Civil Engineer, Politician, Administrator, Elder Statesman
Francis G. Endeley was an Engineer with vast administrative experiences in both the Multinational (Shell Nigeria) and the Public sector in Nigeria. He was once a Commissioner for Works that kept a giant footprint on the sands of time in the Old Rivers State.
Who was Francis Gbede Endeley?
Francis Gbede Endeley (1936-2004) was a British trained Civil engineer from Sagbama town in the Niger delta region of Bayelsa State. His administrative prowess found expression as he was made Commissioner for Work and Transport; he delivered on some landmark projects in the second republic era under former Governor Melford Okilo’s administration in the old Rivers State from 1979 to 1983. However, between 1983 and 1985 Francis Gbede Endeley and others were political prisoners under Major General Buhari’s Military Government for an alleged and unfounded financial fraud against the Nigerian state from 1979 to 1983. He was released afterwards, in mid-1985. He became more renowned when he chaired the movement for the creation of Bayelsa State in the early 1990s and it was a success in 1996. Francis Gbede Endeley died in 2004 at the age of 68.
His Parents and Education
Francis Gbede Endeley was born 10 October, 1936 at Sagbama town southern Nigeria. His father was predeceased Chief Endeley Bodesa of Telador family Adueze quarters Sagbama town in Bayelsa State and his predeceased mother was Madam Ekwade Endeley Bofesa who hails from Delta State; she was a successful businesswoman that supported Francis’ educational advancement.
Francis Gbede Endeley attended Local Authority (LA) primary school Sagbama from 1948 to 1953 and obtained his first school leaving certificate. He was determined to further his education after he left Burutu primary school and with the financial help of his mother Late Madam Ekwade Endeley he wrote the London GCE exam and gained a scholarship to Manchester University where he gained a 1st Class BSC degree in civil engineering in 1960.
University life was extremely successful for Francis Endeley, He was very active in the African Union society at Manchester University where he organized support for African students. He also lectured at Leeds University in architecture. Shell BP spotted his talent during this time and offered him a top job as a surveyor in Port Harcourt.
Journey Home In 1970
Francis journeyed Home to Nigeria from Manchester, England with his family after the civil war in 1970 on the Ship Azikiwe. The ship docked in Liberia and Serra Leone on route to Lagos and Francis captured some unique sights as a tourist, his leadership qualities were on display organizing safety drills for his fellow African passengers on the ship.
Francis Endeley worked for Shell BP HQ in Port Harcourt as a Surveyor from 1971 to 1979. He was able to chart and document all the oil wells in the region including in his village Sagbama. This information proved invaluable for Bayelsa when he was in charge of asset sharing negotiations with the Old Rivers State.
As Commission For Works
His dear friend and fellow Ijaw Activist Late Melford Okilo persuaded Francis Endeley to enter politics. They served together as Governor and Commissioner in Government of the Old Rivers State. Francis Endeley was appointed commissioner of Works and Transport 1979-83. Francis Endeley is still considered as one of the best commissioners to serve in office in the entire federation of Nigeria and his achievements in office are too numerous to mention here. Ranging from introducing the first traffic light system in Rivers State to sand filling to stop erosion, his legacies were ahead of their time. In 4 years, the Okilo Government achieved massive infrastructural development more than what has been achieved in the last 40 years since.
In Politics, Francis Endeley was committed to the development of his community. He was duly elected to the House of Assembly after his tenure as commissioner. His Sagbama constituency elected him as the first son from the region to represent them in the old Rivers State house of Assembly before the coup of Major-General Mohammadu Buhari on 3rd December 1983.
On the fateful day of 3 December 1983, the military under Major General Muhammadu Buhari took over power from the civilian government. Sadly, Francis Endeley and his principal Chief Melford Okilo the then Governor of old Rivers State and other renowned politician from the Niger Delta were arrested and indicted by a military tribunal and were sentenced to over 80 years of imprisonment for fraudulent charges against the Nigeria state. Consequently, the Military confiscated all Francis Endeley’s assets from 1983 to 1985; it was really devastating for the Endeley’s that period. In 1985, the General Buhari lead Military government was toppled and Major General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida GCFR took over on 27 August 1985 and all political prisoners were set free and Francis Endeley left Kirikiri prison Lagos a free man.
Life after Prison
After he served an unjust prison sentence at Kirikiri prison 1985-87 from the corrupt Buhari coup Regime, Francis Endeley became focused on Ijaw nation building so that as a people the Ijaw can never be subjugated again to the brutal rule of military power. He drew on elements of Okiloism to ferment his beliefs about the society he wanted to see in this new Ijaw nation. In particular the ethos of Okiloism which quotes’ ’Government can be the most constructive element of civilization if it is properly used and, most destructive, if it is badly used. Government can use its might to build or destroy the institutions of civilization. It can halt the march of civilization. It can improve the economic lot of the masses by legitimate means or impoverish them. It can cause war and peace. It can enslave or colonize a free people.
Government is perhaps the most unstable, unbalanced and corrupt of all the elements of civilization. Yet it could become the greatest civilizing power in the world if it were to base its policy and practice on Natural law. Natural law is the factual, scientific and spiritual explanation of the universal brotherhood of mankind. It is the spiritual meaning of government of the people, by the people and for the people. It is the law of universal love. It is democracy in action.’’
Francis Endeley recognized that our Ijaw people needed to be connected and united in order to have a voice in the federalist system of Nigeria. His experiences in KiriKiri prison emboldened him to gather the Ijaw leadership during that period (1989-96) to come together and get consensus to create an Ijaw state out of the old Rivers State. This new State was to be called ABAYELSA. Later called Bayelsa due to Ahoada LGA not joining the proposal. Bayelsa State was duly inaugurated on October 1 1996 with his blessing. Due to his declining health Francis Endeley bowed out of Politics during this period having achieved his dream of establishing an Ijaw state as chairman for the creation of ABAYELSA state.
Francis Endeley did not live to see Goodluck Jonathan become President of Nigeria. As deputy Governor of Bayelsa state in 2004, Goodluck Jonathan attended the funeral of Francis Endeley and in 2007 became the first Ijaw Vice President of Nigeria from Bayelsa State before he became the first Ijaw president of Nigeria in 2010.
Francis Endeley’s legacy is not recognized or celebrated enough. To his family and friends, he will always be the biggest tree in the forest
His family and faith
He also developed a talent for photography at this time and he chronicled his life using his camera which he carried everywhere. These are some of the pictures from his camera at this time of his life with his first love Cecilia, whom he met and married whilst studying in England. Cecilia was from the Island of Dominica.
She met and fell in love with Francis and had 4 children from him. Together they settled into Manchester life before they moved back to Nigeria after the civil war to raise a family in Port Harcourt. They made a comfortable home for their growing family in Manchester.
Francis purchased his own house when he was denied rental accommodation due to racial bias in those days. He was also married to several women and he had about seventeen children. He was a staunch Catholic in his lifetime.
When He died?
It was reported Francis Endeley had a cardiopulmonary heart failure and other health complications and died afterwards at the First Rivers Hospital Aba Road Port Harcourt on 27 April, 2004. He was 68 years.