In a country where septuagenarians are still vying for elective positions, a former governor of Delta State, Emmanuel Uduaghan, at 63 is not done either. Going by his body language, he believes he has more to offer. Segun James thinks he may be right
For the people of Ekurede, a suburb of Warri, Delta State, a chance meeting with their neighbour and former governor of the state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, on the streets of the community provide them with an opportunity to seek medical advice from him. Even after he had left office Uduaghan remains the doctor next door.
Quite unlike most political office holders, who move away or build for themselves fortresses that are inaccessible to the people they serve, Uduaghan has continued to live in the area and on the same street that he was living even before he became the governor.
He never finds this strange because some of his neighbours were once his patients while practising in the city. And so it was that the people trooped to his home penultimate week to felicitate with him as he clocked 63 years. To him, nothing could be better than this. After all, others who had held similar office like him are no longer wanted in their community because they alienated the people while in office only to return as strangers.
Passion, they say, can move mountains; and in the case of Emmanuel Uduaghan, it did.
As a student Uduaghan had an irresistible desire to pursue medicine. That was quite natural for someone who had grown up under the overarching influence of a successful nurse.
His mother was a midwife who was very diligent with her calling. Seeing her going about her duty of delivering babies and the joy and gratitude that came with it prepared Emmanuel for his choice of course he would later to study. It was also the spur he needed to venture into medicine.
Although he no longer practices medicine full time, it is still his greatest passion. Well, along with politics, that is!
Before 1999, Uduaghan was just a medical doctor engaged in private practice in Warri and like his mother before him; he was very popular on the streets of the famed oil city.
But his path to active partisan politics began in 1998 when his cousin, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, who initially wanted to contest for a seat at the House of Representatives but suddenly, changed his mind to contest for the governorship instead.
It was during this election that the political tactician in Uduaghan came into the fore. Ibori won the election and the grateful governor compensated Uduaghan with the position of Commissioner for Health.
But his coming as a commissioner coincided with the rise in militancy in the Niger Delta; and getting the boys out of the creeks for negotiating with new government was a daunting task.
But luckily, most of the boys were delivered by Dr. Uduaghan. They respected and trusted him. He soon took over the negotiations with the boys as the coordinator of security in the waterways. He was able to draw the creeks and into mainline society. And this was done long before that advent of any amnesty programme in the country!
At this point, Uduaghan was desirous of going to the National Assembly as a senator to represent Delta South Senatorial District which is made up of the Ijaw, Isoko and Itsekiri people.
But Ibori persuaded him to stay back. Because he was so successful in bringing under control, the fratricidal war between the Itsekiri and the Ijaw and the militants. A grateful Ibori elevated him to the position of Secretary to the State Government while also retaining him as the coordinator of security in the state.
Although he was disappointed, he heeded the governor’s pleadings to allow another of his colleagues, Mr. James Manager who was the commissioner for works to go to the Senate.
Providence would soon smile on him when four years later he became the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); and not surprisingly, he won the election.
Growing up, the focus of the young Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan was to be an accountant. But somehow, fate in the form of maternal occupational influence intervened and the young Emmanuel diverted into the field of medicine following secondary school education at the Federal Government College, Warri, Delta State.
Emmanuel Eweta was born on October 22, 1954 to Chief Edmund and Mrs. Cecilia Uduaghan. The father was Itsekiri from Abigborodo, in Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State while the mother was Ishan from Ubiaja in Esan South-east of Edo State. The mixed parentage was to play a large role, and indeed accounted for what would be recognised as Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan’s amenable and open-minded disposition to all people, especially in a multi-ethnic setting like Delta State.
By the time he entered medical school in the University of Benin in 1975, the young student had set his mind towards achieving the best in the profession, having been ordered by his father out of his initial first professional love, accountancy. Uduaghan qualified as a medical doctor in 1980 and carried out the mandatory National Youth Service in Kwara State.
The enthusiasm for service quickly manifested in the first year of his qualification as he was honoured as the most outstanding medical doctor in the set of medical doctors posted to the state in that service year.
Following the service year, he was employed by the Delta Steel Company, DSC, Aladja where he also distinguished himself in service to the extent that he was honoured with the General Manager’s prize for Outstanding Service.
He subsequently disengaged from the services of the medical centre of the DSC to establish a private medical facility, named Abode Clinic. It was named after his grandmother, under whom he grew up in Mosogar, Delta State.
Uduaghan had by this time started opening himself up to politics or trade unionism, having served as Secretary, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Warri, and also as Secretary, Association of Private Medical and Dental Practitioners, Warri Zone.
His first contact with partisan politics was in the run up to the National Assembly elections of 1992 when he helped in mobilising support for his cousin, James Ibori who stood as a candidate in that election. Ibori lost that election, but paid compliments to Uduaghan for providing technical expertise which the candidate confessed after the election, would have helped him win only if he had taken them.
At the restart of partisan politics in 1998, Uduaghan joined the newly formed PDP along with Ibori. His election as governor in 2007 after Ibori was almost like a logical step given the dedication and deftness he brought to his duties as government scribe.
Even though he fully served in the administration of Ibori, Uduaghan never hid his determination to answer his own name in the erection of his legacies.
Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan attended Federal Government College, Warri from 1968 to 1974 and the University of Benin from 1975 to1980 earning a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBS) degree, and a Diploma in Anaesthesia.
Emmanuel Uduaghan began work in 1983 at the Delta Steel Company, as a medical officer. From 1989 to 1994, he worked in a number of hospitals including Westend Hospital, Warri; Benoni Hospitals, Benin City and Shell Petroleum Development Company Hospital, Ogunu, where he was a Consultant Anaesthesiologist. In 1994 he set up a private medical practice.
He was also into medical association politics as he held several positions in the Nigerian Medical Association in Warri, old Bendel State and Delta State. He was also active in the Junior Chamber International (Jaycees) leadership development organization.
Emmanuel Uduaghan was a founding member and Chairman of the All Nigeria Congress Association for the Warri South Local Government Area, a founder and executive member of the Grassroots Democratic Movement (GDM), and a foundation member of the PDP.
On 6 August 1999, Governor James Onanefe Ibori appointed him as Commissioner for Health, Delta State. In this position he improved the pay of medical staff and upgraded infrastructure. On 6 June 2003, Uduaghan was appointed Secretary to the Delta State Government.
He became the governor of Delta state on May 29th 2007 having succeeded Ibori. Uduaghan ran again for governor in the 26 April 2011 elections, and was reelected. He gained 525,793 votes, while Chief Great Ogboru of the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) was the runner-up with 433,834 votes.
He is married, with two children. His wife, Roli, is the daughter of Brig. General Sunny E. Tuoyo (rtd), at one time Military Administrator of Ondo State.
Passion, they say, can move mountains; and in the case of Emmanuel Uduaghan, it did.