Crisis continue to loom in Owukpa community, Ogbadibo Local Government Council of Benue State over the disagreement of PDP stakeholders on internal zoning in the coming Council chairmanship election.
Afripost recall that Benue State Electoral Commission (BSEC) had earlier before the announcement of its postponement on Monday released the Council elections timetable slated for November 30, 2019 and the state governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom told caucus of the state Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that the existing party zoning should be strictly adhered to in the interest of all.
Following the governor’s pronouncement, Ogbadibo Party stakeholders zoned the Council Chairmanship to Owukpa according to the zoning practice among the three communities that make up the local government.
Both traditional and elective positions in Owukpa has been rotational among these two districts (Ehaje and Itabono). Stakeholders believe that the chairmanship should be zoned to Itabono Ward 1 as the last elective council chairman from Owukpa community was from Ehaje district and the current caretaker chairman is also from the same district (Ehaje).
But what appears like a time-bomb is about to explode in the peaceful Owukpa district as the current caretaker Chairman, Prince Samuel Onuh, has insisted that the zoning arrangement won’t be respected as he is interested in the position. According to him, there is no worthy son of Itabono to take over from him. The development has been generating controversy in several quarters as it’s believed that once he succeeds, the entire zoning arrangement in the local council would be affected.
It was gathered that when Onuh realized that Itabono people were not ready to give up, he approached them, begging that the existing Owukpa rotational practice be discarded and the position be loaned to him. Onuh is from Ehaje clan of Owukpa district. But Itabono stakeholders vehemently rejected the appeal while noting that such has never happened before and it won’t happen any time in the interest of peace in the community.
The caretaker Chairman, again resorted to threat, declaring himself as the anointed candidate of Governor Samuel Ortom. He claimed the governor had personally called all stakeholders who withdrew from the race, including the Ogbadibo PDP Chairman, Comrade Vincent Amuche. To further intimidate the community using his relationship with the governor, he unveiled his poster with the governor as his backbone. His campaign slogan equally comes with the inscription: “Princematic/Ortomatic 2019”. This has since raised questions.
Confirming Gov Ortom’s position on party zoning, his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase told Daily Post that, “Governor Ortom’s position on the matter is clear. The governor had earlier warned that if the position is not zoned to your place, don’t contest. Governor Ortom has said he will not interfere in the coming council election. He said it publicly and has told me privately too.’’
But Onuh has insisted that any candidate who sees himself as formidable should meet him in the poll as he was no longer ready for further dialogue on the matter. In his ‘vituperation’, Onuh had referred to Itabono position on the matter as ‘trash’. He accompanied his position with a document posted to a WhatsApp group ‘’ The Owukpa Advocacy Group’’ with the comment ‘’This is the antidote to this trash’’.
But Itabono stakeholders have insisted Onuh cannot snatch away what rightly belongs to them. In a communique through its National Chairman and General Secretary, the community have lamented the deafening ears of Prince Onuh on the matter, warning that if he is allowed to contest, and not called to order, many things will go wrong during and after the poll. The communique warned people who have issues with the current zoning arrangement to go through the legal process and not through intimidation and attacks. The communique is hereby attached.
According to a reliable source, Local Government money has now exchanged hands over the matter as some political heavyweights in the council have been placed on N40,000 monthly stipends from the Local Council in order to ensure the current caretaker chairman remains in office. There is an existing agreement to increase the monthly stipend from N40,000 to N100,000 if the status quo is maintained in Ogbodibo, source told Daily Post.
This arrangement will cost the Local Council Three Million Naira every month. It was gathered that the governor has been briefed regarding the cost, but it’s not clear yet his position on the matter, just as it’s not clear whether he supports the jettisoning of the micro zoning arrangement.
It was also gathered that calls from Makurdi, the Benue State capital has forced several candidates from Owukpa to step down for the caretaker chairman. It was also gathered that even though those who stepped down would be compensated at the end, majority of them feel helpless and aggrieved because of the powerful and compelling forces pushing for Prince Onuh.
It’s yet to be seen how the matter would be resolved at the end as youths are currently planning to embark on a massive protest to the Local Council. This is in addition to different calls on the attention of Gov Ortom by different groups to call Onuh to other before the disagreement results to violence in the community.
When contacted, Owukpa Traditional Council confirmed the looming crisis from the peoples outcry to stop Prince Onuh and his supporters from destroying the aged-long peace, unity and love that exist among the two districts in Owukpa. However, the traditional Council while noting that none of the aspirants from neither Ehaje nor Owukpa had approached the Council to complain nor informed the Council of his interest to contest the chairmanship, said that the issue would be looked into in the next Owupka Development Association (ODA) general meeting in November, should any of the aggrieved parties formally approach ODA before then.
See attached minutes and attendants signatures of Owukpa PDP stakeholders meeting held in Otukpo where it was unanimously agreed to zone the chairmanship to Itabono and also attached communique issued by Itabono National body on its position to ‘loan’ Onuh the chairmanship.
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