Magnus Eze, Enugu
Enugu State’s biggest market, Ogbete, located within the Coal City, next door to the headquarters of Enugu North Local Government Area, has been in the news for the wrong reason for almost a year, following disagreement on the procedure for electing its leadership.
The leadership crisis rocking the market which also serves as feeder of several other markets both within the metropolis and other towns in the state made the state government to appoint a caretaker committee about seven months ago.
President of Ogbete Main Market Traders Association (OMMTA), Temple Ude who doubled as Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi on Market Matters was relieved of his position in the market association and his executives dissolved. In their place, the then Caretaker Chairman of Enugu North Council, John Ezeh was asked to head an interim leadership of the market.
However, indications emerged last week that peace may soon return to the market sequel to the recent intervention of the Chairman of Enugu Local Government Council, Emma Onoh.
Daily Sun gathered that Onoh’s intervention was restoring hope that new and duly elected executives will be constituted to pilot the affairs of the market. This stemmed from the fact that the traders have agreed to adopt a method of ‘general election’ that will allow every duly registered trader in the market to vote for candidates of their choice or be voted for, instead of their old method of ‘selective/representative election’.
The chairmen and secretaries of every commodity unit in the market agreed to this new idea at a meeting held at the municipal hall, on June 6, 2018, where over 500 traders attended. To this end, a strategy to co-opt and record all genuine traders in the market have commenced with registration and identification in the various commodity units.
At the meeting, the council boss emphatically told the traders that the governor “is interested in the election of new president of Ogbete traders association” and in anything that would return peace to the commercial centre.
It was further gathered that the authentication of genuine traders would entail registration and issuance of identity cards at the cost of N300 per trader for them to be eligible for the election.
Onoh told journalists after the meeting with the traders that the contentious portion of the constitution which stipulated that only chairmen and secretaries of commodity groups were eligible to vote, would be amended within a week.
He explained that the ultimate goal was to engender peace and unity among the traders in the market, through an elected executive who must be the choice of the majority.
He extolled the traders for agreeing that mass participation be adopted as the new process of electing their executives instead of a closed and exclusive process; and expressed the belief that it will eventually enthrone peace in the market.
Traders in the market had accused those they described as overzealous appointees of government of meddling in the leadership of their association.
They heaped the blame on the door step of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Matters and Mobilisation, Emeka Madu; who they alleged fed the governor and security agencies with false information after a masterfully ‘dramatised’ crisis in the market.
To buttress their position that Ude, the then president still enjoyed the confidence of the governor, they said that he was not removed as the SSA on Market Matters.
Regardless, Madu in a swift reaction denied any involvement in the Ogbete market leadership crisis.
In his words: “The issue of Ogbete market, to me is non-issue; first I am not involved because I am not a trader and I didn’t have any reason to be there, frankly speaking.
“The current chairman (of the market) was appointed by the governor when he was the caretaker chairman of Enugu North LGA and he is still the chairman until the governor says otherwise. He is no longer the chairman of the local government, but he is still the chairman of the Ogbete market and his tenure has not elapsed.”