By David Habba
Before I delve, permit me to clarify a few things because I know our people and their issues with preconceived notions. First, tribalism is of little or no value to me. That is, I will never judge a person solely on the basis of what tribe he or she is from or the language they speaks. Secondly, I am as disappointed just as any well meaning, right thinking person should be with the division we witness in our society today on the basis of tribe or religion. This is a shame, a big one at that. Nobody chooses which tribe to belong to. All of the things we have allowed to so overwhelm us are things we have no control over. It all happened by God’s design according to Acts 17: 26 ‘‘..and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation’’
If you don’t believe in the existence of God then you would say, we find ourselves in a particular tribe by chance. So, you too definitely agree this is not by anything we could have done by ourselves.
I am writing this out of genuine concern and with the hope that this will be one of the many vaccines needed to cure the deadly virus called tribalism, not just in Benue, but Nigeria at large. I hope I have not just wasted my over 250 valuable words in clarifying, I hope I have made myself clear on that.
Having said that let me tackle the issue at hand. With the 2015 elections by the corner, the entire atmosphere is agog with people who are trying to find their way into elective positions. Each justifying why it is our ‘turn.’ The vigor and strategy many people are employing to win elections are some good and some bad yet quite commendable. It tells you people are still thinking. However, one sad strategy being employed is the tribal or sectional tactic. Even though almost every aspirant as I see today is guilty of this in one way or the other, I want to focus on the Idoma clamor for a shot at the governorship of the state. The argument is that since the creation of the state some 36 years ago, no Idoma man has occupied that position. I must say that I consider every argument for political leadership in Nigeria as currently composed based on tribe or section as weak and hold little value to me. Plus, I really don’t know what benefits are outlined and how these come to a tribe or a section of the state for producing the governor; maybe you who are reading can help tell me.
Back to the cry of my Idoma brother’s and sister’s for governor in 2015. I have two advices, yea three.
Forget the governorship in 2015
Yes, forget it and don’t think about it
Again I say forget the governorship in 2015.
The reason for this is quite simple. Nobody gives power to his real or perceived enemy else he will use that power against him. That is the plain truth. Whether we like it or not, many Tiv people perceive the Idoma’s as enemies and vice versa. If you doubt me, go to Benue Family on facebook. Go to the state civil service secretariat, engage in discussions, on the streets, in churches everywhere and you will see that with much shame, this is true. What is Akpoto, what is omofu? Personally, I have been a victim of ‘Tiv hate’. I have been in a vehicle and listened to an individual from one of the tribes give a lecture to another about the other tribe. Yet, we are not different.
The other day I read comments attributed to the President of Idoma National Forum, Dr Okopi saying the Idoma Nation will boycott the election should they not be allowed to produce the next governor and I simply laughed. How can someone so educated be so shallow in thoughts and words? Does this even go hand in hand with the tenets of democracy? Where in the World are people ALLOWED to win an election? Boycott to whose advantage or disadvantage? Elections are about campaigns, he who has the stronger persuasive power and get majority votes wins the election. So then, why do we want it to be different? Simple, how can you ask your neighbor whom you fighting for salt? You will eat food without salt for sure.
Let me be clear, as long as we continue the Tiv – Idoma fight in our little spaces of influence, when we teach our children that Idoma people are bad, Tiv people are wicked, that Idoma people are smarter than Tiv people, as long as positions of power becomes positions to better our own tribe and fight the other, No Idoma man will ever become governor of Benue State. Infact, the chances of another ‘ethnic minority’- (I hate this term) such as the Igede, Etulo etc are very much better at producing a governor than the Idoma. The reason is simple, as long as the Tiv people are a numerical majority and perceive the Idoma as enemies, it will be a tough one. Because the historical Tiv saying ‘ya na wan gbian’ that many people quote to justify sectionalism of our politics is indeed true, it means eat and give your brother, not your enemy. But you see, nothing is impossible with God.
Classic example, I repeat example. Lately, I have watched with awe, the way Federal appointments for Benue are shared, the Idoma people always having the biggest, I mean the very biggest slice and even though this is as disturbing, what is more disturbing is the discussions that follow list after list. A typical Idoma man would say,
‘Abi you Tiv people have the state, it is God who is compensating us at the National.’ A Tiv person would say ‘Oya na, keep being compensated at the national, you will never rule Benue’ or turn the backlash on his own kinsmen.‘It is our Tiv elites that refuse to help us, see what David Mark and Abba Morro are doing for their Idoma people’ and in the last instance I wonder, help you against who? So it is not about fairness, it is about the slice of the pie, who gets the biggest chunk. Either way, we are so wrong. This is a fight, a wrong fight we would all lose.
So who is that Idoma person who can defy the odds and become governor? This person must be sincerely devoid of tribal sentiments or at least pretend to be. He must be fair to all and must not be seen to be a soldier in the Tiv – Idoma fight. This is not lying down to be oppressed by the Tiv people; this is about getting what you want, the right way
Forget indeed the title of this piece, maybe I just want to get you attention and say something very fundamental. If we don’t end this, sooner or later we would carry arms against ourselves. Break the bone of tribalism, kick it far and let us live in peace and harmony, as brothers then can ‘ya na wan gbian come to play.
A core Nigerian youth activist & swarm blogger. Email: email@example.com.