Elder Emmanuel Omatson Okotie-Eboh is the son of Nigeria’s first Minister of Finance and he’s a graduate of Television Training Centre (TTC), ENGLAND. In this interview, he speaks on nagging matters adversely affecting the Itsekiris, delayed gratification for his late dad despite patriotic feats amid sundry issues
What is the composition of the Okotie-Eboh family?
We are a family of 14, a combination of eight men and six women. We have lost three of us; a lady and two men. We are 11 who are children of the Late Festus Okotie-Eboh still alive which include Chief Joe Adolo Okotie-Eboh who is a trained pilot now a politician. Another is Dr. Dere Awosika who once occupied the position of Executive Director, National Programme on Immunisation and later became Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Interior before she retired. We also have Dr. Clara Akele who retired as Medical Director, in the then Bendel State, General Hospital Benin along Sapele Road. We have Mr. Ben Okotie-Eboh who is the Managing Director of Crown and Kpoko FM Warri. We also have Dr. Goodluck Okotie-Eboh with Ph.D in Agricultural Science, now a Pastor in America. There’s John Okotie-Eboh who studied Hotel Management and my humble self who studied as a television producer and the founder of Progressive Alliance Movement (PAM). I am also a farmer.
Your family seems to be one that places high premium on education. What explains this especially because your father died when you were so young?
The reason is because my father was a teacher who loved education before he ventured into politics. He personally established two secondary schools namely; Academy Grammar School (now Okotie-Eboh Grammar School) and Zik Commercial School (now Zik Grammar School). He also established two primary schools then namely; Academy Boys’ School and Academy Girls’ School, Sapele, Delta State. He was a lover of education and we grew up to know this and decided to follow his passion for education.
You recently advised your Itsekiri brothers and sisters not to bring the Iwere Crown to political arena. The recent outburst of Chief Ayiri Emami in a national daily received some attacks from some quarters. What is your opinion on his utterances?
It is a very sad song which does not go down well with the Itsekiri people as represented by the crown. Chief Ayiri was all through until recently, a member of the People’s Democratic Party that have been holding sway in government since 1999 till sometime in 2016 when he defected to APC. He had the opportunity to have served the likes of Chief James Onanefe Ibori and Dr. Emmanuel Ewetan Uduaghan in their personal and elective capacities, as governors. If he meant well for Itsekiri as a nation, he should have done that by meeting the duo of Chief Onanefe Ibori and Dr. Uduaghan one on one to make his demands and/or make his grievances known. But he never did that. I see it as a means of seeking political relevance which he is at liberty to do. The only thing I find disgusting is, bringing the crown into public ridicule. Because for politicians, we know them as “vultures and undertakers”, they can do any burial to gain cheap popularity.
In what ways can you say that Emami has dragged the Itsekiri crown into politics?
Emami should have known that “he that seeks equity must do equity.” Like the words of Ola Rotimi in the book “The gods are not to blame,” which states that “he that pelts another with stone asks for rock in return.” Chief Ayiri’s outburst has warranted a response which has affected not only himself, but the chieftaincy title of the Olu of Warri and the Olu who honoured Chief Emami with it.
What should be done by the Olu of Warri to some of his chiefs dragging the crown into political space?
Any erring chief of the Olu who decides to malign the crown should be sanctioned by way of suspension and/or expulsion. After all, some prominent chiefs have been suspended before. To me that is one of the best means to checkmate such reckless utterances that could drag the crown into the mud. Also, chiefs who are interested in politics should learn to draw a line between chiefdom and politics. Pa Alfred Rewane and Pa J.O.S Ayomike of blessed memory were not chiefs during their lifetimes. Also, one Walter Anukpe who was the Chairman/ Managing Director of New Nigeria Bank Benin, was one of the main actors that established Iwere College in Koko. These people contributed to Itsekiri nation by attracting developments to the land.
The Ugborodo people recently sent a ‘Save Our Soul’ message to President Muhammadu Buhari, urging him to call the Olu and some of his chiefs to order. They also asked to be counted out of Warri Kingdom. Does this development bother you at all?
On this issue I cannot comment much because I am yet to hear from the parties mentioned in the message. From a source I heard that the contact address is a fictitious one as it cannot be verified. I’m yet to know if this is true or not. Consequently, I cannot place importance on this purported message sent to President Muhammadu Buhari. I cannot comment on it until proper investigation has been carried out. This is more so because my late dad held Ugborodo dear to his heart. He had a staunch supporter in the person of one Chief J.M.A Uwawah (alias Egbelefifen) an indigene of the community. My father had to attract Gulf Oil Coy. (now Chevron Nigeria Limited) to Ugborodo.
Some Itsekiri leaders have been accused of frustrating the take-off of the Nigerian Maritime University. What’s your take on this?
With due respect, this allegation is baseless and unfounded. Itsekiri like any other ethnic group in the federation wants the university to take off. The University, when it takes off shall be opened for all to school and/ or work. The only thing I see which is causing disagreement is the name which the leaders of both Itsekiris and Ijaws can sit and discuss in line with the Supreme Court judgement. Similar matters have been settled before.
It also seems that all is not well with the Warri Kingdom at the moment…
All over the world, there is bound to be disagreements. But it is expected that these disagreements will not degenerate into crisis if properly managed. I believe we shall settle our differences soon without getting to the point of crisis.
Your father was an active politician. Why are you or your family members not in active politics?
I am not a card-carrying member of any political party. I have a pressure group that is grassroots based. We canvass votes for credible candidates irrespective of party lines because we believe in candidates and not in party. However, my brother, Chief Joe Adolo Okotie-Eboh, was a member of PDP when he contested the party primaries in 2003. He won the primary against Senator Stella Omu and Barrister (now Senator) James Manager. He was stripped of the winner in the tribunal. He left the party and became the State Chairman of Action Congress of Nigeria (A.C.N.). He led the A.C.N to the mega party merger which is today known as All Progressives Congress (A.P.C.). I can say for sure that he is an active politician.
2019 is around the corner. Does any of you have interest in any political office?
At the appropriate time, we shall make the world to know. Meanwhile, the family is consulting with one another.
Your father paid the supreme price about 52 years ago when he was gruesomely murdered in a coup d’état in 1966. Are you not disturbed that up till now he has not been honoured by the Nigerian government?
Charity begins at home. There is no street, close or road named after my father and the likes of Pa Alfred Rewane and Pa JOS Ayomike in Warri, none too in Asaba or any part of Delta State. These people fought for the betterment of Itsekiri nation. But in Yoruba land, Lagos to the precise, streets were named after my father and Pa Rewane. As the saying goes, a prophet is not honoured in his home land.
Finally, have you lost hope of the Federal Government naming any government street, road or edifice after your late father?
No, all hope is not lost. The day tribalism and nepotism dies and merit is appreciated, honour will come for him.