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Posted by By CHRIS AGUNWEZE on 2005/06/18 | Views: 337 |


‘Life is not a bed of roses’ seems to have been a saying made for Tony Philmore. For his early days were everything but rosy. For one, he was orphaned at a tender age.

‘Life is not a bed of roses’ seems to have been a saying made for Tony Philmore. For his early days were everything but rosy. For one, he was orphaned at a tender age.

As an orphan from the age of seven, Tony toiled through hash circumstances to survive. Things were so bad that there was no guarantee of two square meals on any given day.

But his most unforgettable moment remains the day he could not afford a mere N55.50K to register for his WAEC exams after an elderly relative who promised to help him failed to keep his promise on the last day for registration.

The thought of watching five years of hard work go down the drain and the dream of a promising future through sound education crashing, made young Tony to begin to place less value on life, and in tears he knelt down and earnestly prayed to God to take his young life instead of missing the exams. But Tony did not die. Instead “divine mercy” sent someone who tapped him on the back and soon Tony smiled his way back to school armed with the required N55.50k.

Philmore would move from there to the university and is today, the chairman of oil-rich Degema, the oldest Local Government Council in Rivers State.
But even as council chairman, Philmore says it has still not been a bed of roses. He tells Saturday Sun how he inherited an enormous security problems in the volatile council. The security problem, he said, was so grave that when he was only two weeks into office some attackers stormed the Local Government lodge kidnapped the vice chairman and killed one of his aids.

Why I asked God to take my life
My early life as an orphan was quite traumatic, having lost both parents early in life. I lost my mother during my early days in primary school and my father died before I completed secondary school leaving me with the rest of my school days without guidance.

As a boy I was fanatically in love with my education so I went through tick and thin in my determination to complete my education as an orphan. Sometimes even food to eat used to be difficult...
“When I was in Class Five, somebody promised me money to register for my WAEC so I believed him. Because I was into sciences, I used the little money I kept for the registration and bought books. As a boy, I hoped in the man and trusted him that he would fulfill the promise he made.

When it was time for WAEC registration the man refused to pay. It was only N55.50k, I became helpless and devastated. It was a very terrible situation for me. It was the last day for the registration and without help coming, I concluded that life won’t be worth living if I could not take my WAEC exams so I began to weep. With tears, I knelt down and prayed “God take my life if I will miss my WAEC exams.
After praying to God to take my life, I was still crying when a man came to our house and asked what was the problem. I told him and he gave me the money and that day was the last day for registration. After the exams, I made high grade. The lesson drawn here is that from that early stage in my life, I stopped placing my hope in man but in God who never disappoints.

Under normal circumstances, I would have graduated three years before when I did…but we had two years of strike during Gen. Abacha’s regime. I also had one course that was holding me back and, as a born again Christian at the time, I did not want anybody to waive it off for me. So I went back to write it. I finally graduated in 2002.

Help to other orphans
I replayed the story of my life as an orphan to my wife, Miebaka, and we came up with the idea to establish a centre for orphans and the aged. The centre will empower the orphan, the widows, the aged and the helpless - either by training, financing or other forms of encouragement - to give them sense of belonging. I think this is the way I could help those who find themselves in similar circumstances that I went through in life.

Insecurity in the land
The past administration tried but they left so much security problems for us. Imagine people from other local governments do attack us because our council area is not concentrated in a place like other local government areas. Other components of our L.G.C. are detached. You have to go across one sea or the other to get to them. So people from other areas gain easy access to them and use those places in the manner that they provoked us. We started handling the issue by deploying Mopol there”.

Kidnappings and cult killings are also the other problems that trouble the Degema boss
He says this is a function of the youth restiveness in the area. “In less than 14 days of coming to office, he says, “some attackers laid siege on the local government lodge one morning pretending that they were looking for a rival cult member. When they were told that there was no such person in the government lodge, they became furious. Using very dangerous weapons, they kidnapped my vice with four other aides, blindfolded them and took them to an unknown destination. They later killed my vice’s personal assistant and released him (vice) with two others.

It was a very sad experience for us. We were so concerned that we spent the first quarter of my administration to handle security problems. We spent more fund improving on security in the LGC. I had to build perimeter fence equipped with security gadgets round the L.G.C. secretariat. We also improved in the security network. I thank God that we can now say that we have achieved over 90% success in that direction and people can now go about their normal business without harassment in Degema.

Cultists’ sponsors are in high places
Philmore is of the belief that the problem of militant cult groups has persisted in the Niger Delta because the militants are being used by people in high places. Hear him: “Some people in high position, the way I see them, could use those young guys. But I think that they do fight for supremacy among themselves. When they sight a member of an opposition cult group, they make sure that the person is killed so that they could have claims. Claims because, based on the investigations we conducted, their basic interest is oil bunkering and other illicit business. And you know that people who are into such deals could be used by anybody.

Cawthone Channel
The Cawthone channel has been giving us a lot of security problems. If you check the Rivers State map, you will see that the channel belongs to Degema Local Government and it’s a pity that Degema is not benefiting from it. Everything about the channel statutorily belongs to Degema.

But Bonny local government also claim that Cawthone channel is in their area…
Well, it could be possible that they have a fraction of the place but I know that both the Federal and State governments have the map, which clearly indicates the boundaries between the two local government councils. This is why I am pleading with Shell to help us. They know the right thing to do but they have not done it.

I am sorry I have to mention Shell but they shouldn’t be waiting for such thing to happen before they act. If they know that this particular thing belongs to “A” why not give it to “A” and damn the consequences - not bringing in the degree of connections A has. This is the type of problems we are having in Degema. They are probably expecting our children to come and do some thing before they (Shell) will listen to us. We won’t. But it is our prayer that Shell will come to its sense and know that it is statutory for us to enjoy what others are claiming that is theirs that belongs to us.

Advise to the youths of the Niger Delta
After reading the Holy Bible from cover to cover twice, I learnt how to apply the principles of life in every thing I do, and that is patience, humility, love and strong faith in God that he will see me through and make me victorious in every situation and that is what has helped me over the years and I couldn’t have changed now that I am an adult.

My advice, to the youths of Niger Delta, especially the youths of Rivers State, therefore is: imitate me. They should stop carrying guns. I never carried gun in my life. They should be less dependent, stop believing in man and place their belief in God. Man disappoints God doesn’t disappoint. You only have to be patience, work hard and trust in God.

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