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Ijaw Nation: Controversy over INC presidency

•I’m President, says Barrister Boma Obuoforibo
•You were impeached, I’m new President — Alatubo Charles Harry
•Obuoforibo is INC leader, declares Chief Edwin Clark, BOT Chair

By Emma Amaize, Editor, Jimitota Onoyume & Davies Iheamnachor

PORT HARCOURT—THERE has been acrimony for more than one year running over who is the bonafide national president of the Ijaw National Congress, INC, the apex body of the Ijaw ethnic nationality with two persons, Barrister Boma Obuoforibo and Alatubo Charles Harry from the Eastern zone, comprising Rivers and Akwa-Ibom, laying claim to the exalted position.

L-R: Chief Edwin Clark, Boma Obuoforibo & Alatubo Charles Harry
L-R: Chief Edwin Clark, Boma Obuoforibo & Alatubo Charles Harry

The disagreement has torn the body into factions, a bug that did not also spare the youth body, Ijaw Youth Congress, IYC, led by Udengs Eradiri.

NDV spoke to both Obuoforibo and Harry at Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers state and both men stood their grounds, but former Federal Commissioner for Information, leader of the Ijaw ethnic nationality and chairman, Board of Trustees of INC, Chief Edwin Clark, stated unequivocally that the national president of INC is Barrister Boma Obuoforibo.

Boma Obuoforibo

Obuoforibo, who was first on our hot seat, said: “Yes, I am the President of Ijaw National Congress,” when he was asked. Are you aware that somebody else is laying claim to this position? He asserted: “I read the report that one Charles Harry said he is INC president . I do not know how, INC has only one president and we do not have any leadership tussle.”

Are you saying there is no leadership tussle in INC? He replied: “I am surprised because I only read it in the newspapers; I do not know how the media got the information. Several people answer the same name, so if somebody come  and say that he is President Muhammadu Buhari, there is nothing you can do. There is no tussle in INC. INC is one and the president is me.”

How did you become INC president? NDV inquired further. Obuoforibo said: “You are aware that our headquarters is in Yenagoa in Bayelsa State, which is Ijaw House. It was at the national convention, which is the supreme body that elects the national president of congress. I was elected at the Ijaw House on the 15th of January 2015.

“On the 2nd of February 2015, I was inaugurated INC president in the presence of notable stakeholders across the Ijaw nation, including the Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson. Till date, I occupy the office.

“But, we heard there is a legal tussle over the position of INC president? He reacted: “Sometime last year, because of certain disagreements, some former National Executive Council, NEC, members were removed from office and new people were put in their place by the legislative arm of the INC, National Representative Council, NRC .

“These persons decided to go to court in suit no PHC/1954/2015, claiming the following reliefs. 1. That the court should declare  their removal from INC unofficial, as it was not constitutional and that the court should reinstate them. 2. That I have been removed from office by them. It is the congress of National Congress that elected me, but they said that it was not so, rather that they elected me and that the court should remove me and declare the office vacant.

“The matter is still in court. In July, we heard that these same persons were planning to hold an election. INC went to court to restrain them from doing such. In this particular case, they have gone to court for their reinstatement but they went ahead to conduct election where they declared one Charles Harry as the president,” he added.

What is your impression about this development? Obuoforibo told NDV: “We cannot stop them because even God did not stop the devil from roaming. What they did is contempt of court. If court says do not do a thing and you do it, it is contempt.”

Do Ijaw leaders accept your leadership? He stated: “On the 30th of July, the  leadership of Ijaw met in Warri. The governor of Bayelsa state , the deputy governor of Delta and Chief E.K. Clark attended and when the issue of INC came up , they passed a vote of confidence in me.”

Have you being presiding over meetings of Ijaw nation? He asserted:”We have been holding meetings. We held a meeting with the president over the restiveness. Arrangements have been concluded for us to go back for a meeting with the President on October 31.”

Who are the members of executive? “Some of them are the national secretary, Barr. (Dr.) Bibobra Bello Orubebe, Gabriel Atangolo, vice president, Chief Japhthah Kabaiti, Mr. Miebaka Tamunomiebi, publicity secretary, Dr. O.N Iragunima, assistant secretary., Chief (Engr) O.O. Oruye, auditor and others,” he added.

On if the crisis could be resolved, he said: “If there is any problem, it can be resolved. But I do not know, all I know is that some people are calling themselves names we do not know. INC is an organization that has only registered members and for you to be a member, you must be registered. These people are not registered members. So within us,   there is no problem and we have no control over non-INC members.”

Alatubo Harry

On his part, Alatubo Charles Harry did not mince words when he told NDV: “Yes, I am the president of Ijaw National Congress. The INC has a process that produces its president and my emergence complied with all the laid down procedures and provisions of the constitution of INC.”

