Fresh startling facts have emerged on why Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom suspended two major contenders to the stool of Edikwu District in Apa Local Government Area of the State. Governor Ortom took the decision after he was briefed of the intractable tussle which involved the chiefs in the chieftaincy battle which claimed the lives of 13 persons in the community including a centenarian.
Bodies of most of those massacred in the attack were reportedly dumped in wells.
This is as security has been beefed up in the area as nine armed suspects linked to the attacks have also been arrested by men of the military Operation Whirl Stroke. Sunday Telegraph learnt that the suspended contenders, Chief Otokpa David Imoni and Ada Ochekwu, had been engaged in war of words since the latest attack on the community.
One of the major contenders to the stool, Chief Otokpa David Imoni had accused his opponent, Mr. Stephen Adah Ochekwu as the mastermind of the attack. But Ada Ochekwu, in a swift reaction, has also debunked the claim and pointing accusing finger at Imoni.
Sunday Telegraph investigations indicated that the feud started 25 years ago in a bid to impose a Clan/District Head over Edikwu. However, in the wake of the latest attack in which 13 people were gruesomely murdered and their bodies thrown into two different wells in Ukpogo community of Edikwu, while multi-million naira properties were destroyed and many survivors displaced.
The long arm of the law has begun to catch up with one of the perpetrators under the regime of Ortom to have “literally intervened in the ongoing mayhem.”
However, the peace in the area was allegedly short-lived after Mr. Ochekwu allegedly enlisted the support of his “politically connected friend,” a paramount ruler in Apa Local Government Area, now on self – imposed exile. Fi
ndings has it that the said “politically connected” paramount ruler, Chief John Enefu Antenyi (JP), who is Clan Head of Edikwu’s neighbouring clan known as Oiji, allegedly helped Ochekwu to first, circumvent the kingmakers of Edikwu and obtained an official “warrant of office” for him as the government-recognised ruler of Edikwu while in exile.
Sources from the village confided in Sunday Telegraph that, Ochekwu, had successfully engaged a son of a late Regent of the Edikwu community in court, demanding for a handover of the chieftaincy properties of Edikwu District.
But because the said son of the late Regent (one Mr. Emmanuel Atungwu) was not the custodian of the chieftaincy properties of Edikwu, his court judgment could not be enforced.
Also, Investigation revealed that after wrongly interpreting his court victory in his debate against the late Regent’s son over possession of chieftaincy properties of Edikwu as a victory of his claim to the throne of Edikwu, the late Chief Imoni Otokpa and the Kingmakers of Edikwu went to court thereafter and successfully challenged the validity of Mr. Ochekwu’s appointment occasioned by the “warrant of office” issued to him without the knowledge of the Kingmakers of Edikwu.
Ochekwu, it was learnt, was aggrieved by the decision of the High Court of Benue State that his earlier court victory on the issue of the chieftaincy properties of Edikwu does not translate to a victory in his claim to be the valid occupant of the throne of Edikwu District in Motion No: MHC/134m/2011 and Motion No: MHC/1658m/2013.
Investigation further revealed that miffed by the decision of the High Court against his prayers in Motion No: MHC/134m/2011 and Motion No: MHC/1658m/2013 in which he claimed that earlier court decisions had affirmed him as the validly appointed ruler of Edikwu District, Ochekwu proceeded to the Court of Appeal in Appeal No: CA/MK/51/2015 with the same prayers.
Thereafter, we gathered that Ochekwu allegedly abandoned the legal pathway and allegedly continued in his earlier strategy of hiring armed militiamen to attack various communities in Edikwu whom he believed were responsible for the failure of his bid to become traditional ruler.
“Despite the court victories against Ochekwu, the villagers led by the eldest man in Edikwu Icho alleged that his paramount ruler friend known as Chief John Enefu Antenyi vowed that the said “warrant of office” issued to Ochekwu would never be reversed.
“However, when Mr. Ochekwu, who had continued to be on self-exile from Edikwu District since 2014, realised that the official ‘warrant of office’ to which he clung had no utilitarian value so long as the Kingmakers and elders of Edikwu’s 13 communities would not welcome him back to their community to exercise traditional rule, he simply stepped up his engagement with armed militiamen from his base in self-exile and recommenced the killing spree which has become an almost regular occurrence in the community,” the villagers alleged.
“Even after Chief Imoni Otokpa, who was the choice of the Kingmakers, died in July 2018, the community quickly enthroned his son, Chief Otokpa David Imoni (mpsn) as his successor.”
Sunday Telegraph gathered that in the aftermath of the recent bloodbath which was followed by the immediate arrest and detention of Ochekwu, both Ochekwu and the son of the man he contested against and lost, had since began to trade accusations over the attacks.
Chief Otokpa David Imoni (mpsn) whom the villagers said the Kingmakers of Edikwu had enthroned after the demise of his father in a statement, accused Ochekwu of resorting to violence after his efforts to ascend the throne failed, both in court and before the kingmakers.
Imoni said: “Ochekwu’s violent escapades dated back to 1994 but escalated in 2014 when six people, including two officers of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, (NSCDC) were killed by a gang he had hired in his bid to enthrone a rival Clan Head in his mother’s community known as Ijaha- Edikwu.”
However, in a swift reaction, Ochekwu, refuted the allegation. He laid the blame at the door of Imoni, whom he accused of fuelling the attacks.