UDUAGHAN KEEPS DELTANS, LOBBYISTS GUESSING OVER NEW EXCO

                                                               By David Diai

Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan has certainly hit the ground running as he assumes the mantle of leadership in this his second and last term in office. Without much ado about lobbyists and other such tedious considerations and encumbrances which usually delay the kick-starting of any new administration, Governor Uduaghan shocked most Delta pundits when he promptly submitted his list of Ministerial nominees to the Presidency after what he described as ‘wide consultations’, across the state.

To say that the names of most of the Ministerial nominees took many Delta watchers by surprise is an understatement, but the one which must have shocked a lot of people is the inclusion of Ovie Omo-Agege on the ministerial list, especially after the seeming bitterness that hallmarked the second term election campaigns including the January 6, re-run elections and the April 2011 elections. Governor Uduaghan has since affirmed that he has no regrets and owes no one any apologies for the Ministerial nominations, following speculations that the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state may not have been consulted over the list.

Indeed what happened with the Ministerial nominees list was a very early and clear indication that the Delta State Governor intended to keep his cards, especially on the make up of his new cabinet, quite close to his chest and this was revealed with his very first appointments, one of which was quite the quite astonishing drama that attended the appointment of the new Secretary to the State Government in the person of Comrade Ovuozuorie Samuel Macaulay.

In fact, many Deltans had concluded that the position of SSG was heading to Hon. Solomon Funkekeme, the Secretary of the Delta PDP Campaign Council. Funkekeme had been up and about and everywhere and was indeed quite central to the entire electioneering agenda of Governor Uduaghan’s second term agenda. In fact many sympathizers claim that he had even sacrificed his own political ambitions to ensure that Uduaghan returned for a second term and immediately victory was achieved, the consensus of public opinion was that Funkekeme’s appointment as the next Delta SSG was a fiat accompli. In fact word had it that he had even received congratulatory messages from the very top of the state hierarchy and the preliminary wining and dining had even begun, when Governor Uduaghan literally pulled the rug from under the feet of the celebrants a couple of hours to the announcement, by replacing Funkekeme with Comrade Macaulay, in a stunning reversal which was allegedly conveyed in a highly unorthodox instruction format. Such was the shock and surprise of the drama that Delta PDP’s Campaign DG and chief spin Doctor of the Uduaghan administration, Chief Paulinus had to come ome out openly in defense of the Governor by stating that Uduaghan did not enter any pact with any person or ethnic group at any time or place, on the appointment of the SSG.

As for the other appointments, the shock return of Chief Ighoyota Amori to the corridors of power as Senior Political Adviser to the governor, after a failed senatorial bid, is only tempered by the humorous suprize of his acceptance of the appointment, which is seen by many as way below his very high political pedigree, but which in hard, cold analysis suits his present status. Dr. Festus Okubor’s appointment as Chief of Staff, is perhaps the only one which has not suprized or shocked anyone.

What has become obvious, even from these preliminary actions is that nobody is sure of anything anymore and Deltans are now waiting with bated breath and a high sense of anticipation over the names of those who will make the exco in this second term of Governor Uduaghan’s administration.

However, there is a very likely situation, if feelers and analysis are to be believed, that a large number of those who will constitute the new Delta exco will be drawn from the Delta PDP Campaign Council and the Twenty member Inauguration Committee which was headed by Dr. Joseph Otumara. A critical analysis to buttress this scenario tends to reveal that Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan may actually have even fewer friends and trusted associates this time around, after the elections and the subsequent outcome, and as such, his scope of choice and selection may have been limited considerably, which may have informed the composition of the Inauguration Committee, after the elections.

But when asked on how he would go about the selection of his cabinet, Governor Uduaghan in typical fashion hedged his answer in his now legendary tongue-in-cheek manner thus: “I have no laid down principle of selecting those who will form my new cabinet, but i am relying on God for direction. A few of those who performed well in the past will definitely come back but it is a difficult exercise and there is no clear cut way or formula for doing it. All I will say is that God will guild me in selecting the people that will work with me”.

One other point which many Delta watchers are quick to point out is that Governor Uduaghan is also not afraid to bring in new people with little or no political pedigree, but with proven professional and academic recognition into his cabinet. He shocked politicians in his first term by appointing some technocrats who were political greenhorns as Commissioners and there is nothing stopping now in this his second and last term from doing the same, especially since he does not owe anybody any apologies for whatever actions he takes with his appointments, ostensibly in the greater interest of Delta state. It is likely therefore that there will be some new faces especially in the areas of Special Advisers, Assistants and other administrative Aides to the Governor.

