Mixed reactions have continued to trail the selection of Och’Idoma-elect, Pastor John Elaigwu Odogbo, as the new paramount ruler of the Idoma kingdom.
Odogbo emerged as the Ochi’Idoma V in a keenly contested election held in Otukpo on December 30, 2021, after he scored 19 out of 28 votes cast by the kingmakers, leaving his closest opponent with 8 votes while the third contestant had only one vote.
However, discordant tunes had trailed the process of his emergence with some people alleging abuse of the Idoma tradition, culture and customs in the making of its king while others have rejoiced greatly that the coming of the new monarch portends good news for the Idoma people.
For Igoche Peter, an Idoma indigene resident in Makurdi, there is nothing wrong with the emergence of Odogbo as the new paramount ruler of the Idoma kingdom.
“I think it’s a good step towards a better Idoma. This will pave way for Christianity and abolishing of wrong traditional practices. It’s a thumb up for me,” he said.
But, Ogbenjuwa Alapa, a resident in Otukpo, faulted the manner in which the Och’Idoma emerged.
“It’s a traditional sacrilege. Forcing a religious bigot on the people of Idoma is the height of religious sacrilege by this government. In as much as the said Och’Idoma-elect is an Idoma man, he does not know anything about the tradition of the Ochi’Idoma institution.
“The history of past Och’Idoma’s is there for anyone to see how they emerged, it showed how they evolved from lesser chieftaincy positions to become the Ochi’Idoma. For instance, Ogiri Oko, Ajene Okpabi, Edwin Ogbu and Ekoyi Obekpa all emerged the same way.
“But, the way and manner the new Ochi’Idoma emerged is a travesty of the Idoma traditional institution because he lacks the rudiment of the Idoma traditional institution. He was not even a beaded Chief or kindred head. The Idoma people don’t select kings the way this recent one was carried out. We see the hand of the state government in everything done irrespective of the denial.
For Theresa Omateno, an Idoma lady of Ohimini stock, “We are optimistic Idoma nation under his (new Och’Idoma) watch will be fully and highly represented. We’ve felt the absence of a figurehead since the hunting expedition of the formal Ochi’Idoma, we hope the glory and pride of the Idoma people shall be restored under his watch.
On his part, Adakole Inalegwu thinks the problem created had its root in the 2016 Benue Chieftaincy law, which he described as lopsided and too uniform for the distinct ethnic nationalities in the state, noting it was protested by the former Och’Idoma and the then leadership of Idoma National Youth Forum led by Engr. Okopi Momoh and himself during the Governor Gabriel Suswam administration.
“I will say that both the elites that are complaining now that their personal interest did not feature and the three classes of chiefs that lack the courage to do the right thing because of money and threat of losing their job have all failed the Idoma people.
“I, therefore, urge them to join the district heads to ensure that the original Idoma traditional process of selecting the Och’Idoma to be adhered to. Else, they are all coming late and we will not join them in their selfish ambition to drag the Idoma nation to the pit. Until then, I will say congratulations to the new monarch,” Inalegwu added.
Meanwhile, the state government has denied any interference by Governor Samuel Ortom on the selection of the new monarch, insisting also that the process adhered strictly to the state’s Chieftaincy Law (as amended in 2016).
State Commissioner of Housing and Urban Development who is presently overseeing the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Chief Dennis Ekpe Ogbu, said at a press conference during the week that it was rather unfortunate that a group would come out with a statement disparaging a process adjudged to be fair and transparent, yet failed to point at specific instances of a misnomer.