I BROUGHT DR. CAIRO OJOUGBOH INTO POLITICS

The name, Chief Anthony Billy Ekika Okungbowa, the Arese of Agbor kingdom and the Otigbuenyi of Ika nation needs no introduction. Apart from being a politician of no mean repute and a revered community leader, Arese, as he is popularly called is one of the few Nigeria who hate playing politics at the detriment of their people. In this personally of the week interview, he granted Ika Weekly at his home in Ime-Obi, Agbor, the elder statesman talked about his background, education, work experience, how he introduced the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, South South Zonal chairman, Chief Dr. Cairo Ojougboh into politics and why he is supporting General Muhammadu Buhari, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, Hon Doris Uboh and Festus Chukwuyem Okoh (Chuky Dandy) in the 2015 general elections.
Excerpts:
Sir, can you please introduce yourself?
I am Chief Anthony Billy Ekika Okungbowa, the Arese of Agbor kingdom and the Otigbuenyi of Ika nation. I was born more than 85 years ago into the family of Pa Albert Okungbowa of Omumu, Agbor.
Can you tell us about your educational background?
I attended Catholic Primary School, Lagos, St. Gregory College, Ikoyi. I had my three papers advanced level at one sitting. Thereafter, I did a programme at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, I was sponsored by the International Labour Organization. The Programme was on advanced labour administration. Upon my graduation, I became a labour officer under the Federal Ministry of Labour. I was posted to Lagos, where I resumed work as a statutory officer.
Did you grow up in a polygamous home?
No, my father was married to only my mother, one wife. The name of my mother was Dumbiri. I was the number four in the family of eight. Today, my younger brother, Patrick and I, are the only surviving children of my parents.
How and what was it like growing up in Lagos at that time?
I was more of a Lagosian than Agbor. I did not only grow up in Lagos but also, I got married to a Lagosian, Isabella Okungbowa. My growing up in Lagos was a very smooth and good. I speak the Yoruba Language very fluently.
How many years did you work in the Labour Ministry?
I worked for seventeen years before my retirement. I worked in different departments in the Ministry, including serving in the Nigerian Port in Lagos. I was once the labour officer in-charge of administration in Lagos, Warri and Calabar ports. I enjoyed the work until I retired to establish Abeo Consultancy. I retired because I felt I had offered enough to the ministry.
During your working days, how often did you come home?
I visited home regularly I later left Lagos to join the late Obi Ikenchuku the father of the present Dein of Agbor. Obi Ikenchuku encouraged me and said that he cannot be a king and I remain in Lagos. I yielded to his advise and returned to Agbor. My returning to Agbor was a gradual one. Before then, I established a branch of my company, Abeo Consultancy, which I founded after my retirement, in Warri. Anytime I visited Warri, I made sure I reached Agbor. This I continued to do until I finally returned to Agbor
From what you have said, it means you have a very good relationship with HRM obi Ikenchuku?
The relationship I had with the late Obi Ikenchuku of Agbor kingdom when he was alive was a very cordial one. Even though he was my king, we lived like brothers. Anytime I came from Lagos to Agbor and visited the palace, I usually stayed in the palace till 12am in the night before returning home. After I relocated to Agbor, in 1979, I closed down my Lagos office, including the entire business.
What next did you do after you returned to Agbor?
I joined politics. At that time, the late Hon Humphrey Iweriebor was the godfather of Ika politics. Then, I aspired to be a local government party chairman of Social Democratic Party, SDP, in Ika South. Hon Iwerebor and his allies in Agbor were opposed to me coming down from Lagos to aspire as an LGA chairman. While I sponsored Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa to be the council chairman in Ika North East Local Government Area, I aspired as the SDP LGA chairman in Ika South. Along the line, Dr. Okowa fell ill. I went to his house one day and discovered that he won’t be able to got out with me for campaign. Surprisingly, later that day, I heard that Dr. Okowa accompanied Hon Iwerebor to campaign I was told that when Iwerebor go to Okowa’s house that day, he ordered him (Okowa) to get up from his sick bed and follow him, which he did. This was how Okowa and I parted ways politically at that time. I continued with my campaign till the morning of the LGA chairmanship election, only for me to find out that my name had been removed as one of those contesting the election by my opponents. Names of some persons who were loyal to me were also removed. Thereafter, I went to court to get justice. I hired Barr. Ojobu as my lawyer. Hon Iwerebor in order to rob me of the chairmanship position, appointed Chief J.E. Imudia to be the SDP LGA chairman in Ika South. I was told Chief Imudia killed a cow before he left home on that LGA election day, because he was informed by his sponsors that he will be the LGA chairman. Frankly speaking, Chief Imudia was not a contestant in that election, yet, Iwerebor made him a chairman. However, I continued with my court action. I petitioned the National Electoral Commission as it was called then. The commission finally confirmed my petition that Iwerebor was not qualified to hold public office because he was in the Bendel State House of Assembly. Thereafter, Iwerebor went to court too, alleging that I gave a false information about him. Fortunately, I was able to get information about his activities in the House of Assembly. When we got to the Tribunal, I was vindicated it turned out that Iwerebor was the person not qualified to hold public office. I continued steadily until I won the SDP LGA position at the tribunal. As if that was not enough, Barr Adaikpoh, then the Attorney General of Delta State secretly aided the then judge to bring a court injunction to restrain me from performing as LGA chairman. Unfortunately, for them, the information came after I had been sworn-in. They later started a legal battle which at the long run did not favour anybody because there was a military coup of 1993. I was more interested in the unity of Ika people. But reverse was the case with Iwerebor. In those days, party chairmen were more influential and powerful than council chairmen. After the military take over, I stopped supporting any ruling party. This informed my decision to join the opposition after 1999. I was the person who introduced Dr. Cairo Ojougboh into politics.
