Sir. Barr. J.O. Ojobu
Recently, Ikaworld.com sat down with Sir. Barr Joseph O. Ojobu in his home for an exclusive interview. This interview was partly spurred by recent reports of peaceful protests at Umunede some months back against the perceived marginalization of the people of Ika East in Ika North East Local Government Area by Owa Clan.
In this interview, Ikaworld.com dwells on the vexed issue in Ika North east with Sir (Barr) J.O. Ojobu who is a prominent PDP Chieftain.
Ques: Can you tell our readers who you are?
Ojobu: I am Sir Barr Joseph O. Ojobu. I am a native of Mbiri, Ika North East Local Government Area, and a lawyer by profession. I am married with seven children. I attended Okphewho Primary School, Umunede, and St. Pius Grammar School, Onicha- Ugbo, where I finished in 1974. I proceeded for my HSC in Benin, and thereafter I went to study law at the University of Maiduguri, Borno State. I later went to the Nigeria Law School and graduated in 1983, and was called to Bar same year. Since then I have been into private practice, based in Agbor. I was a member of the Ika North East Caretaker Committee between 1993 and 1997. From 1999 to 2002 I was the Executive Chairman, Ika North East Local Government Council. I have my Chambers along old Lagos/Asaba, Boji-Boji Owa, Agbor and I am resident at No. 28 Oriekaose Street, Agbor.
Ques: How long have you been in partisan politics?
Ojobu: I have been involved in partisan politics right from when I graduated from the University since 1983. I contested the position of State Legal Adviser with now Justice Ehiwario on for the National Party of Nigeria which was conceded to him because of my relative age and experience then as a Youth Corper. Right from there I have been in active politics.
Ques: With your years of experience as a politician, would you say politicians, with particular reference to politicians of Ika extraction have done well for the people.
Ojobu: Well, ordinarily politicians have done well, that is talking about those from Ika land, except for few egotists in politics who feel that clique politics should become the other of the day. And the bane of Ika politics is clique politics. Some people want to maintain a particular clique and structure and forget about the entire Ika, which does not make well for Ika people. That will still go ahead to ruin the chances of any Ika indigene projecting himself for the governorship and even presidential levels. Until we put aside clannish sentiment and clique politics and look at politics from a brotherly spectrum, I don?t think those opportunities for development will come. But generally, I will say that politicians of Ika extraction are definitely doing well.
Ques; There has been this cry of maginalization and agitation for equity by some clans in Ika North East. Is it really true?
Ojobu: Oh! Very, very true. That is where the clique politics become so pronounced. It is very true. The marginalisation set-up in Ika North East is too pronounced. All political appointments and the distribution of amenities are lopsided in one clan, that is Owa Clan. It is true that some indigenes of Owa are lucky to be close to those in the State Government and are able to catch some positions. But to have these positions and hold it for myself, my family, friends and clan alone is wrong, it is very bad. There is serious marginalization currently going in the Local Government, even against the people of Agbor Kingdom, whom they argued marginalized them before now, because they say that almost everything that came to the defunct Ika Local Government were collected by Agbor. But the Owa people are taking it too far. To the extent that other clans are being denied of their legitimate right to government patronage.
Ques: In what areas can you point out that Ika East is being marginalized?
Ojobu: In so many ways, like I pointed out, all political appointments have been hijacked by the Owas, particularly, Owa-Alero and Owa-Oyibu. Don?t forget that during Chief James Ibori?s administration, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa who is from Owa ? Alero and is now Secretary to the State Government was Commissioner for eight years, Chief Lawrence Osiegbu, who is currently Commissioner for Environment, from Owa-Oyibu, was Chairman of a Board, Chief Humphrey Iwerebor has been the Local Government Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman, and he is from Owa-Oyibu, Barr. Francis Eborka, the State Legal Adviser of the PDP is from Owa Oyibu, Mrs. Mary Okoh, mother of Osiegbu, was a board member from Owa-Oyibu, during Ibori?s administration, Chief Godson Echiegile was at the Federal Level, and now Ambassador, from Owa-Alero, Hon. H.C. Nwaegbo who was at the House of Assembly, is from Owa-Alero, the late Hon. Smart Buzugbe, immediate past Ika North East Local Government Executive Chairman, from Owa ? Oyibu and now they are trying to impose Mr. Festus Iwerebor, the son of Chief Humphrey Iwerebor, also from Owa ? Oyibu as the next Executive Council Chairman. Ifeanyi Ebeigbe, Okowa?s brother is Protocol Officer to the Governor, Raymond Mgbako, Special Adviser to Okowa, is from Owa ? Alero. Now we have nine clans in Ika North East,. Owa is just one of them, but everything seems to be going to them. Where do other clans belong in the scheme of things roads leading to farms are being tarred in Owa-Alero and Owa-Oyibu. Again it must be pointed out that it is not all Owa that is currently benefiting, even other areas in Owa are being marginalised. Areas like Owanta, Owa-Aliosimi, Owa Alizomor are not being taken care of. For all the positions to be restricted to just Owa-Oyibu and Owa-Alero is the height of marginalisation and injustice and does not tally, is not in tandem with section 14 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which makes room for even spread of amenities and political positions. I was the only person who was a Local Government chairman from the East during the first tenure of Ibori?s administration. However I came in there on the platform of a different party. And I was given the disturbance of my life by the same clique, to the extent that I was suspended from office for one year, simply because I don?t come from Owa Clan. Even while I was in government, there was serious pressure to give all appointments to people from Owa. It is that bad. But I took my Secretary and Secretary to Local Education Authority from Igbodo and Ute-Ogbeje respectively.
