When the political, traditional, religious and professional leaders from the Southern Senatorial Zone assembled at Otukpo on November 26, they came to discuss a very emotive and politically explosive matter.
The gathering which was at the instance of a pressure group from the zone, the Benue Rebirth Movement (BRM) was the first stakeholders meeting to put the perennial political imbalance in Benue State into proper perspective.
BRM’s major concern here is the 2023 governorship election in the state and the zoning formula that should drive it.
The exercise is necessary if the political class in the state is not to repeat the mistake of the past decades in which power succession at the level of governor is inexorably skewed in favour of one tribe, the Tiv, to the perpetual exclusion of the others, the Idoma and Igede.
It is common knowledge that since the creation of Benue State in 1976, the governorship seat has been rotating between two zones, Benue North-East and Benue North-Central, christened Zones A and B, to the exclusion of the Benue South Senatorial zone also known as Zone C. Zones A and B are Tiv speaking while Zone C is home to Idoma and Igede. Of the 23 local government areas in Benue, the two Tiv zones have 7 apiece while Zone C has 9 council areas.
This statistic put the Tiv in absolute monopoly of power over the Southern Senatorial Zone which they have continued to use in an insensitive display of political exclusion that clearly betrays an agenda to put the latter in perpetual subjugation and servitude.
In line with this operative protocol, all the people that have ruled Benue State under democratic dispensations in the last four decades were politicians from these two Tiv zones.
There must be a remedy to this very pathetic political condition of Zone C and the right time to do that is now that there is another opportunity to shift power from one zone to another, not just because it is the civilized, just and equitable thing to do, but because it has the prospect of heightening political tension in the land if left unchecked.
It was this pitiful condition of the Idoma and Igede that informed the setting up of BRM. Established on June 16, 2019, the Benue Rebirth Movement is led by two indefatigable sons of the Southern Senatorial Zone, Air Vice Marshal Monday Morgan (rtd) and Dr. Isaac Egboja as National Coordinator and Deputy National Coordinator respectively.
The movement is apolitical and does not have any allegiance to any political party or organization. Its aim is to strategize and articulate the position of the people of Zone C ahead of the 2023 general election with particular reference to the governorship polls.
Since the birth of the movement, its leadership have been criss crossing the length and breadth of the state interfacing and consulting with critical stakeholders from Zones A and B as it seeks the possibility of the emergence of a Benue State gov ernor of Zone C extraction.
As it moves from zone to zone, its approach is to appeal to the conscience of her hosts from both zones to give zone C the opportunity to produce the governor of Benue State in 2023, notwithstanding the latter’s numerical disadvantage.
The task is being pursued with decency, without being frontal or confrontational and in an atmosphere free from rancour and bitterness.
The plan is to make the case of the zone constructively, vigorously and consistently in a diplomatic, persuasive and peaceful manner that is capable of convincing the two zones to embrace the idea of a governor of Zone C extraction.
To show their single-minded devotion to the task, the leadership of the movement has paid separate visits to leading politicians from Zones A and B like Wanteregh Paul Unongo, Senator Gabriel Suswam, Senator George Akume, Senator Barnabas Gemade, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu and a host of others.
They have also paid similar visits to political gladiators from Zone C like the immediate past senate president, Senator David Mark; Senator Ameh Ebute, former Senate President; Chief Oga Okwoche, Chief Audu Ogbe, immediate past Minister of Agriculture; Senator Abba Moro, immediate past Minister of Internal Affairs; Chief Steven Lawani, former Deputy Governor of Benue State and many others. The aim of the visits to the zone’s politicians is to apprise them of their efforts with the Tiv brethren and sue for their cooperation in this onerous task.
One point that resonated during the stakeholders’ meeting and from the 12 point communique rolled out at the end of the event was the declaration that the people of Zone C should refrain from playing the second fiddle by not accepting any position less than the governor of the state in the next political dispensation.
As a follow up to that resolution which became known as the Otukpo declaration, speaker after speaker stressed the need for the people of the zone to work with one voice, under an atmosphere of unity and brotherhood and shun what the communique referred to as PHD, meaning pull him down syndrome.
Another resolution asked stakeholders of BRM to make conscious and sustained efforts to sensitize and reorient the people of the zone who do not have permanent voters’ cards (PVCs) to register massively and encourage those who have come of age to do so as well.
Yet another resolution advised BRM to co-opt the youth of the area into the struggle, not only because they are an important segment of the zone, but because they are critical partners in the actualization of the movement’s mandate.
A notable resolution states that pressure should be brought to bear on all political parties in the state by critical stakeholders of Benue Rebirth Movement to cede their governorship slots to Zone C.
Ohemu, a journalist, writes from Makurdi via email@example.com.