By Dr. Frederick Oritseweneye Pessu
As a child, I grew up in Warri metropolis and I would consider myself “the boy from the street”. I lived the real and hard life, yet identifiable hustle that epitomises the vibe! the rhythm! the sights! the sounds and suave that defines the city and residents of Warri. I would say a combination of my life experience and early education helped frame my social, cultural, economic and political identities. In the midst of such grit and coarse evolution, I managed to forge a path for myself; most significantly in the pursuit of self-development. I realised in the process that I would have to jettison the entitlements and seeming privileges that our culture flaunted on me by some top Warri indigenes. All of these were just a snippet of shadow under which I was weaned, just before, and in the immediate aftermath of the Warri crisis – 1996-2004.
In retrospect, I would surmise that the carnage and bloodshed that ravaged the Itsekiris across the Warri Federal Constituency in those dark ages,exposed the lack of leadership at the time within the Itsekiri ranks and file, especially since the demise of Chief O.N Rewane; (the Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom as at the time of his death in 1987) and His brother Pa. O.A Rewane, amongst others. This obvious lacuna in leadership was slightly overturned by leaders such as Dr.Lee, Dr. Roland Oritsejafor, and late Engr Toritsemose, before the emergence of young and vibrant leaders such as Dr. Emmanuel Uduanghan, Honourable Daniel Reyenieju, David Tonwe, Mofe Pirah, Ayiri Emami, Michael Diden, Sunny Edema Atumu (popularly known as Sunny Deghele) and many other silent leaders. Whilst reflecting on the leadership of the Itsekiri kingdom, there were also so many notable men of honour that lost their lives in the defense of the Itsekiri nation. I remember Dugbo, whose death many of us witnessed at Market road and the mysterious murder of Sunny Edema Atumu (A.K.A Sunny Deghele). Omuro is another person whom we all can remember. We should never forget these heroes of Warri. Due to the need to sustain the legacies of these heroes, past, and present, and to institute a body of defense for the culture and well-being of the Itsekiris, the Itsekiri National Youth Council (INYC) was created and Honourable Daniel Reyenieju became the pioneer leader.
Honourable Daniel Reyenieju lived through the carnage with us, helped to provide stable leadership in the time of need, and has continued to do so for the interest of the Itsekiris and people of Warri Federal constituency at the National assembly. Of course, in the event of war there are always tragedies in its aftermath and so too are the opportunities. The opportunities that emerged were not due to the spoils of the Warri crisis but its coincidence with the return to democracy gave birth to the current state of Warri Kingdom. A combination of the proliferation of thuggery and its celebration, brought fear into the hearts of many such that anyone that can control the firepower of the celebrated warriors of the war is tucked into the position of leadership. This negates the fundamental precept of democracy, of leadership choice where consensus is reached through the process of sound coherent reasoning with clear direction and goals for a people. Once this foundation is flawed, the centre may never hold. I wish to emphasize that the evolution of a people especially after an event as significant as a war that lasted for almost 7-8 years is bound to be treacherous in different facets. This I have imagined has metamorphosed into a very rancorous and voracious political space, especially since the foundation of the political movement of the Itsekiri is built on “a broken Jar”. In hindsight, the true tragedy of the Ijaw and Urhobo’scarnage upon the Itsekiris is the destruction of our unity: this was the foundation of the historical relevance of Warri Federal Constituency in the Nigerian Political space. Honourable Daniel Ryeniejuis a symbol of such relevance and effectiveness and we must become truly united to remain as effective and relevant.
In the current dispensation of Warri political dynamics, Honourable Daniel Reyenieju has been and will continue to be consistent as a political leader. He has maintained impeccable discipline, integrity, adherence to his core principles and values. He stands for what is right and perhaps, this does not always appeal to all across the political divide in Warri Federal Constituency. Notwithstanding, he has managed to be consistent in his ideas and forthrightness in a cudgeling sea of controversial “Political” models. As a young and educated Itsekiri indigene, I am always looking forward to the future, hungry for the economic and political advancement of the itsekiris and people of Warri Federal Constituency and by default, I found Honourable Daniel Reyenieju an inspiring light to thread behind. Of course, he is never the perfect human being we all wish he is. None of us are! I would have wished that Hon. Reyenieju is perfect without a flaw. However, if my wish were to be granted, then he is a God. He is no God! One thing Honourable Daniel Reyenieju acknowledges is that the most important calling for mankind is the call to serve and a call that he has embraced whole-heartedly.
