.GOV. IKPEAZU’S AIDE, BARR. SAM HART TELLS HIS ‘OCTOBER 1ST’ STORY
“Today, October 1, 2003, 17 years ago, I came to Umuahia to work having been told in Bayelsa after 2 weeks of driving a project in the Governor’s Office that Bayelsa youths were angry that a non-Bayelsan was given a role in the Governor’s Office.
I’ll recount an abridged version of the story. The full details are in my autobiography.
Sit back and enjoy the ride. Its a long but impactful story.
At the height of the Niger Delta Militancy situation in 2003, I developed a proposal to engage the youths and redirect their energy. I chose Bayelsa as launch point because it was the epicentre of the crisis then.
Armed with the proposal, I left Abuja and travelled to Yenagoa to see the Governor (I’ve never believed in impossibilities).
I arrived Yenagoa, lodged in a hotel and the next day, I went to Government House (Creek Heaven). At the gate, I was directed to his right-hand man and I pitched my proposal. He told me to return the next day while he discusses the proposal with the Governor.
The next day, I show up and he’s exited. He said the Governor approved the proposal and we should start implementation immediately. He gave me a desk in his office and we started working. I was working in the office of the Governor of Bayelsa State 48 hours after arriving.
2 weeks later, the official suddenly rushed into the office and told me that I was not safe. That Bayelsa Youths had gotten wind that a non-Bayelsan had a role in the Governor’s Office and they were agitating that why should a non-indigene be given to a role while they were looking for jobs. He ‘bundled’ me into the backseat of his tinted car and drove me to the motor park and asked me to leave Bayelsa for my own good.
He drove off. My first thought was that he wanted to implement my idea without me and the entire charade was a ruse. I thought of going back to fight through other means but the Spirit of God that has always guided me told me to leave it alone. What next? Go to your state. If Bayelsa will reject you because you’re not from there, you’re from somewhere abi? The God who gave you this idea will give you another one.
So October 1st 2003, I entered a bus to Umuahia.
Prior to then, my relationship with Umuahia was as an occasional Christmas visitor. I had no friends or tangible links in Umuahia. My closest contact was my maternal grandfather from Umuawa Alaocha, late Andrew Nwagbara . None of my immediate family members lived in Umuahia.
So I got to Umuahia, dropped at Coorperative and entered a bus to Umuawa Alaocha to stay with my grandfather.
He heard my story and offered me room and food until I found my footing.
The next working day, I set out. Who do I know? Where do I start? I had worked as a media aide in the Office of the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na’Abba developing articles and Speeches for one of his Media Advisers who was a colleague of Hon. Eziuche Ubani in the Speaker’s Office. So I said the Office of the Speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly would be a good place to start. So I headed there.
I met his Secretary and told her I wanted to see the Speaker. She gave me a form to fill and asked me to wait. I was in the Speaker’s waiting room from 10am to 4pm when the Secretary called me aside to tell me that the Speaker would soon leave and that I should go downstairs near his car to try and catch his attention. I obeyed.
I went downstairs and Rt. Hon. Stanley Ohajuruka’s Official 504 was parked in his drive-way, steaming, waiting for him.
Shortly after, he bounded out with a horde following him and made to step into his car. I pushed through the horde and shouted ‘I am the one from Abuja to see you sir’.
One leg inside his car, he asked me ‘yes, what can I do for you?’ I had few seconds to get his attention so I told him I had worked in the Office of the Speaker, House of Representatives and I was in Umuahia to look for a job. Still with his one leg inside his car, he asked me what I did for the Speaker and I mentioned that I wrote articles and occasional Speeches for public events.
Speeches? That caught his attention. He stepped out of the car and led me away from the crowd. He told me that he had a lecture to Deliver to Law Students at ABSU the next day but he didn’t have a speech yet. No problem. What is the topic sir? ‘The Legislature in a Nascent Democracy: Prospects and Challenges’. No problem sir. I’ll get you a speech. Okay, be here at 8am tomorrow with the speech. Done. He entered his car and drove off.
Time was 4.30pm. I enter a bike and asked for directions to a business centre and he took me to one at Ojike Street. I sat down with a typist and asked for sheets of paper. I would draft a page and she would be typing it while I drafted another page. 5pm, the Manager said they were closing. But I am not done sir and its urgent. He said if the lady typist agreed to stay back and lock up afterwards, he would allow us stay. She agreed. Everyone closed and left both of us.
I told her we’d make faster progress if I typed myself and she said if the Manager was around, he wouldn’t have agreed but since he had gone, I was free to type myself on their computer. So without a need for rough drafts, I sat on the computer and hammered out a 15-page document. I finished around 7pm. We printed and I paid her for the job and extra for her troubles.
Next morning, 8am, I was at the Speaker’s Office. Around 9am, his car arrived and his aide came into the office asking for ‘the man from Abuja’. I identified and he said the Speaker said to bring me to his house. We went to the Speaker’s House on Factory Road and I gave him the speech I did. He already had one which was hand-written. Mine was typed. He finished reading mine and said it was perfect. He asked if I could join them to ABSU. Sure. Let’s go.
We drove to Uturu and he mounted the podium and delivered my speech verbatim to tumultuous applause. The students and Press besieged him afterwards asking for copies of the speech. While he was apologising that he didn’t have copies, I gave him about 10 copies I had made in anticipation of the situation. He asked me to follow him to Umuahia.
Somehow in the melee and rush of departure, his convoy left me behind. Luckily, there was another gentleman I saw who was also at the event, Dr. A.C.B Agbazuere. I asked if he was going to Umuahia and if I could join him. He obliged me. We got talking on the drive back and he informed me that he had just enrolled to study Law after his previous degrees. I made a mental note to also return and enrol when I am settled. I have.
