By Friday Ugedi,
As the 2023 guber polls draw nearer, Deltans are now preparing to make their choices of whom to vote for. It is of utmost importance that the electorate should look out for those with grassroot integrity, capacity and competence, not the ones who has money, loud voice and can make politically noise, but the one who has the grassroot linkage directly, reputation and a track record of contributing to society in the past, and who has the capacity to make Delta a progressive state to an enviable height.
In the light of this, join us to showcase Comrade Chief Mulade Sheriff, aka “The man of passion.” He bagged the title due to his enthusiasm in issues concerning peace building, community development, youth empowerment, quality education, as well as his clamour for sustainable green environment, free from degradation.
He was the former Chairman of oil rich Kokodiagbene Federated Community in ancient Gbaramatu Kingdom of Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State from 2014 to 2017. He founded the Gbaramatu Youth Council in 2004, and facilitated the completion of Kokodiagbene Secondary School with boarding facilities, first of its kind in the coastal region of Niger Delta particularly Delta State.
Comrade Mulade Sheriff was elected Financial Secretary, Treasurer and later General Secretary of the Chevron Nigeria Limited communities development organisation Egbema and Gbaramatu Communities Development Foundation, EGCDF. He is the National Coordinator and CEO of the Center for Peace and Environmental Justice, CEPEJ, which has its Corporate Headquarters in Ugolo-Okpe near Warri in Delta State, branches at Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Minna, Maiduguri and riverine office at Benikrukru Community, Escravos in Gbaramatu Kingdom.
EGCDF is a community development Agency set up and sponsored by Chevron Nigeria Limited to facilitate infrastructural development and the empowerment of Ijaw communities in Egbema and Gbaramatu kingdoms of Warri South West and Warri North Local Government Areas of Delta State respectively, while CEPEJ is an NGO that advocates for the sustenance of peace, as well as propagates the message of environmental protection, rights and justice in the Niger Delta Region and beyond, where environmental pollution is rampant.
Comrade Mulade Sheriff is distinguished by this write up simply because among all those aspiring to be Governor of Delta State come 2023, he is the only one with a passion and who can be trusted to deliver on his mandate especially when such passion is rooted in experience. Comrade Mulade Sheriff is a household name that is associated with passion for community development in and outside his place of origin. Indeed, when he targets a project, he puts in his best to actualize it. He is a man of passion who always renders services to his people; a man of the people and a great orator who loves giving a voice to the voiceless; a selfless man who only thinks about the happiness of others especially the down trodden, those living with disability, the women, the youths and the aged, and he does these beyond public expectations.
He is a very experienced and an unassuming leader whose leadership journey began as a union executive under the NUPENG, onboard Mallard Bay/Parker Drilling rig operations. Comrade Sheriff Mulade later became the President of Kokodiagbene Youth Development Movement, a platform on which he attended a meeting organized by the Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, in Port Harcourt. It was at that meeting that the concept of Gbaramatu Youth Council was initiated in late 2004, which he later used to promote the interests of Gbaramatu youths when he was privileged to attend a meeting at Aso Rock, Abuja, convened by the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
It is, therefore, not surprising that the Man of Passion has truly come a long way and commands respect even among his opponents who acknowledge his pedigree. No one can deny his achievements as his works are glaring for everyone to see and testify to. For those who are not privileged to know about his accomplishments, here are some of his leadership exploits at the grassroots level:
In February 2008, Comrade Mulade Sheriff was appointed the General Secretary of Kokodiagbene Federated Community and a member of EGCDF. He initiated and pursued the Kokodiagbene Model Secondary School project through the Egbema Gbaramatu Communities Development Foundation, EGCDF, and through his lobby efforts, the project was awarded in late 2008. In Nov, 2010, the project was completed and commissioned before he handed over leadership in February 2011. Unfortunately, because he vacated office, the school could not take off after its commissioning.
In May 2014, Chief Mulade Sheriff “the Man of Passion” vied for the chairmanship position of Kokodiagbene Federated Community and his campaign manifestoes included the followings: (1) to see to the take-off of Kokodiagbene Secondary School; (2) to make sure that the Kokodiagbene Sand Filling project embarked upon by the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, since 2002, commenced; and (3) to ensure that Kokokdiagbene Federated Communities were economically viable by creating an enabling environment.
In November 27, 2014, Comrade Sheriff Mulade was elected Chairman and he immediately set out to work by ensuring the take-off of Kokodiagbene Model Secondary School with boarding facilities in place. In the following academic session in September 2015, the Man of Passion applied for State Government’s approval for the school, and it was finally granted in 2016. In addition, when Governor Okowa heard about the laudable project, he awarded a contract for the construction of male and female hostels to support the educational initiative of Comrade Sheriff Mulade. He doggedly followed up and secured WAEC/NECO centre approval for the school.
While that was on, the Man of Passion, in his bid to make his community economically viable, took another bold step to reconstruct the market stalls built by the Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, but which were abandoned for about 20 years, and gave the market a facelift; the market became a prototype for other communities. In addition, in order to ease the transportation of persons and goods, Comrade Mulade Sheriff donated a ferry (local boat) for the benefit of riverine community traders, the first gesture of its kind in Delta riverine area. In 2016, he also saw to the sand filling project which was vigorously pursued and achieved same year.
All these he did in less than two years, fulfilling all his campaign promises in an environment where abandonment of projects was the order of the day. Indeed, the Man of Passion has proven to everyone that something positive can be accomplished if one sets one’s goal and objectives right, and if one remains focused. In addition, his performances have become reference points that serve as a boost for governance and leadership in other communities. Indeed, his track records in community service are worthy of emulation.
