Respected Leaders of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP),
My Kith and Kin from all the Communities in Isi and Uhunmwode,
Gentlemen of the Press,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:
We are gathered here today in the historic community of Ilobi-Isi, Uhunmwode LGA of Edo State, a town that was home to the warriors and armoury of the Ogiso Era, to witness my formal return to a Political Party of which I was a founding member, major financier and on whose platform I was elected to the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria when our Nation returned to democratic governance in 1999.
Strategically set on the hills, Ilobi, taken from the Edo word ‘Evbo n’olobi’ – meaning a town that produces weapons – embodies the history of a great people and their unconquered resilience in the face of all odds.
This is the home of the gallant military hardware manufacturers, which at some historic point, was the last bastion of defence for the Great Benin Empire, and the fire power securing the ancient Benin Kingdom from external aggressors.
Today, we stand to pay tribute to all Isi sons and daughters who have played a part in shaping the history and destiny of the Edo Nation, and who gave their all in the quest to build a lasting Nation-State out of the great Empire of Benin. We pay tribute to their courage, their valor and audacity of identity and self-expression. On this score I salute the sagacity of Chief D.N. Oronsaye, Engineer Ukponmwan, Mr. J. Awoyegbe, and Bright Omoruyi who have joined the God of our Ancestors. And for those still with us, we celebrate the vision of Pa Dan Omoigui, former Surveyor General of the Federation, Jerome Elaiho, a prolific Artist/Painter, Ede Osayande, a foremost Banker, my younger brother, Stephen Oronsaye, former Head of Service of the Federation and a daughter in whom we are very well pleased, Ifueko Marina Omoigui-Okaru, former Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). I also recognize the sterling accomplishments of a worthy Isi son – Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, Executive Governor of Edo State, for being an exemplar of our age-long values.
Converging on this community today, in the face of the global Covid-19 pandemic, whilst observing the strictest possible social distancing measures to commemorate my return to the PDP family, signals the start of a new engagement; a new dream nurtured by the essentials of our inner consciousness as a people within the Nigerian State.
At this point, it is fitting to take stock of my public sector trajectory. To the glory of the Almighty God and in Honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I have spent the last 50 Years of my life in the service of the peoples of the Old Midwestern Region – now Edo and Delta States. At the end of the Civil War, I joined the services of the Bendel State Government as an Education Officer and subsequently served as a Personal Aide to Chief E.K. Clark, who was at the time, the Commissioner for Education. While in service, HE Governor Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia took notice of my commitment to the development of Bendel State and appointment me as the pioneer Registrar/Head of Administration of the Auchi Polytechnic in 1974. By 1977/78 I made a decision to fully devote the rest of my life to politics and the institutionalization of ethical leadership and thus voluntarily retired from the Civil Service. Subsequently, I became an active participant in the process to return Nigeria to Civil Rule in 1979.
By divine providence, and largely as a result of the goodwill I garnered while in service, I was elected to represent Orhionmwon Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives in 1979 on the Platform of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). While at the House of Reps in Lagos, I had the good fortune of forging lifelong bonds with young Legislators and Policy Makers with whom I would collaborate in the future.
With the Military incursion in 1983, my colleagues and I continued our quest for democratic governance. Between 1983 and 1998 I was a member of the National Republican Convention (NRC) in the truncated 3rd Republic and then became a member of the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) during the Administration of General Sani Abacha.
Upon the death of General Sani Abacha, there was a major political realignment that led to the formation of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)) by like minds. I am proud to say that I was one of those like minds, a founding member and leader of the great party, PDP.
Upon election to the Senate to represent Edo South Senatorial District, I was unanimously elected by the PDP caucus to serve as Chip Whip of the Senate, a Ranking Member of the Body of Principal Officers of the National Assembly and a Member of the National Caucus of the PDP.
However, the insistence by some of us in the National Assembly for Legislative Independence and an adherence to the principles of Separation of Powers did not go well with the Government of the day, thus a number of us were literally chased out of the political Party that we built with our sweat and blood.
Most of us here present are privy to what transpired in the period under review and how a group of us in the National Assembly were forced to seek refuge in the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) in 2002/2003. I must, at this juncture, pay fitting tribute to an indefatigable Edo son, a distinguished Nigerian and Africa’s foremost Admiral – Augustus Aikhomu – who became a rallying point for all of us. I must also venerate the memory of my brother and compatriot, Dr Chuba Okadigbo, the Oyi of Oyi, who not only played a key role in the struggle, but paid the supreme price in the process. May their souls find eternal rest, Amen.
I have spent the better part of the last 17 years outside of the PDP family – save for a brief return between 2011 and 2015. Recent developments in the polity of our dear nation has reignited my conviction to realign with positive and progressive mainstream political forces on a rescue mission.
Over the past 15 months, I have been consulting with political associates, former colleagues and Elder Statesmen on the need to get our Nation back on track. A recurring issue that emanated from that consultative process was the need for all founding members of the PDP to return to the Party so that it can achieve its strategic goal of emancipating Nigerians.
Therefore, today I am returning to the PDP, the party I can call home, with a keen sense of purpose and a mission to work with the leadership and members in developing a sustainable developmental blueprint for Nigeria and jealously guarding the implementation of same.
Because all politics is local, I must add that on the home front, my return to the Party would also ensure that Governor Godwin Obaseki is re-elected for a 2nd term. Beyond the continuity in the progressive institutional policies, commendable and visible physical developments accomplished by the Obaseki-led administration, his second term would engender equity and co-existence, as the Governorship would then rightly move to Edo Central Senatorial District in 2024.
Today, we sing a new song; lift a new banner that galvanizes our collective energy in the renewed quest for a great nation where all are free, where no man is oppressed, subjugated or branded, and where there is equality and liberty of self-expression.
Today the nation is still greatly divided, and almost back to her primordial lines. Our country is troubled; our people are afraid; our future is uncertain. We cannot build a great nation without unity at home. We cannot be a nation where people are hated, branded and then hounded and ostracized. We stand here to declare that the Edo people remain an integral part of the Nigerian Project.
I celebrate my return to the PDP, a party that has given itself the clear mission to stand by the people and serve only their interest. PDP is the hope of the masses and we will ensure that its mandate of ensuring that all citizens have equal access to opportunity and resources is fully achieved. This mandate will be achieved in Edo State and it will be achieved in Nigeria.
Finally, my dear Compatriots, I return to the PDP family today, confident in the fact that in all, I have God and the good people of Edo state and my teeming well-wishers all over the Globe beside and behind me. My life-long commitment to emancipate our people is a product of enduring prayers, abiding faith in God, painstaking planning, extensive mobilization, consultations and bonding among our peoples without barriers.
On that note I call on all our supporters to rise up today and lift with me the symbol of our pride – the Umbrella, an exemplar of Royalty in the Benin Empire – and march shoulder to shoulder in our typical heroic step from the land of our ancient past to a glorious future for our State and Country.
Together, we shall build, for generations unborn, a country where we will not alleviate poverty but overthrow poverty; one where we will not reduce injustice but imprison injustice; and a Nation where we will not reduce inequality but abolish all privileges that obstruct equal opportunities and entrench equity.
I thank you for your kind attention.
Unto Jesus I surrender!
Distinguished Senator Rowland Stephen Owie, KSJI,