Honourable Daniel Reyenieju was a successful businessman before he joined politics. He is a man loaded with a vibrant vision of the people of Warri Federal Constituency, a version of our future that is both liberating; economically and socio-politically. It is a version of Warri that encourages a balance between self-empowerment and a robust support system for every cadre of Warri indigene. He is very pro-education and enlightenment. He is a scholar of political philosophy; no wonder he is known as “a man of indelible wisdom”, an astute and cerebral political titan within the Warri political class. His calm, humble and peaceful demeanor could be misleading at times but he is a fine gentleman. His style of politics is a fusion of the political philosophies of Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, Pa. J.O.S Ayomike and Chief O.N Rewane. He is a strong believer of access to opportunities by all and sundry within the Warri Federal Constituency/Delta Senatorial District. I can go on and on to describe the man “Daniel Oritsegugbemi Reyenieju (DOR)” but may never truly encapsulate everything about him including his flaws. However, the views I have shared herein may be enough to soothe the minds of our people that we are being represented at the National Assembly by the best man. How I wish all of the Warri political class can embrace and support his version of the Warri Kingdom for the future. Or perhaps, unite and brainstorm to develop a better version. This is my hope for the future of Warri Kingdom.
Within the Warri political class, Honourable Daniel Reyeniejure presents and leads a vision that is very progressive, mixed with economic liberation and forward thinking. He believes that for the Itsekiris and the people of Warri Federal constituency to emerge and blossom out of the current political and economic quagmire, they must learn how to skillfully adapt to the aggressive political space. This may require some short-term but painful sacrifices as long as the summative effect bring advancement to his people. For someone that helped to provide leadership during the dark ages of the Warri crisis, Honourable Daniel Reyenieju is an advocate for peaceful co-existence with our neighbors, rather than engaging in stoking fear and public display of mischief for selfish economic and political gains. He believes that while we are promoting peace, we as a people should focus on ourselves and unite on a strategy for our continued survival and progress in the Niger-Delta Region of Nigeria. For the Itsekiris today, this school of thought is shared by some members of her political class. This includes the likes of David Tonwe, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, Hon. Mofe Pirah, Engr. Victor Woods and more. This thought contrasts the politics of rascality, where abuse of political economy is celebrated at mustered points to create a docile generation for bread crumbs. I understand that this is a dire time for the people of Warri, but what Honourable Deniel Reyenieju offers is a sustainable support system that works towards total economic self-liberation. While it is easier to castigate the political elite, it is imperative to emphasise here that Honourable Daniel Reyenieju has always favored the total emancipation of youthful energies and vigor of my generation through a self-developed support mechanism.
Honourable Reyenieju has been very inspiring in many areas where he has supported people on personal levels. He is open and accessible and has shown his unmatched love for the education of the next generation of Itsekiris and indigenes of Warri. In line with such unmatched commitment to education of the Itsekiri people as well as the people of Warri Federal Constituency, he was able to use his influence as a member of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and by working with other Itsekiri leaders to secure 1000 slots on the Presidential Amnesty scholarship program for the Itsekiris. He achieved such feat by leveraging on his alliances and connections with some Nigeria political elites, and his intense mastery of parliamentary lobbying. Hon. Reyenieju further ensured that125out of the 1000 Itsekiri graduates, study for Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in the top 20 Universities in the United Kingdom. Most of which were studying for higher degrees in fields of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine, Arts, IT Security, Management and Finance amongst others. I can attest to this that Honourable Daniel Reyenieju never knew 97% of the beneficiaries as he was hell-bent on the principle that the best of the Itsekiris are educated to reduce the level of poverty and illiteracy. Rather than share the slots to uneducable surrogates of political cronies at the detriment of underprivileged but educable graduates as some politician do, Hon. Reyenieju thinks differently. For me, this was a watershed moment in the legacy of Honourable Daniel Reyenieju. I can say without any doubt that the students under this scholarship scheme have done really well, with some moving to do Ph.D. degrees in Canada and the United States of America; while others have been retained in working positions in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America.
Unfortunately, the legendary foresight of Honourable Daniel Reyenieju was thwarted by the toxicity of the politics of his own kinsmen of the different ideological divide. For this reason, only 125 Itsekiri graduates were trained for MSc and Ph.D. overseas instead of the initial proposition of 250. I do have a record of all beneficiaries of this said scholarship scheme. This was against the fact that over 200 admissions were already secured in many UK universities. The crime of Honourable Daniel Reyenieju was that he had stood firmly for something, even against the incessant political blackmail and bitterness shown by those proponents of political bigotry who have been deprived of imposing their uneducable cronies unto the Amnesty scholarship and thereby resorting to cheap blackmail on his character. I could still recall in one instance when he put his personal funds up just to ensure that the Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Amnesty being headed by Honourable Kingsley Kuku is able to sign off all necessary documentation for the students of Itsekiri to resume in their respective UK Universities on time, to commence their studies. These, I thought, are clearly feats of legends.
