Trouble appears to be brewing in Odigbo area of Ondo State, as residents of the community claim that Mrs. Betty Anyawu-Akeredolu, the wife of the Ondo State Governor, intends to install Mrs. Eucharia Nwammara as the caretaker of the recently established LCDA in Odigbo.
A key figure in the Odigbo Community and a member of the All Progressives Congress, Adebayo Lawrence, shed light on the matter on Monday while answering questions on a radio programme in Akure, the Ondo State Capital. He revealed that the First Lady of Ondo State, Betty Anyawu Akeredolu, has consistently exerted pressure on community decision makers, imposing her preferred leaders despite their objections. The most recent instance involves the imposition of Mrs. Nwammara as the inaugural caretaker/chairman of the newly formed LCDA in Odigbo.
Expressing his views, Mr. Lawrence expressed dismay in his statement;
“how can we start a newly created LCDA with a total stranger?”
He confirmed that the candidate favored by the First Lady resides within Odigbo Local Government in Ore, Ondo State, yet he asserted that “she is a total stranger when it comes to the traditions, the customs and the people of the land.”
He disclosed that the community’s members are no longer willing to tolerate the imposition of candidates upon them. He went on to mention that even non-native individuals have united in the effort to combat what they perceive as injustice.
“In Odigbo Local Government, we have tolerated more than enough. Infact, we are so hospitable, we are down to earth, we love indigenes, we love non-indigenes, business has been striving very well in the local government and that is due to the peace that existed in that local government,” he said.
The APC leader highlighted that the community’s utmost priority is to preserve the existing peace, which is why they have sounded the alarm to halt Mrs. Akeredolu’s actions.
The recently established LCDA comprises three native wards: Ore Ward, Odigbo Ward, and Agbabu Ward. These three wards are under the authority of respective kings: Orunja of Odigbo, Oba (Dr.) Rufus Akinrinmade (Odigbo Ward); Olore of Ore, whose throne remains vacant until a new king is inaugurated (Ore Ward); and the Oloja (ruler) of Agbabu Ward. All these elements are integral to the newly formed LCDA.
Mr. Lawrence made it clear that their traditional rulers cannot accept directives from a ‘total stranger’. He emphasized that the community’s identity is deeply rooted in its culture, questioning how it is possible for the chairman to be someone
“who only communicates in broken, she cannot even speak English.”
Responding to the issue as it circulated as a rumor, Mr. Lawrence expressed his view that there could be a kernel of truth in such rumors. He further stated that the situation has progressed beyond mere speculation, as Mrs. Nwammara herself has contacted him to convey the news.
“This woman has called me herself” he said.
Reportedly, Eucharia Nwammara has been an integral part of the Odigbo community for the past 35 years.
The dissatisfied APC leader mentioned that she has been rewarded with significant roles within the community over the course of 16 years. He revealed that in 2016, when Akeredolu’s administration began, she was forcefully imposed upon them. She served as a supervisory councillor for three terms before proper elections were held. Despite not winning in the Primary, she assumed the role of the councillor representing Ore Ward, the largest ward in the Local Government, according to Lawrence.
Addressing the question of how he believes Mrs. Akeredolu is exerting influence, he stated,
“we were in a meeting, stakeholders meeting, the Elders meeting of the party where we want to decide who will represent us, that was when as the meeting was going on, a call came in to the party chairman, Alhaji Fatai Olawale. Alhaji Fatai Olawale is our chairman, he is a non-indigene. We wanted it, we put him there. That is to tell you we are accommodating but you want to pursue your political aspiration, Odigbo is one of the best place you can come.
“Why are we crying out? They don’t want us to breathe again… It was in the meeting, the First Lady had to call the Party Chairman, telling him it is women o’clock. This period now is women o’clock. The person we want to use as our LCDA Chairman is Nwammara Eucharia.
We nearly stampede our party chairman in the meeting that how can you come and relay this kind of message to us? On whose order? For crying out loud, this woman is not our Governor,” Mr. Lawrence said.
He accused Mrs. Nwammara of underperforming during her time as the Councillor in Ore and instead, he claimed, she focused on enriching herself.
“Before she became the supervisor, she lived at Sawangba Quarters, Ore. Sawangba is a Nursery & Primary school, she was a teacher in that school.
