*TASKS OCH’IDOMA ON IMPLEMENTATION
By James Ibechi
A meeting of all sons and daughters of Idoma from all walks of life was on Friday, December 16, 2016, held at the Och’Idoma, Chief Elias Ikoyi Obekpa, Palace, Otukpo.
The meeting was held at the instance of the Idoma monarch according to him ‘to deliberate on how best to implement the 2016 Chieftaincy Laws of Benue State.’
The occasion witnessed presentations of various papers, notably the ones presented by Idoma Area Traditional Council, Idoma National Forum and Association of Ad’Idoma (oral), among others.
A common thread that ran through all the papers was the agreement that no law, the worldover, is perfect and that there is always a lacuna in every law, and as such the shortcomings in the 2016 chieftaincy laws of the state as observed by some people notwithstanding, the concept and rationale for it must be applauded, the participants believed.
Speaker after speaker commended the state government under the leadership of Dr. Samuel Ortom for the amedment.
Majority of the people who attended the meeting, except for one or two sparsely dissenting voices, was unanimous that the law should be implemented as amended.
Deputy Governor, Engr. Benson Abounu, in his reaction, traced the history of the law from the time of the former governor, George Akume to the present, recalling to mind how the Ortom administration eventually made its passage and signing a reality.
Abounu said the advantages of the new law, when implemented, will far outweigh its disadvantages, and so encouraged and backed the Idoma sons and daughters to fully implement it.
However, the Och’Idoma raised some fears. He expressed strong reservation over the new law, saying it is not in tandem with the Idoma cultural practice.
But, according to the state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Odeh Ageh, a closer look at the amended law shows it does not obviate any Idoma son or daughter from practicing their culture.
He said the law says everybody should do their selection of chiefs as their tradition and culture permit them.
In other words, the new law does not in anyway impede the custom and tradition of the people.
He said: “The law is very clear and straightforward on this: anybody that is eligible and qualified in his intermediate area can be selected as chief, granted his people agree that he is capable of ruling over their affairs.”
It is in the same vein the commissioner believed the issue of the promotion or elevation of existing chiefs does not arise because according to him, apart from Och’Idoma 1 and 11, Ogiri Oko and Abraham Ajene Okpabi that rose through the ranks to become Och’ Idoma successively, Och’Idoma 3, Edwin Ogbu, was never a district head or chief before he became och’Idoma.
Same way the seating Och’Idoma, Obekpa had never been a district head before his selection to occupy the stool of Och’Idoma.
Other speakers opined that the same law that allows for any Idoma illustrious son to be Och’Idoma – whether he is a serving chief or not, as far as his people like him and the kingmakers have agreed on him – qualifies any son to be chief.
So scores of other respondents similarly toed the same line as Chief Ageh.
On the issue of elevation or promotion of existing chiefs to occupy the higher stools many said that it absolutely does not hold water; this is because, as it were if it does, the present Och’Idoma could not have been enthroned.
Another issue, the agitation of the Igede people, in trying to breakaway from Idoma kingdom so decried as disturbing by the Och’Idoma was broached in the meeting.
Many speakers said the Igede people agree that geopolitically they are Idoma because Idoma was a creation of the colonial masters so done for geopolitical and administrative convenience only.
And being a colonial creation, it was the merging together of smaller tribes to make up the nomenclature, Idoma.
Culturally, however, Igede people do not believe that they are Idoma, because the most significant aspect of culture is language.
The argument was whether the Igede language is the same as Idoma.
Many speakers acknowledged that Igede people do not speak Idoma language and that the two languages are completely different from each other.
“It is not even a question of dialectical variation,” some averred.
On whether Idoma and Igede cultural practices are parallel, they said that there is completely no meeting point.
While the Idomas trace their origin to Kwararafa Empire, the Igedes do theirs to Benin Kingdom.
That the two were joined together, it was believed, is a marriage of colonial making, but not that Igede and Idoma are bound by one cultural identity neither related by ties of consanguinity.
It was the realisation of this fact that informed the body language of almost everyone in the meeting to consent to the implementation of the new law.
For the Igede, they said they are ready to implement the law to the letter, and expressed gratitude to Governor Samuel Ortom for the first class stool.
They rose from the meeting all therefore appealing to Och’Idoma to respect the popular views of his subjects, by implementing the law so that the Idoma people will move in the same direction with their counterparts.
As the Deputy Governor rightly pointed out in the meeting, if when the state inaugurates the council of chief next year and Och’Idoma is yet to select his first, second and third class chiefs, he will be there without them while this is not the case in Tivland.
So without waste of time, the meeting appealed to Och’Idoma to put necessary machinery in motion for full implementation of the 2016 Chieftaincy laws of the state.