By Omon-Julius Onabu
The Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, and a former Governor of the state, Chief James Ibori, yesterday expressed shock over the death of the first elected Deputy Governor of the state, Mr. Simeon Ozioma Ebonka.
The state was thrown into mourning mood yesterday following the death of Ebonka, who spent much of his active years out of office on Christian evangelical activities.
Ebonka was elected as deputy governor to the late Governor Felix Ibru from 1992 to 1993 during the military government of Gen Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) under a quasi-military-democratic system called ‘Diarchy’.
At the age 77, Ebonka who hails from Owa-Alizomor in Ika North-East Local Government Area of the state, passed away in the early hours of yesterday due to a brief illness.
Okowa in a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Olisa Ifeajika, yesterday in Asaba, condoled with the people of Ika nation and Owa-Alizomor community in particular over the death of the politician and renown evangelist.
He described the departed as a man of peace and an outstanding administrator who excelled as a deputy governor of the state during the short time the administration lasted.
The governor said the deceased was an elder statesman whose fatherly role and wise counseling would be missed by his political family and the Ika nation.
Okowa added that he served the state with dedication in the Felix Ibru administration.
The governor said: “The news of his death came to me as a shock, as he was a perfect gentleman-politician, who distinguished himself in the service of his people and the state.
“He was a very peaceful man who loved his people and served them to the best of his ability.
“In the formative years of our great state, he played active roles in putting the government in place, and will be long remembered for the great things he did for the state.”
Meanwhile, Ibori also described the passing of the late evangelist as a great loss to the state and the country.
He said Ebonka, who served when Ibru was the governor on the platform of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), was among those who laid the foundation for the swift infrastructural development of the state.
“Evangelist Ebonka and Olorogun Ibru laid the foundation for the swift development that Delta State has witnessed; though they came into office in a new state with a new capital, one of the real problems they had to grapple with was the sharing of assets belonging to Delta and Edo States,” he said.
Ibori gave thanks to God that Ebonka’s labours were not in vein.
The former deputy governor lost his wife, Mrs. Ngozi Ebonka, in 2014.
Ibori condoled Okowa and the good people of Delta State on the death of the statesman, and prayed that God will give Ebonka’s children the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.