Nigeria: Politics of Entitlement Takes Centerstage in Benue

George Okoh writes that the minority ethnic groups in Benue State, particularly the Idomas are mounting a sustained pressure to have the governorship position zoned in their favour.

Though 2023 is still very far for the conduct of governorship elections in Nigeria, agitation for who wl succeed the incumbent Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has started as several politicians across party line have started consultation and some have openly declared their intention to succeed Ortom even as some have cleverly erected billboards in strategic areas of the state.

However, despite the agitation by individuals to take a short at the position,the real battle appears to come from the senatorial zones in the state.

Benue like all states in Nigeria is divided into three senatorial zones which comprises of Benue South, Benue North-east and the Benue North-west.

The present Benue state governor Ortom is from the North-west. Despite this, some sections of the zone are still showing strong interest in the race in 2023. The zonal battle for the position has rather started very early as moves by very strong politicians showing interest in the race have come under the zones.

A keen observation of the political arena has shown that all the zones are interested in the race which has always rotated between the Benue North-east and the Benue North-west.

Since the creation of the state and from the 1979 election till date the two zones have dominated the position.

Those from the Benue South have continuously agitated for power shift to the predominantly Idoma speaking area but have not succeeded.The question on the lips of observers is will 2023 be different?

As the tenure of the incumbent governor begins to lurch towards 2023 the agitation has intensified.

It may sound ridiculous to talk about the governorship race two years ahead, but it is inextricably tied to uncertainties on which zone will produce the next governor

Benue South Quest

The move by the Benue South has started very strongly.

Pressure groups demanding for power shift are spring up across the state using social media platforms in galvanizing support for the project.

A group known as the Benue Rebirth Movement (BRM)and the Benue Patriots led by AVM Monday Morgan and Barrister A Ochojila respectively have been at the forefront demanding that power should shift to the zone in 2023.

These groups have been going round dialoguing with the other zones that the governorship position be zoned to Benue South.

Recently the BRM took its consultation to the Traditional ruler of the TiV nation the Tor TiV, former governors of Benue State, Senator Gabriel Suswam and Senator George Akume appealing to their conscience on the need for power shift to Benue South senatorial district.

AVM Morgan appealed to the Benue leaders to see reason with the group’s submission inferring that since the creation of the state 44 years ago a person of Benue South extraction has never been given the chance to govern the state.

He recognized the fact that the Tiv speaking part of Benue state which consists of Benue Zone A and B were the majority in the state and in a democratic setting numbers mattered a lot, not withstanding, he appealed to the Senators and Tor Tiv to see the plight of the people of Benue South and of cause help in pleading with their people and all stakeholders of Tiv land in general to help in entrenching the true meaning of democracy , void of tribal and ethnic divide and one which seeks to accommodate all in leadership and in service.

In his comment on the quest by the Benue South, a popular youth activist and All Progressives Congress Chieftain Honourable Anthony Adah said the TiV people of Benue North-east and west must consider the people of Benue south in their sharing formula.He said the people of Benue south should dialogue, romance and possibly beg to be considered without being confrontational.

“The state stands to gain a lot if Benue south is giving the position as the two other zones with assembly member from 14 local governments council will be a check in the state assembly as against the 9 councils of Zone C.

So far prominent persons in the Benue South have showed interest in the position. Among those interested in the race is a former Deputy Governor of Benue State Chief Steven Lawani.Many pundits are of the opinion that if the people in the zone rallied round Lawani they may have a chance to the Government House in 2023.

Others being touted are All Progressives Congress (APC) Governorship running mate in the 2019 election Dr Samuel Ode,AVM Monday Morgan, former NTA director Maxwell Uloko and a youth activist Mr Anthony Adah

Benue North East for 2023

A section of the Benue North-east known as the Jechira people have launched a strong force to ensure the zone produced the next governor of the state.

A youth wing of Jechira Gubernatorial Movement (JGM) on Tuesday, 2nd February, 2021 held talks with the young people of Lobi, comprising Makurdi and Guma Local Government Areas (LGAs) over the position of 2023 governorship race

Leader of the movement, Mr Dan Nyikwagh during the talks reminded the people of Lobi of the Benue North-west about the long standing relationship between Jechira and the people of Minda, saying, same would be sustained.

According to Nyikwagh, the youth wing of JGM is a forerunner movement that is beyond party consideration and assured the young people of Lobi that their interest in a Jechira governorship arrangement will be protected.

He called on the youth to support the Jechira governorship project in the interest of fair play and justice.

In their supporting remarks, Manasseh Kyernum and Terfa Chagba (all of Jemgbagh) and Terna Gile implored Lobi youth to support the Jechira Governorship ambition in the over all interest of the state.

Kyernum noted that a critical analysis of the contending blocks for the 2023 Governorship race puts Jechira ahead of the others given their positioning in the scheme of affairs in the state.

In their response, youth leaders of the two dorminant political parties in the state, PDP and APC from Makurdi and Guma LGAs said they are pleased with the unity of purpose exhibited by Jechira youth in their quest to occupy the Makurdi Government House from 2023.

Terngu Iornenge (APC/Makurdi), Stephen Datso (PDP/Makurdi), Vitalis Koryol (PDP/Guma) and Isherev Yakubu (APC/Guma) said the approach of JGM (Youth Wing) is a reflection of the way of life of the Tiv.

Speaking on behalf of Jechira aspirants, Tyoakura Member (for PDP) and Emmanuel Tyonum (for APC), said Jechira will not leave out Minda in the scheme of affairs when they make it to Makurdi Government House in 2023.

Before the talks began, JGM, paid homage on the Tor Lobi and Chairman Lobi Intermediate Area Traditional Council with his council.

His Highness Moses Anagende, Tor Lobi said the young people of Jechira have done the right thing. He said he was pleased see representatives from Jemgbagh on the team.

He noted that Jechira and Minda have a long standing relationship dating back to the olden days.