By John Oghojafor
As he celebrates his half century plus seven sojourn on earth presently, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege’s name has indeed become a brand of sorts across Nigeria.
Therefore he does not require any form of introduction; no, not even in this treatise. Nevertheless, delving briefly into his past in order to lay a good foundation into the assessment of his present day political status may not be out of place. This is more so, as the sagacious and iconic politician is celebrating what promises to be a memorable and eventful birthday in his life.
Born on August 3, 1963 in, Orogun, Delta State, Omo-Agege had his secondary education at St. George Grammar School, Obinomba, Obiaruku, Delta State. He graduated from the University of Benin with a degree in Law in 1985 and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1986.
Omo-Agege undertook the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Kwara State and started legal practice with Pat Okupa & Co in Lagos in 1987. He however established his own law firm, Agege & Co in 1989 before proceeding to the United States of America a year later, where he worked at the Charles Agege Law Office in Los Angeles, California.
He returned to Nigeria in 1992 and established Omo-Agege & Associates where he was Senior Partner. In 1996, his firm, Omo-Agege & Associates went into a partnership that resulted in the new name, Agege & Esin.
While in the U.S. Omo-Agege took time off to understudy the American political system, the same from which the political system of Nigeria had evolved. Obviously, the Senator who is a product of a legal family background (his father being a one-time Chief Judge of Delta State), was preparing for a future political career that was later to see him emerge in the Nigerian political space like a celestial comet.
After a successful legal practice that had spanned two decades, Omo-Agege ventured into the thick coasts of Nigerian politics in the prelude to the 2003 general elections. And his interest then was for the House of Representatives seat for Udu, Ughelli North and South federal constituency on the platform of the People Democratic Party, PDP. He reeled out facts and figures of how he hoped to positively impact the lives and welfare of the people by way of democratic dividends, backing his dream up with the experience he had garnered over the years in the U.S., the acknowledged home of modern democracy.
Although he lost the primary, he nevertheless demonstrated such uncommon political savvy and sagacity which the then governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, took political notice of. He was subsequently appointed as an executive assistant to the governor, a position he held for two years. He was later appointed member of the state cabinet as Commissioner for Special Duties by Gov. James Ibori.
Towards the end of Ibori’s second term in office, Omo-Agege was further uplifted to the office of the Secretary to the State Government. But this was only briefly as the Orogun-born political tactician had his eyes on the governorship of the state and was strategically positioned, so it seemed, to take over from his boss, Ibori as governor come 2007. His eyes fixed on the political ball, Omo-Agege indicated interest to run for the office of the Governor of Delta State in 2007.
The events that followed his declared political ambition as at then clearly indicated that the outgoing governor, Chief James Ibori, had endorsed him to take over from him. Those who were close to the outgoing governor then testified that Ibori not only gave his nod to Omo-Agege to contest the governorship race, he was also said to be ready to sponsor him financially. Little wonder therefore, a strong member of the Ibori political family, Chief Ighoyota Amori who, prior to the December 10, 2006, PDP governorship primary that was scheduled for Ogwashi-Uku in Delta State, had gone on to organize a mock primary at the Trade Fair Complex, Osubi where Omo-Agege emerged as the most sellable and most probable candidate of the PDP in the December 10 primary. The purpose, undoubtedly, was not only to prepare the minds of expected delegates for the choice of Omo-Agege in the primary, but also to tacitly disclose to the delegates that the former governor was favourably disposed to the emergence of his former Secretary to the State government as his successor. However, Omo-Agege lost the eventual primary contest to Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan.
Disappointed but not discouraged, he revived his dream in 2011 for the governorship rerun election on the platform of the Republican Party of Nigeria, RPN, following the nullification of Governor Uduaghan’s electoral victory in the April 14, 2007 governorship election, by the Court of Appeal Election Petitions which sat in Benin City.
Against the backdrop of threats of some law suits that sought to disqualify him, Omo-Agege insisted he was more than qualified for the rerun election, having been genuinely nominated by the party leadership to replace the governorship candidate of the RPN that had contested the governorship in 2007 but who had however died before the scheduled rerun. Addressing his supporters in Orogun, he said “we are prepared to seize the moment, we are going to Government House with confidence and nobody can stop us.”
Although he was placed third in the rerun governorship election with a total of 7,481 votes, he was at this point set to also run for the April 26, 2011 general election, which he did this time, on the platform of the ACN. He also maintained the third position this time, but with a much improved 15,526 votes.
