Her Excellency, Deaconess Roli Uduaghan, the First Lady of Delta State, is well positioned to tell the Emmanuel Uduaghan story having been married to the governor for 24 years. Last Sunday, she sat down to tell the story. Her narration laced with never-before-told tales of the inner life of the Delta State first family also reveals Roli’s role as a supportive spouse and spiritual shield. Excerpts:
The gist is that you have become very spiritual. In what way has your spiritual devotion influenced your husband in the governance of Delta State?
By God’s grace, if you had lived in Delta State in the past seven years, you would be able to say of truth that there is God and that He rules in the affairs of Delta State. We acknowledge that He is our Source. In the first instance, getting to the position of governor from the smallest tribe as it could be said in Delta State is the pointer that it was God ordained.
In all the battles that we have been through till date, it has been God. You could see His Finger in everything and because we acknowledge this and know that He is our Source, we ascribe everything today to Him, because without Him, we would not have achieved anything.
You know after the 2007 primaries, before the election, there was a lot of trouble. Some people were saying it must not be Uduaghan and some said it must be Uduaghan. Even when we were going to Port Harcourt for the zonal flag off, not many people believed that he would get it but he was the first to get it. On our way back, my husband went straight to the church where he said that he is dedicating it to God. Based on all that we went through before receiving the flag, he now said that the only explanation was that it was the Finger of God.
Was there a change in his relationship with God after he became governor?
I will say that now, that he acknowledges God more now than before.
But the tendency is for public officials to slide away from God. So, why is your own case unique? They equally say, you have become a prayer warrior?
If you forget your source, if the river that is flowing forgets to collect water from the source, it will dry up. You only backslide when you don’t know how you got to where you are. We know that it has been God’s finger and we also know that without Him we can do nothing. So, we had no choice than to just rely on Him as without Him we cannot get anywhere. Above all these, we know that there is a Kingdom ahead which is our ultimate focus. Governorship tenure is limited, but where we are heading is a lasting place, so all that we are doing here, and not minding where we find ourselves tomorrow, what keeps us going is because we have a focus of where we are heading to which is the eternal kingdom of God. That is our gaze and we must live in accordance with the acceptable pattern so we can enter that kingdom.
How has public office affected his family life?
You know the position is a very tasking one and before he even became governor, my husband was one to focus on anything he did. Whatever he is doing, he likes to do it very well even as a medical doctor. So if he had patients in the ward, you would hardly see him at home and at times, he would feed his patients by himself. So, maybe God was then preparing us for the task ahead. When he was NMA (Nigerian Medical Association) chairman, the whole family was involved, including my daughter that was about five at that time. Only this time, he is even more away from home. But because we understand what it is, it is not a problem.
Do you still have time to pray together?
Yes, whenever he is around.
Did he ever play any role in church?
He was a Sunday School teacher when we were in Avenue Baptist Church in Warri. But now with the tasks around him, it is very difficult.
What would you describe as the greatest challenge your husband faced in the last seven years?
Like I tell people, I usually don’t see challenges because as a child of God if you want to be a general, you have to have some scars. It doesn’t come overnight. What I would want to see as a major challenge was his acceptance because of ethnicity. You know Delta State is a mini Nigeria and because of ethnicity, even when what he is doing is not wrong ,there are always people ready to cast aspersion essentially because of where he is from. That was a major challenge.
Could that have accounted for the way he now led the People’s Democratic Party, PDP to regain the Delta Central Senatorial seat?
You know they had no choice than to shift to PDP.
Why do you say so?
It is like what is happening in Edo State now. If the PDP there had a foresight of what is happening now, they wouldn’t have done what they did. When you have a problem in the party, you don’t throw away the baby and the bath water. If it happens like that and the seat goes to another party, he wouldn’t be the only one to suffer it.
Talking of the tribal thing, it is not just Central because in Delta we have five major ethnic groups and they all would want their own person to be there.
Personally, what has been your greatest challenge as the wife of the governor?
Well, I do not think I can lay my hand on anything I can call a challenge. Jesus told His disciples, can’t you watch with me for one hour? He said, watch and pray that you may not fall into temptation. So by God’s grace I do not wait to see trouble before I pray. God has a way of diffusing anything that may want to pose as a challenge. So, I can’t see anything.
Being a public figure and a man with influence, there are ladies who may go out of their way to tempt him. Have you had cause to pray to protect him from some of these women?
(Laughs…) There is no need to even do that one because in the first instance, my husband as a medical doctor happened to run a fertility clinic and you know that pertains to women. So at that time, any woman I saw around him then was a patient. So, I don’t bother myself with such things. Now coming to the political arena, women and men are all there, so I don’t stand to start suspecting. You know one major mistake women do is to look for what is not looking for you. So, even if there is a Jezebel out there, I don’t know and I don’t want to know, so I don’t even look for it. It is easier for me to wish it away than to imagine who is this person? For what?
So, you don’t have to pray, this woman is getting too close?
As far as I know, I have never seen anybody that close and nobody has had the courage to tell me, ‘I saw your husband or this or this about your husband.’
Given the challenges of governing Delta State, are there times he comes back frustrated? If so, how do you calm him?
