Recall that in October 2016, the Nigerian senate received from the presidency, the nomination list of 46 non-career ambassadors among which was Dr. Mrs. Enyantu Ifene, from Benue State. Although their nomination was rejected by the senate due to the myraid of petitions which the committee on foreign affairs had received, Jubilations had earlier greeted Ifene’s nomination across Idomaland as one of their illustrious daughters have been favoured by God and our ancestors. What the people did not know however, was that their joy would be short lived and her nomination would further open the arena for another political power play in Benue State. Over time, no female of Idoma extraction has served Nigeria as an ambassador, thus Ifene’s confirmation would have marked another milestone in our history as a people. Ordinarily, I would have kept mute on this Ifene/Ugbah imbroglio but posterity will always judge us for our silence in the face of injustice. Even the Alekwu Ko’ Okpoga, Ifene’s maternal ancestral gods which I oblige as well as an Okpoga son will be vexed.
Enyantu Ifene is a pediatrician with about 30 years’ experience in public service and development work and she has received several awards including the national award (MFR). After her Pediatric Residency at Middlesex Hospital UK and years of practice from 1977-1986, she became the Chairman of Okpokwu local government area (Benue state) and other public positions including the Commissioner for Education and Director General of National Commission for Women (Ministry of Women Affairs). During her time as Country Director, Nigeria, Center for Development and Population Activities [CEDPA], 1996- 2002, she was privileged to deliver her historic speech at the White House during the reign of Bill Clinton of the United States. From the archives, a photo of this event is on page 23 of Vanguard Newspaper of July 25, 2000. Dr. Ifene is a Gates and Packard Population fellow, and presently spends more time professionally on Public Policy Analysis, Health systems capacity Assessment, with emphasis on Primary Health, HIV/AIDS and Population. In 1992, she was the running mate for Prof. Ignatius Ayua who aspired for governor on the platform of the National Republican Convention (NRC). She was also the Benue-South senatorial aspirant on the platform of the Action Congress in 2007. She is a mother, an erudite scholar, with exceptional administrative acumen, a gentle soul personified. These and many other sterling qualities have continued to endear her to all and sundry. In all ramifications, she is qualified to serve Nigeria as an ambassador and even president, should destiny calls.
Although, her replacement with Prof. Steve Ugbah, a Tiv man from the Benue-North-East Senatorial district and a one-time governorship aspirant on the platform of Action Congress has generated a lot of controversies among social critics across the state, it is pertinent to express one’s opinion on some issues. Firstly, I would like to affirm that Ugbah is qualified to serve as an ambassador and even president any day, considering his wealth of experience and leadership sagacity, but the circumstances surrounding his nomination in this regard appears to be another calculated attempt by power brokers in the state to further relegate the Idoma nation to the background politically. As it stands now, two of the three nominees are of Tiv extraction as against one for the Idomas. Interestingly, Mrs. Janet Ndem, the only Idoma woman on the list is married to a cross riverian.
Secondly, I feel it is out of place for anyone to assert that Enyantu’s nomination was rescinded because of Distinguished Senator David Mark’s loss of political relevance due to his being in the opposition. To set the records straight, Mark still remains one of the political factors in this country and his influence cuts across board. No wonder, PMB still considered him relevant enough to have had a one-on-one meeting with him on how to move the nation forward among his contemporaries from Benue State. Ordinarily, it takes the support of two senators to make an ambassadorial nomination go through. While the Tivs have two senators at the Red Chamber, the Idomas have one. It is irrational therefore, for anyone to cast aspersions on the hard earned reputation of Senator Mark in this regard as it would have been impossible for her to scale through without the support of either Senators Gemade or Akume.
It is on record that in the past, Senator Mark had influenced the emergence of Ogbe Obande as Ambassador among other appointments so one is constrained to ask why Ifene’s case would be different?Often times, people give dogs bad names just to hang them so I wasn’t utterly surprised when propagandists who want to justify the sheepishness of political leaders from Idomaland within the ranks of the ruling party and the greediness of our brothers from the other side to drag Mark into the imbroglio.
Following the emergence of Ortom as governor of Benue state, he openly declared to his people that he would look into the marginalization of the Tivs at the federal level. He even promised to constitute a committee to champion this cause despite the political relegation that has plagued the Idoma people at the state level. The resistance which Audu Ogbe’s emergence as a substantial minister of the federal republic faced from some Benue political leaders within the APC is still fresh in our minds. If not for the long standing relationship between Ogbe and president Buhari, I am sure his name would have been substituted as well. Mark is obviously not to be blame for Ifene’s woes in the hands of her fellow party members. It is just a cry over spilled milk.
Comrade Omaga E. Daniel writes from Abuja.