How did you bring. Dr Cairo Ojougboh into politics?
I invited Dr. Cairo Ojougboh’s late elder brother, I cannot remember his correct name now but he was an headmaster then, and I told him we need someone who has money to bankroll our party, Alliance for Democracy , A.D. He told me that he has a younger brother called Dr. Cairo, who can do that. When we invited Dr. Cairo over, he told us that he was not interested in politics. We met more than two times before he showed interest. I advised him on how to go about it. Thereafter, in the council election that was conducted during the time, we fielded Cairo’s elder brother, Mr. Sunny Ojougboh as chairman. Unfortunately, Sunny Ojougboh lost to Barr. Sunny Nwaolokor. We lost that election due to Cairo’s youthful exhuberance. The election that later brought Cairo to stay in politics was the election of Hon Sunny Ogwu as council chairman in the early 2000. This time Cairo had defected to the PDP. When he was leaving A.D for PDP he inform us. I blamed him for not telling us, I would have asked him to make it a joint one.
Talking about the political development in Nigeria, with a particular reference to Ika federal constituency. What is your view?
Well, in my opinion, the ruling PDP has not done well, particularly in the areas of infrastructural development and employment. In Ika South for instance, there has been no adequate representation since 1999. The PDP government has always been one sided. Ika South has not benefitted meaningfully from the PDP government. That is why I am in support for the creation of Anioma State.
Do you think that the creation of Anioma State will ever come true?
Yes. It will come one day. Outside the discovery of oil in Anioma, the area has the highest gas deposit in Delta State.
Are you sure the creation of Anioma state will make any difference?
Yes. If Anioma State is created, there will be noticeable difference in the economy.
In the last interview you granted Ika Weekly, you told Nigerians to vote for General Muhammadu Buhari, rtd, in the 2015 presidential election. Why the decision?
I am supporting General Muhammadu Buhari, rtd, for many reasons. First, Buhari is not only a patriotic man but also a detribalized Nigerian. His eldest daughter is married to an Igbo man from Anambra State. Second, when Buhari was the Head of State, if he had been a religious fanatics, he would have made Friday, a public holiday, despite pressures on him to do so, he did not. Third, we need somebody who will give positions to people not minding whether they are from his village or not. Fourth, during this short tenure as head of state, Buhari was able to instill discipline on Nigerians. He ensured that there was sanity everywhere. So, we need a disciplinarian. Nigeria is well endowed with natural resources from God, to harness these resources and say good bye to abject poverty, we need someone like Buhari as our president. Nigerians should cast their votes for Buhari in this year’s presidential election.
Outside General Muhammadu Buhari, rtd, which other person are you campaigning for in the 2015 elections?
Outside Buhari, I am supporting Senator Ifeanyi Okowa as governor, Hon Doris Uboh as member, House of Representatives, for Ika federal constituency and Mr. Festus Chukwuyem Okoh, also known as, Chuky Dandy, for State House of Assembly Ika South constituency. With Okowa, Uboh, and Chuky Dandy, Ika nation will move to the next level.
Do you have role models during your hay days in politics?
Yes, I had people like Chief Anthony Enahoro, Chief Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo, as my role models.
How would you describe yourself?
I am a simple man, disciplined, truthful and has respect for humanity.
Is there any day you can remember in your life that you are always saying thanks be to God?
Every reasonable human being on earth has to appreciate God for been alive. I thank God for the gift of life.
Do you have any worst moment ?
There are moments of joy, and moments of sadness. It has not been all that rosy. What has been the saddest moment of my life is the failure of my Agbor people to love themselves, come together and build a quality leadership that will move the area to a higher glory. I am still bittered about Agbor backwardness politically. I pray that the Almighty God will answer our prayers one day by giving us a listening, selfless, visionary and result oriented leader.
How many children do you have?
I have three children.
How have you contributed to the development of Agbor?
I have been a community leader, I have always preached fairness and truth to everybody. As a respected Chief of Agbor kingdom and a man of truth, I have mentored so many persons from my community, who today are doing very well in their different fields of endeavour. I may not have the monies to throw around but, I don’t conceal anything that I know will move our people forward.
What is your advice for present Nigeria politicians?
My advice for the present Nigeria politicians is that they should see politics as a mission. They should be truthful and loyal to their people. They should learn how to say the truth no matter whose ox is gored.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered as a man of truth. When something is good I say it, if it is wrong I say it too. I don’t compromise.
Can we say that, that has been your driving sir?
Yes.

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