High Chief Ochi Ode Emmanuel is the Oji Kpururu 1 of Ibilla Kingdom in Igedeland as well as the Chairman, Middle Belt Traditional Council (MBTC), in the South West zone. He spoke to EJIKEME OMENAZU on the new grazing law of Benue State, Gov Samuel Ortom’s declaration of state of emergence of salary issues and the emergence of a First Class Monarch for the Igede nation.
What is your view on the two years of Samuel Ortom administration in Benue State?
Till today, I think the governor is yet to settle down in the real business of quality governance two years into office. Well, he may try to justify this by saying that Nigeria is in recession and because of that his government is being hindered in terms of performance by lack of funds. But, can that be an acceptable excuse? To me, the answer is ‘No’. Governance is about initiative. He and his aides should be seen to be constantly ahead in policy initiative to surmount the mounting problems or challenges of governance. Where these traits are lacking, there is bound to be failures in governance. This is how I see this government for now.
Do you think the new anti-grazing law of Benue State will end the headsmen, farmers’ clashes in the state?
Yes. Indeed, that is a right step in the right direction. When the herdsmen are officially and legally restricted, their physical contact with farmers will be minimised. To me, I encourage the move. It worked in Ekiti State. There is nothing bad in learning from our actions and inactions. If what is done in Ekiti is replicated in Benue State and the result is alright, why not?
Gov Samuel Ortom recently declared an emergency over salary issues, stressing that he would not mind abandoning on-going projects to pay salaries. How do you see this development?
When I heard that the governor declared state of emergency on salaries, though it was a sad development, somehow, it is a welcome development. People are really suffering in Benue. A labourer should not be allowed to die of hunger. So, suspending some non-key issues of development to pay salaries is a hard knock, but a welcome development. I wish the governor will keep to this holistically in order to keep the issue of overdue salaries behind the government.
What advice would you proffer for the Ortom administration?
It has always been my view that he should be proactive in tackling the challenges confronting the state. For example, he has declared a state of emergency over salaries. What are the structures on ground for the payment of salaries? How has he segmented the payment procedures? What is the life span of this state of emergency? He has to let people know so that it can be measured, either in terms of successes or failures.
What is your take on the recent selection of the First Class Chief in Igede?
The issue of First Class Chief in Igedeland has been overdue. The Igede nation has come of age to look for an identity by having a paramount ruler. If Gov Ortom’s administration heeded to the call, it is a good omen to the Igede nation. That was why some of us bent backwards to ensure that a popular candidate, a retired Commissioner of Police in the person of Oga Ero was successfully elected as the Adirahu 1 of Igede. We ensured that the right person to occupy that position is saddled with the traditional leadership of Igede nation.
Would you say the Igede people now have a traditional Council separate from the one chaired by the Och’Idoma?
There is hierarchy in every setting in life. That applies to secular and traditional lives. In Benue, when you come to the traditional parliament, the Tor Tiv is automatically the chairman of the council. Similarly, when you come to Idoma traditional parliament, the Och’Idoma becomes the chairman. So, when it comes to Igede traditional council, the Adirahu Igede becomes the chairman. On and on it goes. That is not to say that there are superiority complexes.
Would you agree with the notion that the manner the Igede First Class Chief emerged was against the people’s tradition?
How can they say such? I do not think so. From time immemorial, Igede nation has a way of appointing or electing their heads. That was the exact method that was used without rancour. So, I am not aware of any discontent over the emergence of His Royal Highness, Oga Ero as the Adarahu Igede. I am not aware of any.
There were some candidates for that position. But, the fact is that it is only one person that will occupy the position. If one from among them had emerged through popular opinion or support, the losers should team up with the winner in the spirit of one love of Igede nation and therefore bury their differences.
How do you see His Royal Highness Oga Ero as the Adirahu 1 of Igede?
Hs Royal Highness Oga Ero is a humble man, a complete gentleman. I see him as an epitome of leadership combined. Therefore, I have no doubt that he will give Igede nation quality leadership that we have been yearning for over the years. He is a well-known man in security circles as a retired Commissioner of Police and above all, a psychologist, who can read between the lines and detect the authenticity of matters before him. To me, this quality is key to those in leadership position.