IYC: Still a divided house
The fragmentation of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) into feuding factions could undermine on-going government peace effort in the Niger Delta region.IYC, which is the umbrella body of Ijaw youths, has been entangled in an acrimonious leadership crisis since March this year, following emergence of two executives led by Eric Omare and Oweilaemi Pereotubo.
Efforts by Ijaw leaders, including Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson and Edwin Clark, to resolve the problem has met with difficulties, due to pending legal tussle over constitutionality of who is legally empowered to convene IYC convention for election of the body’s new leadership.
The IYC, which played a pivotal role in resolving the militancy crisis in the region, and still continues to play a crucial role in the ongoing Federal Government’s peace effort, will inadvertently undermine, make nonsense of everything.
Things fell apart in IYC, when tenure of the immediate past president, Mr. Udengs Eradiri, expired on March 2, and he decided to organise a convention to elect new executives. This was, however, opposed by all his predecessors, such as Dr. Felix Tuodolo, Mujahid Dokubo-Asari and Chris Ekiyor, among others.
Before the March 2, 2017 event held at Burutu, Eradiri had held a meeting with Asari, Ekiyor and other stakeholders at Patani, Delta State, and he was prevailed upon to shelve the planned convention. It was gathered that Eradiri was asked, in the interest of peace and cohesion, to dissolve the 2017 IYC convention, which he had inaugurated, as those opposed to him had also gone ahead to set up a parallel body, but to no avail.
The Guardian gathered that Eradiri, whose tenure had weathered crisis, perceived that the Patani meeting was part of a ploy by past IYC leaders to impose their preferred candidate, through the backdoor. So, he declined the suggestion. Instead, he decided to go ahead with the convention, which eventually saw the emergence of then IYC spokesperson, Eric Omare as the president.
It was gathered that those who perceived Eradiri might support Omare’s candidature, had, prior to the convention, filed a suit at the Bayelsa State High Court, seeking to unseat them, even before expiration of their tenure.The matter was brought before the court by the then IYC National Secretary, Wisdom Ikuli, IYC Mobilisation Officer, Elvis Donkemezuo, Bristol Emmanuel, Mike Edonkumor and Felicia Ngere.
In the meantime, Eradiri and Omare had obtained a subsisting judgment, which on November 15, 2015, gave an order restraining the plaintiffs and other IYC stakeholders from removing the duo from office.
Justice E. G. Umukoro had, in his ruling on the matter in December 2016, declared that the 2015 judgment, which interpreted that the IYC president’s tenure, was binding on all council members, including the plaintiffs.He explained that, because of the subsisting judgment of a Yenagoa High Court, the plaintiffs and other aggrieved council members cannot challenge their tenure till its expiration in March 2017.
Miffed by Eradiri’s decision to press on with the convention, where Omare emerged as the president, former IYC presidents, such as Dr. Tuodolo, Asari, John John, Ekiyor, and other founding members, like Famous Daunamogha, T K Ogoriba, on March 5, held another convention at Ateke Tom’s enclave in Okochire-Okrika in Rivers State, where 110 accredited delegates from the western, central and eastern zones, elected Oweilaemi Pereotubo as parallel president.
The IYC had discarded an ongoing convention by one of its factions in Okrika, Rivers State, as a gross violation of the law, admonishing all to disregard the process and its outcome.But in a swift response, the Omare faction spokesperson, Henry Iyalla, had described the Okrika convention as illegal and futile on the basis that only an outgoing president empowered by the IYC constitution to call for a convention will produce a new executive council.
He said: “We wish to state clearly that former IYC leaders have no power whatsoever to call for a convention for the purpose of conducting elections into IYC National Executive Council. Hence, we advise the few IYC former leaders involved to maintain their advisory role, rather than assuming executive functions and becoming partisan.”
He explained that what happened at Okrika was in flagrant disregard of the rule of law. The question of IYC leadership, according to him, is already a subject of litigation before the Bayelsa State High Court and parties have been asked to maintain the status quo.In June, the first IYC president and a former Commissioner for Culture and Ijaw National Affairs, Tuodolor, led Pereotubo to take possession of the council’s secretariat.
Omare said the purported handover of the secretariat to his rival was a display of mockery of the IYC constitution and processes.He said: “For the records, the immediate past President of IYC, Udengs Eradiri, handed over leadership to Eric Omare since March, 2017. And it is customary in the IYC, just like similar organisations, for immediate past President and leader to hand over to his successor. Therefore, what is happening at Ijaw House is nothing, but a display of impunity and invitation to anarchy.
“It is important to note that Felix Tuodolor, who is supervising the purported handover and some former IYC leaders are already in court with the Eric Omare-led National Executive Council in a suit challenging legality of the purported Okrika convention called by former IYC leaders, which produced the factional IYC leadership.
“Consequently, we call on the Ijaw nation and the general public to disregard the factional leadership, which Dr. Tuodolor purportedly handed over to, while reiterating our call on Ijaw youths to be peaceful no matter the level of provocation.”
The decision to hand over the secretariat to Pereotubo followed recommendation by the Joshua Fumudoh-led Ijaw Eminent Persons Committee, which was set up by Governor Dickson to resolve the crisis, recognising Pereotubo as the IYC president.
In his reaction, Omare accused the elders of further polarising the organisation. He observed that, instead of reconciling the two factions, the Dickson committee had succeeded in causing further division by his recognition of the Okrika faction without any recourse to his group.
He said it was preposterous on the part of the committee to claim that the reason it endorsed the Okrika convention was because two former national executive committee members only attended the Burutu convention, while eight attended the Okrika event.He said: “In the light of the above, and considering the very weak reasons offered by the committee in endorsing the purported Okrika IYC convention, we completely reject the Elders Committee’s decision and state that the body’s national executive council under my leadership remains the legally recognised.”
Former Chief Press Secretary to Governor Dickson, Daniel Iworiso-Martins, said only a court of law can pronounce on the legality or otherwise of the two conventions that gave birth to the two IYC executive councils.
Already, the Omare-led executive had filed a suit in Bayelsa State High Court against Felix Tuodolor and 12 others.In a writ of summons obtained by The Guardian, Omare and his national officers are asking for declaration that, under provisions of the IYC Constitution of 2014, only the National President was competent to convene a National Electoral Convention, to set up an Electoral Committee for the purpose of electing officers of the body.
A member of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDF), who pleaded anonymity, said it would be difficult to negotiate, when one or both sides think they are better off, when bargaining fails.
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