Eric Omare, a lawyer, is one of the two persons laying claim to the Presidency of the umbrella body of Ijaw Youths, the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC), has offered legal and moral reasons why he is the authentic President of the body, insisting that he was duly elected in accordance with the law guiding the body in the region. Omare and Mr. Peretubo Oweilami, another lawyer have locked horns and laid claims to the Presidency of the Ijaw Youths Council following their emergence at separate national conventions held in Burutu, Delta State and Okirika, Rivers State respectively. Attempts by various Ijaw leaders including the Ijaw National Leader, Chief Edwin Clarke and the Bayelsa State governor, Hon, Seriake Dickson failed over alleged bias and political consideration. Barr Omare, in a telephone interview with AKAM JAMES, in Yenagoa spoke on the issue, saying that despite the bias of some Ijaw leaders, the emergence of his national executive committee at the IYC convention in Burutu, Delta State conferred on him the authentic status of IYC President.
The Ijaw Youths Council (IYC), national body seems to be factionalised, what happened?
Those claiming to lead a faction of the IYC from Bayelsa are acting out of impunity; I am the legitimate President of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide, elected in accordance with the Constitution of the IYC at Burutu, Delta State on the 1st day of March, 2017. Any other person that is parading himself is just acting out of impunity which must stop.
I emerged as President of IYC through an election conducted at Burutu in accordance with the IYC constitution and established electoral practice and procedure of the IYC.
Under the IYC Constitution and the established practice, the three zones: Eastern, central and western zones and the two chapters; Lagos and Abuja are expected to hold congresses and nominate two persons each for the zones and one per chapter, three months before the expiration of the tenure of an outgoing national executive council of the IYC for the purpose of forming the IYC National Electoral Committee with the President of IYC having the power to appoint the Chairman of the Eleco.”
This has been put to practice severally, including Dr. Chris Ekiyor, who appointed Hon. Kingsley Kuku as Eleco Chairman during his term as IYC President and Miabiye Kuromiema who appointed Jerry Oba as Eleco Chairman while he was IYC President.
So, did this happen in this case?
At an executive council meeting held in Warri, Delta State sometime in November, 2016 and presided over by the then President, Udengs Eradiri, a decision was taken for the transition processes to start in line with the IYC constitution.
In furtherance, the then President, Mr. Eradiri gave three hundred thousand naira to each zone and two hundred thousand per chapter to hold congresses to nominate eleco members.
The eastern zone, Lagos and Abuja chapters promptly called and had their congresses wherein the nominees for the electoral committee were nominated.
The western zone had their congresses at Bomadi on 30th November, 2016, but the nomination of members of eleco members from the western zone was frustrated by the then Chairman of western zone from Edo state.
The congress ended abruptly with a promise by the then western zone chairman to call for another congress to nominate eleco members within seven days which was never done.
In the case of the central zone, the zonal chairman out rightly refused to call for congress to nominate eleco members from the central zone.
All these antics happened in the central and western zone because these zonal chairmen were instructed by their leaders not to allow the then President, Udengs Eradiri transit successfully.
Why will they do that?
Some of these leaders behind the refusal to hold congress and nominate eleco members for central and western zones were the ones who later met at Patani and took a decision to conduct a parallel election.
This was a very abnormal situation because in pressure groups such as the IYC, what I am used to is a situation whereby an outgoing President would want to sit tight and refuse to transit, but in the case of Mr. Eradiri, he was desperately wanting to transit, but some forces within the IYC were resolved to frustrate him from transiting successfully. According to them, they want to disgrace him out of office.
In this state and the time allowed for the remaining two zones to call congresses to nominate eleco members having expired, the available option was to call for a national convention of the IYC which was also the demand of the western zonal congress and different stakeholders, including a stakeholders meeting at Chief Tom Ateke’s residence in January, 2017;
a national convention was therefore called at Ibaka town hall, Okrika, Rivers State on the 16th day of February, 2017 and presided over by the then President, Mr. Eradiri wherein the convention as the highest decision making body of the IYC nominated the electoral committee members for central and western zone, cleared them and also inaugurated the electoral committee to conduct election within the tenure of the Udengs led national executive committee of the IYC.
Consequently, the electoral committee inaugurated by the then President, Udengs Eradiri with Mr. Oscar Izu as Chairman conducted elections on the 1st day of March, 2017 at Burutu, headquarters of Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State at a gathering of more than five thousand Ijaw youths wherein I emerged and was immediately sworn-in as President of IYC, together with other ten national executive council members under the supervision of security agents and the outgoing President as is the tradition of the organisation.
Let me also make the point clearly that as at the 5th day of March, 2017, when some former leaders and stakeholders of IYC went to Okrika, Rivers State to purportedly hold a convention and set up an electoral committee to conduct election on the 9th of April, 2017, the tenure of the Udengs led exco had long expired. The IYC has a constitution and by the IYC constitution, the tenure of the national executive council is for three years.
