King Ayemi-Botu reflects on 25 Years on the throne

On April 27, 2019, about 110 traditional rulers from Delta State and beyond will converge in the ancient kingdom of Seimbiri in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State to celebrate the Silver Jubilee Coronation Anniversary of His Royal Majesty, King Dr. Charles Ayemi-Botu, aka “Lion of the Niger,” who is the paramount ruler of Seimbiri Kingdom.

The former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Onanife Ibori, who will chair the occasion, will be joined by the Governors of Delta and Bayelsa States, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa and Barrister Seriake Dickson as Special Guests of Honour.

The Most Revered Dr. Hyacinth Oroko Egbebo, the Catholic Bishop of Bomadi Diocese will be the spiritual father, while High Chief Dr. Leemon A. Ikpea will be the Chief launcher of the Biography of the King.

Palace Watch had a chat with King Ayemi-Botu on his 25-year reign.

How has it been these past 25 years?
First, I must give thanks to God, Who has kept my people and I alive all these years, it is God that guided me and made everything possible for us to weather the storms. I must confess this has not been an easy assignment, being on the throne of the Seimbiri Kingdom. It is what the French People will call comesee comessa, which means mix-grill. All the same, I thank God for life and thank my people for their support.

There is a common axiom that says a dancer is not in a position to know how good he or she is. It is up to other people to assess a dancer. What I am trying to say is that it is up to my people, the good people of Seimbiri Kingdom, to assess and say ‘yes King Charles Ayemi-Botu, has done very well or badly these past years’.

But one thing that can’t be taken away from me, is that I have deliberately worked all these years for peaceful co-existence of my
people with the Government of Delta State, past and present as well as the Federal Government. In the process, I have also maintained cordial relations with other neighbours. So, we have had peace, which has made it possible for us to achieve a lot of development in my kingdom to date.

When I ascended the throne 25 years ago, Seimbiri Kingdom was relatively unknown. But today, my kingdom has become a household name, not only in Delta State, but also in Nigeria and in the Diaspora. People, very familiar with our kingdom before and during my accession to the throne, are in a position to testify to the monumental achievements recorded in this kingdom these past years, considering how rural it used to be.

Could you please pinpoint some of these achievements?
It will be immodest of me as a king to be saying I influenced the citing of A to Z projects in Seimbiri Kingdom during my reign. What is important is that there has been much development in this part of Delta State since I ascended the throne. The evidence is there for all to see and for the blind to touch, which gives me satisfaction.

When I ascended the throne, these areas were simply rural by whatever measure. They were purely farming and fishing communities, no accessible roads, riverine areas cut-off from the rest of the country, with no electricity, pipe borne water, hospital, health centre, secondary school or police station. There was no government presence in this kingdom, none of the modern day facility or facilities.

Within these past 26 years, I have worked very hard to change the narrative for good.  What else can I ask from God? We thank Him for all these achievements. My people are now living in relative comfort.

In spite of the abundance of crude oil and gas in this part of the country, there was no state and Federal Government presence in this kingdom. The proceeds from mineral resources taken from this part of the country were taken to other areas to develop them.

All these were problems I had to deal with. We are, however, grateful for recording meaningful progress, but it is not yet Uhuru.

The former Executive Officer of Oil and Mineral Producing Areas of Nigeria, Chief J.K. Hansford and Chief Wellington Okirika, thorough patriots, who truly had the interest of Niger Delta people at heart, can attest to the struggle we embarked upon to improve the lots of my people and people of Delta State as a whole.

That the whole of Niger Delta region is now enjoying uninterrupted power supply was through our hard work. The light my people and other areas are enjoying today was not part of the national grid. It was acquired through OMPADEC.

Another project worth mentioning is an event centre that was abandoned by the former Local Government Area Council in 1976. But through the assistance of the then Governor of Delta State, Air Commodore then, Group Captain Ibrahim Kefas, I got the contract to get the place commissioned.

After the commissioning of Okpokunu Event Centre, we then put in place a maternity and other facilities. It was after they started functioning there was a reduction in maternal mortality rates in our areas.

We are, however, lucky that in spite of the hardship my people have gone through, Seimbiri Kingdom has never witnessed violence.

The crude oil was discovered in 1978 by Shell Petroleum Company in my kingdom and as we speak, there are two oil fields, one owned by Shell and the other by Agip. The exploration is yet to commence. As such, we have never had reasons to be violent.

We have achieved a lot in the provision of massive infrastructural facilities, taking cognisance of the fact that we want our children trained in the areas of oil and gas related fields, so that they will in the near future be in a position to take up key appointments in their areas of study. We are doing this because I am aware education is the biggest legacy we can bequeath to our children.

To realise these dreams, we have been working to get scholarship from oil companies in our areas to help our children go to schools, both in Nigeria and abroad.

In the area of manpower development, we have also done so well for our children. The Almighty, our Helper, Who created heavens and earth, has been very kind to us.

Is Seimbiri Kingship hereditary?
Seimbiri Kingdom has ruling families, and if we carefully go through past and present records, it is truly a kingdom that ought to be hereditary…

Are you saying you are working to make the kingship hereditary?
No, that is not what I am saying. That will be sorted out, whenever the time comes. What I am saying is that Seimbiri kingdom has a ruling family and that is how it is now.

What are you doing to ensure your successor find things easy and there will be peace in your kingdom?
The only thing constant in life is change. I will do my utmost best to make sure I prepare firm grounds for whoever is coming to take over from me, as a king to operate maximally in a safe and secured grounds.

At your silver jubilee, what is your advice to your people?
What else will I ask for, other than the peace we have had in this area of the country? I will plead and continue to advise that we sustain this peace and harmonious co-existence that has enabled us to achieve such massive developments over the years. With peace, we can achieve more.

Since about 31 years ago, when oil and gas were discovered in my kingdom, it is now certain that the Federal Government, in collaboration with some oil and gas companies, will soon commence the prospecting of gas in my kingdom. And we need to do all that is desired when these companies start operations. We need to co-operate with them and the Federal Government.

What new plans do you have for your kingdom?
Although I feel satisfied to have been able to make meaningful contributions in the past 25 years I still believe very strongly there is still a lot of work to do, to make Seimbiri the kingdom of my dream.

Consequently, there is still a lot to do in the area of social and political development. We still need infrastructural developments.

Our children still need better education. We need to make this area one of the industrial hubs of Delta State. We need lots of work for our qualified youths. So long I’m alive and on this throne, I will keep pushing for the betterment of this place.

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