“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up” – Thomas Edison
History is replete with the stories of men and women who have navigated the murky waters of politics to an enviable point, but only very few fall into the spectrum of what modern political scientists now dub as the ‘Lincolnic Class’. In some climes, they are referred to as the mighty Pyrrhus and Odysseus of the game who with undaunted courage, weathered tempestuous tides to become unforgettable heroes.
While Abraham Lincoln may rank number one on the pecking order of those in this contingent in world political history, we can look back to West Africa and pick on President George Oppong Weah of Liberia and President Mohammadu Buhari of Nigeria as smaller legs in Lincoln’s shoes who stoutly nurtured the audacity of hope until they got it right. However, getting it right was not only because they persisted in trying over and over again but because each time they failed, they lived with the experience, learned from it, and came out better equipped to try another time.
Confucius, the great Chinese philosopher, once said, that in the pursuit of the desires to realize the common good of a society, “our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall”. This dictum is quintessential of the political exploits of Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru, a distinguished son of Urhobo and a prosperous fish magnate of international repute, who has contested the governorship election of Delta State five times (including 2010 rerun) without success. He may not have reached his destination, but by dint of uncommon willpower, Great Ogboru has covered an uncommon distance as far as the Delta political space is concerned. And if by current ciphering, he eventually emerges the Governor of Delta State in 2019, Ogboru will be towering above President Weah and President Buhari to follow on the heels of Abraham Lincoln with just a few steps to equal him in the league of politicians who never quitted until they succeeded.
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States of America, was said to have lost electoral contests for eight times before he emerged a President. Although contrary historical facts have argued that some of the stories about Lincoln’s adventures in American politics are products of a well-constructed glurge to inspire courage and persistence in humanity, he is, unarguably, the ‘mythical’ figure of America political history who is globally idolised for his unflinching willpower.
Great Ogboru, might not be in the same caste and breed with Lincoln in politics, but there is something so spectacular and fascinating in Lincoln that Ogboru shares in common with him, the COURAGE to carry on in the midst of ‘failures’. As though failures are the climbing steps to success, Lincoln himself once said, that “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm“.
In his political adventures in Delta State, Great Ogboru has manifested this rare Lincolnic spirit of enthusiasm by wading through the muddy waters of balloting for five unsuccessful times, yet the flame to push on still kindles. But while we must posit that we are not celebrating failure here, we must agree with Henry Ford that “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
Critical analyses by political analysts and observers on Ogboru’s electoral performances in the 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2015 governorship elections in Delta, have repeatedly revealed beyond doubts that Ogboru has never lost any of those elections. If so, then Ogboru’s electoral travail is about when the winner loses. What a paradox! In this case, Ogboru, unlike Lincoln, is only a victim of a perverse political environment and oppressive society where popular electoral victories can easily dwindle into electoral failures as a result of unscrupulous machinations of political power players who want to perpetuate themselves at the expense of the fine tenets of democracy. However, the serial rape on democracy by the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in the elections of 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015, which consistently robbed Great Ogboru of the people’s mandate, had at each stage left a bitter experience to learn from.
After the ‘loses’ of 2003, 2007, and 2011 (rerun), when the PDP brazenly seized virtually all political power in Delta State, the lessons learnt from those elections helped immensely in galvanizing the strategies for the 2011 general elections. And like an animal shot at a very close range, the PDP, managed to wriggle itself out in a convulsive manner to survive the electoral pellets from the Democratic People’s Party, DPP, under which Great Ogboru contested the governorship election in 2011. At least, the elections snatched from the PDP, not only Delta Central Senatorial seat but also over nine legislative seats both at the State House of Assembly and the Federal House of Representatives. While the PDP never expected such a big punch from the opposition led by Ogboru, it didn’t come as a fluke. It was a calculated blow formed from the experiences of previous elections that were lost to injustice.
However, against the backdrop of the successive losses suffered by Great Ogboru in the Delta State governorship races, critical opinions within and outside his party had expressed their misgivings on the possibility of realising his governorship ambition if the PDP was still the ruling party at the Federal level. It cannot be established, anyway, if this was the reason why Ogboru berthed the Labour Party, LP, under which he contested the 2015 election, on supporting former President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP in the presidential race. Although the billionaire fish merchant and business tycoon claimed it was only the lending of a wholehearted support for a Niger Delta Big Brother, it was believed in some sections that such decision was not only savvy but also one of the products of the many lessons learnt from the bitter experiences of yesterday. Even though the anticipated reciprocity from this so-called Big Brother met with disenchantment, it was one attempt by Great Ogboru to get his mandate secured from bottom to the top. Nevertheless, is generally believed that the LP at the national level forced Ogboru to go against his core political ideology to support a Big Brother whose political party was and remains the biggest and most putrid scar on the modern politics of Nigeria.