The calculation that Governor Uduaghan is also likely to retain his trusted loyalists in the areas where he lost the elections, consider some new names in the areas where he won convincingly and also reward some of those loyalists who lost the elections because they remained in the PDP instead of decamping is equally another argument which some analysts have put forward.

From the analysis so far one can project that some of those listed below, who served in the last administration and who are either in the Campaign Council or  the Inauguration Committee are likely to be involved again in the new administration.

And so, as Deltans await the resumption of the new 5th Session of the Delta State House of Assembly on July 12, to consider the list of Commissioner nominees, it is quite possible, as many pundits and watchers are now speculating, that the Governor has already finished compiling the list of Commissioners and is only waiting for the House of Assembly now.

EX-COMMISSIONERS WHO MAY RETURN

Dr. Joseph Otumara (Ministry of Health): One of the distinguished senior citizens in the cabinet, he has served judiciously and with considerable merit. Many had expected that he would have been on the Ministerial nominees list, but the fact that he is the governor’s kinsman and most importantly that he is a stabilizing influence with his huge administrative experience and elderly statesman status all indicated that his importance at home could not be forfeited, especially at this time when Governor Uduaghan needs all the good and loyal men he can get. He is a key member of the former who may even be elevated to a higher position and the fact that he was given the very prestigious responsibility of heading the Inauguration Committee and was recently presented with an award of excellence by UNICEF are all very strong pointers to the fact that he will be quite central to the Uduaghan administration in this second term.

Chief Paulinus Akpeki. (Orientation and Communication): He came into the administration at a critical time when Governor Uduaghan needed a man of his exceptional brilliance and strategic political vision and he has performed excellently, even to the suprize and reluctant admiration of his opponents. Ugo, as he is popularly called, is calm, articulate and fearless in his actions and opinions and these have been driven and complemented with a certainty that often unnerves and disorients his opponents, who find themselves joining issues with him from a defensive position. He is surefooted and has displayed a definitive mastery of control and understanding of issues anchored on his penchant to support his position with facts which he churns out effortlessly. He is a perfectionist in the true sense of the word and his strategic focus and direction as the Director General of the Delta PDP Campaign Committee contributed hugely to the successes which both President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Uduaghan achieved in the April 2011elections. He also has a genuinely honest relationship with both his peers, colleagues, associates and even juniors and his camaraderie is as infectious as it is disarming.

He has already proven, especially with the Tribunal matters and appointments, that he will surely be a very central figure in the in-coming Uduaghan administration and coming from an area where the governor has very few trusted friends, Akpeki’s place in the new cabinet is all but pronounced.

Dr. Antonia Ashiedu (Micro Credit): She is arguably the most outstanding public officer and Commissioner in the last Uduaghan administration and has contributed more than any commissioner to the recognition, goodwill and credibility which the Uduaghan administration enjoyed at the state, national and international level in the last four years. Her management of the Micro-Credit office has been exemplary, with administrative astuteness, transparent procedure, apolitically firmness and most importantly, people oriented decisiveness. She has also achieved tremendous political acceptance across the state and will be an asset to the administration in any capacity. Many had expected that she would be elevated to the Ministerial level as a result of the recognition she brought to Delta state, but it is also possible that the efficient way she managed the Micro-credit office, coupled with the fact that she was only recently elevated to Commissioner may have created the need to keep such a loyal and trusted ally close by at home. This is also in keeping with the 35% appointment for women in the state exco.

Prof. Hope Eghagha. (Ministry of Higher Education): He came into the administration with a sterling record as an intellectual and a very respected social commentator and has proved himself in the Ministry of Higher Education by ensuring that merit and due process were the yardsticks of all his major assignments, including the Scholarship programme. He even crowned his academic excellence by attaining the revered position of Professor, while in service and the fact that he has successfully midwifed the take-off of the Nigerian Open University campuses in Delta is a huge bonus to his administrative credentials. He has also cut a niche for himself as an academic and intellectual who knows his onions and not a political academician in office and this has arguably kept the politicians largely off his back throughout his term as Commissioner. He is also friendly, easy going, very religious, quiet and well cultured in a professorial kind of way. He is a real asset to any administration and his place in the in-coming Uduaghan is certainly assured.

Chief George Omordi Ugboma. (Ministry of Works): Regarded as one of the few remaining key loyalists inherited from the Ibori days, Omordi Ugbomah has proven himself time and again by delivering his constituency to the PDP and Governor Uduaghan, as he did once again in the April 2011, elections. He is expected to be a key fixture in the new cabinet/administration.

