Six Local Government Chairmen who have been on suspension for alleged financial improprieties have got another three more months to be away from office in Benue State. The State House of Assembly sealed their fate by extending the suspension, meaning that they can hardly ever smell the office again since the new government taking over in May is the same government wielding the suspension stick. The Local Government Council chairmen are those of Gboko, Makurdi, Kwande, Agatu, Oju and Okpokwu.
The public perception about their suspension is broadly that of ‘punishment’ for those who didn’t go along with Governor Samuel Ortom from the APC to the PDP. In court, however, it is a different story as they have to show they didn’t steal the various sums of money they are alleged to have stolen, misappropriated or misapplied.
Getting the suspension renewed, Intervention learnt, was the easiest thing for the Governor Ortom regime since Honorable Titus Uba, the incumbent Speaker, would need the support of the governor to fulfill his ambition of retaining the seat when the House is constituted after May 29th, 2019. In the face of a challenger, Dominic Ucha, for the same position, it was a done deal, critics say.
The implication is that the politics of the suspension has dovetailed to the larger politics of who rules. Since both Uba and Ucha are from Vandeikya Local Government Council in Tivland, the victory of any of them means the complete control of both the Executive and Legislative arms of the Benue State Government by persons of Tiv nationality. That has been the tradition ever since even as it raises questions about the criteria of fairness and inclusiveness in a multicultural and diffuse world.
It is not very clear why otherwise very democratically civilized actors within and outside the state have felt comfortable with this arrangement but some people say internal contradictions within Idomaland account for the situation more than Tiv exclusionary politics. The argument here is that some Idoma stars are so fearful of any other stars that they manipulated the leadership recruitment process against the emergence of an Idoma governor. Contrary opinion is that even if it were so, someone, somewhere in Tivland should have felt embarrassed by one ethnic group’s complete control of Executive, Legislative and Judicial powers for the length of time this has been going on in the state and forced a concession to Idomaland for whatever it is worth.
Although Governor Ortom is reckoned with for appointing an Idoma Chief Judge of the state for the first time ever, his critics argue it was a calculated gesture foregrounded by the fact that Justice Ada Onum who was so honoured had just a year or so to leave service by the time of his appointment.
There is a claim that a George Akume-Iyorchia Ayu plan existed for transfer of power to an Idoma governor in 2007 but that Dr Gabriel Suswam proved too smart for this arrangement to work. But Gabriel Suswam finished two terms at a time George Akume was still powerful enough to make and unmake and it didn’t happen. Instead of anything of that nature, the Tiv nationality is believed to be creating and nurturing the Igede nationality into a rebellion within Idomaland notwithstanding that Abraham Ajene Ukpabi, the longest reigning Och’Idoma so far is of Igede identity, followed by his son as a two-term Deputy Governorship of the state. Even Dr. Gabriel Suswam is not exonerated from this trend in spite of the strong speculation that he had anointed an Idoma material with a Tiv mother who would take care of Tiv fears of an Idoma governorship. That fizzled out as soon as it started although in fairness to Suswam, the power behind the choice of Benue governorship material for the PDP in 2015 was from outside the state. It was partly why the PDP lost disastrously in the state in 2015.
Some people detect an Idoma resistance in her massive voting for Honourable Emmanuel Jime of the APC in the 2019 contest on the ground that, with a wife of Idoma origin, they would reduce their perceived exclusion from power. For now, Jime has not won but the power tussle has shifted from the electoral to the judicial. Meanwhile, power appears so distant for the Idoma that no one asks if the group has its own variant of a Mandela with capacity for quality governance and reconciliation leadership that would then eliminate rancor in the event of transfer of power to the Idoma after so many years of exclusion.
There was some attempt under the Obasanjo administration to find a way out of this situation peculiar to about six or so states in Nigeria where the more minority ethnic group(s) are blocked by a bigger minority from tasting gubernatorial power. The formula said to have been worked out fizzled out in the wake of the Obasanjo-Atiku tussle for power which shook the nation. No other presidents or political parties appear to have given a thought to the matter subsequently as elections as power for power sake has now taken over everything in Nigeria.