“Now God has blessed her. She’s riding a car of her dream, she lives in her own apartment, a beautiful house as that matter. She has house in Imo, she has properties scattered all over the place,” he alleged.
Nevertheless, the APC leader extended his gratitude to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu for the initiative of enhancing governance accessibility through the creation of local governments, including the division of Odigbo Local Government into three. Out of the 18 LGAs and 51 LCDAs established, Odigbo now stands with three distinct entities.
Regarding the imposition of a candidate onto the LCDA by Mrs. Akeredolu, another APC leader, who presently serves as the Assistant Organizing Secretary of Ondo State APC and hails from Odigbo, Tunji Rhema-Moyero, expressed their sense of disenfranchisement. He highlighted that Odigbo is a community known for its inclusiveness, accepting individuals from all tribes, and serving as an exemplar of what Nigeria should strive to be. However, with these recent developments, they feel marginalized and treated as second-class citizens.
“If you look critically, from any elective position either from the presidency, let me even come down to even emissaries, a different person is representing us in emissary. We have no Rep, we have no Senate, we have nothing of such.
But now coming down to Local Government, which is the closest to the people, we are having a new LCDA, which is the first of its kind, I think the indigenes should be given this privilege. Odigbo people should be given this privilege.
“The person in question was the supervisor for Ore Ward at a time, she was imposed and after much pressure and all that, we accepted. Then next, a position later came from above that she should be Ore Ward Councillor. Even when the election was conducted then, that was three years ago, she failed, she lost out. But yet, an order came, we accepted.
“What we are saying now is this, allow the people to govern themselves,” he pleaded.
Rhema-Moyero revealed that there is widespread discontent among the people, evident through signs of restlessness. However, thanks to the intervention of the Traditional Rulers, who appealed for patience, the situation has been somewhat managed.
Addressing the government, he conveyed the following message: “We are pleading to the authorities concerned. We heard but allegedly, that the wife of the Governor called that its women o’clock and she wants to use Mrs. Nwammara Eucharia, according to what we heard. But if this is true, it is not going to be sweet.
“I will appeal to the authorities concerned, from the wife of the Governor as allegedly told, down to the party chairman, to the acting Governor, please look into the case of Odigbo Local Government.”
The Assistant Organizing Secretary of Ondo State APC refuted claims that Mrs. Nwammara is being targeted due to her gender. He clarified that there have been previous women who held positions within the community.
He emphasized that the primary concern lies in the imposition of her candidacy, and he stressed that their traditional ruler cannot accept directives from an “Ibo Woman”. While he mentioned that the community bears no ill will toward the tribe, he emphasized that their objection is solely based on the fact that the initial LCDA Chairman cannot come from an “outsider’.
“Kwara State is representing us in the House of Assembly. Before now, we had eight years of Iroju from Ikale. If we don’t stop this, the people are already pushed to a point where they are ready to fight with their blood,” he said.
He thus advocated for a thoughtful and peaceful resolution.
Additionally, Hon. Akinfolarin Mayowa Samuel, a former member of the House of Representatives and an indigene of the community, urged all stakeholders to engage in dialogue, expressing his strong support for maintaining peace. He made a plea to the Ondo State Government, particularly Mrs. Akeredolu, to uphold principles of equity, fairness, and justice within the community.
Similarly advocating for peace and open discussions, the Orunja of Odigbo Kingdom, Oba (Dr.) Rufus Akinrinmade, earnestly appealed to the Governor for intervention. He disclosed that Mrs. Nwammara had approached him two weeks prior, expressing her support for the community’s indigenes. He added that the First Lady contacted her for the Chairmanship position, but she declined, stating it should be reserved for the locals. The Orunja expressed astonishment at the unfolding situation, as the person involved had conveyed a different sentiment to him.
The Orunja also offered a prayer for Governor Akeredolu’s swift recovery.
In response to the allegations directed at her, Mrs. Nwammara shared with reporters that “I don’t know what they are talking about please, they should leave me alone.
“If they want to protest, if they want to fight, they should go and meet Government of Ondo State. I didn’t lobby for anything, I didn’t beg anybody,” she said.
Mrs. Nwammara suggested that those advocating for change should bring their concerns to the attention of the State Government.
There has been no statement from Acting Governor Lucky Ayedatiwa of Ondo State regarding this issue.