Benue 2023 and The Need for An IDOMA Governor – By Musa Omale
The inspiration to this write up is my reading of the article “the tragedy of an Idoma governor” by Dr. Onjefu Okidu, wherein the political audacity of the Idoma was analysed, and the submission was that in spite of the sincere efforts devoid of greed, bloodiness and avarice in the long term- development of Idoma land, there has been no concrete translation of these to the physical development of Idoma land. The Author opined that in order to correct the anomaly, the antidote is the duty on the Idoma people, to develop their political and economic potentials, and free themselves from unnecessary stress and dependency on exploitative political leaders. He concluded that “there is no viable alternative to the Idoma people sincerely taking effective charge of their destiny”. The snag however, is the grave opposition by our Tiv brothers especially under the guise of out numbering the Idomas in population, to claim it is their birth right to always produce the Governor of the state, thereby foreclosing the lofty attempt to produce an Idoma Governor in Benue state. This indeed is a “tragedy of an Idoma Governor’’ as postulated by Dr. Okidu. This forms the background to our presentation, and the question from the onset is that how far has the Tiv political mongers fared in the development of Benue state, since their holding on to power from the day the state was created.
Tiv As Governor of Benue State
Benue state was created in 1976 behooving that it is 44 years old, and within the period has produced 16 Governors both military and civilian, out of the number 6 are Tivs including the incumbent Governor. In order to have a better appreciation of our submission we take the pains to produce their names and period of governance thus- Mr. Aper Aku 1979 to 1984, Brigadier General John Atom Kpera – 1984 to 1985, Rev. father Moses Adasu – 1992 to 1993, Dr George Akume – 1999 to 2007, Rt. Hon (Dr.) Gabriel Suswam – 2007 to 2015 and Dr. Samuel Ortom- 2015 to Date.
One striking feature of this Tiv Governorship syndrome is that, even during the Military era whereby a Governor is by appointment at the whims of the Federal Government, the Idoma was not considered worthy to be so appointed, thereby depriving them to show case their natural potential of the capacity to create development, as exemplified by the likes of General Chris Garuba, David Mark, Lawrence Onoja, Anthony Ochefu and Ernest Attah who no doubt effectively developed the various states where they were appointed as Governors. This we missed in Benue state as these vibrant Idoma sons never had the opportunity to be so appointed to govern Benue state
Politics and Development in Benue state.
This become of the greatest importance in the polity, and therefore anchors on the personality that governs that particular polity. The position of the Governor in this regard is sacrosanct, as he wields great political influence. No wonder then that people participate in the electoral process by way of franchise so as to endorse those candidates for Political office whom the electorate hopes and considers more likely to fulfill those aspirations which are dear to their hearts. On the part of the Governor, the electorate having performed their own duty by bringing him on board, it behooves on him to be a person of good and honest disposition having the capacity to provide the needed development. Good governance here becomes of essence, as it is the panacea of the economic ills of any state, especially our Benue state which hitherto had a minority status in the former northern Region, hence not gaining the desired development. The question then is, has the state attain this desired rapid development to make up whatever was lost in the northern Region and perhaps the then Benue – Plateau state respectively. Since the creation of Benue state in 1976, and with 6 Governors of Tiv extraction, it may not be safe to conclude that the people’s expectations have been met in relation to development. This is predicated on the fact that in Benue state, with the aforementioned 6 Governors of Tiv extraction, developmental planning has more often been breached than implemented. The rule has been government of deceit, with lot of media propaganda regarding the achievements of successive governments in the state. This is however not to conclude that efforts may not have been made, as we acknowledge that of the first civilian executive Governor late, Mr. Aper Aku, whose era was the golden era of Civilian administration having witnessed 13 years of Military rule in Nigeria. He in fact, laid the foundation for the transformation of the rural character of the state deriving his inspiration from the dream of the pioneer Governor Colonel Abdullahi Shelleng, who started the state on a slate. The “ Benue advance Plan” of the regime of Akume which was intended to be used to stimulate the rapid socio- economic development of the state is commendable, but as observed, developmental planning in Benue, has often been in breaches and this was no exception. The much publicised developmental agenda of Suswam regime christened- “Our Benue our feature” which was suppose to be a real blue print for development become a ruse.
Presently, Ortom’s strategy of governance captured in the collective vision of a “New Benue state”, which is anchored on a five point Agenda to culminate in a ten year development plan, has within five years of action failed in its ramifications. The Agenda for records includes, Good Governance and revenue security, agriculture driven industrialization, steam based education and health care delivery, provision of critical infrastructure, and women, gender youths and people with disabilities. A well thought out plan but the syndrome of implementing development plan in the breach in Benue state once again reared its head. The crux of the submission here is that Benue state in the last 44 years, and with its number one leader rotating from zone A to zone B of the political divide, with our zone C not having a shot, the question is what is wrong and using the Shakespearian language “whither” are we going in terms of development in Benue state. All the dreams have not been achieved as intended, perhaps due to bad leadership which is characterized by greed, corruption, arrogance and sometimes incompetence.
