If statistics are anything to go by, then it would be an Idoma/Igede and not a Tiv that would be calling the shots at the Government House, Makurdi, immediately after Suswam.
Although the ballot in the 2015 governorship election in Benue State will not say so, the question the electorate across the state would be answering on Election Day is whether an Igede, Idoma or Tiv should take over from Governor Gabriel Suswam at the expiration of his term on May 29, 2015.
But politics defies conventional logic and what is right in the estimation of the ordinary right-thinking member of the public might not seem so in the eyes of political actors, especially the kingmakers. For if logical reasoning is allowed to come to play in the 2015 race, then nobody, in all the major parties in the state would contest the governorship election outside the Igede/Idoma nation, for the simple reason that the Tiv, who constitute about 78 per cent of the population have produced all the civilian governors since the state was created on February 3, 1976.
The Idoma, the main minority group and Igede have been reduced to playing the second fiddle to the Tiv, but this could change in 2015, if current thinking among the power elite is allowed to germinate in the run up to the polls. There appears to be a consensus among them that power should shift to Zone C, dominated by the Idoma, but with a sizeable number of minorities like the Igede.
But this is not a done deal yet. Of all the many aspirants who are believed to be interested in the governor’s seat, more are from the Tiv nation and the list is by no means exhausted. The Idoma are also not just folding their arms waiting for power to fall on their laps, a pack of them led by Abbah Morro, Stephen Lawani and Sam Ode are in the race and they have been moving around trying to convince the Tiv that in the spirit of fairness and in line with constitutional provisions, they (Idoma) should be given the ticket. Whereas no aspirant is bold enough to join the race yet from Igede axis of Zone C.
Even if the Tiv agree to this, it still would not guarantee an easy passage for the Idoma. There are so many hurdles for them to clear. One is the fact that Zone C is not all about them alone, other minority groups like the Igede are there, and some among the Tiv are saying that if power must shift to Zone C, then it must go to the Igede and they are quick to point at the ex-deputy governor, late Prince Ogiri Ajene, an Igede man as a good material for governorship, were he not dead. Maybe they would like to give him posthumous governorship…Haba!
Another is a perceived arrogance on the part of the Idoma. Anywhere they find themselves in positions of power, especially during the military era and even now with the Senate under their feet, the accusation goes, they wield it to the exclusion of others, in particular, the Tiv and Igede. A particular top military officer of Idoma extraction in the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida was said to have made it difficult for non-Idoma (Tiv and Igede) in Benue State to either be enlisted in the army or even attend the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) – even now it is still the trend – “Which non-Idoma did they help when they had power?” One bitter Tiv man asked rhetorically.
Such accusations, expectedly, are not good music to the ears of an average Idoma politicians who look forward to power shifting to their people. One of them said that “some people would like to rake up something where there is nothing. Though we recognise the existence of a minority within the minority, here (zone C) we don’t discriminate. We have had non Idoma occupying the position of Och’Idoma, that is, the paramount ruler in Idomaland before, twice in recent memory. So, we are one here. Regarding the issue of arrogance of power, that is not a character trait of the average Idoma person, and if one or two Idoma sons have exhibited that tendency in the past, that is unfortunate and it is not enough to blame an entire people for that”.
These accusations have not, however, dampened the enthusiasm among the Idoma that 2015 could be their year. Afterall in 2011, they voted overwhelmingly for Gabriel Suswam, the incumbent governor to return for a second term with the understanding that the man would be on their side when the time comes to choose the next governor. Some are even saying there was a pact with Suswam to this effect. And the governor’s recent pronouncements on the 2015 election have appeared to lend credence to the agitation for Idoma to produce the next governor. However, he said, “I have no pact with anybody or any power bloc and when the time comes Benue people will decide,” he said in a tone of finality. But this might not satisfy the diehard believers in power shift. Though they agree no formal agreement was signed with anybody on power shift, they nonetheless expect that the governor would throw his weight behind Idoma aspiration when the time comes, because they had also given him their total support when he needed it.
This may put Suswam in a dilemma as a section of his own Tiv people that has been out of the power loop all this while, Minda, believe it’s their turn to produce the next governor, being the only power bloc in Tivland that has not tasted the governorship.
As it is in a local chiefdom, Tivland is structured politically along ruling houses or political blocs like the Minda political bloc, which is laying claim to the seat, being the only group among the Tiv that has not been at the Government House before. And if the decision as to where the governorship would be zoned is to be decided democratically, by voting, the Tiv majority might just decide to give it to their brothers in the Minda group leaving the Idoma/Igede in the cold.
Some are, however, saying this can only be so if Suswam decides to fold his arms and allow the majority to trample on the minority. “If he throws his weight behind us we stand a good chance of picking the PDP ticket”, one optimist of the Idoma cause said.
If it were to be a PDP affair alone, maybe Suswam could have his way. Even in PDP, his influence still has to contend with opposition.