By Ariyo-Dare Atoye
The great people of Benue State have a special place in my heart and I greatly admire their academic industry. I know that one day, the potential God has given to them to feed the entire West Africa through value-added mechanized farming that will turn their farmers into mega billionaires will be realized. Benue State is more than just the food basket of Nigeria; it is also the food security of our dear nation. I salute the State’s agricultural prowess.
I resisted the temptation of titling this piece “Before it is too late” even-though it suits the context of my point. The phrase has been overused. With due respect, this is also neither a warning, as I do not possess the capacity to contemplate such. However, as one who considers himself a good friend of the Idoma nation, I have an appeal and admonition to make on the forthcoming coming Senatorial rerun election in Benue South.
The temptation to be deceived into committing apostasy in the name of change is rife. We are in a desperate time which calls for deep thinking about our tomorrow. We need to pause a bit and profoundly reflect on this election far beyond party politics. This is because, in the end, all the outsiders who have shown more than a passing interest in Benue South in the name of politics will leave the Idoma nation to its ordeals. Certainly we are in a very difficult time which demands great wisdom. I sincerely beg and urge the Idoma not to be carried away by sensational politics of emotions. They should not be cajoled to trade their future for uncertainties. There is honour and pride in identity.
I am making this intervention as a concerned Nigerian whose love for Benue is genuine. I am concerned about the Idoma nation because it has been oppressed and denied in a State where everyone ought to be equal. It is nearly impossible for an Idoma person to be elected Governor or Speaker of the State House of Assembly. It is far worse than it has been portrayed. However, I am dumbstruck that the opportunity God has given the Idomas to attain national prominence is envied with much passion. This is the hidden truth.
This is not the period for Idoma to gamble politically. Other ethnic groups in similar situation are waiting to see whether the Idomas will fall for this bait to lower its estimation and reputation amongst the comity of ethnic nationalities. Sometimes, unappreciative human beings don’t know the value of what they have until they lose it. Let us not play the game of ‘Had I known.’ This will not be the lot of Idoma people. The people therefore have a responsibility to defend and sustain the identity of Idoma nation. It is their duty to do so.
They should not let anyone browbeat them with change. We are in a period where you have to present your best and push forward men with national appeal. The government of President Muhammadu Buhari is not for the boys. We are obviously in a game of strong men (call them old men). I am talking about men with national clout and appeal; men who can sit on the same roundtable and look one another in the eyes while debating development issues. The Idoma people should sincerely reflect on this.
I certainly don’t know how the Idoma people feel, but it is the reality of time and you are free to fault me with concrete facts. It is a big fallacy to assume there is change in Nigeria as was seen in America when President Barack Obama came on board. Unlike when we had a minority as the President, it is now the game of three major ethnic groups – Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Ibo, and they are led by strong men. Who are Idoma nation’s strong men? Unfortunately, some people who are envious of the ethnic nation’s rise to prominence through David Mark as senate president from 2007 to 2015 and the longest serving senator from 1999 till date are now trying to ensure that Mark is replaced. The same people behind the plot will later turn around to mock the Idoma nation.
I am one of the people who openly defended the choice of Chief Audu Ogbeh as a Ministerial nominee because it will be suicidal under this present administration for any ethnic group to be represented by a political nitwit at this material time. It is equal to committing political harakiri. But it is in the Senate that the wisdom to move a democracy forward resides. The red chamber belongs to wise men, even in advanced democracies. Some ethnic groups represented by playboys are regretting it. The Idoma people don’t need a representation that will be struggling to seek recognition. It will be too much of a mistake to make: suppressed at home and struggling away!
The issue of identity is very strong in politics. Our democracy is currently not sophisticated to accommodate political gambling. If people from other nations are rejoicing because the Idoma people want to remove Mark, they are not doing so because they love the ethnic nation. If there must be an alternative, at least, knowing full well that Nigeria is persistently fighting an internal political war, of what sense is it to replace a General with a recruit? It is the choice of the Idoma people to make and may the people be guided by wisdom.
The propaganda that David Mark has not done anything is a wicked lie from the pit of hell. I never bought into it because of our kind of negative politics. I have taken my time to do due diligence on this issue and I have a challenge to make. I will like those spreading this falsehood to mention any politician in the entire North-Central, not just Benue State, who has contributed to the educational development of his or her people like Mark since 1999. Education is the bedrock of knowledge and the most fundamental asset anyone can possess. Any good and responsible leader will always make human capital development his or her number one priority. I salute Senator Mark on this.
If I move a step further, I can still throw another challenge. In the entire Nigeria, after the Presidents, is there any Nigerian, living or dead, who has influenced appointments since 2007 at the national level like David Mark? This is the question all sons and daughters of Idoma must ask those telling them to replace David Mark in the Senate. When it comes to infrastructure, is there any individual in the entire Benue State, aside the governors, who has singlehanded influenced projects for the benefit of his people like David Mark? How many ethnic groups in Nigeria are lucky to have a national figure like David Mark?
There is a seeming conspiracy against the Idoma nation and I want to urge the youths to resist it by protecting the future of this great ethnic nation. I am conversant with Benue local politics. If Idoma people guard what they have jealously, in no time, the Almighty God who rules in the affairs of men will do it – an Idoma son will one day govern Benue State. But the Idoma people must give God a good reason that they will not trade gold with pebble. This is the simple truth and the time to demonstrate that is with the February 20 rerun election by showing political loyalty and appreciation to Senator David Alechenu Binaventure Mark.
Ariyo-Dare Atoye, a member of Shadow Cabinet of Nigeria (SCN), contributes this piece from Ward 8, Igbara Odo-Ekiti, Ekiti State – email@example.com