By Mathias Agbo Jnr
I wrote this piece about three years ago and posted it sometime last year on a similar forum. I have decided to post it here again…
The only issue that ever united the Idoma nation in recent times is the clamour for the creation of Apa state from the present Benue state. This issue, is infact the cardinal issue, the Idomas throw up at every public discourse whenever such opportunity arose.
still remember vividly the period just before the creation of states by the Government of the late head of state Gen.Sani Abacha, when the call for the creation of Apa state was at its` apogee. Every Idoma son and daughter lent unconditional support to the clamour for the creation of Apa state. They also did everything within their immediate powers to ensure the creation of the state but, God in his infinite wisdom caused Apa state not be created. A favour I believe the Idomas should be eternally grateful to Him for. Before speaking on the issue of Apa state, let us take a very critical look at the Idoma nation in the present day Benue state. The Idomas have consistently complained of being politically marginalized by the major ethnic group in the state (the tivs). We also complain of lack of basic social amenities like good roads, portable water and good primary health care facilities and all other befitting social amenity. I would attempt to address these issues uno por uno.
As a people, we keep complaining of political marginalization, without doing anything tangible to cushion it`s effect. Rather we sit in beer parlours and whine about it, and instead of seeking enduring solutions to these problems, we keep hinging our present woes on the non-creation of APA STATE. I do feel that in our quest for the creation of APA STATE state we must ask ourselves two very important questions;
1) why do we want the creation APA, is it for political or economic empowerment?
If it is the former that we seek, then we might be seeking the wrong thing. The reason for this is that, political empowerment rarely translates to infrastructural development. Especially in a country like ours where government at all levels have continually failed and is still failing the people. I do personally believe that government is a mere creation of a group of people who not only share the same geographical enclave but also share the same history, dreams, aspirations,fears and hopes. Whoever conceived the idea of this human contraption called government, must have done so to improve the lives of all the people living in that particular community. Just the way we see it work in other communities where the leaders have absolute respect for the people they govern. In a country like ours, if APA STATE is created we would only wake up one morning to find that the marginalisationwe complained about in todays` Benue State has only being brought closer home. We would then be talking of Otukpo people marginalising Edumoga or Igumale people and vice versa. And there would be renewed agitation for the creation of OKPOKWU or whateever STATE. In our quest for a state let us not forget in a hurry how our elected leaders have often treated (or is it maltreat?) us.
Lets not use our voices to create jobs for people who after they get into office would become suddenly irritated when we speak.
As a people, what we need is to collectively seek economic empowerment, because that is the magic wand to political relevance. A glaring example is the case of Japan, whom was crippled politically in the aftermath of the nuclear affront on her during the second world war,but has risen above that to become a world power today. Almost everyone in the world today owns a MADE IN JAPAN item. Be it a laptop, a phone an Automobile or other household Electronic appliances. That is because they nurtured their economy to become one of largest in the world by looking inwards. Every nation of the world today, uses Japanese goods(even the U.S),hence no nation can afford to ignore her. Now she has political power tossed at her lap because her economy has made her politically relevant.
The average tiv man is always in solidarity with anything tiv. The tivs might have their personal problems back home but, they always try to stay close-knitted whenever they go outside. It is rare for a tiv man to give out his kinsman in public no matter how dirty their backyard fight might have being. That is why they have being able to achieve so much, politically. The average Idoma man sees his brother as a threat to his ambitions and whatever he stands for. Walk into the office of an Idoma man, greet him in Idoma language and see if he wouldn’t reply you in English. That attitude alone, tells you he wouldn’t be of help to you irrespective of your mission to his office. It is very sad to note, that my ability to speak the tiv language,(though not fluently),has proved helpful in similar situations. The Idomas have held sway at the highest level of governance in this country, but what did those stints translate to, for the common Idoma man? while in office, they were indifferent to the Idoma cause, but would come scampering back for home support when their position is threatened.
Why should we complain of marginalizationwhen our local Government Areas which should have served as centres of developments have nothing to show ,in spite of huge monthly allocations. Whenever they choose to embark on any project, it would have traces of politics would smeared all over it. Sometimes back, I think it was during Obasanjo`s first tenure (i.e if my memory hasn`t failed me) a certain local Government chairman superciliously included the purchase of a photocopier, a set of computer and two 18-seater buses, as part of his achievements in office. The pictures of this achievements were published in the local governments Almanac. This is very laughable. How does a photocopier, a set of computer and two 18-seater buses translates to portable water, good roads, well equipped hospitals or even affordable fertilizers for farmers? If we cannot manage the present local government areas properly, then how do we intend to manage an entire state? (Presently no LGA in Zone C, receives less than forty million naira monthly).
The Idoma elite have carried on as if all is well. Instead of using their wealth and political clout for the good of the land, they would rather deploy it to fuel inter-personal fights. Unemployed youths are used as thugs for paltry sums of money. Right now in Otukpo and its` environs a career is being made out of thuggery.
In the entire Idomaland there is no private company that gainfully employs up to fifty people. Even though, it is glaring that there are individuals in Idomaland, who have the means to set up profit yielding firms of such magnitude which could provide Jobs for the teeming idle youths. They would rather have people come to their houses cap in hand, to collect “hand-outs”, or prefer to ‘declare’ surplus beer and pepper soup in bars in exchange for an all night praise singing in their honour. No one is asking for money or any unusual favour, but I feel they should use their wealth to setup businesses that would employ Idoma youths and at the same time still bring back ROI (Return on Investments) to their purses.
The various Idoma socio-political/cultural groups have not fared any better. The Idoma National Forum should know that the Idoma problem is more than rhetoric’s and semantics.It is more of an all-out struggle. The forum had made so many brilliant moves in the past and deserves alot of commendation for the job done so far, but with their collective level of enlightenment (it is an organisation that boasts of the most educated cream of Idomaland), one would have expected a more resourceful agenda. As the academic barn of the Idoma nation, they should be in the vanguard for the enlightenment of naive politicians on the importance of good governance and should mount a non-malicious but intense intellectual opposition against those who fail to meet the needs of their people and possibly mobilize the people against them.