By Apochi Edowobielang Gabriel
I have watched with keen interest the heated discussion that has dominated the social and traditional media platforms for the past three weeks. When one is thinking that this is going to subside and give way to other issues, it gathers a fresh momentum and surges with a force capable of propelling a jet.
The decision of the appeal court that nullified the election of the immediate past President of the senate has given vent to pent-up thought among his constituents. This discussion has lingered too long on the media scene and there seems to be no end in sight until the whole process is consummated in another election called re-run.
I have been resisting the temptation of participating in this discourse but it has come to a point where no other option is left than to participate since I also am affected by the subject matter. I am a Nigerian from Benue state, a politician of the APC extraction and most importantly an Idoma man belonging to the senatorial district in question. I defected to the APC after the House of Assembly Primaries in Okpokwu Local Govt. Area because I felt there was no level playing field for the aspirants in that election. What that means is that at any point in time I can defect to another Party of my choice for as long as I am considered to be of electoral value but I can never defect from Idoma to any other tribe. I am going to be looking at this matter with an Idoma eye.
There are accusations and counter accusations, allegations and denials, vilification, abuse and innuendoes. Cheap and sophisticated sentiments are being whipped up. Imaginary lines have been drawn between AOLALA and AAGBEHI. There is a polarisation between the ENOCHI (east) and ENONE (west). Then the sophisticated sentiment of Tiv men wanting to render the Idoma nation impotent for their own reasons, and more specifically, Akume fighting back to have a breathing space in the senate.
The campaign that has hitherto permeated the atmosphere is a deluge of lies and a campaign of calumny. Most of the issues hitherto raised on this platform are subterfuges.
Neither Mark nor Onjeh has raised any issue of common interest to their constituents. Mark should tell us what he has done in the past sixteen years and what he wants to do in the next three and half years in the senate for the Idoma nation. Let him give us a promissory note by which we can judge his performance if he is eventually elected.
Onjeh on the other part should give us his manifesto, clearly itemising what he intends to achieve within the given time. The two of them should come out with these documents so we can juxtapose them and make our choice of whom to elect as our representative.
My pain at present is the period between now and the re-run. That the senate of my own country will be without an Idoma man for three months is not a pleasant development. Three months is enough a time to wreak havoc. This is why we all must go back to our closets and check carefully who our representative should be at the senate.
Any other district can afford to send anybody anyhow to the senate but the Idomas cannot, considering the fact that we only have one representative in that chamber. Since we are lacking in number we must make up in substance. The Hausas have well over twenty-five senators while the Igbos have over fifteen and the Yorubas have over fifteen too. Such tribeS can afford to send anybody anyhow to the senate but not those of us who have just one senator representing us. Idoma sons and daughters think well before you talk.
Now we have been presented with a closed-end choice between Mark and Onjeh. This has compounded our problem and there is nothing we can do about it right now. This is a twin evil -The devil’s alternative. We are between a Scylla of Mark and a Charybdis of Onjeh. Where do we go from here?
The snake has crawled into the pot. We must be careful not to break the pot and we must be determined to kill the snake lest it escapes. While some are suggesting that Onjeh steps down for General Onoja or Okibe, I think in my opinion that neither of them is a better replacement for Mark and none of them has been able to do that which Onjeh has done. Most importantly the constitution has confined us to the two of them (Mark and Onjeh) so let’s make our choice between the two.
Onjeh is a greenhorn with a lot of potentials and guts. He is A young man I am proud of. If nothing else, the mere fact that he fought David Mark to a standstill, showing that Mark also is a human being and cannot always have his way shows the stuff he is made off. The tenacity with which he pursued his case with little or no resources is commendable. Another thing going for him is that he is a youth and we are all clamouring for a paradigm change in leadership. Onjeh also is the flag bearer of the ruling APC which is a great advantage for him. Though he is reputed to have participated in student unionism there is a whole world of difference between unionism and state governance.
