THE OCH’IDOMA IV His Royal Highness,Agabaidu Elias Ikoyi Obekpa,CON,FCNTI,Traditional Ruler,Community Leader,Administrator,the Och’idoma of idoma kingdom and the vice chairman,Benue state Council of Chiefs,was born on December 31,1944 at Ipole Otukpa,Benue state. He had his Primary Education at the St. Joseph’s Primary School,Orokam, and St. Mary’s Catholic School, Otukpo from 1954 to 1960. 1962, His Royal Highness proceeded to the St. Edna’s Teacher’s College Zaria from where he distinguished himself as the best graduating student in 1966. Not yet done with academics, Agabaidu Elias Ikoyi Obekpa sat for and passed two A’ Level Papers, Economics and Geography. This paved way for his admission into the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University in 1971. He graduated in 1974 with a B.SC (Hons) in Business Administration. The Och’Idoma further attended the Arthur D. Little School of Management, Cambridge Massachusetts,USA,where he obtained an M.SC in Business Analyses and Management in 1982.
His Royal Highness began his working career as a Primary School Teacher in 1967. He served as class teacher and Headmaster in many Primary Schools between 1967 and 1971. In 1975, His Royal Highness changed his career to Tax Administration and was appointed an Inspector of Tax Grade 11 by the then Government of Benue Plateau State. He rose steadily through the ranks and became Director, tax Administration, in 1993. The crowning moment of his career was in 1994 when he was appointed the Chairman and Chief Executive of Benue State Board of Internal Revenue. His appointment turned around the fortune of Revenue generation in the State.This , he achieved, through aggressive mobilization and effective management.
Agabaidu attended many courses and workshops at home and abroad. He is a member of many professional Bodies including Chartered Institute of Taxation and the American Institute of Management. During his career as a Civil Servant, Agabaidu Obekpa served as Secretary/Chairman to many important Committees including that of Revenue Mobilization and Generation 1986 and Benue State Car Refurbishing Loan among others. In December,1996 ,His Royal Highness was elected the Och’Idoma of Idoma Land. His reign as Och’Idoma has witnessed unprecedented peace and unity among the sons and daughters of the kingdom.
In recognition of his outstanding contributions to National Development and Community Service, His Royal Highness was awarded the National Honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) by the Government of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
His Royal Majesty, Agaba-Idu Dr Elias Ikoyi Obekpa was sworn in as the first Chancellor of federal university Gombe on the 13th February, 2016. The Royal Father is married with Children . Among his hobbies are table tennis and Squash.
HRH, Agabaidu Dr. Edwin Ogebe Ogbu Och’Idoma III was born on 28th December 1926 to Chief Ogbu Iyanga, the paramount Chief of Utonkon and Mrs Eje Ogbu. He attended primary schools in Utonkon and Igumale before proceeding to the famous Methodist College Uzuakoli in 1938 where he excelled and came out with division one in the Cambridge School Certificate Examination (one of the precursors to modern day Senior School Certificate Examination) in 1945.
In 1948, Edwin Ogbu gained admission to Bethune Cookman College (now Bethune-Cookman University) in Daytona Beach, Florida and graduated with a combined honours degree in Sociology and Anthropology in 1951, making Edwin Ogbu the first degree holder from present day Benue State. In 1953, he proceeded to the prestigious Stanford University, Palo Alto in California and graduated in 1955 with an MA in Education.
Edwin Ogbu returned to Nigeria in 1956 and joined the Northern Nigeria Government in 1956 as Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Finance. He was the third most senior official in the ministry after the Finance Secretary and Senior Assistant Secretary. As Assistant Secretary, he was involved in formulating and implementing the monetary policies of the Northern Nigeria Government.
In 1958, he transferred from the Northern Nigeria Civil Service to Federal Civil Service and was posted to the Nigerian High Commission in London as Deputy Secretary in charge of Students Affair. As Deputy Secretary, he used his experience as a foreign student in the US to great effect and the High Commission was able to provide quality consular services and support to Northern Nigerian students in the UK.
Edwin Ogbu returned to Nigeria upon independence in 1960 and was appointed Secretary of the Federal Civil Service Commission where he championed the case of recruiting suitably qualified people into the Federal Civil Service which he considered the bedrock of the Federal Government. He was at the Federal Civil Service Commission until 1962 when he was promoted to the position of Permanent Secretary at Federal Ministry of Works & Survey. At the Federal Ministry of Works & Survey he was heavily involved during the planning stages for the construction of River Niger Bridge in Onitsha and Kainji Dam.
