By Charles Kumolu
IT came as a profound story in 2009, pricking the conscience of Nigeria’s leadership class, whose failure to provide leadership impoverishes the masses.
But for the penchant of politicians for making empty promises, many would have easily felt the news offered a glimmer of hope for the then 17-year old bus conductor, Mr. Japheth Omene.
Not even the integrity of the person, who made the pledge, the then governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, was enough to clear doubts on whether the promise would be kept.
Little wonder the assumption that it was one of the rhetorics political leaders employ to score cheap points.
However, eight years after Uduaghan adopted Omene at a forum in Petroleum Training Institute, PTI, Conference Centre, Effurun, SaturdayVanguard can authoritatively describe the former governor’s pledge as a promise kept.
Today, Omene is concluding his studies at the Department of History and International Relations, Bowen University courtesy of Uduaghan’s benevolence.
At a recent encounter with Saturday Vanguard, the 25-year old indigene of Mosogar in Ethiope West Local Government Area of the state was full of praises for Uduaghan for giving him a life during his darkest moments.
He exuded intelligence and confidence as he narrated the path he had chosen.
Omene, who considered his adoption by Uduaghan a symbolic act that should be emulated by wealthy Nigerians, is currently into advocacy for peace, empowerment and good governance.
This pursuit which Omene said was principally inspired by his story, is being done through his co-leadership of a Non-Governmental Organisation, Global Youths Peace, Empowerment, and Development Initiative, OGYPEDI.
Narrating his story from August 19, 2009, when he had the life-changing encounter with Uduaghan, he explained thus: ‘’It happened on August 19, 2009, during a town hall meeting organised by Delta State government at the PTI Conference Centre. On that day I heard that the governor was coming to the venue to address Deltans on his score card so I decided to go there. On getting to the venue, due to the crowd and my, perhaps small frame, I could not get access into the venue, so I decided to stay outside.
‘’ A few minutes later the governor’s convoy drove in and decided to stop in order to address the crowd outside. It was while addressing the crowd that he spotted me and called on me to come which I did. He asked what was I doing there, adding that I was supposed to be in school. I told him about my condition, he was touched and instantly asked me to follow him inside the hall. It was while we were inside the hall that he announced to the media and everyone that he has decided to take me as his son, brother and family member, promising to leave no stone unturned in giving me a better life.
‘’This news went viral but there were some, who doubted it and even felt it was politically arranged. But that was the first day I met the governor. I thank God for everything he used him to do in my life. Since the day of my encounter with him, he has been a wonderful father in all fronts.
‘’I have been very busy with my studies in the university. Apart from my studies, I have been busy with an NGO I co- founded with some few friends. We are passionate about it because we feel it is a way of making our society better having been beneficiaries of grace.’’
Advocacy for peace, good governance
Giving further insight into the activities of the organization, he said: ‘ OGYPEDI is a non-political youth group committed to the cause of youth empowerment, advocacy for peace and good governance at all levels of government in Nigeria. In the past one year, we have made material donations to schools and orphanages. We have held a couple of rallies for peace sensitisation, put out some press releases in the media to draw attention to issues of importance especially those that bother on the youths, peace, and good governance. We have also organised series of training for youths.
‘’ My advice to youths out there is that they should see themselves as peace ambassadors. They are not just the leaders of tomorrow as it is popularly said but also leaders of today. They should also remain focused and not allow themselves to be used by anyone to perpetrate unholy and ungodly acts. It is important not to allow challenges of life to make them engage in negative activities.”
I’m just one example
Continuing, Omene said: ‘’I think those calling for Uduaghan’s probe or trying to mobilise a protest against him are either mischief makers or people that have been motivated to do so by some persons or some blackmailers. Uduaghan changed lives in Deltans during his eight- year tenure. I am just one example out of hundreds of thousands he changed their lives directly or indirectly. Rather than condemn him, I think he should be applauded for his stewardship and developmental strides while he served the state.”
Saturday Vanguard recalls that upon adopting Omene, Uduaghan sent for the parents and subsequently set up a business for his mother, Mrs. Beauty Omene.
“After my son met him, about two days later, the governor sent for me to come and see him at his Ogunu Road House. That was where he discussed my business with me and even hired a two-bed room flat for me which he furnished. Since then, he has been taking care of my family. In fact, during Christmas period, he usually sends gifts to us,” Mrs. Omene exclusively told Vanguard in an interview in 2014.