Like the popular Jamaican lyrist, Bob Nesta Marley, once crooned, ‘he who fights and run away lives to fight another day’. However, for Ovie Omo-Agege, he did not believe in running away from a fight; rather he retreated to re-strategize for yet another fight which he knows must surely come his way in his quest to stardom. And one of those strategies was for him to test the murky waters of the Nigerian Senate for Delta Central in the 2015 election. Joining forces with Chief Great Ogboru who was then of the DPP, they both went into the then better rated Labour Party, ostensibly to facilitate mutual assistance. This, it could be said, was in line with the popular saying that ‘if you want to go fast, then go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.’ Both of them emerged and ran as governorship flag-bearer and Delta Central Senatorial candidate respectively, on the platform of the party in the 2015 general election. On his part, Omo-Agege won the Delta Central senatorial seat.
He was thus elected as senator representing the Delta Central senatorial district on March 28, 2015. However, as the broader national political permutations continued to oscillate, Omo-Agege was to subsequently defect from the Labour Party to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Exploits in the 8th National Assembly
Though a first timer in the Red Chamber, Omo-Agege was by no means a neophyte or a green horn of any sort. In an 8th Senate that was predominantly dominated (before his defection) by the APC and PDP, Omo-Agege did not see himself as a lone ranger as he proved his mettle, not only as someone with the mandate to represent the 5th largest ethnic nationality in the country, he also demonstrated that the experience he had garnered over the years in his political journey was not a fluke. And in his clamour for even greater relevance among the 109 Senators of the Red Chamber, Omo-Agege crossed over to the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, APC. His popularity among his colleagues in the Senate continued to soar even as he successfully endeared himself to the Executive arm of government with a resounding relationship with the President, Muhammadu Buhari. Omo-Agege gave a good account of himself on the floor of the Senate with several bills and motions to his credit. Prominent among them were the Sexual Harassment Bill and the Federal University of Petroleum Resources Bill seeking for a legal framework for the institution.
At the home front, Omo-Agege was determined to attract the dividends of democracy to the people of his senatorial district, Omo-Agege, within the limit and capacity of his first tenure, initiated and completed several water and road projects in the area. He did not stop there. The Senator, who in one of his interviews, stated that his desire to excel in politics was driven by his strong passion for the development and alleviation of poverty among his constituents, embarked on a physical empowerment project for the vulnerable grassroots population.
Having identified a cross-section of the population that are most hard-hit by poverty as those who were engaged in petty trading, and whose total value of stock were not more than N5,000, Omo-Agege set out to dish out the sum of N20,000 to each trader in over twenty markets spread across the Delta Central Senatorial district. That empowerment project which took him to Ewu and Ubogo markets in Ughelli South; Ughelli and Agbarho markets in Ughelli North; Uvwie, Ogberikoko and Ekpan markets in Uvwie Local Government Area; Orhuwhorun market in Udu LGA; Kokori, Eku and Abraka in Ethiope East LGA, Sapele in Sapele LGA, Orerokpe in Okpe LGA, Mosogor in Ethiope West, among other communities, cost him well over N50 million of his personal funds, disbursed to more than 3,000 vulnerable members of his constituency free of charge. It was meant for them to boost their stocks from which they could make some profit to take care of their families.
Emergence as DSP in the 9th Senate
At the expiration of his first term in the Senate, Omo-Agege had created a lasting impression in the minds of members of his senatorial district such that they were ready and willing to have him back at the Red Chambers for an unprecedented second term. Since the advent of the present political dispensation, no one who had emerged as Senator from the Delta Central Senatorial district had been given that unique opportunity to do a second term in the Senate. However, an exception to that unwritten rule was now entertained when the people voted overwhelmingly for the return of Senator Ovie Omo-Agege to the Senate to continue with his set goal of providing effective and consolidated representation for Urhobo people in the February 2019 Senatorial election.
Indeed, Omo-Agege went on to ‘achieve the unachievable’ when he did not only return to the Senate by the grace of God and the people of Delta Central for a second unprecedented term, he also worked assiduously to help produce a House of Representative member, Hon. Francis Waive to represent his federal constituency of Ughelli North, Ughelli South and Udu just as he equally produced two House of Assembly members for Ughelli North and Ethiope East. This is the first time an opposition party member has achieved this much. And it was all underscored by his people-oriented leadership style.
