BY MONDAY UWAGWU
Recently, the Governor of Delta State, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, visited the ailing former National General Secretary of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) in Warri, Chief Frank Ovie Kokori, during which he undertook to foot the medical bill of the famous labour leader and immediately cleared bills of two other patients.
Chief Kokori, who is now a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), it is recalled, was the arrowhead of the massive nationwide pro-democracy strike in protest at the still controversial annulment of the historic June 12, 1993 presidential poll, held as the most outstandingly transparent in Nigeria’s history, by the administration of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida.
The Delta –born labour leader is now in an undisclosed hospital in Warri, from where he issued a save- our -soul (SOS) distress call that caught the attention of Rt. Hon. Oborevwori and elicited his prompt responsorial action.
Kokori is said to be battling a serious medical condition. Expectedly, the responsorial gesture of Governor Oborevwori, has elicited spontaneous reactions from a section of the media and the public which has largely applauded it as a welcome development.
However, beyond the precints of the generic applause that has greeted the gesture of the governor, it is imperative to put in proper perspective, the critical value and its multiple elements of significance.
First, the time element is of essence; that it took the governor less than 24 hours after the news broke of the serious ill-health of the iconic unionist to visit him attests to the value that he places on the person and character of Comrade Kokori and what he represents. This is truly worthy, considering that in matters of health, time is a critical variable for success.
Closely related to the element of time is the fact that, despite all of the pressures arising from his heavy schedule as state governor, Governor Oborevwori, personally, made the trip to see Kokori. This is proof of the fact that Governor Oborevwori wanted to see firsthand, the situation of things with the labour leader, rather than relying on an emissary who may take time to hand in his brief, and may be unable to present all of what he (governor) would, as a direct eye witness and visitor, want to know and see.
By personally reaching out to Kokori physically the governor has put down, for the record, the rich store he places on the personage and character of Kokori.
For Kokori himself, there is a strong element of great significance in the visit of the governor and his undertaking.
Aside of placing for the benefit of the public the true value that the governor places on Kokori, the gesture helps draw down on the critical import of the a stanza in the Nigerian National Anthem to the effect that the labours of our heroes past (and we can add present) shall never be in vain.
Given his great sacrificial leadership at a time of grave national crisis, it is elating that Kokori has found fulfillment in the wordings of the National Anthem, at a critical time of his life, at the hands of a worthy compatriot, who by his action, has lived out the import of the wordings. By the action of the governor, some Nigerians at the threshold of doubt regarding the capacity of the Nigerian state to protect and actively safeguard their interests, would now be reassured and resolve to work for the country, even in the most inclement and challenging times and circumstances.
Beyond these, however, are other equally important elements of the significance of the Oborevwori gesture.
By promptly coming to the aid of Kokori during his moment of great need, Governor Oborevwori has taken a sure further step to consolidate growing fame for his pro-humanity disposition which he had aptly demonstrated by his timely effective response to the disturbing dehumanizing issue of the huge backlog of benefits of retirees in the state local government system, the prompt payment of the arrears of entitlements of deserving public officers, the payment of the N10,000 per person per month to all its employees, for three months at the first instance, in view of the fuel subsidy removal and the directive for the same gesture be extended to staff of the local government system as well as the timely visit to the bereaved family of … in Okpanam who lost a child during an operation by operatives of the NDFLEA and the order for full payment of the medical bill and travel and medical expenses for the surviving victim of the NDLEA operative’s stray bullet.
All of these tell a story, a great one at that, about the person and character of Governor Oborevwori because, as great minds say, when our thoughts become our words and our words give birth to our actions, which, on a consistent basis, profile our habit, our character is defined. On this score, the Oborevwori’s value and character have been defined by his pro-humanity inclination actions.
Yet, that is not all that there is to the interesting story of the Governor and his visit to elder statesman, Kokori; there is something else equally fundamental in the action of Governor Oborevwori.
That he rose, quite early in time, to meet the dire need of Kokori, a chieftain of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), the lead opposition in the state, speaks volumes to the character of Oborevwori as a man of deep conviction, who, in spite of grave partisan political differences, bowed to the power of the virtue of altruism and consideration for others, and placed humanity and life, the life of an opposition political leader, over partisan political matters.
In this regard, he resonated a similar disposition as Prof. Ambrose Folorunso Alli, who, as Governor of the now defunct Bendel State, taught Nigerians how to subsume partisan political considerations under the virtue of humanity, during his re-election campaign visit to a village (I think it was really to Atte, ancestral home of Kadiri Ikhana, former ace of Bendel Insurance Football Club, Benin, and the Green Eagles of Nigeria) in what was the Akoko-Edo local government area.
During the visit, Alli was told that it was pointedly useless campaigning in the village, an impregnable fortress of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) for the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) to which Alli belonged. But, against the grain of the counsel of UPN members and even his personal aides, Alli went to and saw, in the course of the visit, the wife of the local NPN leader who had been in labour for more than 48 hours and was evidently at the threshold of death.
Naturally, for just political reasons, both his aides and other UPN members and supporters wanted Alli, a Professor of Medicine, with specialty in Morbid Anatomy, not to have anything to do with the dying woman.
But not Alli.
Against the run of the advice of his aides and party supporters and contrary to the expectation of the NPN members and supporters, Alli alighted from his official car, got into the heavily equipped ambulance truck on the convoy and headed straight to the home of the bewildered dying woman and her befuddled husband.
To cut short a long story, after less than an hour of medical procedure, Alli delivered the dying woman of her son and everywhere erupted in profound joy and gratitude to the man who subsumed partisan political consideration on the deserving altar of selfless service to humanity.
Following this singular action of the Governor, the political loyalty of the entire community and its environs turned spontaneously overnight, while the child was named after Prof. Alli.
That was way back in 1983.
Like Alli (bless his humane soul), so Oborevwori; with regard to the Kokori case, the governor has, quite wisely, acted on the basis of godly conviction to place life, precious human lif,- over the import of partisan political consideration.
Only men of deep conviction and with eyes on posterity do this. By his action, Oborevwori has proven himself one of rare men who place humanity over all else.
This is no mean virtue given his assurance during the visit to Kokori to the effect that he would remain the governor of all Deltans, ethnic, religious and political differences notwithstanding.
This timely assurance resonates, in its vital essence, with the import of an ancient African saying that even-handedness is a mandatory primary requirement for the worthy priest.
And so, as the great Christian leader, St Augustine, wrote hundreds of years ago, love, which resides in humane hearts, finds due expression in the consistent capacity to selflessly help others, the feet to hasten to the cause of the poor and needy, the eyes to see and appreciate want and misery and the ears to pick signals of the sighs and sorrows of others and to help out, even at great cost to one, realising that, as it is said, the only true service to God is the honest selfless service to man.
And do you know what?
Gradually but steadily like giant feet on a wet soil, , Oborevwori, by his actions, is demonstrating that he has the needed feet, the required sensitive eyes and ears and the humane heart of empathy to hear when Deltan, who have now been entrusted into his care as Governor, genuinely need guidance, leadership and help, and is not the one to shy away from responsibility.