Nevertheless, if everything seemed lost in the 2015 elections to the same cesspool of electoral injustices, one thing was gained from it – the emergence of Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, the Senator representing the Urhobo people at the National Assembly. If Chief Great Ogboru will ever count his political loses which spanned between 2003 and 2015, he will at least nod his head that one of the benefits was to have soldiered an affair that gave Urhobo, for the first time in history, the loudest voice in the legislative realm of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Retrospectively, one of the earliest political outings that presented Omo-Agege and Ogboru together in the wake of his (Omo-Agege’s) defection from the PDP to the LP in 2014, was the meeting at Chief Joe Omene’s (then UPU President’s) country home at Mosogar held at the behest of the Youth Wing of the Urhobo Progress Union, UPU. Seeing Ogboru and Omo-Agege sitting together on that day, to many people, these were strange bedfellows. But going by the increasing political affinity between Ogboru and Omo-Agege, many of those who thought the latter was a mole planted by the PDP to help undo the chances of the former, have since eaten their words and recoiled into their shells. For almost four years now, an enviable relationship has blossomed between these two eminent Urhobo sons, as both of them now see each other as ‘brothers from another mother’.
Ogboru and Omo-Agege’s relationship, some people believe, is the building up of another political family that will give birth to a new political dynasty in Delta State. Going by his political records right from his days in the PDP, it is very obvious that Omo-Agege is not ill-bred in the game of politics. For a powerful grassroots mobiliser that he is, joining force with the ever-intimidating machinery of Great Ogboru will be a revolutionary bout to dethrone the oligarchic hegemony that the PDP has enthroned in Delta State for 19 years. Like Ogboru, Omo-Agege is the Urhobo people’s pride. Even while he was in the PDP, evidences are there to show that he never relented in championing and promoting Urhobo course in diverse capacities.
It is no longer news that as a senator representing the largest ethnic group in Delta State, Omo-Agege’s doggedness and vibrancy for justice and equity on the floor of the senate has placed Urhobo on a higher pedestal of recognition and relevance in the country. He has not only succeeded through his developmental programmes and visions in arousing Urhobo from the sleep of ages, he has also succeeded in giving life to the bedimmed voice of the Urhobo nation in the comity of nations. With the war he fought against extra-judicial suspensions in the Senate House, Omo-Agege has succeeded in truncating the scourge of impunity which the leadership of the eight Assembly has prided itself upon since 2015.
This single act of resistance against injustice by Omo-Agege in the Senate, has been viewed in some quarters of the nation through the prism of what Ogboru ostensibly stood for in 1990 when the draconian military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida was suffocating millions of Nigerians. The recent conflict against the leadership of the Senate by Senator Omo-Agege, did not only conjure up that martial revolutionary episode of April 20, 1990 that came with huge onomatopoeic sounds at the command of the late Major Gideon Gwarzo Orkar, but also reveals that except for a few whose blindness and avarice have perpetually kept them in docility, the average Urhobo folk is a hater and fighter of injustice. Now, whether they say it out or not, there is this tacit awe and reverence that Omo-Agege’s doggedness in the Senate has forced from other ethnic nationalities on the Urhobo people. That alone is a national glory for the Urhobos.
Today, the Urhobo people are so enamoured by the number of constituency projects Omo-Agege has attracted and executed in just two and a half year he assumed office as a senator. Lacing these achievements up with his empowerment scheme for market women and federal appointments he has influenced to Urhobo, Omo-Agege has indisputably endeared himself deeply in the minds of the Urhobo people. It stands therefore to reason, that having been eclipsed from lustre for too long by those who represented her in the past at the Senate, the Urhobo nation cannot afford to toy with the mandate to return Omo-Agege back to the Upper Chamber come 2019. Urhobo leaders at various level of the social strata know in their hearts that the Urhobo position at the Senate is not for juvenile or feminists’ pettiness, but for ‘real men’. Indeed, the project to sustain Urhobo’s strength in national light is a real project that only real men can handle. Senator Ovie Omo-Agege is the real man Urhobos needs for this task.
Establishing a powerful alliance with Great Ogboru, the People’s General, the optimism to get Urhobo and Delta State out of the doldrums is becoming brighter by the day. The dream to enthrone a working society which will ameliorate the lives of the people is about to come to reality with the army of political gladiators set to bulldoze their ways to victory through the people’s franchise.
We understand that for 15 years the Ogboru political machinery has survived tempestuous tides for miscarriage of justice. But this time the looming atmosphere suggests that the story will be different. Not only because Ogboru has emerged a governorship candidate in the nation’s ruling party, but also because many of the Sauls who helped to persecute justice in the past have become Pauls standing with him. Ovie Omo-Agege, who has always claimed, humorously, that he is a Saul turned Paul, is at the forefront of this league of apostates who want to go to the battlefield with Ogboru. The battle to put an end to bad governance in Delta State. The battle to transform Delta State with all her rich resources to an enviable height of global repute.
And we can now say, that for the People’s General, the political travail of 15 years may no longer count, for Senator Ovie Omo-Agege stands as one super gain he can boast of when counting his loses.
Avwioroko is an award-winning journalist.