A political tactician of no mean repute, and one whose reach knows no bound, Omo-Agege’s surge of influence in the Red Chambers was indeed, meteoric. Fortune was to smile on him when it became obvious that one of the principal positions in the leadership in the 9th Senate, had been zoned to the South South on the platform of the APC. He indicated interest in the office of the Deputy President of the Senate which was zoned to the South South. Against all odds, he won the election which was keenly contested on the floor of the Red Chamber, beating his opponent with 38 votes to emerge the Deputy President of the Senate.
Harvest of bills in one year
At the end of the first year in the 9th Senate, Omo-Agege’s profile has taken a monumental leap. On the floor of the red chamber, he came second as the Senator with the highest number of bills with 16 of such bills, only next to Senator Stella Oduah from Anambra North. Notable among Omo-Agege’s bills are the Federal Polytechnic, Orogun in Delta State, 2019, Dormant Account Fund Management Bill, National Industrial Bank Act Amendment Bill, 2019, Court of Appeal Act Amendment Bill, 2019, Sexual Harassment Bill 2019 and Electoral Act 2010 Amendment Bill, 2019. Others include ten Constitution Alteration Bills 2020. Many of these bills are now awaiting the President’s assent for them to become Acts of the National Assembly.
Similarly, data obtained from the National Assembly records show that Omo-Agege also ranks among top three Senators by Bills Progression. This implies that Bills captured have progressed to at least Second Reading stages. Only three Senators including Omo-Agege, with the most number of Bills sponsored made this productivity list going by data from the National Assembly records and report released by OrderPaper, a parliamentary news platform. The appraisal reportedly covers all members of the Senate.
Omo-Agege, within the past 12 months in the Senate, also got the singular opportunity to chair the Constitution Amendment Committee which is still ongoing. His people, the Urhobos find this very exhilarating as, for about the first time in the nation’s recent political history, the fifth largest ethnic nationality is not only having a strong voice in the making of the nation’s legal instrument, but actually are at the driver’s seat in the process of doing that.
At the home front, Omo-Agege has also demonstrated his dexterity as his people’s dogged representative with various completed and ongoing projects, including his reach-out to the vulnerable and aged women of Delta Central with palliatives during the early stage of the Covid-19 pandemic, and without any political discrimination. In fact, about 16,000 aged women and vulnerables benefitted from the N80 million palliatives. Foodstuff, including rice and garri were also distributed to thousands of persons in Delta Central. About 300 households further benefited from this commendable initiative.
Senator Omo-Agege’s corollary pan-Nigerian credentials has also shone within the period under reference as quite a handful of Nigerians from across the ethnic divide have been empowered by appointments from the office of the Deputy President of Senate.
What the leaders say about Omo-Agege
Vice President, Professor Osinbajo: “In most of the things people were shy or afraid to do, Omo-Agege stood up and was ready to be counted at the right time.
“I think that it is for his courage, steadfastness and reliability, that he was not only to be rewarded by his constituents whom he loves very much, but also by our great party, and by the 9th Senate through his election to the position of Deputy Senate President.”
Senate President, Ahmad Lawan: “Courageous and never one to shy away from taking responsibility, these are the kinds of leadership traits that we need in our leaders today.”
Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa: “We rejoice with you as a state; your position is a call to service not just to your nation but to Deltans.” Commenting on Senator Omo-Agege’s impactful one year into his second tenure at the Red Chamber, the Vice Chairman of APC in Delta State and chairman of the party in Delta Central, Olorogun (Barr) Adelabu Bodjor, described the Obarisi of Urhobo land as a political Colossus whose love for all stands him out in a class of his own. According to him, Omo-Agege is APC all through and APC is in Omo-Agege’s blood.
“Politicians have emerged in Delta Central before now but Obarisi (Omo-Agege) is in a class of his own. His level of patriotism to his people is novel and his unquenchable desire to make life meaningful for his people is incomparable.
“As he celebrates another milestone in the journey of life, it is our prayer that God should strengthen him in his passionate pursuit of the progress and development of Urhobo and the nation at large.”
Needless then for this writer to emphasize that, all things considered, the Deputy President of the Senate surely has every reason to celebrate his birthday in an uncommon dimension this season because of the numerous blessings he has received from God in the past one year, and also very importantly, for the fulfillment of his dream of attracting impactful development to his people and the nation in general.
- John Oghojafor, Esq, is a Senior Legislative Aide to the Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate