TOWARDS A NEW DIRECTION FOR THE MIDDLE BELT REGION

ochi-and-nick-2EJIKEME OMENAZU, LAGOS

With the 2019 general elections gathering momentum in parts of the country, the traditional and ethnic groups in the Middle Belt geo-political zone are taking giant steps to ensure that they work in unity to prepare the people for a new direction.

Thus, on Saturday February 4, 2017, the apex body of the people of that region, also known as the North Central geo-political zone, enthroned a new leadership to pilot the affairs of the Middle Belt Traditional Council (MBTC). This move, which started in Lagos, is expected to continue in the parts of the country in other to properly mobilise the people for the task ahead.

The body had earlier on December 3, 2016, conducted an election through which the new leadership emerged democratically through the ballot box, for the people’s mandate to give the region a new direction in the next five years.

That election, as stated by the Chairman of the Electoral Committee, Comrade Aluh Moses Odeh who coordinated the swearing in of the new regional leaders, produced Chief Ode Ochi Emmanuel as Chairman; Dashi Jacob as Secretary General; Chief Esson Soja as Treasure; Mr. Adi Williams as Assistant Secretary; Chief Abubakar Agene, Public Relations Officer, and Evangelist Silas Lima as Financial Secretary.

Comrade Odeh, the founding Secretary of the MBTC and National Leader, All Middle Belt Youth Forum (AMBYF), in his remark, stressed the desire of the traditional and ethnic rulers in the Middle Belt to work for the unity of the people of the region under one umbrella, which led to the establishment of the Middle Belt Traditional Council (MBTC).

He stressed that the MBTC is not meant to defend a particular ethnic nationality in the region, but to ensure that all the groups cooperate and work as one for the development and uplifment of the region, or geo-political zone in the Nigerian nation.

Odeh also called for support for the new MBTC leadership so that they can achieve the purpose for which they were elected, which he stressed is to serve the people of the region, as an apex structure, in the interest of all.

With this, Odeh issued the Certificates of Return to the new MBTC leaders, even as he called on Barrister Ben Ogbu, to administer the Oath of Office on the new executive officers.

doing so, Barrister Ogbu charged the new leaders to serve the MBTC and the people of the Middle Belt in general, faithfully and sincerely, to the best of their knowledge nd bear true allegiance to the region.

He counselled them that in the discharge of their duties, they should not allow selfish and parochial interests to becloud their judgements, and that they should be true representatives of the people. He also called for the support of the people of the region for the body so that they will serve the entire Middle Belt with patriotism.

In his acceptance speech on behalf of the new leaders, the chairman, Chief Ochi appreciated the people for their emergence, even as pledged that his team would remain servants to the people, who he stressed, are their masters. He expressed the optimism that the new MBTC leadership will not fail the people of the geo-political zone, without adding or subtracting from the terms of their mandate as spelt out in the MBTC constitution.

To the people of the Middle Belt, Chief Ochi said: “I want you to critically watch us to detect any subtraction or addition in any message being sent to them. You should speak out and call us to order when we err, so that we can do more in the discharge of our duties to the people.”

Speaking to Independent, immediately after the inauguration, Chief Ochi said the new MBTC executive will ensure that the region regains its pride of place as the stronghold of Nigeria, stressing the history of the country cannot be written without a good space allotted to the region.

He however lamented that not minding the pivotal role of the region, the Middle Belt is not accorded the respect it deserved in the scheme of things, especially at the federal level, noting that the region is being marginalised in terms of key political appointments, location of industries and institutions ans infrastructural development,

“Our mission therefore is to project the image of the region and put across our demands and seek our rights our rights in a peaceful and non violent manner. There has been marginalization of the Middle Belt in terms of the federal character assessment and application. That  is one of the cardinal areas we will address.

“There should be fair distribution of social amenities and appointment of ably qualified men and women of the Middle Belt extraction,” adding that most of the federal government’s activities are concentrated on “the so-called major ethnic of the country. But such cannot be allowed to happen in the Middle Belt.”

Chief Ochi maintained that there are no good roads, no rail transportation and no development of land or air ports in the region, while the massive development efforts of the federal government are not felt in the Middle Belt region.

According to him, the Middle Belt is always called upon to labour for the unity of the country, but forgotten whenever it is time to reap the benefits, stressing, “These are the injustices against the region which we want to address through the MBTC in way of civil demands and not violence.”

He said the MBTC has been encouraging qualified sons and daughters of the region to go into politics to lend their voices to the agitation being made on behalf of the Middle Belt and pressurise the federal government until the zone begins to see better things.

He said: “The era of keeping quiet is gone. We will keep on demanding for our rights and will not rest on our oars until our rights are given to us.”

On the protracted herdsmen and farmers imbroglio in the region the MBTC chairman said his body has continued to lend its voice for the end to the crisis as the zone has become a battle field where lives are contantly lost for no just cause.

Chief Ochi stressed: “The MBTC once more wishes to use this opportunity to condemn the unfortunate killing going on. It is also unfortunate that some highly placed individuals will openly condemn these crimes and shed crocodile tears  and go back to support the crimes. We know them. Unless they stop this act, we will let the world know about them and their actions.”

He however stressed the need for unity among the people of the Middle Belt on one hand, and among all the ethnic and traditional institutions in the region, stressing that the MBTC is determined to ensure that there is no division among the people of the zone so that there will be all-round development there.

He also said the committee will be working with all the groups within the Middle Belt in carrying out its mission for the people of the region, even as he disclosed that this will not be done in isolation of the state governments in the zone.

Chief Abubakar Agene, the MBTC Public Relations Officer, in his closing remark on behalf of the leadership thanked the people for choosing them, the Electoral Committee for a job well done, even as also announced the appointment of Barrister Ogbu as the MBTC Legal Adviser, due to his patriotic services to the regional body so far.

He also called on all the ethnic and traditional institutions in the region to give their support to the MBTC executive so that the body can serve the people better.

Interestingly, as the event was going on, some of indigenes of the Middle Belt who have political ambitions during the next general elections openly announced their intentions for the MBTC to take note and to give them the necessary support. They however refused to disclose their party platforms as they maintained that it is premature to do so.

@Independent,  Thursday February 9, 2017

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