Saturday, 29 November 2014

I'm the Idoma Bridge to the Governorship - Ode

Erstwhile minister of Niger Delta, Dr. Sam Ode, with mixed Idoma-Tiv parentage has for long been considered to be the first man to break the ceiling against an Idoma man becoming governor of Benue State. Though born of an Idoma father, his maternal parentage flows directly from the late Senator Joseph Tarka, one of the richest torchbearers of Tiv political hegemony. So, any better man to carry the Idoma cause? Ode who speaks Tiv language fluently in this interview explains his path to the Benue Government House. Excerpts:

It has been  speculated that the PDP Benue South caucus unanimously endorsed Senator David Mark for a fifth term and called for the trimming of the number of gubernatorial aspirants. Is that true?

I like to state the facts as they are and I stand to be corrected. On 27 September, 2014, stakeholders of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP were invited to a meeting and I was one of those invited to the meeting. We went to the meeting and it was a one agenda meeting to endorse our son, the president of the Senate, Senator David Mark. It was unanimously agreed that he should be encouraged to return to the National Assembly for a record fifth time. At that meeting, he was represented by the minister for Interior, Comrade Abba Moro who accepted the endorsement for and on behalf of Senator Mark. Before then, the chairman of PDP caucus in zone C Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Ejiga, (rtd.) had extended invitation to five aspirants from the zone to meet with him at 6pm. So, I want to say these were two different meetings. At the 6pm meeting, we engaged in strategies to enable us clinch the governorship seat of the state and this was devoid of rancour. The meeting was presided over by the caucus chairman with the zonal chairman in attendance. Other prominent members of the caucus like Dr. Jerry Agada were in attendance. It was agreed that we, the aspirants should meet and fashion out a strategy to achieve that objective. I was the first of the aspirants to respond and I thanked the caucus chairman for giving the aspirants the opportunity to agree amongst themselves and the meeting came to the a close.

What do you think is the fear of the people spreading the false information that you stepped down?

Their fear is obvious. I was the target of that false information because the stories read clearly that former minister of State, Niger Delta had been dropped. So, I was the subject and object of the story, to create fear and a crisis of confidence in my supporters and the minds of Benue people about my aspiration and the question I have asked is who is afraid of Sam Ode in the race for governorship of the State?

Since this false story came out, have you been in touch with the other aspirants especially the deputy governor to feel their reaction?

At the time the false story came out, we were like accused persons and so, I felt that it was not necessary to ask any of the other aspirants but I must state here that Dr. Oyigeya called me and I commend him for that. I have reported the matter to the State chairman of PDP Dr. Emmanuel Agbo. In any case the issue of endorsement of any aspirant has been put to rest by the National Working Committee of the party which has banned the endorsement of aspirants by the state chapter or even caucus.

Many believe that you were not in the race.

I am in the race. I have never dropped my ambition by one atom. It is going on high speed. We have few days to the primaries and people are already threatened and plotting that if they do not use some conventional means to stop Sam Ode, he may win the primaries.

How has your acceptance been in view of the agitation by the Masev, Ihiarev, Nongov political block that the governorship seat be zoned to them?

I can tell you with every level of confidence that I received high commendations and acceptance across the length and breadth of Benue. But you know in politics, there must always be audience to tell you what you want to hear. I have worked hard and consulted with all Benue people in the diaspora, America, Europe, UK, Lagos, Port Harcourt name it. I came back home and traversed the nook and crannies of the State. I have no iota of doubt that I will emerge as candidate of the party come December 8th, 2014 and eventually emerge victorious at the general elections.

Could you clarify why you are called the bridge?

The context of Sam Ode as the bridge, I will approach it from two perspectives. I am a bridge between the young and old because I relate well with both groups. I was opportune to supervise the very important Bureau for local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and it provided me a platform to have grassroots reach and also create goodwill with the traditional institution in Benue State. So, that bridge is existing. Biological I have a bridge that is running across the three zones of the State.

My mother Helen Kondun Swem

was the first child of the late Kondun Swem, a two time member of the House of Representatives. My grand mother Catherine Tarka is the first child of the Tarka family from the senatorial Zone B and my father the late Colonel Chris Ikwe Ode is native of Otukpo. So you can never have any bridge better than this which flows from Zones A,B and C and back again.

Many argue that since you are from the same Otukpo local government with the Senate President, it will mean taking too much. How do you view this analysis?

It is only in our political atmosphere that we do not accord certain institutions the honour they deserve. David Mark is beyond an Otukpo man. He is the number three citizen of Nigeria for more than 8 years now; so when we are talking about zoning, we should put him aside. It is in this country that we know that my late uncle J.S. Tarka was elected senator in 1979 and on the same day, my cousin Simeon Tarka was also elected as a member of the House of Representatives.

How is your relationship with Governor Gabriel Suswam affecting your aspiration?

Suswam has provided a wide level playing field for all aspirants. I have campaigned and consulted widely too and believe that the Governor Gabriel Suswam I know will avail every aspirant a level playing field.

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