By Elias Owobu
We have waited patiently for Distinguished Senator Clifford Ordia to rebut the story circulated by his media team led by one Udo Usifo where it tried unsuccessfully to rubbish the name and services of our Director General, Amb Tony Okonigene. The silence of the distinguished Senator is therefore to be taken as an endorsement of the write up.
This cannot be described as anything other than man’s inhumanity to man. We do not blame the likes of Udo Usifo because they were not there when Amb Tony Okonigene started building up the political structure of Senator Clifford Ordia. The uncultured manner and names calling the media team resorted to describe the person of Amb Tony Okonigene is unfortunate.
We The Esan Ambassadors, are living witnesses to the unforgettable roles Amb Tony Okonigene played in the rise of Senator Clifford Ordia which the Senator cannot in all honesty stand before the public to deny. For the sake of putting the records straight and without resorting to the gutter level the media team descended to, we wish go down memory lane a little to state some obvious facts.
Amb Tony Okonigene was recruited into politics by the late Admiral Augustus Aikhomu in 2001 after the late Admiral read a publication in the Punch and Thisday newspapers, where he defended the persons of Late Admiral Augustus Aikhomu and Chief Ezekiel Ainabe against the News magazine. The intelligence and boldness displayed in the write up, endeared the young Tony Okonigene to the late Admiral who recruited him as his Political Assistant in 2001.
The political hostility displayed by the Irrua people, especially Usugbenu indigenes towards the person of late Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, for not constructing the Usugbenu road during his time as the Vice President of the country, despite several appeals to him, posed a very big challenge to the new political party, ANPP formed by Admiral Augustus Aikhomu and some of his political associates.
After taking a deep study of the situation on ground, Tony Okonigene came to the conclusion that to break into the people of Irrua and Esan as a whole, the ANPP under Admiral Augustus Aikhomu needed to have a project the Esan people can hold onto. He got to know of one young man from Usugbenu, Engr Clifford Ordia, who was recommended for the position of a Commissioner by Admiral Aikhomu to Governor Lucky Igbinedion but was played out because of his political naivety.
Tony Okonigene traveled to Port Harcourt to meet Engr Clifford Ordia to convince him to run for governor of Edo state, so that the Esan people will fall behind Admiral Aikhomu and his party. After listening to him, Engr Ordia agreed with him and appointed Tony Okonigene as his campaign director. Thus the birth of the Esan Agenda.
Coming back home, Tony Okonigene recruited some young and vibrant youths like Hon. Mrs Julie Okosun, Okpe Osime, Godfrey Ogbole, Michael Imobhio, late Aluya, late Pius Ayegbeni, African Pastor, Kennett and a host of others to form the Clifford Ordia Campaign Organization (COCO 2003) with the motto “Operation Rescue Edo state”
The COCO 2003 team went round 29 enegies of Esan land to introduce the name of Engr Clifford Ordia to them as the Esan indigene Admiral Aikhomu wanted to make the governor of Edo state through the ANPP. This message spread round like wild fire in a dry forest in the whole of Edo Central. The ANPP became the political party of Esan people.
In order to achieve the goal of getting the party’s ticket, under the direction of Tony Okonigene, COCO 2003 restricted its drive to the 5 local governments in Edo Central, Owan West, Owan East and Estako West.
The intensity of the campaigns headed by Tony Okonigene, made Engr Clifford Ordia a household name and the main contender. Other aspirants included Mathew Urokhide, Sen Roland Owie, Lucky Imasuen (from Edo South) and Dan Orbih (from Edo North).
Engr Clifford Ordia was eventually prevailed upon by Admiral Aikhomu to step down for the eventual winner Senator Rowland Owie from Edo South, since the PDP re- elected Governor Lucky Igbinedion from Edo South as its candidate, with just 5 days to the governorship primary and two days to the National Assembly primary.
Tony Okonigene met with the late Admiral Augustus Aikhomu and insisted that Engr Clifford Ordia be given the Senate ticket unopposed. This was agreed upon and a meeting of all Edo Central leaders was arranged in Admiral Aikhomu’s house in Benin through Tony Okonigene. The leaders endorsed Engr Clifford Ordia as the Senatorial candidate of the party.
A huddle arose. Late Senator John Oriafo and John Iyobhebhe, who were already in the race, insisted on going ahead with the primary which was just two days away. Admiral Aikhomu being a democrat, allowed the primary to hold.
Within 24 hours, Tony Okonigene and his team , went round party leaders to solicit support for Engr Clifford Ordia. This was when notable people like Felix Akhabue (Joefel), Monday Ojoweh, Barr Peter Eriata, late Vincent Airebamen(vilimoor), Thomas Okosun, late Clement Ehebha, late Agbi and a host of others, joined the COCO 2003 team to deliver Engr Clifford Ordia in the primary. Engr Ordia won the primary with 14 votes.
This was the beginning of the journey to the Senate by Engr Clifford Ordia. It was Tony Okonigene who led the campaigns for Engr Clifford Ordia in the 2003 general elections against Senator Osunbor.
When the media team of Senator Clifford Ordia talk about Tony Okonigene receiving money to jump ship, one cannot but laugh at their ignorance of the person and will of Tony Okonigene. People like Udo Usifo only joined the Senator Ordia train after he was elected Senator in 2015. He was never part of the story.
During the peak of the build up the 2003 national assembly general elections, Tony Okonigene was approached by top PDP leaders then including Chief Francis Inegbeniki, Senator Osunbor and Speaker David Iyoha, with #3million to dropped Engr Clifford Ordia. He refused. With all boldness, we can say that people like Udo Usifo who parade themselves as Senator Clifford Ordia media team, will sell him off for #200,000. This was the reason why Chief Inegbeniki and Hon Patrick Ikhariale did not hesitate to appoint Tony Okonigene as the Campaign Director of Hon Patrick Ikhariale just two weeks after the PDP and ANPP merged in 2005.
Tony Okonigene is a man that has always been led byhis conscience and is guided by his believe in the Esan Agenda.
In 2015, Tony Okonigene formed The Esan Ambassadors to fight against the third term ambitions of the sitting national assembly members including his boss then. The Esan Ambassadors declared third term in Edo Central as Ebola.This paved way for Senator Clifford Ordia and Co to come on board. The potency of The Esan Ambassadors campaigns against the third tenure led by Tony Okonigene in this struggle, can best be attested to by leaders of the PDP like Arc Mike Onolememen, Hon Felix Akhabue, High Chief Peter Ojemeri (Don P) and Senator Clifford Ordia himself.
We make bold to say that no member of the Senator Clifford Ordia media team can stand beside Tony Okonigene in the various roles he has played in bringing up Senator Clifford Ordia political structure. He remains a decimal. Senator Clifford Ordia cannot tell his political story without dedicating a chapter to Tony Okonigene.
This response is just to set the records straight by going down memory lane. Senator Clifford Ordia may have grown politically but he should not give room for political Lilliputians to desecrate his association with people like Amb Tony Okonigene. They have indeed come a long way together. The contributions and relevance of Amb Tony Okonigene to building and maintaining the political structure of Senator Clifford Ordia will require a book to tell the whole story which we hope that either of them will publish someday.
The attempt to rubbish his name because he has decided to change camp is politics in bad faith. If Tony Okonigene has suddenly become an irrelevant figure, we advice that he should be left alone with his decision. Time shall tell with God spearing our lives.
We members of The Esan Ambassadors, will continue to hold distinguished Senator Clifford Ordia in the highest esteem.
Owobu writes from Benin, Edo state. He is the Secretary General for the Esan Ambassadors