In 1963, he was transferred to the Federal Ministry of Finance as Permanent Secretary to help realise the objectives of the First National Development Plan (FNDP) introduced the previous year. Dr Edwin Ogbu remained at the Federal Ministry of Finance until after the military coups in 1966 when he moved to the Federal Ministry of External Affairs as Permanent Secretary where he helped formulate the foreign policy of the new military government.
He was with the Federal Ministry of External Affairs until February 1968 when the Federal Government of Nigeria posted him to United Nations (UN) in New Year as Nigeria’s ambassador to the UN. This appointment was during the height of the Nigerian Civil War and it was evident that his diplomacy skills were needed to articulate Nigeria’s position as the war raged. Even after the war ended in 1970, he continued at the UN until September 1975 when he retired from public service, making him one of the longest serving Nigeria’s ambassadors to the UN.
While at the UN, he was a member of prominent UN committees and in 1973, he became the Chairman of the Committee against Apartheid. He also headed the Committee on Namibia and the Committee on Global Peace Keeping Operations. He rose to international prominence in 1974 when he successfully challenged the credentials of the South African delegation, which had attempted to obtain UN recognition of the apartheid government. During his stint with the UN, he was also the Nigerian High Commissioner to Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago from 1970 to 1974.
Despite his stature as a diplomat in the 1970s, Edwin Ogbu still paid close attention to events in Idomaland and was part of the group that were instrumental in the establishment of Idoma Community Secondary School, Otobi (now Federal Government College) in the early 1970s.
During his lifetime, Edwin Ogbu received numerous recognitions for his meritorious services to humanity. In 1974, his Alma Mater, Bethune Cookman College awarded him an honorary Doctor of Law degree for his service to public service. Other Universities that conferred honorary doctorate degrees on him include University of Lagos (Doctor of Law in 1986), University of Jos (Doctor of Law in 1986) and Benue State University (Doctor of Letters in 1992).
After the creation of Benue State in 1976, Dr Edwin Ogbu was appointed the Chairman of the Governing Council of the newly established Murtala College of Arts, Science and Technology, Makurdi (present day Benue State Polytechnic Ugbokolo). He was also the first Chairman of Council and Pro-Chancellor of University of Maiduguri and in 1992, he was appointed the first Chairman of Governing Council & Pro-Chancellor of Benue State University, Makurdi; the first State owned university in Northern Nigeria.
The achievements of Dr Edwin Ogbu were also recognised by Idoma people and in 1995, the Och’Idoma II, HRH Dr. Ajene Okpabi, made him the “Ochojila K’Idoma” a traditional title which translates into leader of Idoma people. The title was conferred on him in recognition of his contributions to the development of Idoma land.
Dr Edwin Ogbu continued his service to Idoma community and when Ajene Okpabi passed away, he was made the chairman of the Central Planning Committee of the transition of Och’Idoma following the death of Ajene Okpabi in late 1995.
When the search for a successor to Ajene Okpabi began, Dr Edwin Ogbu was an overwhelming favourite to become Och’Idoma and it was no surprise when he was announced as the Och’Idoma III on 10th January 1996. His ascension to the throne, gave the position of Och’Idoma more prestige and credibility due to stature of Dr Edwin Ogbu in world politics. Unfortunately, HRH, Dr Edwin Ogbu passed away in 1997 before he could really establish his mark as Och’Idoma.
HRH, Dr Edwin Ogbu has a place in Idoma folklore, as there is a popular saying that translates into “no matter how hard you study, you cannot be better educated than Dr Edwin Ogbu Iyanga”. This is in recognition of his place in Idoma history as her first graduate.
His Royal Highness, Agabaidu Abraham Ajene Okpabi, Och’Idoma II was born in 1924 in Ito district of present day Obi Local Government Area of Benue State. HRH, Ajene Okpabi attended Idoma Metropolitan Primary School Otukpo (now Methodist Central Primary School Otukpo) between 1932 and 1940 where his leadership qualities were first noticed and he was made Head Boy in his final year in primary school.
After leaving primary school, HRH Ajene Okpabi worked as a health worker until 1952 when at the age of 28, he was appointed the Okwubi (district head) of Ito. With this appointment, he also became the President of the Idoma Native Authority (NA) Area Court in Ito District. His reign as Okwubi was popular with Idoma NA administration as this period was renowned for growth in tax collection, commerce and primary education within Ito district.
As a reward for his sterling leadership as Okwubi, in 1954 the Idoma NA made it possible for Ajene Okpabi to attend administrative courses and then appointed him to their Executive Council where at different times; he served as Councillor in charge of Judiciary, Prisons, Finance and Police. And in 1956, Ajene Okpabi’s political profile was further elevated when he was elected into the first Northern Nigeria House of Assembly which was set-up to prepare Northern Nigeria politically for the impending independence of Nigeria from Britain.
