By James Ibechi
Nothing is permanent in life, it is said. Kingdoms rise and fall, so nations and entities. This captures the situation of the fortunes of Igede ethnic group in Benue politics. The people are currently being excluded from key powr levers of the state. What astounds however is why this has become the fate of Igede and why the decline is so rapid under the administration of Governor Samuel Ortom.
It was not as if Igede had been at the back water of the state politics all the while. The people from the group had at some time in recent past commanded strategic positions in Benue and at the national level. Late Ambassador Ogah Okwoche, Igede man, was once Secretary to the State Government, SSG. So also was late Hon. Daniel Agogo who was an acting Governor, at a time. Same Okwoche once rose to be Ambassador to France in the First Republic. Prof. John Ibu’s appointment was made into choice ministries like Work or Finance by late former Governor Aper Aku.
Recall also that Igede had managed to sustain the rise in the post military era. During the early part of the present political dispensation (1999-2007), Igede man, Deputy Governor, Ogiri Ajene, was number two man in the political hierarchy.
But between 2007 and 2011, Igede man began to experience a steep descent in the state politics. By 2011 he had moved downward to number five position.
Between 2011 and 2021, the Igede person is no longer found in the decision making unit of the state, which comprises Governor, Deputy Governor, Assembly Speaker, Deputy Speaker, SSG and chairman of ruling party, to some extent.
The fortune of Igede in the state politics has further diminished under the present Governor, especially from 2015.
The situation is worrisome because in 2015, Igede people gave overwhelming support to Gov. Samuel Ortom. Unfortunately, there has not been much to show for it, whereas other groups like Otukpo and the rest of Idomaland that had not been consistent in the support for the Governor had been getting all their dues. Old Otukpo alone, for instance, has Deputy Governor, Deputy speaker and Chairman of the ruling party. So what is Igede’s sin?
Governor Ortom, as a minority within majority during campaigns had said that he knew what it means to be a minority and promised to put Igede in its right place.
Sadly, less than two years to the end of his two terms, the reverse has been the case.
Save for only campaign periods Gov. Ortom never steps into Igede land for any social events such as thanksgiving, funerals, etc, or political functions, even when he visits other places almost on weekly basis. In the same vein, no Igede man has benefited from the financial assistance that he renders to people in other places. This is because he is literally inaccessible to indigenes of Igede.
In 2015, Igede man benefitted from the SUPEB contract awards, but in the subsequent contracts, it is doubtful if anyone has been that lucky.
At present, there is no road to Igede land. Awajir-Oju road has been blocked. This is aside the fact that the road has been in a state of disrepair even before militants blocked it. During campaigns, the Governor told the people that contractors had been mobilized to Aliade-Mbakine-Obarike Ito Road site. Yet, several years after, there is nothing to show for that promise. Igede community’s efforts to fix the road cannot go far as their effort is insufficient. This is beside the fact that no federal road to Igede is passable right now. So Igede is cut off from the rest of the country, literally speaking.
From 1999 to date, employment is done by endorsement of the governor. There is no laid down process. No Igede man has the access to him to get endorsed for employment. So no Igede is employed meaningfully in the present regime. In the area of the confirmation of casual staff to permanent status, no Igede man has benefitted.
No Igede man is among the social media team members of the government that have been appointed as SSAs. At some point the number of the team rose to over 100 members. Despite this number only one, Mr. Ugaba Emmanuel was Igede. After his passing, there is no more Igede among them.
To rub in the exclusion of the group from the state’s politics, Igede has no representation in the state executive council, save commissioner Mrs Lady Isegbe, who incidentally, has disowned Igede people by allegedly saying that her appointment was beyond the Igede people and so she has no regard or allegiance to them
She allegedly pays allegiance only to her employer and to Benson Abounu family whom she claims aided her appointment as commissioner.
This scenario of the decline of Igede fortunes, is indicative that the group is persistently being sidelined in Benue State politics.
Apart from some classroom blocks sparsely built in Igedeland, there is literally no project sited in Obi LGA by government of the state save for the Earth Dam that was sited at Adum by Deputy Governor late Ogiri Ajene. There is no rural road, no rural electrification project in the area of Igedeland by the present administration. Social amenities/projects are also non-existent in Obi.
In Oju LGA, the work on Oju-Utonkon Road has been abandoned by the present regime of Ortom.
The poser is, are Oju and Obi not part of Benue anymore?
Governor Ortom should, therefore, please remember his campaign promises and pay heed to the Igede people.
It is not only in Igede that he lost election in 2019.
He should within the remaining part of his second term put Igede back to Benue politics by giving them the positions earlier mentioned.
Ortom should include Igede man in the decision making unit of the state, even in any capacity he deems fit.
He should complete the ongoing projects in Oju and embark on new ones in Obi
Ortom should recruit Igede people back to civil service to avoid their being completely displaced.
Categories: James Ibechi