Editor's note: Nuel Nnaya, a public affairs commentator, writes on the leadership skills of late Keniebi Okoko, urging leaders in the Niger Delta to emulate the politician, especially for his massive impact in the region in a short time.
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The region known as Niger delta in Nigeria comprises nine states with about 31 million people of more than 40 ethnic groups, the region has the highest deposit of mineral resources, but has been entangled in conflicts, political violence and undulating leadership over the years.
The enthronement of democracy in 1999 has not yielded much of the anticipated dividends in the region, as socio-economic developmental benefits have come in crumbs and trickle to the governed, compared to the outlandish self-aggrandisement of some entrusted with the privilege of political stewardship. It’s such a sad narrative, which could still be reversed, given that the people remain hopeful of finding truly capable leaders via the polls, exemplifying an unflinching faith in democracy.
Indeed it would have been refreshing to witness the emergence of a rare kind of leader from the most recent electoral opportunity in the region, precisely Bayelsa state, in the person of late Pastor Keniebi Okoko, who took time to evaluate the needs of his people; groom himself; project innovative solutions and finally decided against all odds to vie for the seat of power, to enable him bring about a transformation, that only a visionary can engineer.
Okoko, a highly successful Harvard-trained business mogul, not only lost out in the primaries to politicians with more established bases, even though he proved to be a worthy opponent. He later bowed out of the biggest stage of all – life, when he took a chance on science to undergo a medical surgery in a Lagos hospital, which went sideways. Keniebi dazzled his supporters and opponents by his noble display of gallantry in defeat when he collapsed his campaign team into that of his opponent who picked the slot ahead of him in the party primary and eventually emerged governor. A man of peace, Keniebi understood the meaning of leadership for the benefit of the people, by not toeing the usual stance of two elephants fighting as long as only the grass suffers. As a philanthropist, Keniebi donated food items to the old and less privileged people for years and gave relief materials to flood victims in the state. An astute promoter of wealth creation, he was an advocate of industrialisation and envisioned rapid industrialisation for the state, as he told PDP members of the state’s legislature while highlighting his plans for the state.
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As a successful 41-year-old youth, Keniebi maximised every opportunity to canvass for youth empowerment through purposeful leadership, seeing the best even in people considered as dregs of society. Keniebi also had a clear understanding of the challenges of the education sector and was keen on repositioning the sector as part of his human capital development plan.
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