Barr. Richard Mofe-Damijo. (Ministry of Culture and Tourism): Regarded as one of the best appointments of the Uduaghan administration, RMD, who  started as Special Adviser and metamorphosed into a full fledged Commissioner, has arguably achieved tremendous success and relevance with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. His dynamic and pragmatic vision has seen the Ministry embrace national and international recognition, headlined by the unprecedented tour of the Delta State Council for Arts and Culture to Japan for the Independence Anniversary celebration, the highly successful Delta Talent Quest and Reality programmes which has brought the state up to speed in the emerging social environment and the international partnership to build the Delta Leisure Resorts amongst others. He has also been applauded for his cordial relationship with his staff and has affected every segment of the Culture and Literary environment by regular synergies as highlighted with his annual Culture Week celebration and has by his sheer presence and encouragement, packaged Delta state and Asaba as the new location haven and most favoured destination for Nollywood film productions, which has seen the influx of top home movie stars into the state on a regular basis. He has also contributed largely to the new found respect and national recognition which most Delta artistes/musicians have attracted, especially during the political campaign season and he has become quite iconic and symbolic as a member of the constituency which President Goodluck Jonathan has employed to drive his transformation agenda to the Youths. His place and importance in the new cabinet cannot be denied.

Barr. Fred Majemite: (Ministry of Lands) – Generally regarded as one of the loyal and trusted men carried over from the Ibori administration, he took over from the highly successful Barr. Raymos Guanah, after having served as Commissioner Special Duties (Govt. House) and did not really have enough time to proove himself in the Ministry, save for a few comments on collapsed buildings, before the elections. He is dedicated and committed and many believe that he has the capacity and commitment to do well in the cabinet if given an extended opportunity.

Dr. (Ide) Tony Nwaka  . (Ministry of Education -Basic and Secondary): A dedicated and loyal public officer, Ide Tony Nwaka has enjoyed a rising political profile from Special Adviser Local Government, to Commissioner in the Agriculture and Education ministries. He is generally regarded as one of the brightest prospects in the new generation of emerging Anioma political leaders and he has further enhanced his profile tremendously by acquiring a PhD (Doctorate Degree) to beef up his credentials. He is the perfect blend of youth, academic excellence and administrative acumen, which every progressive administration requires. He will be a worthy Commissioner in the cabinet.

Chief Frank Omare. (Ministry of Housing): Regarded as one of the main foot soldiers of the Uduahjan administration, Frank Omare’s profile has been rising with the day and his importance to the administration continues to soar with the recognition of handing him greater responsibilities, the latest of which was the central role he played in the Committee that hosted President Jonathan’s campaign rally in Asaba, Delta state. He was quite instrumental in rallying the Ijaws of Warri for both the re-run election and general elections and his elevation as Commissioner, Ministry of Housing is a clear indication of his favoured status in the administration. He looks a sure bet for the next administration.

Solomon Edoja. (Commissioner, Special Duties Warri /Effurun Urban water Project): He belongs to the class of public officers who possess an articulate and analytical mind and complements this with an accommodating attitude, which takes every body along. He is a well known grass roots mobilizer who also brought a lot of credibility to the administration when he was Special Assistant to the Governor on Inter-party relations and his elevation to the position of full commissioner, although in the Warri/Effurun water project may just be a way of preparing him for a steady stint as Commissioner in the in-coming administration. He is a good man to have in the Cabinet.

Barr. Orezi Jane Esievo: (Special Duties, DESOPADEC): A consummate player in the corridors of power and said to be in the good books of some very senior big wigs in the PDP, she is equally brilliant to boot and has a clear vision of her mission in politics. She has been around and may still be around yet again perhaps in a different capacity.

Dr. Chris Oghenechovwen. (Ministry of Water Resources): A key member of the Uduaghan kitchen cabinet, he was rewarded with the Commissioner of water resources portfolio, but was purported to have run into troubled waters over matters of loyalty to the administration in in the days before the re-run elections. He has since redeemed himself, albeit publicly and is still regarded as an inside man, as displayed in his membership of the Inauguration committee. His experience in government is still very valuable.

Other Commissioners who are also likely to be considered for a return include:

Benard Okumagba. (Ministry of Economic Planning): Young, brilliant and principled gentleman, Okumagba was largely seen as the X factor candidate, brought in to help manage the alleged debts which the finance portfolio had accumulated in the Ibori administration. He is a thoroughbred technocrat who has acquitted himself well, within the limits of his operational leverage both in Finance and Economic planning and remains arguably one of the very few commissioners without any scandals in his excellent record. But he is not a politician, in that sense of the word but a dyed-in-the-wool professional whose political influence has grown somewhat but still remains a useful technocrat to engage in the specialised area of finance and economic planning.

