Diri hails Okilo, says he was a nationalist

Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State, on Tuesday, paid glowing tributes to the first civilian governor of Rivers State, the late Senator Melford Okilo, describing him as a nationalist who moulded him politically.

Speaking during the 15th memorial celebration of Chief Okilo, who he eulogised as a political sage and visionary leader, Governor Diri stated that the late politician was his role model whom he studied closely.

Diri said Okilo had a huge impact on his life and political career.

His Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, quoted him as saying that during his early days in politics, he ran for office under Okilo’s party, National Solidarity Movement, NSM.

According to the governor, he followed in the footsteps of Okilo, got involved in Ijaw activism and was exposed to the injustices he always complained about and sought to change.

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He hailed Okilo as a leader that placed the interest of the people above personal considerations, stressing that his track record was responsible for his celebration even in death.

Diri urged the political class to emulate the late Rivers governor and shun the culture of violence just to occupy political office.

Governor Douye Diri speaking at the 15th memorial celebration of Chief Melford Okilo in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State on Tuesday

He also stated that he late politician should be celebrated as a nationalist and called on his Rivers State counterpart to join Bayelsa in the Okilo remembrance celebration.

He declared that going forward, the event will not be left for the people of Ogbia alone but will be a state event.

Diri while recounting the ideals of Okilo, called on President Bola Tinubu to restructure Nigeria to address some of the injustices which he (Tinubu) also suffered.

He renewed his call for people of the Niger Delta region to be allowed to benefit from their God-given resources and pay tax to the federal government as it is done elsewhere.

His words: “I am what I am today because of Chief Melford Okilo. I am one of those who took him as a role model. I read about him and what he did even before he became governor.

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“Following the footsteps of Okilo, I got into Ijaw activism and saw first hand most of the things our father spoke against.

“He never accumulated wealth. Okilo was a nationalist that should be celebrated as such.

“I call on my colleague, Governor of Rivers State, to join me celebrate our hero. I hereby direct that the Okilo memorial be taken over by the Bayelsa State government.

“We shall not trivialise the immortalisation of our leader to a clan. He was one who exuded love for his people. He never had thugs but depended on his power of philosophy.

“Mr. Politician, why do you want to kill to get to power? Why not emulate Okilo who fought against injustice?

“May I use this opportunity to also eulogise President Tinubu, who himself suffered injustice but today is president.

“I believe he will stand tall to stop the injustices of this country and give the people of the Niger Delta what rightful belongs to them.”

In their keynote addresses, Ambassador Boladei Igali and Prof. Ambily Etekpe both eulogised the Okilo and called for sustenance of his legacies.

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