~By Snr. Comr. Alagoa Morris
Chief melford Obiene Okilo …I received a call this morning.
He referred to himself as a fisherman, philosophically. Even though you are not a real Christian but just claiming to be one like Alagoa Morris; you must have heard the song coined from the Bible text, “l will make you fishers of men”.
Chief Melford Obiene Okilo is many things to many people. But, to his community, Emakalakala; he is the “Enai ama”. When you visit the community, feel free to ask them the meaning of that powerful name. It is an uncommon name for an uncommon personality; a Sage.
I received a call this morning from the leadership of the youths in Emakalakala; informing me that they, the youths of the community, are preparing to mark another July 5th (2020) in commemoration of the transition into glory.
Although the youths, are aware of the negative impacts of the sailing Coro na virus pandemic; they say they will mark the day accordingly…low-keyed.
I am not an Ogbian by blood; but I am an Ogbian by what I believe strongly in; in view of my walking the path of environmental Rights and community development. Besides that, I started my early, infant years in the 60s in Ogbialand, in Abobiri; Oloibiri clan of Ogbia Kingdom. That affinity is there.
However, my strongest attachment to Chief Melford Okilo was enforced by his uncommon developmental strides associated Governor of Old Rivers State; when I was also an indigene of Rivers State (1979-1983). He completed his first tenure and was just beginning his second tenure (being re-elected) when the Buhari led military coup truncated the Democratic era.
In just four years, Chief Melford Okilo dropped his footprints in the nooks and cranny of the state. Apart from upgrading the Rivers State College of Science and Technology (then known as CST) to a full fledged University of Science and Technology which was first of it’s kind in the country; his administration within that first four years also established the very first Independent Power Project in Nigeria; the Gas turbine at Imiringi. Before then, generators were supplied to several communities across this area now called Bayelsa State; which had all the trappings of typical rural environment.
Chief Melford Okilo, knowing the issues of his people, also embarked on land reclamation, canalisation (to shorten travel distance), shoreline protection and opening up of the hinterlands by road network. His footprints are wide spread.
Chief Melford Okilo actually walked the talk; even though the forces of the unforeseen breached his legitimate strides to meet the needs of his people and communities.
I am not one of those who walks the ugly path of eulogising past leaders because they are no more; there are some l will Never ascribe credit to as governors or president till I die.
Yes, Okilo deserves more from the ijaw nation; especially from Bayelsa State, his home state. The administration of Chief Timipre Sylva renamed the Mbiama/ Yenagoa road after Chief Melford Okilo. The abandoned 500 bed hospital was named after Chief Melford Okilo too; but that seems to have been overtaken by later events.
I, as a concerned Ijaw and Bayelsan, last year made a suggestion that an “Institute of Democratic Study and Good Governance” be established in his honour and in appreciation of his positive strides and current needs. There is need to bridge the lacuna.
I call on the Bayelsa State government, Ogbia local government and Nembe local governments to support the initiative of the youths and people of Emakalakala to mark this year’s event in marking Okilo Day; 5th July. I extend the call to all well-meaning Ijaws, especially bayelsans (as individuals) and the media, to please lend support. If we love Development; one way to appreciate and encourage current and future leaders, is to give the likes of Chief Melford Obiene Okilo the much needed appreciation. Yes, this Sage from our land needs to be accorded his place in our political and developmental history.
To all those claiming to belong to Okilo political dynasty; we are yet to see any semblance from any of the current Politicicians, in or outside government. Ogbia local government would have shown that example. But, sadly there is no such torchlight . According to the bible scriptures, you people worship me with your mouth but your heart is far from me.
5th July, 2020….Okilo Day at Emakalakala.