In the case of the Udengs led exco, the tenure was pronounced upon in two judgments; the Honourable Justice Ogola and the Honourable Justice Umukoro in suits Nos. YHC/79/2015: Udengs Eradiri & Ors v. Preye Agama & others and SHC/11/2016: Elvis Donkemezuo & others v. Udengs Eradiri to the effect that the tenure ends on the 2nd of March, 2017 and a new leadership was expected to take over mandatorily by that date.
Therefore, at the time the Okrika parallel convention took place, the tenure of the Udengs led exco had expired; hence aggrieved members of the Udengs led exco had no power whatsoever to call for a parallel convention.
Also, the only role of elders which comprises of former leaders under the IYC constitution is to advise and not to carry out any executive powers.
It is elementary knowledge that if you are holding a tenured office, the moment your tenure expires, you have no power whatsoever to act in that position or capacity, especially in this case when a new election had already taken place and new leadership has emerged.
If you are aggrieved by the outcome, the option available is to take steps to set it aside and not to conduct a parallel election as in this case.
This is where the report of the Chief Joshua Fumudoh led Reconciliation Committee becomes ridiculous. It was one of the nine wonders of the world for the Fumudoh committee to rule that an election conducted by former leaders was valid whereas the one conducted by the sitting leadership at the time in Burutu was not invalid.
I can only accept such a decision if Chief Fumudoh, a former President of INC can still carry out any valid action now as INC President or Amb. Igali who acted as Secretary to the Elders Committee carry out any valid action now in his former position as Federal Permanent Secretary.
I have given these examples to demonstrate the ridiculous nature of the report of the Fumudoh led Elders Reconciliation Committee. These facts were never made available to people like Chief E. K. Clark, Prof. Dime and other leaders who were misled to endorse the Fumudoh committee’s report without having been properly briefed.
A lot of the leaders have since known the fact and have denounced that committee’s decision. And also from the information at my disposal, the Fumudoh committee’s initial report was for another election to be conducted in the interest of peace and unity of the IYC, though not fair enough to us having been validly elected, but this initial report was manipulated by some members of the committee on getting to Abuja.
Is there any court order restraining you?
At the time my election was done at Burutu on 1st March, 2017, there was no pending case against the conduct of the election.
However, after my election and swearing-in, some persons led by Ebi Waribigha who purportedly emerged as Chairman of a factional eleco on 5th March, 2017 at Okrika went to the Yenagoa Division of the Bayelsa State High Court to restrain me from parading myself as President of the IYC.
They did not pursue this matter, hence it was struck out, instead they went ahead to conduct another factional election at Okrika on 9th April, 2017.
Now before they went to Okrika on 9th April, 2017 to do their parallel election, there were two pending cases challenging the right of some former leaders and stakeholders to set up an electoral committee when an election has already been conducted by an outgoing leadership led by the President, Udengs Eradiri at that time.
I and four other members of my exco members went to court on behalf of the national executive council in one of the cases, while some Clan and Zonal executive council members sued in the second case against the same former leaders and stakeholders in Suits SHC/4/2017 and Y/38/2017, respectively, before the High Court of Justice, Bayelsa State.
Precisely on 31st March, 2017 when the case I filed came up for hearing of an interlocutory injunction to restrain the Okrika factional election, we drew the attention of the court to the fact that they want to go ahead with the conduct of the election despite the pendency of the application and case in court.
The lawyer to Mr. Waribigha and others, Mr. Kayode made an undertaking in court in his honour as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on behalf of his clients that the Okrika factional election would not go on before the Honourable Justice Ogola of the Bayelsa State High Court, yet they still went ahead to conduct the Okrika factional election in utter disregard to the court. This shows their level of lawlessness and desperation.
As I said earlier, there are two cases pending in court relating to the leadership of the IYC. The cases are still going on and only the court has the power under the laws of our land to determine who was legally elected as President and other executive council members of the IYC with a binding effect.
The intervention such as the Fumudoh’s committee ought to be to reconcile members of the IYC and stabilise the council, instead it assumed the role of a court of law and pronounced on the legality or otherwise of the two elections when they have no such power especially considering the fact that there are matters pending in court in respect of which of the two elections is legitimate and thereby deepening the factionalisation.
The electoral committee inaugurated by the then President, Udengs Eradiri with Mr. Oscar Izu as Chairman conducted elections on the 1st day of March, 2017 at Burutu, headquarters of Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State at a gathering of more than five thousand Ijaw youths wherein I emerged and was immediately sworn-in as President of IYC, together with other ten national executive council members under the supervision of security agents and the outgoing President as is the tradition of the organisation.