East Bay Professor Released in Nigeria

  • May 26, 2011

By Alan Wang

An East Bay man running for governor in Nigeria has been released after disappearing earlier this week. Cal State East Bay Prof. Steve Ugbah has been caught up in a chaotic election involving allegations of fraud and even murder.

On Wednesday night, he spoke with his wife on the phone. She says he sound to be OK. Considering the charged political atmosphere in Nigeria, Ugbah's disappearance was a serious concern. He's been a tenured professor of marketing at Cal State East Bay for 25 years, but he always went back to his native country to serve his people and when they called on him to lead, he was compelled to go.

Ugbah left his family and the comfort of his Dublin home to run for governor in his home state of Benue, Nigeria.

"I'm literally torn several ways because on the one hand, I realize that it's important for him to be here. But on the other hand, I realize that he's holding something that these people need," said Prof. Stevina Evuleocha, Ugbah's wife.

On a wave of democracy spreading across the Middle East and Africa, Ugbah -- who has dual citizenship -- offers real hope and change. However, the stakes are high.

So far, he believes there's been an attempt on his life that killed his chief advisor on May 13 and this week, he was arrested for accusing his incumbent opponent of orchestrating the shooting attack. He was released on Wednesday after the U.S. State Department stepped in.

When asked what Ugbah says happened to him, Evuleocha said, "I refuse to ask because the less I know the better for me. I'm just happy he's out of there."

But now Ugbah is appealing in court, trying to prove massive election fraud after being defeated last April. Campaign advisor, Peter Ichull says an Ipsos poll gave Ugbah a 76-percent advantage going into the election.

"There were international observers, but they were limited to the main cities, they could only operate in the cities, while the rigging was taking place in the hinter land," said Ichull.

"Those people have built, literally, their entire hopes on a change of government. And they tell you to your face that's what they're expecting," said Evuleocha.

It was a painful decision. Ugbah and his wife, who's also a professor at Cal State East Bay, have accepted the consequences for them and their five American-born children.

"I know my husband is very, very dear to me and my children. We need him here. But I think the people of Benue need him more. And that was a real hard place to come to for me," said Evuleocha.

Ugbah has chosen to stay in Nigeria and appeal the election results. In a sense, the entire family is baring the weight of these people who believe Ugbah will help change their lives.

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