“YAN AANGBIANKPAYA” (eat and also give a brother to eat) is a refrain among the Tivs’ and I start on this note because as of today, the Tivs’ are arguably the most accommodating and hospitable group in the Benue valley and possibly Nigeria. It is only the Tiv man that I know who does not eat his food in the secret but in the open just toensure that anyone who is hungry and famished can easily partake and get refreshed. The Tiv mans’ food no matter how small in quantity, belongs to everyone in the community. The meal is brought out and close neighbours and passersby are told “vayakwagh” – which simply translates as come and eat. It is this level of hospitality of the Tiv people that have been mis-interpreted and taken out of context, that today, many people erroneously submit that Tiv men use their wives to entertain their visitors; a completely wrong assertion. The point this essayist is trying to make is that the majority of the Tivs are very kind, good and receptive people which is the pivot of the philosophy, eat and give a brother to eat. The only exception I have found to this mentality of good brotherliness which by extension is another way of saying live, and let’s live is the meat of this essay.
Benue State as it is constituted today was created from the then Benue-Plateau state precisely on February 3rd 1976, which is more than forty-six years ago. The state is composed of at least seven ethnic groups spread across the twenty-three LGAs of the state. They include:Etulo, Akweya, Igede, Ufia, Tiv, Idoma and Jukun. However, since the creation of the state, it has elected five civilian governors all of them of the Tiv ethnic stock. These groups have relatively co-habited for all these decades but amidst this relative peaceful co-habitation, none of the other ethnic groups have come close to leading the state politically. I Based on the Tiv political categorisation (zoning), there are four blocks (Jechirra, Jemgbah, Sankara and Minda)and it is among these four blocks, that the governorship of Benue state must rotate. Accordingly, they have Jechirra which has Konshisha, Vandeikya, Ushongo and Kwande LGAs. This political band has produced late governors AperAku (Ushongo; 1979-1983) the great scion of Tiv political exceptionalism and Rev Fr Moses O. Adasu (Konshisha; 1993). Jemgbah has Gboko, Tarka and Buruku LGAs and has produced George Akume Dajoh (Tarka; 1999-2007). Sankara is made up of Katsina-ala, Ukum and Logo LGAs and has ex-governor Gabriel TorwuaSuswam (Logo; 2007-2015). Minda which stands for Masev, Iharev and Nongov development association is comprised of Makurdi, Gwer-East, Gwer-West and Guma LGAs and has the current state number 1 citizen, Samuel Ortom. (Guma; 2015-date). The Idomas have seven LGAa (Ado, Agatu, Apa, Ogbadibo, Ohimini, Okpokwu and Oturkpo), while the Igedes have two (Obi and Oju) making it nine which constitute the Benue South senatorial district.
Based on the foregoing, the ideal and logical thing to do and which should obtain is for the Tiv to allow one of the other ethnic groups to produce the next governor of the state come 2023. Because the Tiv have superiority of numbers in the state, it is practically impossible for any of the other ethnic groups to produce state governor without the support of the Tivs. However, as of today, and as the battle for 2023 rages on from the centre to the federating units, the chances that a different ethnic group will produce the successor of governor Ortom is close to zero. The song in town is how another Jechirra man would clinch the CEO of the state. The truth remains that it will be an unconscionable f to deny one of the other “minority” group, especially the Idomas, the next state governorship. There is nothing the Idomas’ have not done to produce the governor of the state and to “feel among” . Stephen Ochagwu Lawani was deputy to Gabriel Suswam for eight years with the hope and thinking that the patient dog eats the fattest bone. But when it was time for succession, the man was showed where he belonged to. I think the man will live to tell the story for the rest of his life.
It has been argued that the Idomas should first allow the Igedes’ who are a “minority” in Benue South senatorial district to become senator before they can make a case for their governorship ambition. This line of argument was recently reinforced by Governor Ortom when he addressed the Benue PDP stakeholders meeting. But this argument is laughable and obscure. To start with, the most revered, venerated and exalted position in Idoma land has been occupied by the Igede and Ufia men who historically, culturally and linguistically are not Idomas. Till date, the ever longest serving Ochi Idoma was Abraham AjeneOkpabi (Ochi Idoma the 2nd), was an Igede man. Dr. Edwin OgebeOgbu, Northern Nigeria’s foremost diplomat, was Ochi Idoma the 3rd, an Ufia man. Again, the Igedes’ have never contested for the Senate of Benue zone C.Ade writes in from Jos, Plateau State, via [email protected]