By Abrahams Kwaghngu
Early this week, leaders and stakeholders of the Middle Belt Geo-political zone converged at the iconic IBB Square in Makurdi, the Benue State capital to take a common position on burning national issues affecting them. The rally organized by the influential Middle Belt Forum in conjunction with the J.S. Tarka Foundation was attended by the Executive Governor of Benue State and his counterpart from Taraba State, Arch. Dairus Ishaku and other notable middle belt leaders and opinion leaders.
It is instructive that once again, the people and leaders of the middle belt region have again responded to the contemporary challenges facing the region in particular and Nigeria in general. The middle belt has always played a defining and influential role in the political history of the country right from the pre-independence era. This time around, the people of the zone have joined the clamour for the restructuring of the Nigerian polity to chart an effective and result-oriented political and economic administration.
Security events of the past several months as well as the prevailing economic environment have made it more important now than ever for a constitutional amendment that would pave way for a wholistic socio-political re-engineering of our federal system of government. Many leaders of thought, technocrats, politicians, members of the academia and indeed most Nigerians believe that the time is right to restructure the political system.
In the area of security, an Executive Governor of a State is statutorily recognized as the Chief Security Officer of his State. But as things stand today, a State Governor has no control over any security agency in the country. The heads of security agencies funded from the public treasury take orders and directives from Abuja, the seat of power. This is notwithstanding the huge financial and logistical support state governments give security agencies. The clamour for restructuring if actualized would empower State Governments to establish their own State Police in line with constitutional provisions. This would be a major boost in addressing the insecurity in parts of the country as a State Governor would be better positioned to secure his state with direct control and organization of the State police under his authority without fear or favour.
In the economic sector, restructuring would stimulate creative exploitation of the natural resources of states in the country. The current system gives the government at the centre control over certain categories of mineral resources like crude oil and other commodities. This creates an economic imbalance that tends to shortchange the states where these resources are derived from. For instance, for the second month in a row, the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee has being deadlocked over unresolved issues of remittances by the NNPC. This situation has invariably affected the obligation of many states to pay June salaries.
As the country prepares to enter the hectic electioneering season, the views of the middle belt leaders should be taken seriously by the larger Nigerian political environment. Historically, the Middle Belt Zone has always determined the political direction of the north central in particular and by extension the country’s political path. Already influential socio-cultural groups like the Ohaneze Ndi’Igbo from the South East and the Afenifere from the South West have identified with the aspirations of the Middle belt having found a common ground on the issue of restructuring and security challenges especially as it relates to the herdsmen menace in some north central states including Benue.
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State used the occasion to restate his unflinching commitment to serving his people. The people of Benue State also came out in their thousands to show solidarity for Governor Samuel Ortom at the IBB Square and welcome other leaders from the Middle Belt and friends of Benue from the Southwest and South East zones of the country. The people of Benue again expressed their unwavering support for the anti-open grazing law enacted by the Ortom led administration. Despite the opposition to ranching law from a few shadowy personalities, the Benue people remain unshaken and solidly behind their Governor for exhibiting a rare courage and wisdom in introducing the law which has since become a model being adopted by other States having being also endorsed by the Northern Governors Forum, National Economic Council and Federal Ministry of Agriculture. The anti-open grazing law however stipulates the conditions and processes required to establish a livestock ranch in Benue. Any other ranching initiative introduced by any other authority is expected to comply with the existing ranching law in Benue.
As the 2019 gubernatorial election looms large in the horizon, Governor Ortom has continued to enjoy unprecedented support from across diverse political platforms and from the masses of Benue State who have made it clear that they would not support any politician who will come into office and reverse the gains made by Ortom and the foundation being laid for agriculture driven industrialization of the State. Governor Ortom has downgraded his personal ambition by standing by his people despite subtle opposition and veiled threats from external quarters and their few collaborators in the State.
The Benue people in the interest of positive continuity should support Ortom for a second term in office. This is a realistic and wise option open to our people to avoid the return to politics of personal aggrandizement and underdevelopment. Ortom has proven time and again that his single focus is in serving the interests of the Benue people while drawing strength and inspiration from God Almighty.