I found my way back to the Speaker’s house and he was harassing his aides for not knowing my whereabouts. Upon seeing me, he was relieved. ‘I want you to work with me. When can you start?’
Less than a week after arriving Umuahia without any contact, I had a job in the office of the Speaker of the State House of Assembly. Victor Nwoke was his Chief of Staff and he made me feel very welcome.
We started working but I noticed that he didn’t come to work everyday and the days he came, by 2pm, he had left and everyone will leave shortly after he leaves. I was bustling with energy and the dynamics didn’t suit my orientation.
So a week after I resumed at the Office of the Speaker, I was restless and on one of the days he didn’t come to work, I went to Government House, Umuahia and announced at the gate that I wanted to see the Governor! Are you a journalist? The Policeman at the gate asked me and I said yes. ‘You will see the Chief Press Secretary first’. No problem. Take me to his office.
So the Policeman took me to the office of the then Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Onuoha Udeala and told him I was a journalist who wanted to see the Governor. ‘Why do you want to see the Governor’ he asked. Well, I am an Abian and I want to work for my State. I answered.
He asked me what I could do and I mentioned a number of things but the one that caught his attention was when I mentioned computer. ‘You can operate a computer?’ Duh. I’ve been using a computer for years. Which kin question be this?
He took me to a room where a computer was covered. When he came from Lagos to take up his appointment, he came with a Computer operator who was always travelling back to Lagos for one emergency or the other.
The computer operator was away then on one of his emergencies so Mr. Udeala gave me a draft Press Release and asked me to type it. I fired up the computer, typed the Press Release, printed it and took it to his office. Still as part of my appraisal, he gave me a topic and asked me to do an article. I again got to work, rolled out an article and gave it to him. He was on his way to the airport to see off the Governor and he said he’d read the article on his way and see me when he comes back.
Calculating how long the journey to and from the airport would take, I didn’t see the point of hanging around so I returned to the House of Assembly incase the Speaker comes to work.
I returned to Government House in the evening to find that Mr. Udeala was back and he was reprimanding his staff for letting me leave. He had read my article and was impressed. He explained to me that Government was not employing but he was ready to pay me from his salary and eventually find a way to enrol me in the Civil Service if I agreed to work with him. I agreed.
Within 2 weeks of arriving Umuahia with no contact, I had 2 jobs. One at the House of Assembly and one at Government House. I went to the Speaker and explained the situation to him. He gave me his blessings on the condition that I would oblige him whenever he needed my services. He remains my boss till date.
And so I resumed at Government House as an aide of the Chief Press Secretary.
2 years into working with Mr. Udeala, he was posted to the Protocol Department as Director of Protocol and went with me. His replacement was Mr. Iyke Ekeoma who was appointed Special Adviser, Media. Mr. Ekeoma on resumption, made enquiries and he was asked to convince me to return to the office. His Cousin, Dr. Ojum Ogwo, Personal Physician to the Governor, approached me on his behalf. I told them that I was a personal staff of Mr. Udeala and I could not leave him as he has been good to me. Then the then Chief of Staff to the Governor, Chief T.A. Orji (Ochendo) invited me to his office and asked me to go and work with Mr. Ekeoma. Again, I explained the situation to him but he overruled me. To sweeten the deal, he got approval from the Governor to appoint me Personal Assistant to the Governor on Media posted to the Office of the Special Adviser, Media. He also spoke with Mr. Udeala and asked him to release me. Thus I resumed with Mr. Ekeoma.
It was another chapter in my journey and path to destiny. Mr. Ekeoma was kind to me and gave me free hand to run his office even in his absence. I also started travelling officially with the Governor home and abroad under him. I was also working closely with the Chiefs of Staff.
The Chief of Staff contested for and won election as Governor of Abia State. He asked me to draft his inaugural broadcast to the people of Abia State.
Upon return from BCA where we had gone to record the broadcast on May 29, 2007, he appointed me his Special Assistant on General Duties/Speechwriter/Letter Writer. I succeeded Dr. Victor Ike Oye in office.
I discharged that role until July 2008 when Governor Orji appointed me his Chief Press Secretary. He would later appoint me his Director of Protocol in 2010. I also had the privilege of travelling everywhere with the Governor home and abroad. I also combined all these roles with Speechwriting until around 2010 when Dr. Leo Ogba was appointed to relieve me of that role.
I left Government in June 2011 due to certain circumstances and relocated first to Owerri and later Abuja.
While at Abuja, I joined Dr. Ken Giami at African Leadership Magazine as Group Editor and host of our events held at World cities. I was travelling abroad every month hosting events attended by Presidents and other world leaders.
In August 2014, I got a call from Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu asking me to return home and join his campaign for the Governorship of Abia State. I also spoke with Rt. Hon. Chinedum Orji who gave his blessings. Thus I returned to Abia to join the Okezuo Abia Campaign Organisation as an Assistant Director, Media and Publicity.
Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu won his election and appointed me first Senior Special Assistant and later, Special Adviser on Communications/Speechwriter/Letter Writer.
He recontested the elections in 2019 and won and retained me as Special Adviser on Communications and later, Director-General, Abia State Marketing and Quality Management Agency/Special Adviser to the Governor. I have also had the privilege of travelling with Governor Ikpeazu home and abroad.
Na there we dey so.
This is my story.
This is my journey.
October 1 is my anniversary of landing in Abia State without contact or friends.
See how far God has brought me.
To Him alone be ALL the glory”.
.Culled from Sam Hart’s facebook page