[Remembrance] Senator Pius Ewherido: It is well!
BY SUNNY AWHEFEADA
The amiable senator was born 4 April 1963 and departed this planet 30 June 2013.
SUNDAY June 30 did not begin as an ominous day.
However, by the time the day drew its curtains it had become ominous and tragic as it went with Senator Pius Ewherido, who until that black Sunday represented the Delta Central Senatorial District at the National Assembly.
Senator Ewherido’s death is a devastating blow which diminished all of humanity.
Ewherido to his Urhobo people was akin to an only palm fruit that must not be lost in the fire. He was an Uloho (Iroko) which provided shelter and succor to all and sundry. To Deltans, he was a voice of courage with a regenerative vision. He carried with him a redemptive charisma for a people and state in search of new and alternative political possibilities. He was an apostle of a new value system.
Where now is Ewherido who gave scholarship to over 200 students? Where now is Ewherido who gave jobs to the jobless? Where now is Ewherido who built roads and bridges where the people had given up? Where now is Ewherido who built schools and health centres in remote and almost forgotten parts of Urhoboland? Where now is Ewherido who gave economic empowerment to 200 women and numberless youth? Where now is Ewherido who almost singlehandedly sponsored the project to get Urhobo language into WAEC/NECO examination syllabus? Where now is Ewherido who brought light and water to places that had given up on electricity and pipe-borne water? Where now is Ewherido who mourned with the bereaved and danced with celebrants? Where now is Ewherido who bestrode Delta State like a colossus? Where now is Ewherido who in less than two years in the Senate sponsored four Bills and over 10 motions, a feat some 20 senators could not achieve in 12 years?
Born 50 years ago as Pius Akporokena Ewherido, he was popularly called Gogorogo. He attended primary and secondary schools in the defunct Bendel State before going to read Philosophy at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife where he finished as the best graduating student in his class. He later read Law at the University of Benin and was called to the Nigerian Bar. He burst on to the political stage in 1998 and for eight years he bestrode the Delta State legislature like a colossus.
Senator Pius Ewherido was neither a run-off the mill politician nor a political hustler. He never believed in the politics of the stomach. Ewherido’s politics was motivated by ideals and not hunger, greed and personal aggrandizement. He was until his last days a refined politician who saw politics as a means of getting power for the good of the people. He was first an Urhobo, but he had dreamt of a pan-Delta platform through which he could have launched the state onto the path of progress.
When he made a go at the governorship in 2006 he came up with a development blueprint that awed everybody who cared to study it. While the other contenders were busy mouthing promises and devising schemes, Ewherido toiled for many nights trying to evolve a blueprint that would have been the equivalent of a Marshall Plan for Delta State.
The intrigues which robbed him of the governorship ticket during the primary election have now become common knowledge. After that fiasco he retreated with uncommon dignity to Ewu and went back to his business. He took everything with philosophical calmness. He read books, worked on his farm, took time to think and reconfigured his political future. His education in Philosophy came handy for him during this period. I remember spending many hours with him during which we discussed the politics of ancient Rome. At intervals he would dash into his well stocked study and bring out one book after the other. We talked about the many troubles with Nigeria and the lack luster governance that became the lot of Delta State. He gave hints of attempts by the powers that be to woo him to the corridors of power and how he resisted each attempt. He talked about principles, he talked about a viable opposition platform and how the generality of Deltans will be disappointed were he to yield to the advances of those in power. He kept his cool and bid his time.
The opportune moment came with the October 2010 Supreme Court ruling which ordered a re-run for the Delta State governorship election. An alliance between him and the leading opposition figure, Chief Great Ogboru, came to be.
Ewherido proved to be a political game changer. He revived his intimidating political structures across the State and the result was the Ilalaja (pineapple revolution) which shook Delta State to its very roots.
Ewherido rode to the Senate on the crest of the Ilalaja wind of change. Although, a first timer in a Senate of political denizens, although he was a lone party senator, Ewherido stood tall in tandem with his appellation gogorogo! Each time he spoke his voice and opinion were golden. He brought an uncommon intellectual insight into his legislative responsibilities while he was in the Senate.
He was oratorical and spoke with the same courage the Roman senators he studied in his Philosophy course spoke. He once told me that he painstakingly researched almost everything that came to the floor of the Senate.
It was not too long before the Urhobo people saw in him a redeemer figure. In a landscape full of wily, crafty and selfish politrickcians, Ewherido stood out to be counted as different. He soon became a beacon of hope and the Urhobo people and Deltans began investing their political hope in him.
When he was first approached for the governorship race last year he did shrug it off. However, pressure upon pressure came and he yielded after he discovered that the party that he helped stabilized for a remarkable outing in two elections in 2011 had suddenly become hostile and cannot even guarantee him a return ticket to the Senate.
He was one politician who put the people above every other consideration. It was for this that he became an unparalleled mobilizer of people.
*Dr. Awhefeada, a lecturer, wrote from DELSU, Abraka, Delta State.