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Benue gov’ship: Idoma zone moves to break 46-year jinx

It is possible – PDP, APC chairmen  The 2023 general elections once again provide the Idoma people of Benue  State an opportunity  to attempt producing…

  • It is possible – PDP, APC chairmen 

The 2023 general elections once again provide the Idoma people of Benue  State an opportunity  to attempt producing the governor  for the state. The people hope to produce the governor of the state for the first time in the history of the almost 46-year-old agrarian state.

The Idoma-speaking people, who make up the Benue south senatorial district with 9 local government areas out of the 23 in the state, have not occupied the foremost seat of power in the state, which they have been agitating for.

Now that the drumbeats of political activities for various seats of power have started, the Idoma are again asking their Tiv-speaking brothers neighbours from the remaining two senatorial districts of the state to support them to actualise their quest for the number one position in the state.

But will the Tiv, who make up over half of the population of the state, generously cede power to Benue south, especially as the political calculation always favours Jerchira and Kwande blocs respectively?

In 1979, the late Aper Aku, who hailed from Kwande, was elected as the first civilian governor of the state. He began a process of an unwritten zoning arrangement, but his tenure was short-lived as the military coup led by the then Major-General Muhammadu Buhari truncated the process.

However, the arrangement remained among the Tiv-speaking zones of Benue northeast and northwest.

When the Nigeria returned to civil rule in 1991, the late Reverend Father Moses Adasu from the Benue northeast was elected governor. His tenure was also short-lived due to the General Sani Abacha military takeover.

In 1999 when the country once again returned to civil rule, Senator George Akume was elected as the third civilian governor of the state. He is from the Benue northwest. Akume served a two-term of eight years.

At the end of his tenure when most pundits thought that power would move to Benue south to complete the rotation, Governor Gabriel Suswam was elected from Benue northeast; and he spent eight years.

In the twilight of the Suswam administration, the Idoma-speaking zone also sought the support of their Tiv brothers and sisters from the other two senatorial districts in vain.

Then came Governor Samuel Ortom from Benue northwest as the fifth person to complete the rotational circle of the governorship seat among the five Tiv ancestry blocs – Jechira, Jemgba, MInda, Kwande and Sankera.

The people of Benue south, comprising major tribes such as Idoma, Igede, Akweya and Uffia, are again making a strong case to succeed Ortom, based on the argument that since the creation of the state in 1976, the zone is yet to occupy the seat despite several attempts.

To this end, in July last year, Idoma people began a move to the major political parties in the state to cede the 2023 governorship position to their area in the spirit of fairness, equity and justice. They also called on Governor Ortom to lead in appealing to the people of other zones to give them the chance to govern the state.

The people of Idoma, under the aegis of the Benue Rebirth Movement (BRM), regardless of party affiliation, made the appeal during a courtesy call on Governor Ortom at the Government House in Makurdi. 

The national coordinator of the BRM, Air Vice Marshal, Monday Morgan (retd), told the governor that the people of Idoma, Igede, Uffia and Akweya were eminently qualified and prepared for the job.

Morgan had said that since the five Tiv geopolitical blocks had held the position of the governorship of the state, most of them for eight years each, it is only proper and fair that the Idoma and Igede people be also allowed to preside over the affairs of the state.

In his response, Governor Ortom paid a glowing tribute to the people of the southern zone for their contributions to the success of his administration. He particularly described his deputy, Benson Abounu, an engineer, as loyal, dependable and supportive.

In addition to other sons and daughters of Idoma land, such as General Harrison Adoga (retd), who spoke on behalf of the League of Idoma Generals; Prof. Owoicho Akpa, who spoke for the League of Idoma Professors; Chief Comfort Agogo, who spoke for women and the Igede nation; Chief George Alli, who represented the nine council chairmen; Comrade Gideon Obande for the youth; and Senator Abba Moro,  the state chairmen of the two major political parties in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), were present during the meeting. 

All the speakers aligned with the aspiration of the people of Benue south to produce a governor come 2023.

In the meantime, both the PDP and APC have a long list of Idoma governorship aspirants, including the present deputy governor, Abounu, an ex-chairman of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Board of Directors; Chief Patrick Ogbu, a former managing director of the Lower Benue River Basin Development Authority; Mrs Ada Chenge, an engineer and Idoma married to Tiv; a former minister of state for Niger Delta, Dr Sam Ode, and the national commandant of the Peace Corps of Nigeria, Ambassador Dickson Akoh.

Others are a former deputy governor of the state, Chief Stephen Lawani; a former medical director of the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Makurdi; Dr Mathias Oyigeya; Comrade Dan Onjeh and Chief Noah McDickson, as well as Mr Michael Obeya for now.

All the contenders are expected to join the race in the days ahead.

A political analyst, Dr Adakole Elijah, said, “Our (Idoma) quest to govern the state is in pursuit of the theory of equity, fairness and justice. This is because since the creation of Benue State in 1976, nobody from the Benue south senatorial district has been allowed to occupy the seat.

“The practice in the state has been that of exclusion of the people of Benue south to the inclusion of what is called the “ruling houses of the Tiv.”

On his part, Alhaji Sule Audu, a former lawmaker who represented Agatu constituency in the Benue State House of Assembly, advised Idoma people to be united in their quest for the governorship seat. 

“If we are united we will realise it. If there is no peace and unity at home, do we expect outsiders to come to build it for us? With the support of other zones, we should be able to achieve it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Governor Ortom has not publicly indicated personal or ethnic interest in the race, even as he, at different fora, predicted that his successor would emerge from the PDP.

The BRM has also visited some traditional institutions and political parties to canvass support for Benue south. 

The group appealed to political parties to allow only aspirants from Benue south to contest their primary elections so that a candidate from their zone would emerge irrespective of party interest. 

But the state chairman of the PDP, Sir John Ngbede, told our correspondent on phone that his party had not taken any position on the demand of the people of Idoma concerning the governorship seat of the state.

He, however, said that “nothing is impossible with God.”

Similarly, his counterpart in the APC, Comrade Austin Agada, thinks an Idoma governorship is realisable because nothing is impossible in politics, especially in the spirit of fairness and equity in this case.”

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