In 1960, Ajene Okpabi’s life was to change forever. Following the death of his father in-law, the Och’Idoma I, HRH Ogiri Oko, 22 district heads within Idoma NA met and chose Ajene Okpabi as Och’Idoma II and was officially given his staff of office by Queen Elizabeth II. His selection as Och’Idoma was met with objections from some quarters and these objections were based on the belief that the Igedes are not Idomas and as such someone considered a “stranger” should not ascend the throne of Och’Idoma.
Despite the early challenges, the leader in Ajene Okpabi saw him overcome them and he would go on to reign for 35 years. During this time, he was awarded two national honours: the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) and Commander of Order of Niger (CON). His mediatory qualities was called upon during the Nigerian Civil War in the late 1960s when he was made a member of the Consultative Assembly of Leaders of Thought, a group that worked towards resolving the crisis between Nigeria and Biafra.
In 1970, the office of the Och’Idoma was upgraded to a first class chief by the then Benue Plateau State Government. This upgrade was seen by most observers as a clear indication of the prestige brought to the Och’Idoma position by Ajene Okpabi.
In 1994, just as in the 1960s, Ajene Okpabi was one of the 13 eminent people from Benue State selected to be members of the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) which was constituted by then Military Government to help resolve the political impasse created by the annulment of the June 12 1993 presidential election. While at the NCC, he continued to champion the cause of Idoma people by leading the agitation for the creation of Apa State.
Ajene Okpabi throughout his reign was a father figure to all Idoma people, providing much needed guidance in matters of Idoma tradition and always remained neutral in the different disputes in Idoma land. HRH Agabaidu Ajene Okpabi died in 1995.
Och- Idoma I
His Royal Highness, Agabaidu Ogiri Oko, Och’Idoma I was born in 1903 and he was the third son of his father, Oko Ode of Ai’Ode clan of Adoka and only son of his mother, Alonyenu (Anyenu) of Ai’Ochanya clan of Iga Okpaya.
Ogiri spent his early childhood with his maternal family in Epe and as a young man he took his turn in guarding his uncle’s millet farm against birds. This farm guarding assignment involved young boys staying on a built deck on the farm for days and making noises to keep birds at bay. During Ogiri’s time in Epe, there was an outbreak of smallpox and Ogiri and his guard partner contracted the deadly disease during their stay on the farm. While Ogiri survived, his guard partner died from the disease. Ogiri was reported to have brought down the corpse of his guard partner from the deck and buried him before finding his way home a few days later.
On hearing the news of the smallpox outbreak, Anyenu sent messages to her brothers for Ogiri to return to Adoka. And by the following farming season, Ogiri now a tall, handsome, vibrant and hard-working man in his early twenties who had fluent command of Idoma, Igala, Hausa and Epe languages returned to his parents in Adoka.
Back home in Adoka, Ogiri with his loveable and generous spirit, lived a normal and responsible life according to the customs and traditions of the time. It was no surprise when Anyenu married a wife for him.
Ogiri was later to become the Alegwu of Adoka and that was because Oko, who was the Alapa and next in line to become Alegwu, stood aside for his son to become the Alapa after due consultations with Adoka elders and when the reigning Alegwu died, Ogiri became the Alegwu of Adoka. By this time, he already had four wives.
Upon creation of the Idoma Native Authority by the Northern Nigeria Colonial Administration, the need arose for a single chief for Idoma people who hitherto had no clear distinct leader and were politically organised under district clan heads. This development led to the election of Ogiri as Och’Idoma by the twenty-two district clan heads in Idoma Land in 1947.
After his election as the first unitary ruler of Idoma Land, Ogiri encountered opposition to his leadership and the strongest opposition was from a new movement of newly western educated Idoma youths called Idoma Hope Rising Union. These youths were against his rule mainly because Ogiri had no formal education and they obviously did not take into account his multi-lingua capabilities especially his fluent command of Hausa which was the lingua franca of Northern Nigeria at the time.
What Ogiri Oko lacked in western education, was more than amply compensated for in foresightedness, a strong will and presence of mind and body. As head of the Idoma Native Authority, Ogiri, in post-World War II period went on to implement programmes and reforms that made Idoma people and Idoma Land the centre of development within the lower Northern Nigeria. He created the modern day identity of the Idoma people in areas of town planning. He expanded Otukpo, the main town of the Idoma people by dividing Otukpo town into distinct neighbourhoods, with broad streets that have not been improved upon since the 1950s.
He increased the exposure of Idoma people to western education by soliciting the inland movement of missionaries from the East. Before secondary schools were established in Idoma Land, brilliant Idoma sons were sent to secondary schools in Uzuakoli, in the Eastern region and Katsina College in the Northern region.