Change must be in Benue
By James Ibechi
To continue with, anyone who reads this piece with the mindset that Mr. James Ibechi is writing purely from the perspective of an Igede man would be missing the point. While one cannot deny his heritage, I will feel greatly pained if we cannot face the truth and say it as it is. Or, jointly agree that some political wrongs have been committed that need redressing.
Also, I presume that many will not easily come to term with the timing of this piece in view of the fact that it comes after the 2015 general elections have come and gone. Of course winners of the elections are already settling down to their duties and the nation is already being navigated away from politics to governance. However, as far as matters that bother on elections are concerned, it is said a journey into the next election begins just as one ends. So, the timing of this piece cannot be said to be wrong.
Call it an act of immanent Fate or Providence, I am one person who can boast of being a true full blooded Benue man. Forgive my being personal here but truth is, I was born in Igedeland, had my secondary school education in Igedeland, part of my university education at Benue State University, Makurdi and spent part of my work life in the early ‘90s both in Makurdi and Igedeland.
What more, some of my closest friends up till now, who have proved to be strong and dependable pillars in the storm are Tivs. Without doubt therefore, God has adequately prepared me for this rather touchy topic.
Back in 2001, two years after I had done the one-year compulsory national youth service, I was plying my trade at NTA, Makurdi. An incident took place during that momentous occasion that one would not forget in a hurry. While we were celebrating, a friend who incidentally hails from outside our state asked a poignant and thought-provoking question.
He wondered if we were confident that there would be equity, fairness and justice in running the affairs of Benue State. We said we were, dismissing his curious question with a wave of the hand. But subsequent political events were to prove us wrong.
Going through some of the recent agitative articles in the media generally and particulary in some sections of the social media placed mainly by Igede and Idoma speaking people of Zone C calling for Fairness, Equity and Justice, called for sober reflection.
Part of the write ups reads thus, “the current social, economic and political situation in the state since its creation way back in 1976” has revealed “that Benue State has not lived up to the expectation of its founding fathers.”
To bolster this claim, the agitators, hinging their position on available statistics reiterates that while Benue Zone C Senatorial District accounts for 38.2 per cent of the population and are responsible for about 40 per cent of the internally generated revenue, political and public service appointments and recruitment, as well as allocation of resources have been monopolized by the Zone A and B Senatorial Districts.
The situation has become so serious that only about 15 percent of the resources are left for Zone C comprising Igede and Idoma.
They go further to explain that there has been not much economic value to the Igede people (in terms of infrastructural development, provision of social amenities, industrialization and job creation) for the trillions of naira that accrued to the state over the 39 years of Benue existence.
Responsible for this is what it calls “ the gross and willful mismanagement of available resources by successive governments,” and Moreno because the right of governance is hinged monolithically on one ethnic.
One can therefore, understand why the agitators feel that people from the Zone C especially the Igede speaking axis of the state have been unduly shortchanged by an “unconscionable level of marginalization and oppression.”
This sad and shocking scenario throws up some fundamentally burning questions. Did the founding fathers of Benue State envisage a situation whereby only one ethnic group would continue to produce the governor, ad infinitum and dominate the political space to the exclusion of the Zone C Senatorial District? Is it just, fair and equitable? Realizing this by the help of this piece, will it not naturally trigger bad blood, envy and angst in the build up to the next election in 2019, if the master-servant relationship persists? But above all, is there no sustainable solution to this incongruous political arrangement that skews power in favour of a particular ethnic group — Tiv?
Of course, there is. The yet -to- be -passed recommendation of the 2014 National Conference, is that there should be rotation of political power amongst the three Senatorial Districts of every state. We can adopt this in our beloved Benue State without rancour.
Historically, despite the trajectory of marginalization, Igede, Idoma and Tiv have coexisted peacefully in the state. Besides, the first two have closely-knit ancestral and cultural linkage, albeit there are now growing agitations on the part of the Igede for a divorce from the Idoma kingdom, but the idoma monarch says their cultural link should not be violated. Let us not deliberately offend the sensibilities of those who fought, tooth and nail for the realization of Benue State out of the old Benue-Plateau, while others preferred a different political restructuring.
While majority of voters win elections for their preferred candidates, one would wish to let the state’s majority note that it needs the cooperation of other ethnic groups, including even the Etulos to swing the political pendulum in its favour.
Also, it would be foolhardy to think that all the Tivs spanning their two zones would continue eternally to massively vote for a candidate from their area. Change is constant. Bitter as this may sound, politicking is complex and some fair-weather politicians have a price tag.
All said, the world of successful politics and economy has since moved from that of competition and conflicts to that of collaboration and consensus. Let us learn from the historic emergence of former presidents Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan after preventable political agitations. Even the Northern political elite now understands this. Change is inevitable.
Anyone who therefore, feels that one part of a state would continue to call the shots forever must think again. I am coming with a bang, very soon, to thaw the ice of the majority on the state governance. Trust me.
Ortom’s cap of many colors symbolizes unity of purpose. That is what we currently need to move our state forward. God bless Benue State.