Mark, on the other hand, is a veteran with broad experience and an inestimable network of connections. He served meritoriously in the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Senate. Though we are aggrieved with him we cannot deny this fact. Though a lone senator he was able to wangle his way to the presidency of the senate. This is not a small feat. In the past nine years, Idoma sons and daughters are frequent occupants of a slot in the federal executive council. This was not so before. We were not marginalised in the share of federal appointment to the state because Mark was there. Recruitment into the military and paramilitary favoured our zone in the state more than before because Mark was there. Though one would quickly retort that those things were given to his family members and cronies, I would like them to know that the members of his family and those cronies of his are Idoma sons and daughters, too.
I voted for change! I stood against my elders to make sure there was a change from PDP to APC but the first dividend of that change is that a Tiv man was appointed as the Secretary to the State Government. While we try to recover from this, four names were sent to the state house of assembly for confirmation to constitute the Local Government service Commission. Among these four names, there was not one Idoma name. Thank God for Joseph Ojobo, the member representing Ogbadibo Constituency (PDP) and the right thinking Tiv Persons in the house who opposed to this move.
The University of Health Sciences which David Mark will never attend again but a Hausa man, an Igbo man or a Tiv man can attend was revoked through the help of Akume just because it is situated in Idoma land. Idoma children think well. Benue ALGON has the chairman, the secretary and the treasurer from the Tiv Speaking area of the state. Where are we headed?
Am I saying Mark is a saint? No! Mark has offended, relegated and neglected everybody in Idoma land and has done everything for his selfish reasons. He became too powerful that he had no respect for the Och’Idoma stool, all the other Generals in the land were seen as women by him and he was exercising proprietary role over elective positions. Honestly, Mark has done wrong in many ways but you don’t cut away your leg because your baby defecated on it. He himself should know what to do to appease the people.
Some aver that Akume is the avowed enemy of Mark and the force behind Onjeh bent on removing Mark from the senate. I beg to disagree with this proposition. Akume and Mark are more cordial in a relationship than they have with their constituents. They are only fighting for their selfish interest. The Tiv nation must not be judged by how Akume is treating or has treated the Idoma nation and in the same vein the Idoma nation should not be punished for the sins of Mark.
There are Idoma sons and daughters who owe whatever they are today to a Tiv friend and vice versa. We should avoid this generalisation that Tiv men don’t like Idoma men. In the just concluded governorship election in the state, it was Tiv people who gave their votes to Chief Lawani in the primaries, Idoma sons and daughters who claim to be lovers of Idoma voted for Tarzoor courtesy of our leaders. I don’t believe that Akume is the one pushing Governor Ortom as suggested by some school of thought. The Governor is responsible for his actions or inactions. It is a bleak outfit for a state to be hinging its electoral decision on mere sentiments in the twenty-first century. Why can’t we make our campaigns issue based instead of bringing in a headless man in the name of sentiment?
Let us avoid this divisive and destructive politics and engage in something constructive. The sun, the moon and the stars would have long disappeared have they being within the reach of the predatory human.
Neither Onjeh nor Mark should come whipping sentiment; they should come with solid plans and convince us on how they will communicate their plans through. Though Onjeh is a greenhorn, who knows, God may bring our deliverance through him, so let us not neglect him. But we must be careful not to destroy our political colossus. “Though the vulture is not a predator its size intimidates the chicken” is an adage in Idoma land.
Mark may not have performed to the expectation of many of us but history has it that among all the people that have been to the senate from Idoma land (in fact Benue state) Mark outperformed them all. Thank God that most of them apart from Adejo Ogiri are still living and we can call them to a round table to ask them. I may not like Abba Moro because of his high-handedness in local politics but there is no denying the fact that he outperformed all other ministers of origin especially in the area of employment. Let us be careful that we do not throw away our baby with the bath water. Thank God that I am up to eighteen and I have a voters card.
Source : IPN News