BY CHARLES OBULU
All animals are equal but some are more equal than others- George Orwell (Animal farm.)
The Idomas, Tivs, Etulos, Akweyas and other minority tribes have cohabited in the entity called Benue State since the creation of Benue from the defunct Benue-Plateau on the 5th of January 1976.
Since it’s creation, there has been no love lost between the two major tribes, Idoma and Tiv as power has remained only with the Tivs to the neglect of the Idomas and other minority tribes.
There has been an unethical imbalance in the power sharing formula of the state. The Tiv traditional slogan of “Iyakwa Nawangbaan” (Brother should ‘chop’ and pass to another Brother) has made them retain power in perpetuity thereby shutting the Idomas from Power and relegating them to always being second fiddle.
I am not an ethnic apologist neither do I patronize opinions that promote disunity between the two tribes. I wrote this essay with a lot of reluctance due to the fragile nature of the topic.
Personally, I have had a strong bond and historical affinity with the Tivs whom I’ll never profile as intellectually abject.
We have shared an uncommon intimacy and friendship as a I was privileged to be an aluminus of the prestigious Mount Saint Gabriel Secondary School Makurdi. A school that has produced outstanding Intellectuals, Technocrats, Captains of Industries, Professors and Leaders of Thoughts many of whom are of Tiv descent including but not limited to Ember Anakaa, Dr. Ortese, late William Kombol, Chris Tion and Timothy Nyor who shared a healthy academic rivalry with me. Others of great scholarship include Charles Eruka of channels TV, Wilfred Bula my bosom friend and many more who have glowing intellectual attributes and have excelled in their different chosen vocations.
It is pertinent to cry out that the Idomas have been subjected to repression and suffocating injustice under a predominantly Tiv cabinet most especially under the government of Gov. Samuel Ortom. Much so that even the Office of the Secretary to the State Government that hitherto was normally an Idoma portfolio has been hijacked and given to the Tivs.
More so, the recent herdsmen debacle in Agatu speaks volumes. The Agatus were deserted and ignored during their most trying moment.
The only move by the Government of Ortom was to cede a large chunk of ancestoral Agatu land for grazing giving it the nomenclature ‘Fulani/Agatu’ as against the Benue Anti-open grazing law.
When Gov. Ortom’s home town of Guma and Logo where attacked, he quickly became the chief mourner, invited the United Nations and other NGOs of repute to intervene and give the tragedy a worldwide coverage and bring succour to his home town.
I share the pains of the bereaved families in Guma and Logo but will condemn in clear terms the glaring disparity in the governments handling of their burial as the Tiv victims were neatly laid in polished mahogany casket, surrounded by professional undertakers, humming a sorrowful dirge in a dignified state burial with a strong media presence.
The Agatu victims on the other hand were not deemed fit to be accorded a worthy burial. With their corpses being feasted on by vultures or hurriedly thrown in shallow graves. Over a thousand lives were lost in Agatu consisting women, children, the aged and vulnerable yet Ortom gave the tragedy no media hype or prominence.
It is clear that even Ortom’s prompt reaction in the recent Omusu herdsmen attack was a face- saving political move birthed by the outcry of this same disparity.
Is Ortom not following an ethnic curriculum?
Gov. Ortom is an acclaimed motor park tout, who went through hardship and deprivation to train himself amidst different kinds of adversity and should know how to dispense justice and fair play.
He must be reminded that he took an oath with the Bible and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and pledged to be fair to all the people of Benue State irrespective of tribe religion or creed. Ortom must know the implication of the swearing in ceremony that preceded his ascension to power. That declaration remains an article of faith. Before he demands justice from the Federal Authorities, he should first entrench justice and fair play in his own state.
In essence Ortom is more a leader of Guma than the chief executive of Benue State.
Worse still, under Gov. Ortom, the 23 Local Governments were allegedly made to contribute a stipulated sum for the facelift of Tor-Tiv Palace whereas the Ochi-Idoma’s Palace remains dilapidated till date.
How about appointment?
An Idoma lady of good pedigree, Dr. Enyantu Ifene was nominated for an ambassadorial position but her name was substituted for Professor Ugba a Tiv man. It is even alleged that Gov. Ortom led Tiv elders to President Buhari attempting to truncate the nomination of Chief Audu Ogbe as Minister if not for the president’s insistence. This shows clearly that Gov. Ortom is suffering from selective amnesia.
Senator George Akume has joined Ortom as the chief Hater of the Idomas. He has used the infamous phrase “Tiv Killings” in his address to the president thereby segregating the Idomas who suffered the same fate in the herdsmen carnage.
This is no doubt a perilous development that must be condemned by all. If there was ever a need to provide any evidence to prove that Senator Akume is an ethnic bigot, then this phrase says it all. Was Sen. George Akume in a trance? The same State he governed in recent past as a custodian of millions of destinies, how could he dare degenrate to the use of such a selective phrase in a pluralistic society faced with similar progrom such as ours.
I am constrained to ask the question; could Sen. George Akume be suffering from the opium of his defeat in the hands of Sen. David Mark?
Who for God’s sakes are their speech writers or press secretary? Was this phrase used in error? It truly sounds strange from a sitting senator who should be an elder statesman in his own right.
I used to hold George in high esteem, a pleasant personality, highly compassionate, but truly George has lost it with me through this statement.
It is laughable when Sen. David Mark was mentioned in an occasion that does not warrant throwing tantrums. The difference between Mark and Akume is that Mark is passionate about his people while Akume is passionate about power at the expense of his people .
Sen. George Akume should rather strive to use his position to attract development to his people of Zone “A” rather than struggling to be an ethnic champion.
As a senator of the ruling party, it’s a shame that his native town of Gboko is as impoverished and neglected like most minority villages in Nigeria.
In Summation, Benue must open her eyes to unpatriotic elites like Ortom and Akume. Their businesses and family flourish while the industries in Benue State have all gone comatose.
Poverty knows no bounds and hears no language. We must resist these agents of disunity and unite against hunger, poverty and squalor. If we are deceived by these elites, the affected will surely be the hewers of wood and drawers of water who are impoverished and have no say in the governance of our state.
They should borrow a leaf from the Tiv Elderstatesman Paul Unongo whose epic and honest declaration berated the Tiv political class for alienating the Idomas from governance and advocated for an Idoma Governor after the tenure of Gov. Samuel Ortom.
All Idoma demands is a reasonable and measurable degree of equity in the State. We do not query the alpha status of our Tiv brothers being the majority tribe, but politics must not only be a game of numbers, but also a game of fairness.