Oma Djebah. (Ministry of Information): His appointment was regarded in most quarters and appropriately so too as a round peg in a rounded hole. His winning attributes included his brilliance in political reportage and the very fact that he had excelled and even garnered some international credentials in the process. He was properly located appropriately within the ambit of his media horizon, and his loyalty to the governor and the promotion and achievement of the then ‘Three Point Agenda’ was not been in doubt. His great enthusiasm to re-position the electronic and print parastatals was not in doubt but he was greatly undermined by his perceived lack of administrative acumen and political experience. It is to his credit however that he achieved considerable success in the digitalization of the Ministry of Information but the same cannot be said for the key print and electronic media in the state, which raised hues and cries from within. It is possible that his political inexperience may have worked against him but he is a good young man to have around the cabinet for his loyalty and dedication to duty and unflinching commitment to and promotion of the vision of the administration.

Others who may also be considered are: Rev. (Mrs.) Shola Williams (Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources); Mr. Ngozi Okolie (Special Duties, DLA (whose inclusion may be hinged on the fact that the governor may decide to stick with who he already has from Oshimili South as a result of the embarrassing loss he suffered in the state capital); Lady (Barr.) Kate Mudiaga-Erhueh (Special Duties, Abuja); Hon. Ross Uredi (Bureau for Special Duties); and Barr. Brave Enodeh          (Ministry of Environment).

Some New Faces:

Funkekeme Solomon: A lot has been said of the former House of Assemblyman, who practically gave his all to ensure that Governor Uduaghan returned for a second term. He has been an Uduaghan man right from his days in the DTHA and was even said to have suffered the suspension which caused a tiny blemish on his excellent tenure as a Legislator, because of frontal confrontation with elements who were trying to cook up an impeachment plot against the Governor at that time. Many watchers also claim that his decision not to contest for any elective position in 2011, was informed by the fact that he wanted to devote his complete time and energies to the re-election of Governor Uduaghan without any distractions. It is little wonder therefore that there was some visible shock and consternation, both from his sympathizers and some notable neutrals, when he was bypassed for the SSG position, some say at the very last minute.

So far, he has taken his disappointment like a man and a true loyalist and has been by the Governor’s side in some of his public appearances and although several factors have been pointed out as reasons why he lost out, there is no doubt that he will surely be in the new cabinet when it takes off. But pundits are still undecided over what position he will be given that can adequately compensate for his hard work and loyalty to the Governor as the SSG office would have done. There is also the small matter of whether the governor will be favourably disposed to give him such a position considering the political balancing that comes with the allocation of public offices. The Ijaws already have a senator and a Minister of the Federal Republic and the appointment of another Ijaw man into one of the major ministries, no matter his contribution to the election, will surely raise eyebrows, especially with the ethno/political, no-love-lost competition between Delta Central and Delta South and the avowed pledge by the Governor to make less enemies and win over those he considers as ‘middle ground’ politicians.

But Funkekeme is a loyal partyman and he of all people understands the governor better than most, so he is likely to accept whatever he gets, whether he likes it or not.

Barr. Chike Ogeah. He is a quite articulate and a very smooth and convincing operator who headed the Publicity Department of the Uduaghan/PDP Campaign Council, but who has never arguably held any high profile political position before. His defense of Governor Uduaghan before, during and after the elections cuts him out as a loyalist and the fact that he is highly recommended and can invoke the name of one of the biggest business moguls in Delta state, from an area where the governor did not do so well is an added advantage to his credentials.

 Mrs Gerogina Evah. She is the Delta PDP Woman leader, who has very visible and quite influential in the electioneering campaign and elections. Her role in mobilizing women has been exemplary and her fearless courage and dogged determination in the political environment will surely give the governor every reason and confidence to appoint her into his cabinet in fulfillmenmt of the 35% gender affirmative action which has become a major national initiative.

Hon Austin Ayemidejor and Mr. Emeka Okwudishu. Both men are already in Governor Uduaghan’s team as the men in charge of some key projects including the new Government House and the Asaba International Airport respectively, but may be elevated to a higher administrative positions.

It is important that this list is just a conjecture of who may be considered for the new Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan cabinet and is based on the analysis carried for the purpose of this report. This list is in no way conclusive and does not in anyway reflect the position of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan who has the sole authority to appoint whoever he prefers to head whatever ministry so designated for that individual.

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