by Toni Kan
Summoned home in the last week of October by a dear uncle, I took a chartered taxi from Sapele and headed straight to Asaba. As soon as we left Abudu, I was inundated by the rash of billboards announcing aspirants especially for the position of Delta State governor.
If memory serves me right I counted at least 8 aspirants with two women standing out conspicuously. Many of those were names I was not familiar with which isn’t surprising because I haven’t lived fully in Delta State since I finished secondary school at St. Patrick’s College Asaba in 1987.
But I instantly recognized three names; Ifeanyi Okowa who is a medical doctor, former commissioner, Secretary to State Government (SSG) and incumbent Senator; Ndudi Elumelu, a long serving member of the House of Representatives and Tony Obuh, a retired Permanent Secretary.
These three aspirants have intimidating CVs that are as long as River Ethiope and pedigrees that would strike fear in the hearts of any other candidate intending to throw his or her hat in the ring.
But while Okowa and Elumelu have always been high profile politicians, Obuh seemed the most reticent and least high profile which piqued my interest. What was a former Permanent Secretary doing in the midst of career politicians, men who have held sway over the political landscape of Delta State since the dawn of Democracy in 1999?
Okowa, who is chair of the Health Committee at the Senate, was commissioner twice under Governor James Ibori, SSG under incumbent Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, (with whom he contested for the gubernatorial ticket of the PDP in 2007) and now a Senator. Even as a Senator he has never hidden his intention to succeed his former boss and fellow medical doctor, Uduaghan.
Ndudi Elumelu gained national prominence via a well-publicized scandal while Chairman of the House of Representative Committee on Power. The case went to court and he was absolved. Today, he heads the Health Committee of the house. He is also brother to the banker and philanthropist, Tony Elumelu.
Now, who is Tony Obuh, this man who dares to compete against these political gladiators?
Tony Obuh retired as a civil servant after 32 years of meritorious service in the Delta state civil service. Before being appointed Permanent Secretary by Emmanuel Uduaghan, Obuh had functioned as Director of Personnel in the Governor’s Office, which saw him overseeing the co-coordination and management of the careers of the Senior Management Group of the entire Public Service. His brief also included processing the appointment of the junior staff of the Governor’s Office.
Aside from working as a Director of Personnel in the Governor’s office, where he gained invaluable experience in the inner workings of the machinery of government, Tony Obuh also served as Director, Loans and Investments, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning; Director, Planning, Research and Statistics, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning; Director, Public Service Matters, Office of the Head of Service; General Manager Delta Transport Service Limited as well as Member; Think-Tank for Policy on Climate Change and Green Economy.
A close look at Obuh’s resume paints the picture of a consummate technocrat and well-versed civil service operative who has worked and been exposed to all areas of governance from personnel issues to economic planning, transportation to climate change, public service matters to research and statistics.
The breadth of his exposure, the span of his contacts and his educational qualifications; Bachelor of Arts (Combined Honours) History/Political Science and a Masters degree in Industrial and Labour Relations (1986/1987) position Obuh as a man who if entrusted with the reins of governance would lead Delta state to a new vista of progress and development.
Tony Obuh as governor would hit the ground running. Not for him a period of acclimatization or orientation. This is a man who knows what government is all about, a man who would be working with accomplished civil servants, men and women whose offices and career trajectory he influenced in one way or the other.
His influence and connections would be integral to a well-oiled public service that would help deliver dividends to Deltans.
In considering Obuh’s pedigree and antecedents, one name kept springing to mind, that of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola. Fashola, a trained lawyer would remain in history as one of the best and most progressive governors to lead Lagos state and his successes are based as much as on his natural instinct for excellence and learning and on his longstanding interaction within the corridors of power as well as his understanding and appreciation of the nuances of governance.
Fashola, like Tony Obuh, held several important positions in the Lagos state government which exposed him to the inner workings of government.
He was at different times, Secretary of the Lands Sub-Committee of the Transitional Work Groups. 1999; Member of the panel of Enquiry into allocation of houses on the Mobolaji Johnson Housing Scheme at Lekki, 2000; Member of the State Tenders Board- 2002– 2006; Member of Lagos State Executive Council-2002-2006; Member of the State Security Council-2002-2006; Member of the State Treasury Board-2002-2006; Chairman Ad-Hoc Committee on the Review of Asset distribution among Local Government.
Fashola was later, in a move almost reminiscent of Tony Obuh’s ascension to the Director of Personnel in the Governor’s office, appointed Chief of Staff to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu during which time he also doubled as the Honourable Commissioner to the Governor’s office, making him the first person to hold both offices at the same time.
A final point of convergence; many in Delta are pointing to Tony Obuh as Emmanuel Uduaghan’s anointed successor just as Fashola was clearly held up as Tinubu’s chosen successor.
Well, Tinubu and Uduaghan are both revered as chief executives who notched up remarkable achievements as two term governors who articulated long term development plans for their states.
Uduaghan’s “Delta Beyond Oil” programme has been hailed for its long term vision which anticipates a Delta state after the oil has run out and clearly needs a man well versed in governance with a handle on economic planning, statistics and financial intelligence to continue where Uduaghan has stopped just as Fashola did with Tinubu’s vision for Lagos.
So, the question is will Tony Obuh become the Fashola of Delta state?
Time will tell.