As 2015 elections approach, Godwin Anyebe, who just returned from Markurdi examines the political situation in Benue State and how the Idoma people have waited endlessly to clinch the governorship position of the state.
Within the next six months, Governor Gabriel Suswan of Benue State and other second-term governors will be stepping aside for successors. Already, political activities and permutations have fully picked up in the entire 36 States of the federation.
For the people of Benue State, the struggle for power among the three zones of the state has started. In addition to the usual competition among the zones, the political drama in the state has suddenly assumed a different dimension following the supremacy struggle current going on between Governor Suswan and one of the political weights from the state, Chief Barnabas Gemade.
An elder statesman, Gemade, who was a former National chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), currently represents Zone ‘A’ senatorial district in the National Assembly. Both Gemade and Suswan are from the same zone. Until recently, the former was like a political father to the governor but ambition seems to have torn them apart. As the old man prepares for another shot in the Senate, his erstwhile godson is also warming up to contest the same seat.
However, if there is any political intrigue that is getting the most attention currently, it is the possibility of Zone C, the home of the Idomas to present the next governor of the state. From any angle one chooses to look at it, the story of the Idoma people can be likened to that of the biblical Israelites, who were in bondage for more than four hundred years. Since 1976, when the state was created, the Idomas have been dreaming to be governor. But at every opportunity, they have always been outsmarted by their Tiv counterpart.
Rotation of the governorship seat in the state has over the years been a contending issue among the three zones of A, B and C always laying claim to the plum seat. But while zones A and B have had shots at the position, zone C has perpetually been denied the chance to govern the state since its creation in 1976. All their pleas to be given an opportunity to rule have always fallen on deaf ears with the Tivs, who are the majority tribe, holding tenaciously to the seat.
Considering the political influence of the Idomas and their contribution to the development of the state, not a few analysts have condemned the founding fathers of the state for being insensitive to the neglect of the Idoma people in the scheme of things.
Geographically, the Idoma people are found in the southern senatorial district of Benue State. They held sway in nine local government areas of the state as against their Tiv counterparts who are in charge of fourteen local government areas. The limit of their boundaries extended to Doma and Keena in the north to Igbo land in the south. It also extends from Idah in the west as far as Wukari in the East. Ordinarily, all these suppose to be an advantage but the reverse is the case as they have continuously been sidelined.
Add to this advantage is their homogenous composition with difference dialects which cut across Adoka, Ochekwu, Otukpa, Edumoga, Agila, Orokram, Ugboju, Agatu among others. Research revealed that the Idoma people migrated from the north along with the forbearers of Bini, Yoruba, and Igbo to the current place of their settlement in Benue State where they have lived for about five thousand years.
The Idomas were able to produce governors in a few states during the military regime out of which is the current President of the Senate, David Mark, (the Opopowulu one of Idoma land) who was military governor of Niger State. It is also on record that on the average, the way and manner the Idoma people performed during their stay in office as governors was quite commendable. As a result of this, many people think that others from the tribe will do well if given chance to man the affairs of their home state.
Meanwhile, political analysts attribute the adverse effect of politics of marginalisation where the majority tribe in Idoma land would want to continuously be at the helm of affair of a certain geographical location to the activities of political desperadoes mostly from the minority segment who always fail to agree on one candidate in order to take advantage of the division in majority.
In 2007, there was an agreement between the Idoma leaders and then governor of Benue State who is currently the minority leader of the Senate, George Akume that the Tiv brothers should support their Idoma kinsmen for the office of the number one citizen of the state. Unfortunately, the agreement was not sealed in a way that it could be legally biding.
Maybe it is because it was the first opportunity ever created for them in that regard, there was a great scramble among every advantaged Idoma person to vie for the position and eventually, the picture painted was that of a tribe unable to reach consensus in the build up to that election. Even from the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), it was so bad that even David Mark not able to exert his influence to create sanity among contestants.
Speaking, against this background, one time executive member of the National Association of Idoma Students, (NAIS), at the Federal Polytechnic Mubi, Adamawa State chapter, Comrade John Abogonye, said: “the old Idoma politician who fought so hard within the old northern region for the emancipation of the Idoma must be weeping in his grave in the light of how the Idomas are being treated.
According to him, during the first republic, there were at least five federal constituencies in the House of Representatives, but forty five years down the lane they don’t have such committed numbers again. To him, those who seek to lead the Idoma nation today don’t seem to see anything wrong with this. He has, however admitted that the fault is not with greed generosity of their Tiv brothers but in the unbridled selfishness of a few Idoma people. To solve the problem, the union leader urged the people to learn how to speak for themselves and articulate their demand.
In some instances, this political imbalance is not known with the food basket of the nation alone, but even their neighbouring Kogi State minorities, especially the people of Kabba and Igbira. In Kogi, history has shown that the Igala kingdom has continued to dominate the political space, not minding the political credentials of minority tribes since the creation of the state in 1991.
To position the minority group for the 2015 elections, a group under the aegis of Conference of Minority Tribes in Nigeria, CMTN, has pleaded with the Tiv ethnic group of Benue State to give the Idoma community a chance to rule the state in 2015.
National coordinator of the group, Comrade Okpokwu Ogenyi who said this at a press conference in Abuja stressed that it was high time the Idomas were given the chance to also serve the people of Benue State as governor come 2015
According to him, “it could be recalled that since the creation of Benue State, no Idoma man or woman has ever been the governor of the state”.