By CongressVoice Newspaper (current edition)
The 2019 House of Representatives election is more than one year away, but the build-up towards the exercise has long been kickstarted particularly within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as well as the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) in Oju/Obi federal constituency.
CongressVoice has peered into the build up to identify who are the aspirants eyeing the plum seat presently occupied by the incumbent and second timer, Rt. Hon. Samson Okwu of the PDP, and to also give a perspective to the zoning issues setting the stage that will define where the pendulum will swing in 2019 proper.
Based on zoning, about 6 aspirants so far from the Igede Central axis of the Oju/Obi Federal Constituency have been known to be eying the plum seat.
Although yet to openly declare interest, one of the aspirants is Barr. Etukwu Ona, then opposition candidate, who slogged it out with Okwu in the 2015 contest. According to feelers, he had indicated interest in the forthcoming election.
Also angling to succeed Okwu is Hon. Ode Igbe, former Benue State House of Assembly member representing Oju 1 state constituency who lost a second term bid to Rt. Hon. Adoga Ona in 2011. Hon. Igbe has already openly declared to his community that he will be gunning for the seat in 2019.
Others who are said to be angling for the post also from Igede Central but yet to openly declare interests include but not limited to an Abuja based civil servant, Obo Egbodo; Rt. Hon. Egbiri Idah, Dave Ona, Ben Obega and Ogbu Itachu.
CongressVoice’s survey found that since the Supreme Court judgment in favour of the Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee led to the bid to reposition the PDP and return the party back to its winning ways before the next general elections in 2019, Rt. Hon. Okwu the incumbent had become excited and openly declared ambition to gun for a third term in the 2019 poll, becoming the first in the whole of Ito District to do so.
Okwu who is from Obi axis of the constituency was said to be banking on the factor of incumbency, power of money for why, the CongressVoice learnt, he was quoted recently to have challenged his opponents with N1billion.
And besides incumbency factor, according to sources, Okwu is deeply romancing with Uwokwu district because the population of Uwokwu can give him a swing vote in 2019.
Yet, many opined that Uwokwu people are not likely to vote against the decision of the Igede people in 2019.
On the decision of Igede people, CongressVoice check revealed that the zoning of the 2019 Oju/Obi federal constituency seat does not favour Ito District from where Okwu hails; rather if the extant zoning formula is still valid then Igede Central District has the turn to produce the constituency’s representative in 2019.
Many Igede people across the three districts and political party divide say the zoning as it is presently, is not only valid, in force, but sacrosanct, being the reason a 2011 candidate in the opposition party, Barr. Jacob Ajene, is held back from joining the race.
In a chat with CongressVoice recently, the ace politician who gave Okwu a run for his money in the 2011 contest said that he would only vie for the seat if Igede Central District cedes the 2019 slot to Ito District, if not, according to him, it is the turn of the Igede Central to produce the next representative for Igede in 2019.
With such a conditional statement, Barr. Ajene apparently cannot be said to be in the 2019 race yet. He like Okwu also hails from Obi (Ito District). His position on the 2019 clearly lends credence to many voices from Oju calling on aspirants from Obi to respect the two-termly zoning formulae and allow peace to prevail in the build up to the 2019 poll, by perishing their thoughts of contesting the election with Oju candidates.
Similarly, Iji precious an academic and indigene of Obi seemed to frown at the politicians from Obi, who are acting out the role of a spoiler in the zoning of the seat to Oju with a warning to the politicians from Ito District to desist.
According to him, “Obi politicians should be careful or else when the House of Representatives seat finally returns to Oju with its vantage population Obi will never smell it again.”
However, apart from the incumbent Okwu, another aspirant who could be said to be in the 2019 race seems to be Deputy Majority Leader of the Benue State House of Assembly representing Obi state constituency, Rt. Hon. Nick Eworo.
Unlike Okwu, Rt. Hon. Eworo has not openly declared his intention to run. But the move by his supporters especially from the Oju axis of the constituency is palpable that Eworo is in the race.
He too like Okwu hails from Ito District, which the current zoning does not favour.
Besides, the 2019 drumbeat by Eworo’s social media aide, Andyson Iji Egbodo and the lawmaker’s supporters from Oju and Obi including Otor Jackson Ogbu, aka Otor Jay is close to the lawmaker’s chest and since he has neither debunked any orchestrated media hype nor openly declared intention to run, the best CongressVoice had done was to speculate that he is nursing a 2019 ambition.
