By Eric Teniola
WHEN President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, submitted his list of ministers to the Senate on July 23, the name of Chief Audu Innocent Ogbeh (72) was missing.Audu Ogbeh
He was one of the few ministers who was not re-nominated by the President and this led to a conclusion that perhaps the public service career of this colourful politician is over and that henceforth he will retire to his village in Efugu-Otukpa with his wife, Justina Obehi and take the back seat with a role as an elder statesman.
If that should be, it is not too early to thank Chief Ogbeh for his contributions to Nigeria. No doubt Chief Audu Ogbeh now has a passport to join the league of Benue State greats, including Chief Jacob Obade, the minister of state in charge of the Nigerian Army in early sixties who recruited most military officers from that zone; Chief Joseph Sarwuan Tarka (1932-1980) who formed the United Middle Belt Congress at the age of 23 along with Chief Isaac Shaahu and others and became a leader of the region till he died; and Colonel Joseph Akahan, the Chief of Army Staff from Gboko, who died in an helicopter crash during the civil war at the age of 31 in May 1968.
Others with similar passports are Brigadier General (retd) David Bonaventure Alachenu Mark (71) from Otukpo; Major General (retd) Lawrence Anebi Onoja (70) from Idekpa, Okpiko; Chief George Akume (65) from Wannune Tarka; Major General Chris Abutu Garba (71) from Ipole; Senator Daniel Iyorkegh Soror; Brigadier Atom Kpera (78); Chief Barnabas Adyar Iyoriher Gemade from Otukpo; Chief Iyorchia Ayu (66) from Gboko; Chief Ameh Ebute from Ugbokodo; Ambassador Iyorwuese Hagher (70) from Kasar; Chief Paul Unongo from Turan; Brigadier General (retd) Emmanuel Ikwue from Otukpo and a few others.
Chief Audu Ogbeh’s life reminds me of what James Baldwin wrote: “Not everything that is faced can be changed but nothing can be changed until it is faced”. The name Audu Ogbeh caught national attention in 1979 when he was elected as deputy speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly.READ ALSO: Anti-Open Grazing Law: Miyetti Allah drags Benue State to A’Court
On October 18,1979, President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari submitted 31 names to the Senate for ministerial confirmation. Benue State had two cabinet nominees, Chief Isaac Shaahu and Chief Paul Unongo. Chief Shaahu was of the NPN at that time.
In 1981, there were some allegations made against the then minister of power and steel, Chief Paul Iyorpuu Unongo (82) then of the NPP, who is also from Benue State. At that time the NPN was in control of Benue State and the then governor, Chief Aper Aku (1938-1988) from Ikyobo, Ushongo Local Government Area was of the NPN. Notable politicians from Benue State, including my good friend Senator Joseph Sarwuan Tarka, Senator Suemo Chia, Senator Ameh Ebute, Chief Isaac Shaahu, Dr. Emmanuel Atanu, V. Iortim, S.O. Adohi, Chief B.A. Chaha and others were also of the NPN.
Following the allegations on Chief Unongo, President Shagari dropped him from the cabinet and appointed Chief Audu Ogbeh as minister of communication at the age of 33. President Shagari later moved him to the Ministry of Power and Steel.
It was at this time that I knew Chief Audu Ogbeh who was introduced to me by his bosom friend, Chief Innocent Adikwu, who was then Editor of The Sunday Punch. He was also introduced to me later by my colleague and friend, Mr. Muyiwa Adetiba, a gifted writer, who was then a star in The Punch Newspaper who later became Editor of The Sunday Punch. In his first term he was loyal to President Shagari and he did his job brilliantly.
On October 17, 1983 he was re-nominated by President Shagari as a minister in his second term. Only seven of them were re-nominated. And they were Chief Eteng Okoi Obuli (Cross River), Mohammed Ibrahim Hassan (Bauchi), Alhaji Ali Baba (Gongola), Alhaji Umaru Abdurahman Dikko (Kaduna), Alhaji Adamu Ciroma (Borno), Chief Audu Ogbeh (Benue) and Dr. Ishael Jikiri Igbani (Rivers).
The rest were freshers. They included Chief Eleazar Chukwuemeka Anyaoku, Chief John Nwodo jnr., Alhaji Sule Katagum, Alhaji Ibrahim Tahir, Alhaji Magaji Mu’azu, Chief J.A. Orhorbo, Mr. Ralph Uwechue, Dr. E.T. Atanu, Alhaji Muhammadu Buhari, Alhaji Haliru Dantoro, Dr. Simi Johnson, Dr. Idirisu Ibrahim, Chief Kehinde Sofola, Dr. Bode Olowoporoku, Chief S.M. Afolabi, Dr. Bimbo Akintola, Alhaji Hassan Mohammed, Mr. Robert Doshun Gumut, Chief Okoi-Obuli, Dr. A.J. Okonno, Alhaji Ali Baba, Mr. Paul Wampana, Chief Emmanuel Adiele, Alhaji Isma’ila Isa, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, Alhaji Hamisu Musa, Dr. Ishmael Igbani, Mrs. E. Diete-Spiff, Alhaji Muhammadu Lugga, Alhaji Idirisu Koko and Alhaji Bala Sokoto.