Comrade Daniel Ovwigho Idonor, an all-round accomplished Journalist and Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Social Works And Geriatric Studies, has over 25 years working experience, 10 years of which was spent in covering the activities of the Presidency in Aso Rock, the Nigerian seat of power. Mr. Idonor was until last year, the Chairman of the State House Press Corps, Presidential Villa, a position he successfully occupied for 5 years.
Mr. Idonor was also a Student Union activist. He rose to the position of President of the Student Union Government (SUG) of the University of Jos. He was also the Secretary of the Correspondents Chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Bauchi State Chapter.
Mr. Idonor was one time Assistant Secretary of the National Association of Niger Delta Professionals. The Urhobo born seasoned Journalist and Politician, in this interview with newsmen in his country home in Ughelli, says he has all it takes to build a bridge of trust among all interest groups in the State to promote the much needed unity to move Delta State to the next level especially as 2015 draws close.
Who is Comrade Daniel Idonor, may I meet you sir?
Thank you for this opportunity.
I am Comrade Daniel Ovwigho Idonor. I hail from Orere Town in Ewhu Kingdom, Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State. I was born in Orere where I attended Primary School before proceeding to Ughelli for my post primary education at Otovwodo Grammar School. In 1988 upon my completion, I began my sojourn in the North, precisely from Bauchi State, during which time I started my journalism and broadcasting career at the Bauchi Radio Corporation (BRC) and the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).
At the same time, I decided to further my education at the University of Jos, where I studied Mass Communication and Public Administration and was elected President of the Students Union Government. I have a Post Graduate Diploma in Management Science and a Master Degree, M.Sc. Social Welfare from the Ladoke Akintola University of Science and Technology (Lautech).
Talking about my career, in 1989 I worked at the FM radio arm of the BRC as music and current affairs programmes presenter and producer, during which time, I attended the in-house training programme for working journalists organised by the BRC. After about seven years I left for NTA Bauchi where I worked for another three years, but this time as a reporter, presenter and producer. While I was in Bauchi, I initiated and introduced the “Talking Sports” Programme on FM radio, which has remained a prime time programme in that station till date. I also directed, produced and presented “Sports Periscope” on NTA Bauchi. I emerged as the best radio presenter in the North East, as adjudged by the Nigerian Standard Newspaper, Jos. I also won the Best Sports Writer of the year award of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Bauchi Council.
I was also the National Assistant secretary of the Association of Niger-Delta Professionals. In this capacity I single handedly facilitated Senator Fred Brume of blessed memory, Senator Ibrahim Matori, Professor Soglo and Mr Raymond Okiti to be guest speakers at a National Dialogue on the Impacts of Pipeline Vandalisation on the Nigerian economy that was long before the emergence of militancy and Boko Haram in the polity. Before leaving Bauchi for Abuja, I was the Secretary of the NUJ Secretariat Management Committee; I was also elected Secretary of the Bauchi State Correspondents Chapel. At a time I was an official of the Association of Edo/Delta Indigenes, and Urhobo Progress Union, UPU in Bauchi. During our tenure, we ensured that all Deltans living in Bauchi then related to each as if they were biological brothers and sisters, a legacy that has remained among Deltans living State till date.
In Abuja, I was the pioneer Chairman of Property/Works Correspondents, before I became the elected chairman of the State House Press Corps (SHPC), one of the greatest beats in the career in Nigeria, as far journalism is concerned. After three years, I contested again and won a second term until last year when I voluntarily resigned.
I am a Deacon in Living Faith Church, Winners Chapel, and a Fellow of the Institute of Social Works and Geriatrics Studies. In the course of my career, as mentioned earlier, I worked with BRC, NTA, The Comet, now Nation Newspapers, as well as the Champion and Vanguard Newspapers. I also attended World Bank course on Investigative and Business Reporting, Washington D.C. I am also a member of the Investigative Reporter Editor (IRE) USA. By the special grace of God, I have travelled round the world. Above all, I am happily married with two boys and two girls.
Which elective office are you seeking in Delta State?
Well, as a member of the ruling People’s Democratic Party and someone who is always in touch with the people, I will be willing to offer myself to the service of my people at whatever capacity in which they want me to serve them.
What are the glaring challenges in the state that needs to be urgently addressed?
All over the world, challenges of development are glaring and visible. These are even more in third world countries including Nigeria. Indices of under development become even more pronounced in a State like Delta which is geographically located in the most difficult terrain and underdeveloped region of Nigeria, as a result of age-long neglect by successive governments particularly at the Federal level. In fact, the mere mention of the State signifies under development.
Of course there exists great challenges in the areas of social amenities and infrastructures, security, power, flood, erosion, environments, urban renewal and new towns development, unemployment and under-employment, over reliance on Federal revenue allocation as the mainstay to the neglect of agriculture and agro-allied industries, to mention but a few. In this regards, the Delta Beyond Oil initiative of the Uduaghan administration is a commendable policy but more efforts should be channelled towards partnering with the private sector to revive ailing industries and or setting up new agro based and import substitution industries as the case may be.