So, how did you become INC president? He stated: “For a while now, the INC presidency was zoned to the Eastern zone seven years ago after the Central zone had its turn. Prof. Obianeme was elected president at that time and was subsequently impeached after about two years and his deputy held the position until the end of that tenure, which was an aberration in itself.

“After that, a new president was elected in Chief Sekibo of Okrika, who unfortunately died about a year after and his deputy took over and it was agreed that elections must be conducted not to usurp the Eastern zone’s turn, that election was conducted and Barr. Boma Obuoforibo was elected.

“But in February 2015, he was suspended from office for acts of misconduct and the act was passed to the legislative body of the INC, National Representative Council, and NRC. NRC set up a seven- man committee that investigated the allegations against him and on November 10, he was formally impeached.

“Since November 10 till 6th of August when I was elected, there has been an acting president in the person of Charles Ambaiowei, the vice president. Ambaiowei held the seat to complete it, but some elders said it is not good. So, election process was put in place in January 2016. There were several meetings held at the time before CITREL ordered for an election, which was done,” he said.

His words: “NRC has to put an electoral committee in place and they sat in Port Harcourt with a former national secretary of INC as chairman. They drew time table for the election and on the 6th of August, I was duly elected the INC president under the chairmanship of Prof. Kimsey Okoko. I was also sworn in by a traditional ruler, the chairman, Council of Chiefs, Andoni, as our constitution provides.”

Are you aware that somebody else is laying claim to this position? Harry said: “I can say without iota of doubt that there is no two bodies in INC. What we have is a situation where a man who has been impeached goes on parading himself. If he was the INC president, why were official duties of INC being carried out by the acting president since last year?”

“The Ijaw Day and Boroh Day were done by Ambaiowei, why is he saying now that he is INC president? He converted the INC national headquarters in Port Harcourt to his personal chamber and locked out members of the executive. He again petitioned the Commissioner of Police in Rivers state, who after investigations found that his petition was malicious.

“He further petitioned the Inspector General of Police, who also found out that the petition was malicious and ordered that he should be arrested and prosecuted. He has been evading arrest. Last month, he went to a court in Omoku to get a perpetual Injunction purportedly stopping the police from effecting his arrest. I have no case with Boma,” he declared.

According to him: “I came in 10 months after he was impeached, I was not part of his impeachment or the accusations against him, I contested 12 years ago, some Ijaw leaders came to ask me to contest to rebuild the house. I was implored by well- meaning elders and leaders in Eastern zone that we have a problem and that they need a leader that will have everyone’s respect and hold the units together. I thought it was important that I respect the call of elders. This tenure has only eight months left. I am here as president to solve a problem.”

Are you saying there is no leadership tussle in INC? “There are no divisions in INC and we do not have leadership problem. There are some people, who because they want to be myopic to things cause unnecessary opprobrium in Ijaw nation. INC is neither divided nor factionalized.”

“INC does not have two presidents. INC is sitting comfortable as a united entity. The problem that surfaced is what I am here to resolve.

“The crisis in INC also affects the IYC. If people are true to themselves, they should be asking how we should move the house forward and not how to further divide the house,” he stated.

Clark intervenes

National leader of Ijaw ethnic nationality and chair, Board of Trustees, INC, Chief Clark, told NDV: “Obuoforibo is the president general of INC. He had problem with his deputy and part of the executive and the matter has not been resolved. And the vice president, Engr. Charles Ambaiowei resigned his position from INC and sent me his letter.”

“INC has three zones, eastern zone, central zone and western zone. Western zone stretches from Ondo, Edo to Delta states, the central zone is Bayelsa state, while Eastern zone is Rivers and Akwa Ibom states. At the moment, it is the turn of eastern zone. Senator Sekibo was elected president and his executive sworn in at Yenagoa. Then, unfortunately, he died suddenly at Government House, Yenagoa a week after meeting me in Abuja.

“New election was held and Obuoforibo was elected at the convention and Charles Ambaiowei as the deputy national president. They had problems and disagreed, while we were looking at the possibility of settling them, Ambaiowei resigned and after sometime, the eastern region led by ex-minister, Alabo Graham Douglas , former deputy governor,   Sir Gabriel Toby,   Chief Sara Igbe, Monday Okonny, a one-time executive director in NDDC, Architect Etteh,   and others, led a strong delegation to meet me on July 30 2016, which was attended by the Bayelsa state governor, deputy governor of Delta state, former minister Alaowei Broderick Bozimo and royal fathers.

“After deliberation on the main agenda, which was how to restore peace in Niger Delta, we discussed the matter and we unanimously agreed that Obuoforibo remains president of INC. We prayed for him,” Clark asserted.

He said: “Later, I learnt that one man was parading himself as INC president. The issue is where he was elected, who are the members of his executive. Alabo Graham Douglas told me that they would settle the matter. I later heard that they asked the young man to stop down and go and see me (Clark). I do not know that man, Harry, till date. I am the chair, BOT and what I know is that Obuoforibo remains INC president.


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