When he comes back and sinks to the chair, I know there is a problem. I ask what is the matter and he says this or that. There is a phrase I always use, that ‘it is part of the matter.’ Let me cite an instance. There was this problem between two of his boys and it was a tough one. You know my husband is a reserved person, he doesn’t like contentions, but I told him as they say in Ishan land, ‘when Ishan man ready for fight, he no dey look back.’ So, I told him if you don’t finish this battle as it is, you become politically irrelevant. So, because you must keep your head up, you must finish it. So, I encouraged him.
Then at times if it is a battle we don’t need to fight, I say ‘this is not the way to go about it’, but no matter what, we always believe that God is in charge and no matter what and whatever it is, it is well.
For instance, the day the election was nullified, it was in the night. I was in the room when he walked up and said ‘have you heard the news?’ I said which news? It was about 8.30 p.m. and he said ‘our election has been nullified.’
He broke the news to you?
Yes. He heard in his room and then walked up to tell me.
It was said he played games that evening?
Yes, after a football game, it was an inter-office match and it was that evening that we even heard that there was a case and mobilisation started. So after the football, he went to play tennis and he was in his room when the TV announced the news. Well, definitely, he may also have gotten some other information like text messages. So, he now walked to my room and said ‘did you hear the news?’ And I said which news and he now said, ‘our election has been nullified.’
And I said, praise God!
You said praise God?
Yes, that was my first reaction. I now thought what next? I called a couple of friends and said that they should please come around and I started packing my things at once. Being a Baptist, I know a lot of hymns, so we started singing and singing.
Was he singing with you too?
He was not in my room because the whole house was full as people had come around but I was busy packing our things up stairs. After I became tired, I slept off. In the morning, we continued packing. That particular week, I had read a book, I will return written by Daddy Moses Aransiola of Gethsemane Prayer Ministry in Ibadan when I was travelling from Lagos to Asaba by road. So, when this thing now happened, I said Oh! So after everything, I waited for the things to be moved out till the evening of the next day because I know what government is. The moment you move out, they will change the security there and you may not even be allowed to come in there again. So, I waited, moved everything out, locked the door and declared, that I will return!
The annulment was on November 9 and by December 9, we were at Winners Chapel Shiloh camp. One governor’s wife was there and I told her, please let us pray, that it is exactly one month that we were thrown out and that they were procrastinating on the re-run. So, I told her to join hands with me that before the 9th of next month, we will be back.’
So, we prayed that agreement prayer and we left and in the course of the month, they announced that the election will be on the 6th of January which we did and returned. So, God has been faithful. That thing (annulment) did not affect me one moment because even as you see me now as a governor’s wife, I am not living anything different from what I was. The only thing is that if you are going somewhere, security will be following you up and down. Otherwise, I am just who I am.
But some people say that you are not as flamboyant as you used to be?
Of course, what happens on the inside of you must show on the outside. I discovered that a lot of these things are vanity, really. Everything you think of, jewellery, clothes and all of those things. One day I sat down, I looked at the jewelleries I had and then I was thinking of building homes for widows thrown out after the death of their husbands and thinking of how I could raise money for it. And it happened that we needed to rebuild our grandmother’s residence and it was to cost N11 million which was part of the money that one could use to fabricate jewellery. It was then I said, so you mean I have been wearing bungalows on my neck. I never thought of it that way. Then I said no way. So, I said if I am able to harness this money, I should be able to do the projects that are in my neck. So, these women even if they don’t pray for me, their husbands with God in heaven would bless me.
When did this spiritual encounter happen?
You know, you grow all the time. I gave my life to Christ in 1985 but as you are exposed to the word of God, as the light shines more and more, exposing your emptiness, you will see that many things we struggle about are not necessary, not worth it at all. It is not surprising that the bible says that it is better to go to the house of mourning than the house of feasting. Because when you go and see somebody you know to have been very active but is just there now, lying, cannot move leg or hand and you know that such a person had so much plans while alive, then you will talk to yourself, ‘what is this world all about?’
Some people maim, do fake drugs, poisonous baby food all because of money. But when you look that it is not worth it and in a jiffy, your breath ceases, the people who do not know how you gathered it will begin to spend it. So, when that fact comes to you, you will have to play down on so many things.
What exactly is your Mastercare Foundation into?
Master Care is mainly focused on widows and orphans. It is an NGO I started about 10 years ago. It came following a burden on the plight of widows who face discrimination from in-laws after the passage of their husbands. I started it about three years before I became the governor’s wife. So, when he was elected, what I did was to expand it.
Some people see your husband as quiet and reserved. Is he also like that at home? Is he a bully at home?
No, he does not even talk. It is now that he is even talking. Before now, he would come home and it is only me that would be doing the talking. There was a day he asked me that if you are talking to somebody and the person is not responding, won’t you keep quiet? I said, how will I keep quiet, who do you want me to talk to because then we didn’t have children yet! So, he is naturally like that.
What would you consider as your husband’s legacy in Delta State?
One thing that many may not recognise is that he has succeeded in making Deltans to be punctual to activities. Another thing is his compassion for lives, his health programmes are second to none, maybe because of his medical training.
You would be leaving the Governor’s Mansion in the next one year or so. What are you likely to miss?
Nothing! Nothing at all.