Ochi Ode Emmanuel is a maritime expert and Middle Belt Traditional Council (MBTC) Chairman. In this online interview with jamesibechi.com, he addresses issues in the recent endorsement he led stakeholders in Benue state to make which has since sent shockwaves across the geopolitical spectrum of the society.
You led select Igede stakeholders to endorse two candidates for election to National Assembly recently. Any comment on this?
The reason is this: when a fight is free for all, those concerned with the outcome of the free-for-all fight would have to address the nitty gritty of the outcome of the fight, for good. That informed my interest in calling a stakeholders’ meeting in Igede. And it is all in line with the general consensus that House of Representatives position must return to Oju from Obi. Such a cry of my people actually drew my attention to the necessity of the stakeholders meeting.
The endorsement was greeted with mixed reactions. While many accepted Okibe for senate, Ogewu was not, what do you say?
Like I have explained, when it comes to a matter of free-for-all-fight, the concerned stakeholders who would want the fight to end well will definitely need to decide how to tailor the fight to a logical conclusion that will be a blessing to all. So it is not a surprise that some people who felt otherwise are kicking against the consensus candidates. It is not least expected. But the outcome of what we have done is for the good of Igede nation.
Did you take cognizance of the fact that INEC’s document shows Ogewu as the least educationally qualified of all the candidates standing for election to represent Igede people at NASS before your group endorsed him?
If by the spirit of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which INEC is constitutionally empowered to regulate those that participate in the national and local elections attest and accept that qualification I have no basis to reject it. Second, Muhammad Buhari was once criticized: they call him ‘Baba go Slow.’ But people who are fast runners, where have they gone to? And people laughed. Here, we are talking about service. We are not talking about intimidating certificates.
What is the rational for endorsing the two candidates?
Mr. James Ibechi, you know me, I have integrity and I will remain in this position. I am unbendable; It’s only God that can bend me. While we were in that meeting, we set up an ad hoc committee meeting that assessed all the acceptable candidates for key positions and those who know the candidates very well had come up with cogent reasons as to who are they and what they are and what they can do. These were presented to the general house and we looked at them objectively and those candidates who were present were allowed to speak and address the House and they did and we gave them opportunity to reconcile themselves as to their capability to execute task, and their acceptability generally, as they traverse the length and breathe of their territories. And having done all that, we realized it is only one person that must be elected. We realize too that all of them were capable, yet only one must be elected. So the decision over Ogewu and Onoja was based largely on the antecedents, acceptability of the candidates by the electorate as assessed by us who were there who were genuinely committed to the cause. And so, the issue here is not about favoritism of any kind or an inducement from any quarters. I convened the meeting. I tell you authoritatively that I did not receive a dime from anybody to arrange the meeting. In fact, some people were saying that Ogewu might have bribed me. You know me and you can defend me anywhere. In fact, until that Saturday I had neither met Ogewu nor discussed with him or by any other means. I met him for the first time that penultimate Saturday in the meeting; not outside the hall. You can now know that I am unbendable. And I cannot be induced by anybody. By the special grace of God I am well fed. I am not excited about money. I am somebody who is low key in everything. My interest is Igede nation, the cohesion, unity and progress of Igede nation. Nothing more Nothing less.
Why is your group silent on candidates for other position such as governorship, presidency and House of Assembly?
I leave the issue of governor for politicians. I feel concerned mostly on the ones my committee addressed and I did it for a purpose. These ones affect Igede nation directly – not by extension.
What is your advice to the youth before they cast their votes on Saturday?
Thank you very much, Mr. James. I have an advice for the youth. Some of them were used and dumped before. Let them be conscious of this. Two, what some of us are fighting for is not for me as a person. By the grace of God, I am well. If the youth allow themselves to be used and dumped as before they will blame themselves. They cry woe that there is no job, there is no food. They wallow in abject poverty. Yet, only during election period politicians come and throw money on them? Will they allow themselves to continue this way? I would encourage and advise the youth to learn from their past mistakes and come all out to vote in credible leaders, leaders who will put something on their table. If they make same mistakes of the past then they wont blame anybody but face their fate. Let them come out, mobilize and vote according to their conscience. If the moneybags come to give the youth money, they should take it because it is theirs’ but go to the poll and vote their conscience. I am talking because history will not forgive me if I don’t do this. It’s not about me; it’s not about my immediate family; but about the welfare of Igede nation. And to you the press, you owe the Igedenation and the world the information the people need to decide.