Benue Council election: PDP stakeholders’ meeting on zoning ends in deadlock in Owukpa

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The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, stakeholders’ meeting on Ogbadibo chairmanship zoning called at the instance of the Benue State governor, Dr Samuel Ortom to address the ongoing disagreement over zoning in Owukpa, on Monday, ended in deadlock.

Governor Ortom had recently constituted a committee to look into the crisis that has ‘greeted’ the Council chairmanship zoning following petitions received from Ado, Ogbadibo, Otukpo and Apa Local Government of Benue Zone C.

In Ogbadibo, the chairmanship was zoned to Owukpa according to the existing zoning structure in the Council among Otukpa, Owukpa and Orokam. Then in Owukpa, going further, there is existing zoning structure between the four wards of Ehaje ward 1 and 2, and Itabono ward 1 and 2 that make up Owukpa community.

From the available zoning history in Owukpa, it is now the turn of Itabono Ward 1 as the past council chairman from Owukpa was Hon Clement Agada and he is from Ehaje ward 1 where the current transition chairman, Hon. Prince Onuh comes from.

But DAILY POST reports that Onuh is resisting stakeholders’ advice that he should step down just to allow peace in PDP, Owukpa, and Ogbadibo in general.

Recall that Onuh had admitted that zoning exists in Owukpa but that it should be loaned to him this time around.

Onuh and some of his supporters had argued that in time past when it was zoned to Ehaje 1, three aspirants also bought interest and nomination forms to contest with his father before they were stopped ahead of the primaries. But those in support of the existing zoning arrangement have countered the argument, saying buying of nomination form is not the same as contesting in an election.

Tribunepoint Weekly gathered that the meeting scheduled to hold in Owukpa on Monday led by the Ogbadibo party Chairman, Hon Vincent Amuche as directed by Gov Ortom’s committee ended in deadlock as two key party stakeholders were said to be absent, apparently boycotting it.

The two key party stakeholders who boycotted the meeting were the immediate past State Assembly member, Hon Joseph Ojobo and a serving Commissioner of Energy, Science and Technology, Dr Godwin Oyiwona.

Sources close to the party’s caucus said the two key stakeholders were in attendance in the first and second meetings on the chairmanship zoning saga, hence the outcome of those meetings where a communique supporting zoning was signed remains valid and the status quo must remain.

Investigation also reveals that the notice of the meeting was not circulated to the chairmanship aspirants from Itabono Ward 1 by the convener, Hon Vincent Amuche. It was gathered that he only sent the meeting invitation to a few individual stakeholders and supporters of the caretaker chairman, Hon Prince Onuh.

Speaking with a foremost politician, and first State Assembly member from Owukpa community, Rtd Honorable Okoh Orubi who travelled all the way from Makurdi to Owukpa for the meeting but was unfortunately and sadly locked out of the venue on the ground that he was not in the list of the invitees, said whatever report the convener, Hon Amuche will submit to the Governor’s committee on Tuesday will not be for the interest of Owukpa PDP stakeholders.

According to Orubi, “I travelled to Owukpa for the meeting today, though I did not get any invitation from Hon Vincent Amuche. Sadly, I was locked out of the meeting venue on the grounds that I was not in the invitees’ list. But as a law abiding senior citizen of Owukpa, I obeyed the gatemen doing their job as directed by Hon Amuche and Onuh.

“During the meeting, a few persons who did not want to compromise the truth walked out when money was exchanging hands from Hon. Onuh to kill the aged-long zoning structure in Owukpa to compel stakeholders to sign attendance.

“Onuh was imposing Ten Thousand Naira (N10,000) each on all attendants to support him against the zoning right inside the meeting hall. They were all compelled to collect the money and sign the attendance to submit a false report to the committee today that Owukpa party caucus has agreed to support Onuh but a few stakeholders refused and walked out of the meeting.

“The ‘bought-over’ stakeholders said that the zoning should start from Ehaje ward 1 just to favour Onuh after collecting the money. Elder statesmen, including Dr Egbo refused to compromise and walked out of the meeting, saying that zoning of leadership positions in Owukpa is an aged long practice. So for the peaceful coexistence of these two districts in Owukpa and for the future generations, they rejected the lobby offer and walked out of the meeting venue and that was how the meeting ended”, Hon Orubi said.

Also reacting to how a few compromised individuals were selected to attend the meeting, one of the chairmanship aspirants from Itabono who was not also invited for the meeting among others, Hon. Gad Ameh Peter said, “I was not invited for the meeting. It was late on Sunday that I got the information and I sent a text message to the Council party chairman, Hon Amuche after my effort to reach him on telephone call proved abortive but he (Amuche) never replied.

“How could a meeting of this magnitude be scheduled without my knowledge? I also tried to reach out to other aspirants from Itabono but they all told me they were also not invited.

“To me, in the first place, there was no need for the meeting. Owukpa PDP stakeholders have had meetings two times over the zoning where they unanimously zoned the chairmanship to Itabono Ward 1. All the stakeholders that matter in Owukpa including Hon Ojobo and Dr Oyiwona were in attendance. So why not hold on to that decision?

“I was surprised when I heard that Hon Amuche said he cannot take decision on the zoning during the meeting held today that Hon Ojobo and Oyiwona were not in attendance. It then means that whatever decision reached today cannot supersede what was agreed upon before when these politicians were around in our earlier meetings. Common sense!

“Two meetings had taken place in the past that stated clearly where the chairmanship position should go to and in that meeting. Virtually every stakeholder that matters in Owukpa was in the first and second meeting held in Otukpo and Otukpa respectively.

“Any other decision that would be taken after these two meetings stands null and void because critical stakeholders that were supposed to be in the meeting today were not part of it and everybody in Owukpa and every other place in Benue knows that there is zoning structure in every community.

“I was not invited in the meeting, Morgan was not invited. The only aspirant that was in the meeting coincidentally was Hon Godwin Unaji and according to him, he was only passing and heard the information that there was a meeting of Owukpa PDP stakeholders and decided to stop over to attend. None of us, the aspirants from Itabono was given any formal invitation for the meeting.

“Therefore, as far as we are concerned, we are going to write more petitions. We are going to speak louder and louder and we are going to demand that the right thing be done on behalf of our people,” Gad said.

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