The Benue Rebirth Movement under the leadership of retired Air Vice Marshal Monday Morgan kicked off its campaign on a sound footing of producing a governor of Idoma extraction come 2023 in the Tiv dominated Benue State.
Since the creation of the state from defunct Benue/Plateau in 1976, no person from Idoma land has ever been elected or appointed as a governor. The dominant Tiv hegemony had held sway to the highest office in the land without bulging. They always boast of their numerical strength and the lack of unity of the Idoma elite and political class.
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There is this strong feeling among political pundits that until a miracle happens, the situation will remain. Given this, the birth of the BRM was welcomed with wide jubilations in Idomaland, especially that it was a coalition of over 16 groups.
The group has been making consultations and bridge-building by visiting Tiv and Idoma leaders and stakeholders to market its mission and vision.
However, the recent decision by the BRM to honour some prominent sons of Idoma had come with mixed feelings and may cause disharmony among the people.
On 6th May 2021, BRM honoured Prof Innocent Ujah, Premier Vice Chancellor of Federal University of Health Sciences, Otukpo and gave “Commendation Honours’’ to the so-called four “deserving” persons but excluded more highly rated deserving achievers whose contribution to Idoma land are more encompassing and timeless.
Prof Ujah deserved the honour because of his sterling achievements but the misstep by the organisers, in my opinion, is the “Commendation Award” given to only four illustrious sons. These are Senator David Mark for influencing the Federal University of Health Science, Otukpo and rehabilitation of Otukpo township roads, Architect Sunday Echono a Federal Permanent Secretary for influencing Federal Polytechnic to Odogbo, Senator Abba Morro for the empowerment of a large army of youths and Chief Audu Ogbeh whose only record, to my knowledge, is the on-going so called rehabilitation of Makurdi/Aliade/Otukpo Road, which is not moving anywhere.
But why did the BRM chose not to honour other Idoma prominent actors whose footprints are still there for us to see, value and use?
Major General Chris Garuba Abutu (retired) influenced the creation of Ogbadibo and Apa LGAs. He attended the event and was not honoured.
Also deserving is Major General Lawrence Anebi Onoja who influenced the creation of Ohimini, Obi and Agatu LGAs, upgrading of the Otukpo NEPA substation, location of Federal Government College, Otobi, construction of Ankpa/Onyagede/Ugboju federal road and empowerment of Idomas. Does he too not deserve to be honoured?
What about Alhaji Usman Abubakar, alias Young Alhaji, who empowered and mobilised Idoma Youth against political thuggery and assassination in Idomaland.
Similarly, late Ajene Okpabi, Och’Idoma III who reigned with peace in Idomaland for over 36 years and Dr Edwin Ogbu, Och’Idoma IV, who was Nigeria’s first ambassador to the United Nations deserve posthumous awards.
Late Justice Steven Anyebe, the Idoma Socrates, who led late Professor Adah Ugah and other Idoma activists to produce the Idoma red and black attire, presently in vogue also warrant recognition.
If BRM wants to achieve its goal of producing an Idoma-speaking governor come 2023, it must give honour to whom it is due. Cloning a few achievers as “deserving awardees” is not only a slap on our sensibilities but a misstep. This singular action is capable of sending wrong signals to other prominent Idoma leaders to see the BRM as bias and working for some individuals and not Idoma nation.
Gabriel Adanu Ochela writes from Onicha, Agatu, Benue State