Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State on Monday cleared the air on the controversy surrounding the selection of the new paramount ruler of the Idoma nation, Pastor John Inalegwu Odogbo.
Recall that Elaigwu, a pastor of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry last week, emerged the new Och’Idoma after an election by the Selection Committee comprising of 32 chiefs.
The 52-year-old clergy defeated Andrew Idakwu and Sunday Echono to emerge the new king of Idoma land following the demise of His Royal Highness, Agabaidu Elias Ikoyi Obekpa, who went on hunting expedition on October 10.
However, a group called the Ochetoha K’Idoma National Forum subsequently rejected the Och’Idoma-elect, accusing the state governor of interfering with the selection process.
Reacting to report by the group as signed by one Toni Adokwu, Governor Ortom in a statement issued on Monday by his Chief Press Secretary, Nathaniel Ikyur said he had no hand in the selection process.
He said in the statement that due process was followed in the selection exercise as contained in the Benue State Council of Chiefs and Traditional Councils Law 2016.
The statement reads, “For the avoidance of doubt, Governor Samuel Ortom has no hand in the selection of any traditional ruler or Chiefs, either in Idoma Traditional Area or Tiv Traditional Area. And at no time did the Governor invite any traditional ruler of Idoma extraction or wheresoever to Government House for the purposes connected to or related to the selection of the new traditional ruler for the Idoma nation. The selection of the new Och’Idoma was based on the legal procedure as enshrined in the legal instruments of the Chieftaincy laws of Benue State.
“Contrary to their false claims, due process was followed in the selection exercise as provided by the Benue State Council of Chiefs and Traditional Councils Law 2016. A highlight of the provisions states that: The Och’Idoma shall be chosen rotationally by a Selection Committee from amongst the Components of Agatu & Apa; Otukpo and Ohimini; Ado Enone (Ado, Ogbadibo and Okpokwu); Igede (Oju and Obi). And from the history, as narrated by members of the Selection, it was the turn of Agatu and Apa to produce the next Och’Idoma.
The Selection Committee consisting of:
“In all, there are Four First Class Chiefs, nine Second Class Chiefs and eighteen Third Class Chiefs in Idoma Area Traditional Council. This brings the total number of the Selection Committee in the Idoma Area Traditional Council to 32.
“According to the report by the selection committee, out of this number, twenty-eight members of the total number were present at the selection exercise. The Quorum for the selection is two-third of the membership of the committee.
“The committee reported that five persons presented themselves for the selection exercise. Four were nominated. In the course of dialogue for a consensus candidate, one person stepped down. Three persons went into the election/selection. After the voting process was concluded, a candidate polled 1 vote, another polled 8 votes and the winner polled 19 votes.
“This shows that the selection process was very transparent, fair and free. At least 9 voters did not vote for the winner and none of them can prove that he is victimised. The allegations by the Ochetoha K’Idoma against Governor Samuel Ortom is therefore baseless, unfounded and unnecessary. The authors of the press statement, therefore, acted in error to have dragged the name of the Governor into what is entirely a legal process based on the Benue State Chieftaincy Laws of 2016.
“The tone of the press statement as signed by AVM Toni Adokwu, a retired Military General who should know the implications of inciting public peace after such a transparent process has been concluded was not only set in derogatory language against Governor Ortom but deliberately crafted to cast aspersions on his government. The statement is also intended to cause strife, destroy and pitch the Tiv against their Idoma brothers. This should not be tolerated.
“It also beats our imagination for AVM Adokwu and his co-travellers how they tried to belittle the Benue State House of Assembly that included the full complement of all Idoma representatives in the Assembly.
“The State Legislature followed due process, including public hearing that produced the Benue State Chieftaincy Law 2006 which introduced the unified new first-class, second-class and third-class chiefs in the state.
“Let it be known to AVM Adokwu and his sponsors that the Benue State Chieftaincy Law is not the creation of Governor Ortom or designed to humiliate and subjugate Idoma people. All the traditional rulers and elites in Idoma land, including members of the state assembly who are representatives of the people, are aware of the provisions of the amended chieftaincy law which is the ground norm for the process of the selection of the Och’ Idoma.
“It is this same law that was used in the selection of other Chiefs in Idoma land and is still being used to select Chiefs to fill some vacant stools in Idoma land. For Emphasis, let it be stated here clearly that, no traditional ruler outside of Idoma land participated in the selection process of the new Och’Idoma.
“So, this campaign of calumny and prejudicial name-calling of Governor Ortom is vexatious, callous and therefore completely uncalled for, and should be discountenanced by all well-meaning people of Idoma extraction and indeed Benue State”.