy to mention is the fact that the immediate past Governor of Delta State, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, former Deputy Governors – Prof. Amos Utuama (SAN), Chief Benjamin Elue, Pa Edwin Clark, General Alex Ogomudia, Senators James Manager, Peter Nwaoboshi, Ovie Omo-Agege, Rt. Hon. Monday Igbuya, among others attended the funeral service.
Few days before the burial ceremony of the former Governor, Delta State was agog as the world gathered to celebrate the life and time of another great Deltan, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi. Unlike Olorogun Felix Ibru who left for the greater beyond at the age of 81 years, Keshi died at the age of 54 years yet, he also, made a mark that made the world to gather in the state for his burial ceremony.
The Illah, Oshimili North local government area of Delta State born-Keshi was the Captain of the Nigeria national football team that won the Nations Cup in 1994 before and two decades later, he had a divine assignment to Coach the Super Eagles which won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013, making him one of the very few if there is any other that won the trophy both as a player and as a Coach.
Naturally, the burial of such a loved one must attract dignitaries and again, despite the fact that he was a national award winner and contributed a lot to the growth of sports in the country, Governor Okowa as the host Governor was faced again with the herculean task of ensuring not only a befitting burial for the deceased Coach but, a very peaceful burial ceremony because, there were allegations and counter allegations of the federal government and his friends who promised to be actively involved in the burial ceremony contributing nothing to such an event.
Before the burial ceremony, there were rumours that because, the late Coach did not build a house in his home town, Illah that he would be buried at his residence in Benin City, Edo State. But, less than two weeks before his burial, photographs of his house at Illah hit the cyberspace, putting to rest the fact that as a Palace Chief who has a sprawling residence in his community, it was just natural that his home town should be his final resting place.
Governor Okowa personally went to Illah where he met the children, members of the extended family and other relations of Keshi. During that visit, Governor Okowa said, “I am here with members of the state executive council, members of House of Representatives and the state House of Assembly to pay our condolences, I do know that the death of a loved one is very painful.
Stephen Keshi made his mark not only as a footballer but as a coach, he lived a good life, but, we cannot query God. Continue to rely on God because, only God can be faithful.
Your father lived a good life and he contributed his quota to the development of Nigeria, he was one of our own.” To immortalize the name of the late Coach, Governor Okowa assured members of the deceased family that re-naming the Asaba Township Stadium to Stephen Keshi’s Stadium as initiated by the administration of former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan has come to stay and nobody would change such because, Stephen Keshi deserved such and more.
Despite assuring that the stadium would be named after Stephen Keshi, Governor Okowa emphasized, “a befitting burial is when it is peaceful and acceptable to Almighty God, it is not about doing things elaborately.”
In all, the burial ceremonies of Olorogun Ibru and Coach Stephen Keshi were devoid of any unhealthy activities as Governor Okowa apart from praying seriously for such to be peaceful, also, put measures in place to ensure that these eminent Deltans who were role models would encourage other Deltans to aspire for the best always not only for their own credit but to bring glory and honour to God and the state.
We pray that the soul of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen and may God continue to strengthen Deltans.