Power sharing in Benue State: Use equity not blackmail, By SIMON SHANGO

The issue of power sharing in Benue State is as old as the State itself.
When the clamour for the creation of additional states from Benue Plateau started, virtually all ethnic groups that made up Benue Plateau then were afraid of the Tiv dominance in a new Benue state.
It was for this reason that the Jukun ethnic group of Wukari, Donga and Takum, even though with a larger Tiv population, opted out of the arrangement and preferred to join their relatively unknown neighbors in the then Gongola state. Equally, the ethnic groups in Nasarawa and Keffi, as well as Akwanga and Lafia Divisions, opted to remain in Plateau.
What remained of the then Benue province was now left with the Tiv and Idoma as the main ethnic groups. The Idoma ethnic group was also afraid of Tiv dominance and insisted, through their leaders led by Justice Paul Anyebe, Dr Vincent Ukwu and Barrister Joe Omakwu, among others, that they would only join Benue State if their “kith and kin” from Kwara state, the Igala, were brought to join them in the new Benue state.
The Tiv leadership at that time in Jos led by late Tor Tiv Orchivirigh Akperan Orshi, who was then the Solicitor-General of Benue Plateau State, Mr Aper Aku, Barrister Gbihi Vembe and, this writer as the Secretary among many others, conceded to that arrangement after consultation with a wider Tiv leadership and accordingly communicated this to our overall political leader Chief J.S Tarka, who was a member of The Federal Executive Council in Lagos.
This arrangement did not pay off for the Idoma nation. After the general election in 1979 the Tiv people went away with the Governor in the person of Apollos Aper Aku. The Idoma kith and kin, Igala, shortchanged them, perhaps due to their numerical strength by taking the Deputy Governor in the person of Barrister Emmanuel Isa Odoma, the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Obadiah Tebo and the Senatorial District which was made up of Igala, Idoma and part of Tiv went to Andrew Abogede. Even the Minister of State which was graciously given to Benue by the President was taken away by the Igala nation through Dr. Usman Abubakar, who was assigned the portfolio of Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. As a matter of fact even the position of Special Adviser to the president was occupied by an Igala, Professor Joseph Odama who was assigned the position of Economic Adviser.
However, with the magnanimity of the Tiv nation, Chief Audu Ogbe was moved from Deputy Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly and appointed a Minister in Lagos after the death of Dr Usman Abubakar.
The clamour for political power heightened after the governorship tenure of Senator George Akume, CON who is now being maligned as undemocratic and tribalistic.
During his eight-year rule as the Executive Governor of Benue State, Senator George Akume, CON made sure that not just the Idoma but also the Igede who are the third largest ethnic group in Benue benefitted from power sharing.
He made Chief Ogiri Ajene, an Igede man his deputy, Engineer Bartholomew Oche an Idoma man the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and Dr. Christopher Obute as Commissioner for Finance and continued with his deputy governor in the second term but appointed another Idoma son, John Orokpo as his SSG.
For equity Senator George Akume, CON worked and ensured that an Idoma Son, Chief Audu Ogbe became the National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to replace Senator Barnabas Gemade, a Tiv man. The successive Tiv Governors in Benue state have tried to continue with this equitable arrangement up till today.
The main problem now is that the Idoma nation want to take over the Governorship of the State which can only be done by negotiation, not by blackmail or name calling.
The numerical strength of the Tiv nation is far larger than all the other tribal groups put together such that the Tiv votes alone can win the governorship of the state on any political party platform.
Recent attacks by Idoma groups are laughable and childish. For instance in one of them, they claim the political leader of Benue state Senator George Akume, CON could not have been recruited as a sergeant in the Nigerian Army when Lawrence Onoja was a Major General in the army.
How can you compare someone like Senator George Akume, CON with an impeccable WASC, Higher School Certificate, a University of Ibadan degree, two Masters Degrees in the United Kingdom with a Teacher Grade Three in St Augustine’s Teachers College in Lafia? How such a person managed to get into the Nigeria Defense Academy calls for investigation.
The Idoma nation will need to learn a lesson or two in politics from their Tiv neighbours.
Because the Tiv people are vulnerable they choose their political alignment carefully. While the Idoma nation still cling to the PDP, which has been abandoned by the rest of Nigerians. The Tiv people on the other hand chose to align with the All Progressives Congress APC under President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR.
You just need to take a look at the 2023 general elections to know that the Tiv people voted wisely.

  • Chief Simon Shango, MFR, wrote in from Abuja

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