Rt. Hon. Nick Eworo contested keenly against Okwu in the 2015 poll but lost out in a primary. Both of them contested on the platform of then ruling party, PDP. Both politicians contested because the zoning favoured them then.
The dynamics, however, seem to have interplayed into the 2019 ball game so that if Rt. Hon. Nick Eworo finally confirms that he has, or will, throw into the ring his hat, it is not likely he will do so on the basis of zoning which automatically disqualifies him from contesting because he not Igede Central which has the 2019 slot by zoning.
Instead, those who drum him into the contest see him as most eminently qualify above others considering his performance at the state assembly where by 2019 he will have served out his two terms of 8 years.
His drumbeaters also think he’s vocal; he is a bridge builders and well rooted in the state and home front politics more than any of his rivals, attributes which they say supersedes zoning.
If such opinion holds sway in 2019, Eworo will smile but it will not be a done deal yet for him. Probably same money factor that made Okwu outclass him in 2015 will replay. Already, Okwu had boasted that no politician in the entire constituency had N1billion with which to prosecute the 2019 election, but him alone, a signal that it will be about the highest bidder again in 2019, if zoning fails.
Calls placed by CongressVoice to find out the veracity of that statement by Okwu were not successful so the best the paper could do since, also, the federal lawmaker had never once made himself available for reach either through constituency briefing as has been the case in other constituencies, was to assume that he made the statement, particularly moreso that the history of Okwu’s elections since 2011 is being said to be mired in money -for-vote politics.
Either that or it is vote for ókada’ or soup ingredients.
Since Okwu was said to have introduced money as a strongest factor or decider into Igede politics, election in the place has been dangerously reserved for the highest bidder, at the detriment of competence, track records of performance and content of character and this has worried the right thinking people in the constituency.
That is why, observers believe, Igede may continue to celebrate mediocre as their representatives where they should have better hands representing them.
It is believed that Okwu’s present position at the House of Representatives makes him the de facto number one man as far as political representation in Igede is concerned. But most important, providence has hoisted him onto a position to tinker with history, to shape history, to direct history and in deed to make history. So the people had been asking: what has Okwu done or will he do in the remaining period with the gavel of history in his hand?
Many believe that so far, he has bungled his moments in history and here are some reasons.
Poor personal leadership example
As has been mentioned above, the House of Representatives position is the most powerful and influential position in Igedeland in the absence of ambassadorial and ministerial positions and Okwu will have done eight years by 2019.
Under a more perspicacious and insightful personage, that position has the capacity to bring about far-reaching changes in Igedeland. But what has he done? Igede in the opinion of many has remained backward where Okwu would have used his position at the House of Representatives to cause changes. The more he occupies the seat the more good things continue to elude Igede land. This is from the perspective of the outcry of his constituents over time.
This is the most critical function of the legislature apart from passing bills. But this key instrument of check and balance is believd to have been bastardised and debased. It has become an instrument for self-aggrandisement.
Going by the 2016 federal budget, a sum of N100million each was budgeted for constituency projects for all the federal constituencies throughout the federation.
In Oju/Obi federal constituency, there is evidently nothing on ground to show for this. So, what has Okwu done with it, is a question etched on the minds of the people in the constituency.
And if there is nothing on ground to show, could it not imply that the boast of N1billion to prosecute the third term ambition by Okwu was bolstered by the gobbling of the constituency project money, while the story of Oju and Obi as a constituency is replete with either non-existent infrastructures or decay in the few existing ones. Too bad!
People alienated and unrepresented
May we urge the National Assembly to do an unscheduled tour of the constituency offices of his members and while at it, inspect the constituency projects for which huge funds are allotted to its members?
It is a stark fact that most Igede people do not know their representative at the National Assembly; there is hardly any project for monies allotted and no town hall meetings. No constituency and by extension no country will grow one inch with representatives of this ilk.
In conclusion, many in the constituency believe that Okwu’s representation has become very toxic to Oju/Obi federal constituency. He is unbeknown to his constituents.
The onus is, therefore, on the constituents (Igede people) to resolve to pick Okwu’s spot in history.
Let Igede people note that history is not about the wealthiest man or the most powerful of his time but about he who brings the most positive change to his people and society, which Okwu has had the chance to do, but instead chose to bungle the opportunity.
Fortunately, he still has a bit of time. Few quick things he can do quietly include improving his performance at the floor of the House, let him be seen to be representing well, stop being David Mark’s stooge but be a true representative of the Igede people in the remaining months that he has to stay at the House.