As recently as the last two years, Honourable Daniel Reyenieju was also able to use his influence as a ranking member of the committee on Appropriation at the Federal House of Representative to lobby same Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Amnesty to push for the Federal Government commitment to train educable Itsekiri youths. In this capacity, an equivalent of outstanding 125 overseas Masters/Ph.D. scholarship slots was traded for almost 200 students being trained for Master’s degree at a Private University in Nigeria (Novena University). Such feats have continuously triggered the admiration and ire of his political associates; opponents and allies alike. In the midst of these challenges from his own people, Honourable Reyenieju has continued to soar higher with legacies that will be forever indelible in the hearts of the Itsekiris whose cerebral sanity has not yet been derailed by the shackles of despot economic patronage. He has continued to improve on his legacies by recently sponsoring the bill for the establishment of a Federal Polytechnic in Koko, Warri North Local Government Council. This bill recently scaled its second reading at the Federal House of Representative. He has also supported and lobbied for the establishment of Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenhigho in Warri South West LGA to the benefit of the Itsekiris and Ijaws of Warri Federal Constituency. He has thus far sponsored over 19 bills for the good governance of the country and raised 13 motions on the floor of the House of representative on issues and challenges affecting the people of Warri Federal Constituency. These achievements, amongst others, are wonderful, and time will reveal its true value to the Itsekiri people. The legacies of Honourable Daniel Reyenieju in the areas of Education can be compared to that of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s free education of the old western region or the legacy of Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh. One thing is certain, Honourable Daniel Reyenieju cares deeply for the empowerment of the Itsekiris. These feats in the area of education alone will trigger a generational change for the Itsekirisand Warri Federal Constituency for years to come, just in the same way the free education policy of Chief Obafemi Awolowo changed the whole of the old western regions of Nigeria.
Education is just an aspect of the strategic vision of Honourable Daniel Reyenieju for the Itsekiri nation. He has excelled in other areas as well and as usual, has received little or no appreciation whatsoever. He has raised a motion for the recognition of Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh in the same league as Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr.NnamdiAzikiwe and AlahajiAbubakar Tafawa Balewa. Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh was assassinated in the same military coup that killed Chief Samuel LadokeAkintola, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and AlahajiAbubakar Tafawa Balewa. Honourable Daniel Reyenieju has fought for and brought about the initiation of the Koko- Ogheye Road project in Warri North LGA that was eventually awarded by NDDC. The strategic importance of the road to the Ijaws and Itsekiri as well as Ilajes cannot be overemphasized. Work is slow due to poor funding from NDDC but yet about 11km has been done. He was with the Deputy Governor of Delta State, Barrister Kingsley Otuaru, Chief Ayiri Emami and former Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, where they made presentations to the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osibanjo along with other leaders to seek approval for the $40M rural electrification project for some of our riverine communities. He has fought for the inclusion of shoreline protection projects for our washed away coastal communities; special reference to the inclusion of the Ugborodo shoreline protection project in Warri South West LGA, to the tune of N9 billion in the 2016/2017 Budget. He also facilitated the canalization of Ugbege Creek, in Bateren, Warri South West LGA. All these he has managed to achieve by working with other Itsekiri leaders, leaders in the Warri Federal Constituency and leveraging on the instrument of his office as the member representing Warri Federal Constituency in the Federal House of Representative. But for the ineptitude and divergent politics and lack of rallying support from other leaders in Warri, some of these projects have either not been fully implemented or have been very sluggish in actualisation after mobilisation.