How was he able to achieve these feats in an environment erroneously regarded as cursed? These are his own words: I am doing this with passion. I am driven by passion. It is not just that I love to waste my money but I felt we must liberate our people from lack of education. I did this because my dream is to make Kokodiagbene Community politically known and educationally advanced. I must be in leadership position to enable me drive all these. I have the flair to do these things but the position is not there for me to use yet. With the chairmanship position, I was able to sacrifice all my personal gains, all that I needed to enable me enjoy my life, every single thing, and I did this for my people” and am very glad.
It is important to note that because of the level of his commitment to community development, some of his supporters pressed for a second tenure for him against the single term tradition in Kokodiagbene. While a few detractors misinterpreted this, it was however the joy of the majority who believed that he was the only credible and qualified person with the passion to deliver sustainable community development. This opinion differential was expected going by the slow speed of development experienced in the past due to poor leadership. It is generally known in most communities that people clamour for positions, not because they want to serve, but because of what they stand to benefit at the expense of the people. For the Man of Passion, the story was different as evidenced by his excellent performances.
This exposition of Comrade Mulade Sheriff will be incomplete without identifying his passion for youth empowerment and his clamour for environmental justice. As a victim of lack of education while growing up, Comrade Sheriff Mulade discovered that education was very far from the riverine people and vowed to liberate his people through western education no matter how little his contributions might be, to help the future generations better their lives. In line with his drive for education, he initiated and created the Ebiabu Primary School-2 in the Jones Creek Flow Station area in 2017 to cater for the communities in that area of Gbaramatu Kingdom.
The Man of Passion, Comrade Sheriff Mulade believes that the best way to empower the youths is to give them quality education and engage them in sporting activities to enable them discover their God-given talents so as to become independent now and in the future. He wanted them to see beyond crude oil and to see themselves as that crude resource that needs to be refined with the tool of education in order to become great. This is why he has consistently organized the Comrade Sheriff Mulade Peace and Unity Quiz & Essay Competitions, and the Peace and Unity Football Competition, every year. In his words, “we can only prepare the next generations for the future through education and not the future for the next generation”
The 2018 editions of the Peace and Unity Quiz cum Essay competitions were held in May 22, at Ogidigben, an Itsekiri Community in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State, showing that he is a detribalized Man of Passion, determined to erase ethnic and tribal barriers that negatively affect quality western education in the coastal communities. The competitions have indeed boosted the faith of pupils and students in the coastal communities, who now believe in themselves and in their communities. It has reinvigorated in them the seriousness to acquire western education, believing that the star shines brighter at night: instilling in them the confidence that in the midst of challenges they are never neglected, and that they can succeed.
Apart from helping to discover talents, the Peace and Unity Cup competition has also helped to douse tension between Ijaw and Itsekiri in the riverine areas of Delta State particularly Warri South West LGA. In the last editions which was held in November 2017 and 2019, football teams from various Ijaw, Itsekiri and Illaje riverine communities in Warri South West Local Government Area, competed for various prizes. Deputy Governor Barr Kingsley Otuaro handed over the trophy to the winners, while ex-internationals and former Super Eagles stars, Augustine Eguavon and Edema Fuludu; former Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) and Enyimba Football Club tactician, Godfrey Esu, amongst others, were present to witness the competition.
In his resolve to empower the youths educationally, the Man of Passion has also given out scholarships through the CEPEJ and also personally through his Peace and Unity initiative, as well as other means for the benefit of pupils and students in the riverine communities.
Outside his community engagement, through his non-governmental body, CEPEJ, which came into existence in 2001 as the ‘Niger Delta Re-Orientation Project which metamorphosed into CEPEJ in 2010, he has continued to create awareness about issues concerning environment, thereby reducing the level of ignorance in the society. This he has done through organizing seminars, conferences, summits and workshops on regular basis in different states of Nigeria and beyond, with the aim of educating and enlightening stakeholders on ways of sustaining peace, security and environmental best practices.
In March 2018, CEPEJ performed the unveiling of its corporate headquarters and the groundbreaking ceremony of its African Heritage International Academy situated in its Africa for Peace Centre at Ugolo-Okpe near Warri. The Academy is to provide the young ones with the opportunity to appreciate and internalize the deep values of a clean environment and justice. Owing to the vision of the Man of Passion, prominent guests amongst whom were the Executive Governor of Delta State, Sen Dr Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa able represented by Rt Hon Chief Sheriff Oborovwori, Honourable Speaker, Delta State House of Assembly, King Alfred Diete-Spiff, the Amayanabo of Twon-Brass Kingdom who doubled as the Chairman of Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council; Alhaji Gen. Dr. Yahaya Abubakar (rtd), CFR, Etsu Nupe, the Emir of Bida who doubled as the Chairman of Niger State Emirs Council; and Major Gen. Felix Mujakperuo (rtd), the Orodje of Okpe Kingdom, Service Chiefs were well represented and others were all on ground to witness and participate in the ceremony.
The exploits of the man of passion, Chief Mulade Sheriff for betterment, cannot be exhausted in this write up. His great achievements are indeed innumerable. Such a man with keen interest in the betterment of the State is worthy of being entrusted with the mandate of representing his people; a job the Man of Passion has been engaging in, and he has been delivering for years. The ability to deliver if given the mandate as Governor of Delta State, will not be different from his past records of many achievements. He is the man that the people of Delta State can truly trust for quality leadership and development. Let us give him the mandate for a progressive change.
*** Friday Ugedi, Mobilization officer, Delta Riverine Communities