Ques: Is it an internally orchestrated marginalisation.
Ojobu: Yes, the marginalisation we are talking about is internally contrived by indigenes of Ika North East who believe that politics should be a clique and clannish thing. It is purely internally done, because our sons in Government are the people perpetrating the marginalisation and injustice.
Ques: Some people were reported to have carried out a peaceful protest against perceived marginalisation and they were disrupted.
Ojobu: Absolutely correct. This lopsidedness is brewing resentment in our people. When some people tried to raise up their heads to cry about marginalisation, Okowa and his boys brought up thugs to beat them up. After beating them up, used government influence to get them charged to court. So there is serious marginalisation. And it does not make well for good neighbourliness in Ika North East.
The likes of Chief Obanor, PDP Administrative Secretary, Chief Ogadi Omola and the wife of the Obi of Umunede drove to the Police Station, dropped some money with them and the Police arrested the protesters. A member of SIIB, saw everything and wrote a report, but the report never saw the light of the day. The matter is still in court. Peaceful protest is recognized by democracy. It is recognized by the constitution. The protest was not violent but the thugs came with matchets and broken bottles and attack the protesters.
Ques: What are the measures that you people have applied to redress the issue.
Ojobu: We have communicated the Delta State Executive Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, but we are yet to hear from him. Maybe Okowa is using his position to sit on the matter. We have also called for a meeting with Okowa and his Clique, which they refused to honour. However, in fairness to Chief Humphrey Iwerebor, who was prevailed upon by his son, Mr. Festus Iwerebor, he was at the meeting with some of his people. Chief Iwerebor has done his best. I still submit that the governor who was elected democratically into a place like that should have at least listened to the voice of the people. The fact that he is not listening to the voice of the people is a minus for him. Well, we are still watching. Maybe after now, we will either complain to the Federal Character Commission or go to court to have the issue resolved. We want dialogue but the perpetrators of the wickedness, Okowa, Osiegbu, Sam Obi do not want dialogue.
Ques: I thought with Hon. Sam Obi from Ute-Okpu at House of Assembly, Ika East would have been assuaged.
Ojobu: Well, Sam Obi comes from Ute-Okpu, but Ute-Okpu has the same pedigree, historical link with Owa, however, you heard me say clique politics. Sam Obi is only a minute part of people from Ika East, outside Sam Obi all other people from Ute ? Okpu are marginalized. I challenge them to point out any other person from the area that has been empowered.
Ques: Is it not because your group lost out in the guber race that you are using marginalisation as a smoke screen.
Ojobu: What do they mean by group. We are all in PDP. What kind of group. I, Barr. Ojobu was a member of Uduaghan?s Campaign Committee. In fact, my name is number 14 on the list of fourty-member Campaign Committee. I campaigned vigorously for Uduaghan, being in the campaign train that toured the whole Delta State. It is true that we were supporting Chief Godswin Obielum for governorship election, as others supported Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, Barr Ejaife Odebala, Chief Godson Echiegile, Barr. Pius Ewerido, even Uduaghan himself. But when a sole candidate emerged for the party, we had to close ranks to deliver him. So I wonder where the group issue is coming from. However, because Obielum gave them the greatest fight they are still isolating us. We are of the PDP family and deserve equal opportunities and recognition. If they knew I belonged to a different group why did they put my name in the committee? We all worked tirelessly for Udughan during the campaign. I delivered in all the stages of elections in the territory zoned to me. Why then deny my people of government patronage. It is not fair. It is criminal and very deceptive of those fanning the ember of marginalisation in Ika land.
Ques: What is your assessment of Ibori?s administration?
Ojobu: James Ibori tried to improve the fortune of Delta State in his first tenure by renovating schools, hospitals, construction and rehabilitation of roads, However, during his second tenure he relapsed in his developmental drive, particularly in Delta North, where infrastructures like roads were allowed to decay, to the extent that if you go round Agbor metropolis and other towns in the area you will see unmotorable roads and collapsed culverts. There is no single standard Stadium in the North. It is very clear that Ibori himself had marginalized Delta North. We cannot shy away from that fact. All in all I cannot give them a pass work. For instance the Local Governments have not been able to perform because they have been over-squeezed. What actually gets to them from the Federation Account is not the exact money released. The joint account has stall the effective and efficient performance of the Local Government. I cannot really blame them. They do not have the resources to development their areas.
Ques: In what ways have you contributed to the development if Ika land.
Ojobu: As a Public Officer, when I was Chairman what I did was to see how to be broad minded towards the spread of appointments and social amenities in my Local Government. I made sure Supervisory Councillors were not lopsided in any particular clan. So what I did was to distribute the positions among all the wards (because as you are aware we have fourteen wards) in Ika North East, tallying with section 14 of the constitution.
My own regime was the administration where we attained the highest peak of internally generated revenue. We also made medical services free, providing money as revolving loans to Health Centres so that they could buy drugs to administer on people. All the earth roads were in the L.G.A were graded, and also culverts were constructed. I dug bore-hole at Mbiri. The Secretariat was build during my brief stint as the chairman.