Honourable Daniel Reyenieju had worked very hard with the immediate past Governor of Delta State and the late Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse II towards the actualisation of the $16 billion Delta Gas city project. The Delta Gas city project is sited in Warri Federal Constituency. It comprises an export processing zone (EPZ) and a deep sea port. He had planned the seamless assimilation of the 120 overseas trained science and engineering Master’s and Ph.D. graduates into employable positions within this mega project. But for the politics of ethnocentrism, the EPZ and deep sea port projects were derailed by the Federal Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari. The Delta Gas City project will be very strategic for all indigenes of Warri Federal Constituency: the Itsekiris, Urhobos, Ilajesand Ijaws. It will also have a significant ripple effect on the economic prosperity of the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. As recently as a few weeks ago, the Federal Executive Council chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari approved for onward execution, the dredging of the Warri rivers at a cost of N13 billion. This project was fought to be included in the 2017 budget by Honourable Daniel Reyenieju. The dredging of the Warri Rivers is a massive game changer in reviving the economic potential of the once vibrant oil city of Warri and its environs. This project will allow the influx of vessels into the Warri waters as well as revive the port cities of Warri and Koko. This is huge! This is strategic! This will also align with the key aspect of the EPZ project to such an extent that validates the Deep seaport for the EPZ project. This is strategically key for unlocking the economic potential of the whole of the Niger-Delta regions. Honourable Daniel Reyenieju also facilitated the biggest cassava farm in the country to Delta State (specifically to Abraka) when the needed land for the project was not available in his Warri Federal Constituency. He has also pushed for and lobbied vehemently for adequate funding for the Federal University of Petroleum Resources sited in Effurun in Uvwie LGA of Delta State. This is a neighboring town to his Warri Federal Constituency. It thus shows Hon. Daniel Reyenieju as a strategic thinker, always fighting first for the interest of his Warri Federal Constituents, but also leveraging on strategic efforts that will benefit the people of Delta State.
It is a dream that a time will come when, once some of these projects that are yet to be completed are fully executed and implemented, we will be making reference to Hon. Daniel Reyenieju in the same cadre as Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh. There are other smaller projects such as the Omadinor-Ugborodo road project that is on-going. The sand filling work progressing slowly due to poor funding from NDDC. Others include School projects, the furnishing of classroom, laboratory and ICT lab. Health centers, water projects to countless communities, capacity development through training for youths and women in the area of Agriculture and SMEs. These projects that Honourable Daniel Reyenieju has managed to attract to his constituency are to the envy of his lawmaker colleagues. It is thus clear that this is the man the people of Warri Federal Constituency should put forward once again as their representative. The people of Itsekiri should support him as one of their finest; a man who thinks and feels the Warri Federal Constituency; a man who has been delivering an enviable level.
Honourable Daniel Reyenieju has consistently led and/or taken a lead role in attracting to and delivering on most of the best developmental programmes in Warri Federal Constituency. It is therefore only fair and imperative that Honourable Daniel Reyenieju and other contestants for the House of Representative seats for Warri Federal constituency for the 2019 election be judged on the premise of their scorecards and track record of impactful leadership, antecedents, integrity, experience, exposure and foresight showcased over the years. Itsekiri and hence people of Warri Federal constituency have never been this engaged in the political space in recent times. We are all watching closely and wondering with appalment to imagine that such a man that is forcefully trying to show us the direction to light and socio-economic liberation is being vilified just for selfish political tendencies. “Epuru” politics; politics of financial handouts will consume our future before our eyes. It has become so condescending that the people would rather celebrate someone that steals their future and provide them with handouts to someone that is willing to lead in the collective interest of the people of Warri Federal Constituency to the promise land.
The Itsekiris and people of Warri Federal Constituency are at a crossroad in its economic and socio-political evolution. She needs a leader who knows the way and has the light. Hon. Daniel Reyenieju holds a lamp of hope and light for Warri Federal Constituency. For me, Hon. Daniel Oritsegbugbemi Reyenieju (DOR) still remains the best way forward! The 2019 election is going to represent the most important for the people of Warri Federal Constituency since 1999. It provides an opportunity for us as a people to decide the direction of our future. Are we going for intelligent, purposeful and forward-thinking representation? Or, do we want to settle for mediocrity, political rascality, criminality and corruption at the altar of such an important political portfolio? I urge us to think about this. Let me conclude with the words of Chief Edward O. Ekpoko, the current Chairman of Itsekiri Leaders of Thought:
…“Itsekiri and hence people of Warri Federal Constituency must be careful who they celebrate; for it is the people that a society celebrate or idolizes that defines the culture and moral code of that society” …. Edward O. Ekpoko (2016).
For us and the people of like minds, the 2019 House of Representative election for Warri Federal Constituency is too important for us not to celebrate and send our best candidate to the green chamber. That candidate is Honourable Daniel Oritsegbugbemi Reyenieju (DOR). He is still the best way forward!
This publication was supported by a coalition of Patriotic Indigenes of Warri Federal Constituency: Dr. Ada EdemaKpenosen, Dr. Bukuaghangin Ogbemi, Dr.TosanbamiOgholaja, Mr. OritsemisanAdesina-Toritse, Engr. OkoroduduToritseju and Engr. OkoroduduTsola