I know that the vast human and natural resources that abound in the State still remain untapped. For instance, a good chunk of our food needs especially plantain, cassava, fish etc can be sourced from the vast land, long coast line, many rivers and the huge population that exist in the rural areas of the State, My town, Orere, for example has the capacity to produce up to 5% percent of the total food needs of the State but due to lack of storage facilities and access to market many of the agricultural produce including cassava, groundnut, yams, plantain /banana, palm oil and kernels, seafood, fruits and vegetable are wasted away on daily basis.
There are also challenges that border on increasing the access of the teeming population especially in the rural areas to education and health care.
Assuming you become the Governor of Delta State, how do you intend to go about fixing the challenges?
Well, to be fair to the State Governor, His Excellency Dr Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, he has good developmental agenda in place, that is capable of taking the State on the path of economic recovery and industrialisation. For instance with what his administration is doing, Delta would emerge as the only state in Nigeria with two international airports at Asaba and Osubi near Warri. The Warri industrial park, the Delta Beyond Oil initiatives to mention but a few are all good developmental programmes by the current administration.
Supposing I become the Governor of Delta State after His Éxcellency, Dr. Uduaghan, I will build on the current efforts of the government, there is the urgent need to open up the entire state in terms of infrastructural development; make every community accessible by motorable road and water. This will curb rural-urban drift that has over the years over-stretch existing infrastructures in the urban areas.
You are a green horn as far as politics is concerned are you ready for the murky waters and for the skeleton in your cupboard to be exposed?
I don’t agree with you that I’m a green horn in politics. To the extent of seeking for an elective position outside my professional bodies and student union elections, yes, I am a new comer. But don’t forget that I’ve contested many elections and won especially at the level of students union and professional bodies politics and as a journalist who has reported from the peak of the seat of power, Aso Rock, to that extent, I’m not new to politics and politicians.
By the grace of God, I’m opportuned to have close relations with many leaders and I am also close to many people at the grass root. I have no doubt that this will help me to wade through what you call murky waters. Laugh…. And as for skeletons in my cupboard, I don’t know what you mean but I don’t have anything to hide. My records are there for all to see.
You still need endorsement no matter how laudable your programmes are, what platform will you be contesting on and who are those behind your race?
As a journalist and a professional communicator, I do know that for a man to be truly successful in life, he has to learn to relate to and be accepted by both the high and the low, that is being a man of the people, being at home with everybody irrespective of their status. Politics as a life endeavour cannot be an exception and If this is what you call endorsement, then so be it.
The issue of marginalisation in terms of appointments and execution of projects has been the cause of crisis in some states including yours, how will your election address that?
There’s hardly any zone and section of society that does not cry of marginalization. Nowadays, even within ethnic groups and families, people cry of marginalization. Laugh…. But on a serious note, if I am opportuned to be in position of political authority, I will be guided by principles of equity and fairness. It is do-able and it is achievable.
Nigerian politics is still money based, who are your godfathers and financial backers and how do you intend to avoid settling political commitments after you get into office?
Like I said earlier, the people are my backers, once they want me to serve them; I know the means of achieving it will come from them by God’s grace. I believe that it is possible to apply the Obama model in Nigeria where the high and the low contribute to the overall success of the candidate as long as you get the acts right.
What would you say could possibly become your greatest asset and strength in Delta Politics?
My interest and strength in Delta politics is based on the fact that I represent the bridge between the weak and strong, the rich and the poor, the low and mighty, the rural and urban dwellers, the organized private sector (OPS) and public sector, the governments at both the state and federal levels, and the masses. I also represent the bridge between the Urhobos and the Itsekiris, Aniomas, Ijaws and Isokos. And above all, I represent the bridge between Deltans and non Deltans.
Last year, an NGO in which you represent brought succour to your communities in Delta and Bayelsa States affected by the flood, is this what spurred you to go into politics?
Last year I headed a 15-man rescue team to both Delta and Bayelsa States at the peak of the floods of last year. I actually served as the National Coordinator of the Dickens O.P. Sanomi Foundation, and is named after my late uncle, Chief (AIG) Dickens O,P. Sanomi with head office in Abuja.
When the flood started, the foundation felt that it was important we carry out a rescue operation. We moved into the affected areas, visited about 24 communities in Bayelsa and Delta states that were ravaged and devastated by the floods. We spent about N100 Million to assist our people; and at the end we were able to rescue about 18,000 victims and relocated them to camps that the foundation set up in Ewhu, Orere, Etefe, Asah, in Ewhu Kingdom; and other communities in Okparabe and Arhavwarien kingdoms respectively. We also provided succour to inmates in Ughelli central camp. Our people and I will remain grateful to Mr Igho Sanomi CEO of Taleveras Group and Dickens O.P. Sanomi Foundation for the timely intervention.
But my intention to come into politics is a different kettle of fish. I have always been a member of the PDP, and I have always been encouraged to seek position of leadership, right from my school days to the politics of my professional body, by people around me who believe that I can serve them well. I’m sure they do see good leadership qualities in me and by God’s grace, I have not also disappointed those I serve. This one will not be an exception.
Have those affected by the floods been rehabilitated?
Yes, to a large extent because as we talk, the foundation is concluding plans towards bigger humanitarian and charity activities of following up on the victims of last year, and also getting prepared in case of any.