By Conleth Nnorom
The aspiration of people of Benue South District (the Idoma people) to govern the state since its creation has always been a failed dream. But undeterred, they have continue to file out to persuade on their Tiv brothers to allow them have a shot at the number seat. Will that jinx be broken this time or will it continue to be a mirage? Our correspondent Uche Nnorom examines the issues in this piece.
Contestants for the governorship race in Benue State have continued to intensify their campaigns ahead of primaries slated to hold in October 2014.
At the moment, they seem to have taken their campaigns to the doorsteps of the delegates who would decide their fates on the battlefield.
There are over 30 contestants for the cherished and plum governorship seat of the state. The roll call include, Dr. Samuel Ortom, Minister of State, Trade and Investment, Chief Steven Lawani, incumbent deputy governor of the state, Hon. Terhemba Tarzoor, erstwhile Speaker of the State Assembly, Hon. Hingah Biam, former permanent secretary Bureau for Internal Affairs, Hon. Sam Ode, former minister of State, Niger Delta, Hon.. Emmanuel Jime, member of House of Representative for Guma/Makurdi constituency, Hon. Akange Audu, retired permanent secretary, Bureau for Internal affairs, Hon. Dave Iorhemba, former Speaker of the State Assembly, Hon. Ada Chenge Managing Director, Lower River Basin Authority, Hon. Harris Paul Ogbole, erstwhile board member of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC,
Others are: Hon. Tivulumum Nyitse, erstwhile Permanent Secretary, Government House, Barr. Alex Adum, former Commissioner for Justice, Hon. Mike Aondoakaa, erstwhile Minster and Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Terhemba Shija, one time commissioner for Information, Hon. Peter Chieshe, Dr. Mathias Oyigeya, erstwhile Medical Director, Federal Medical Center, Makurdi, Hon. Andy Uwuokwu, retired permanent secretary, Pensions Board, Dr. Eugene Aliegba erstwhile commissioner for Housing amongst several others.
One paramount issue that has continued to agitate the minds of the Benue populace is zoning of the governorship position. This has generated a lot of discourse in the political atmosphere of the state.
The Minda people who occupy the lower part of zone B comprising Makurdi, Guma, Gwer and Gwer West local government areas of the state are strongly laying claim that the seat should be zoned to them arguing that amongst the Tiv, they have never had a shot at it.
It could be recalled that Governor Gabriel Suswam at an occasion where he received report from the committee set up to investigate the remote and immediate cause of the Fulani invasion in the state, declared support for Minda governorship. He alluded that the area had been confronted with several unwarranted attacks by the Fulani marauders that led to wanton destruction of lives and property and so, should be handed the governorship seat to repair the damage done by the attacks. While the Minda people rejoiced at the comment made by the governor, it did not go down well with the remaining zones A and C.
The latter has since the creation of Benue in 1976, suffered marginalization in piloting the affairs of the state having to continually play the second fiddle. The Idoma nation that make up zone C have had to contend with this age long marginalization because of their minority status. All their efforts in the past to govern the state have remained futile. They have bore this burden like a camel laden with heavy load and unable to move. Their dream to rule the state one day look glimmer and slimmer by the day, the Tiv who are in the majority having 14 local government areas to just 9 by the Idomas have continued to trample on them.
It could be recalled during the re-election bid of erstwhile governor and now Senator George Akume in 2003, the Idomas almost came close to achieving their ambition. Akume had declared publicly that he would hand over to an Idoma son at the end of his second term in office in 2007.
That declaration could be likened to that said by God to the Israelites when they were in bondage in Egypt that the Pharaohs they see today, they will see no more. But while the Israelites eventually got freedom after 40 years of captivity and slavery by the Egyptians, it was not the case with the Idoma nation. The gentleman agreement was never kept as behind the scene politics of majority always having their way played out. The rest is now history as the incumbent governor Gabriel Suswam emerges through the popular ‘vote donation’ courtesy of late deputy governor Ogiri Ajene and former deputy Speaker of assembly Hon. Ralph Igbago.
The way and manner Idoma governorship candidates then like now minister for Interior Comrade Abba Moro, Hon. Mike Okibe Onoja, the incumbent deputy governor Chief Steven Lawani campaigned vigorously through the nooks and crannies of the state expending huge finances and were deceived through assurances that they would be flag bearer of the PDP was really agonizing as none of them emerged, betrayed by their own kinsmen.
Like in 2007, Idoma sons have filed out again in their large number led by the deputy governor Chief Lawani. He is one amongst the others from Zone C that also has once big shots in Benue politics, Sam Ode, Paul Harris Ogbole, Ada Chenge, Mathias Oyigeya that are angling for the number one seat of the State.
Chief Lawani’s campaign train is moving really fast and he is tipped to make a remarkable impression at the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primaries next month. Lawani has exhibited loyalty and rare maturity in deputizing for Governor Suswam to steer the ship of the state to almost a berth. He has never been involved in a riff with the governor in spite of the big age difference. His style of governance has indeed thrilled a lot of Benue people. The other contenders from that axis seem to be sleeping even as questions are been asked whether the once mighty Sam Ode is serious about the contest.
Perhaps, reasons could be adduced for the failure of the Idoma to govern the state. The Tiv who constitute majority in the state seem not to have confidence in any Idoma man to entrust power to them. They accuse the Idomas of marginalizing them at the Federal level where they hold sway. The Tiv allege that any time an Idoma person is opportune to hold a big position at the federal level; he would not blink an eye to marginalize them especially in employment as has always been the case in the Immigration, Customs and Prisons job recruitment. They accuse the Senate President David Mark as been the architect of their marginalization, insisting that as long as he remains relevant in the politics of the state, the Idoma people would not rule the state.
This too could explain why Senator Mark is in the forefront in agitating for the creation of Apa State which will serve as a great breather for the Idoma people to emancipate themselves from the stronghold of the Tiv people.
As it stands, the aspiration of the Idoma nation to govern the state still hangs in the balance. Would it end up a race to no finishing point?