How four of us in the old cabinet office became kings
– Ovie Samson Omene Udurhie I Of Mosogar Kingdom
For 300 years, the people of Mosogar Kingdom in Ethiope West Local Government Area of Delta State fought to establish their own empire to no avail. But it was when they least expected it, in November 2006, that former Delta State governor, James Ibori, presented their case, together with that of Jesse, to the then State Executive Council, which gave approval for creation of the two kingdoms.
Prior to this, Jesse and Mosogar were just two clans under Agbara-Otor kingdom, also in Delta State.So, in August 2007, His Royal Highness, Udurie I. Samson Omene, was crowned the first king “Ovie” of Mosogar Kingdom. In March 2008, the Delta State Government presented him with a staff of office.
Palace Watch recently had an interview with the Ovie on how he became king after retiring from public service, where he worked with the late Oba of Benin, Oba Erediauwa, Prince Festus Adedapo Adesoye, the Osemawe of Ondo Kingdom and the late Etsu Nupe Umaru Sanda Ndayako, in the Cabinet Office.
How has it been during your 10 years on the throne?
I must confess it has not been easy. But I have resolved to continue to forge ahead, no matter the obstacles. For the fact that I am the very first person in Mosogar kingdom to ascend the throne after 300 years, people who hitherto wielded a lot of power could not take it that someone else has come to take over such power in the name of a king. There have been some opposition, but things are gradually getting to normal. My father was just like a king, except that he was not formally appointed a king while alive. Before now, Mosogar had in place a system that recognised the Council of Elders and Chiefs, who were tasked with the business of the day-to-day running of the kingdom.
So, before now, the Council had all the power of the king. For government to now bring a king to take over power from them, they didn’t find it funny initially. Expectedly, there was this backlash or a kind of resistance to the new realities on ground. Government had to tell some of them, ‘Look we now have a king in place in this kingdom.’
So, what are you doing to make Mosogar a better place than you met it?
As you might know, Mosogar is an agrarian economy. In fact, my kingdom is one of the food basket areas of present day Delta State. We produce plantain, cassava and yam in very large quantities. We also have varied agricultural produce. We have been working very hard to take adequate advantage of these areas of the economy; especially in the areas we have comparative advantage(s).
In this regard, we are gradually putting in place structures that will eventually encourage our farmers to go into full-scale mechanised methods of farming. Once this is done, and silos are installed all over the places for food preservation, our farmers will be more attracted to farming. And if this is successively achieved over a short period of time, in the foreseeable future, this particular area of Delta State will become the food basket of Nigeria.
Why did you decide to seek the throne after being a successful top government functionary?
Actually, I was persuaded to ascend the throne. I was still in service, when I was first approached. At that time, I was very satisfied and enjoying my job as a public servant. So, I declined the offer, as I was in the administrative cadre of Federal Service. I acted as a Permanent Sectary on a number of occasions, although I never got to occupy the position of P.S. before I eventually left the service. Working in the old Cabinet Office gave me a lot of satisfaction, because my progression on the job was relatively certain. Then, I had the benefit of working with very experienced technocrats, such as the immediate past Oba of Benin, the late Oba Erediauwa; we were in the same department.
Our department was called the ‘Council Department of the Cabinet Office.’ We had the responsibility of servicing the Federal Executive Council’s meetings, whenever the then Head of State met with members of his cabinet, where very crucial national matters were discussed and decisions reached. We attended the Federal EXCO meetings, listened to their deliberations and ensured all the minutes of these meetings were properly taken.
In this very sensitive department of government, a very funny thing happened, which I still can’t explain till date. We were four top officers in this department. Just as we were settling down to work and getting used to one another, suddenly out of the blues, one of us was called upon by his people to return home to ascend his ancestors’ throne. Although we were all happy for him, but we still could not bring ourselves to accept the fact that he was leaving us for good. It was not a very pleasant experience losing such a very strong, reliable and experienced hand to the throne. Anyhow, we had no option than to reluctantly organise a send-forth party for him. The person I am talking about was the immediate past Oba of Benin, Oba Erediauwa. We knew him then as Prince Solomon Akenzua.
As time went by, a second officer in that same department was again called by his people to come and be a traditional ruler. That was in the person of the late Etsu Nupe Umaru Sanda Ndayako. Before we knew what was happening, a third officer from this same department, known as Prince Festus Adedapo Adesoye, was also called to become the Osemawe of Ondo Kingdom. With his exit, I was virtually left alone in that department. When the Osemawe of Ondo Kingdom was about leaving me in that office, he said, ‘S. O., we had no choice o, but to leave you here! But God knows best what will happen in the future.’ Off he also went.
During the lifetime of the late Oba of Benin, whenever I had cause to visit him in his palace in Benin, we were always cracking jokes about this experience. Oftentimes, other kings were always jealous, when we start to crack jokes over how we all became kings.
So, it was while I was still in service that I was approached to become the Ovie of Mosogar Kingdom, and initially, I resisted it. But my people wouldn’t stop. I had already left the service towards the end of 2006, when I was again approached. So, I had to give the request a very serious thought. I said to myself, ‘Look, four of us were in the same office and department, before one could say ‘Jack Robinson’ three of my colleagues were called home to become kings. And here I am again being persuaded to take the throne as the Ovie of Mosogar Kingdom.’ It was at this point I decided to hearken to the call of my people by saying to myself, ‘There must be some divine intervention in this. Let me go and serve my people to the best of my ability.’
This was how I came about the decision to ascend the throne. In August 2007, I was crowned the Ovie of Mosogar, and in March 2008, I was given the staff of office by the then Governor of Delta State.Could it be some people in the Service Commission knew that you people were princes and wanted you to be in the same office?
No! That was when Public Service recruitment was rigorous, fair and just, no matter your parental background. There was no room whatsoever for nepotism or malpractices, as is presently the case. People were thoroughly screened. Recruitments were based on merit and candidates’ performance in examinations and interviews. The very few outstanding candidates among these recruited groups were then posted to the ‘Council department’ because of the sensitive nature of the place and the type of jobs we did. After so many years of our working together, with the late Oba of Benin leading the pack, somehow and somewhere along the line, some very senior people in government got to know about our backgrounds because of our carriage, discipline, diligence and forthrightness. They later became very proud of us because we were dependable, no matter the situation. As I said earlier, we learnt quite a lot on the job, because we were always drawing lots of inspiration from people who were our supervisors and more knowledgeable in so many ways.
In your view, at what point did Nigeria Public Service become so corrupt that it is almost becoming irredeemable?
When we were there, whatever one achieved was based on such a person’s quality of mind and his performance on the job. There was no way we could cut corners. It was unthinkable. Backbiting, blackmailing and offering bribe to earn promotion, which is now the norm in present-day public service were never heard of. Godfatherism was a thing nobody would think about.
To answer your question, it was the military that destroyed Nigeria’s Public Service. For instance, if an officer in government advised his military boss honestly and as practicable as possible, in accordance with civil service regulations, the military head would look at such officer straight in the face, and say, ‘I will not take your advice. You have to do what I want or else…’ For such an officer to retain his position, especially those of them that were not strong willed, would go all out to do the bidding of their superior. And this was how we gave birth to the high-level corruption and malpractices now very common and pervasive in the Nigeria Public Service. This was also how we began to drift from the norms to the terrible state we’ve found ourselves today in Nigeria. It can be corrected, if the people presently heading these departments and agencies decide to do what is right.
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