The need for an Idoma Governor
Flowing from the above assertion, the need for an Idoma from the Idoma nation in zone C south senatorial district of Benue state of Nigeria to produce the next governor cannot be overemphasized. Zones A and B which incidentally is made of the Tiv stock has had a fair share of the position with no concrete evidence to indicate that their leadership has translated to the desired development of Benue state. The Idomas definitely will provide the needed leadership to achieve rapid development in Benue state. This is further hinged on the hard working disposition of an average Idoma, and this is visible at the federal level where all Idoma administrators have been tested, tried and found worthy. With this credential an Idoma is sure to meet the expectations of all and sundry, for the good of Benue state if given the number one status.
The odds against the Idoma Governorship
The major opposition to the Idoma Governorship project is vitriolic references, from the political mongers of zones A and B of the state, who never see anything good in Idoma land, in fact does not want the Idomas to move forward and so will always want to pull them down. Their argument that being the majority with population doubling that of the Idomas, hence having the birth right to rule, cannot be sustained.
The Tivs may be more but that is not fundamental to justify their claim to exclusive leadership of the state. The Idomas are a minority as postulated by the critics, failing to recognize the fact that we are second largest and the next major ethnic group in the state occupying nine local government areas, which is enough credential to galvanize any aspiration to rule if zoning is effectively coordinated. This submission is strengthened by the fact that in modern politics, to sideline any group (as the Idoma situation) on grounds of population or other extraneous consideration is undemocratic. The hall mark should be equality of the three senatorial zones with rotation as antidote to any marginalization. This has worked well in some other states of the federation, and that of Enugu state is a glowing example. In Enugu state power rotation among the three senatorial zones has become the rule since 1999. To this end, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani from Enugu east was the first to kick start the rotation policy, and having completed his two terms, was succeeded by Sullivan Chime from Enugu West and at the end of his tenure handed over to the incumbent, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who hails from Enugu North and is on his second term. The circle having been completed the seamless transition of power is expected to commence all over again in 2023. This model is what we recommend to the players of Benue politics, as it has the capacity to engendered political peace and unity, and can reduce political rancor and acrimony to the barest minimum. This is what is expected in our situation in Benue state, and so we call on zones A and B to take notice. The anti Idoma posture of the Tivs was further demonstrated sometimes past, when a motion was passed at the Benue state house of assembly to excise the Idomas out of the state. If this can be contemplated, then technically speaking Idomas do not belong to any state, hence making it impossible to occupy the people’s house (Government house), at kashim Ibrahim way, old GRA Makurdi.
Another dangerous odd against our dream is the concept of enemy within. This refers to the chameleonic tendency of some Idomas, which rear its head via groups that would raise dust on political advancement of our leaders thereby giving undue advantage to the Tiv folks. A glaring example is the case of Chief Steven Lawani, who with his Political acumen and wealth of experience, had his ambition to secure his party’s ticket for the governorship in 2007 scuttled, by a fellow kinsman, who was alleged to have struck a deal with another contending candidate of Tiv extraction, and allowed his votes to be added to that of the Tiv contender thereby surpassing that of Lawani. The Idoma elites have always been guilty of not forming a common front to fight the common enemy, and this becomes a waterloo for the Idoma nation.
The cure to this unfortunate phenomenon was succinctly put by Pastor Paul Udeh Agbo, in his presentation – “Renaissance: The potency of unity in actualization of Benue rebirth movement”. He said unity on the part of the Idoma is very important in the call to zone C, to wake up to the challenges of genuinely pushing for their first share of the power zoning in the history of the state come 2023. To this I lean my voice that a stitch in time saves nine.
This is a humble attempt to examine the political standing of the Idomas, Vis-à-vis the hard stance of the Tivs not to concede the Governorship of Benue state to the Idomas. We therefore highlighted the tragedy of an Idoma Governor as opined by Dr. Okidu, and posit that since the creation of Benue state in 1976, no Idoma has ruled the state, and that has not assisted the state as the successive Tiv Governors has not achieved the desired political and physical development in the state. This, therefore in spite of the odds against the Idoma Governorship project, calls for a rethink among the stake holders of Benue politics to allow the power sharing to commence in favour of zone C come 2023. This in line with the reaction of the Benue proactive coalition group that so far the status of the “food basket” that Benue is known to be is gradually becoming a “leaking basket”. The panacea rest on the capacity of the Idomas to assume the position of the governor of the state and like a magic wand they are sure to make the difference. This will be engineered by our immediate antecedents, current political realities, pressing needs and yearnings for a change and the reasonable projections for a foreseeable Benue rebirth. When this perception is achieved and with the blue print of the Benue south caucus 2023, the convulsions and eruptions of the past in Benue state will definitely be eroded.
Musa Omale PhD Writes from Owerri