It has come to pass that ex-UI’s Professor Bayo Adekanye said it all when he wrote a book on the transformation of the military into an elite of power. As an elite of power, they are everywhere, from business to diplomacy to culture and, of course, politics.
Nowhere else is this likely to be the case than Idomaland. Under military rule, the image of the Idoma nationality as a dominant minority rested in over half a dozen military governors at a particular time being of Idoma identity. At the turn of democracy, a retired military officer – David Mark – collected and consolidated the Idoma share, taking hold of the highest political office in Idomaland for 20 years.
Now, the Idoma elite is openly unhappy with its exclusion from the governorship of Benue State over 40 years after the creation of the state and are putting up a struggle to interrupt the hegemony of their Tiv brothers. Guess what? It is Monday Morgan, a retired military officer that is in the saddle of the process.
By the testimony of the late Adoka Adaji to whom we must give credit for the current phase of Idoma uprising (although the late Hyacinth Edeh should also be on that credit list), Monday Morgan was the fellow who bought him the quality handset that facilitated Adaji’s restless networking for this cause which has grown to what it is today. Monday Morgan is, therefore, not an emergency leader but an original Idoma nationalist. Still, his emergence as the leader of the process raises question about how a military officer and not the traditional politicians – Ameh Ebutes, John Ochogas, John Enyis, amongst many others – who is leading the struggle for the re-negotiation of power in Benue State.
The message of the Idoma share of the military penetration of Nigeria is that we probably haven’t understood the military yet. We shouted for them to get away from politics. They gave way but only to retake politics from behind. Out of four presidents in the aftermath of military disengagement in 1999, two have been from the stock of retired Generals and there is no knowing if the next one won’t be one of them.
By their training and orientation, soldiers function best by inventing traitors, enemies, saboteurs, disloyal elements even where there are none. Hence, traditional politicians were fond of saying that although soldiers are our brothers, sisters, friends and age mates, they should nevertheless live far away in the barracks. That seems now to be old wisdom. They are now living right in Government Houses, the ambassador’s residence, the boardrooms of the most prestigious companies and so on.
This is the tradition Navy Commander Emmanuel Ajenu is adding a new dimension by building a church for his Okpoga community in Okpokwu Local Government Area of Benue State. It is a new dimension because the domain of religion is the domain of the people’s minds in a soulless world. And whoever provides a solid place of worship as he has done is sure to live in the people’s mind, much, much better than complicated politicians building bridges over non-existent rivers.
Not the type likely to go into politics, he is still bound to remain a statement in community affairs beyond whatever he might have been bargaining for. It is not any of our faults that we are all religionists now, so to say. In their struggle to overthrow the Church and the monarchy in Europe, the radical philosophers of the Enlightenment tried to eliminate God from the affairs of men. They harped on reason, truth, progress, all hinged on science. They succeeded, beheading some of the monarchs and taking over power. But, what followed? Imperialism, colonialism, wars, Hitlerism, dehumanization, misery and division! Even Socialism could not escape the dangers of instrumental reasoning and the tight ‘bureaucratic turn’ that stole the thunder from the emancipatory agenda of the Socialist outlook.
The result is the current return to values and norms for the answers to the questions that bother the typical individual: who am I? Why am I here on earth? Where am I going from here? And what would qualify me for such places? These questions have become more complicated in semi-industrial societies such as Nigeria where the elite is lost in a crisis of mission and are using the same colonial tactics against their own people, sometimes worse than what the colonialists used.
In this sort of situation and particularly in the most rural and most marginalized parts of Nigeria such as Idomaland, religion is about what holds anything together. There are practically nothing like local governments with any level of services to the community. The state government is too far. Abuja is a mystery. The local police station is not for the poor. There are no hospitals as such just as there are no roads. Except the Catholic or faith based schools, the public ones are so poorly maintained. Teachers are not paid. Markets thrive but what are the opportunities beyond garri, a low grade cassava stuff?
Left alone and on their own, the people have only God to fall back on. And they have done this very creatively by reading their suffering and the soullessness of their world in religious terms. That leaves religion playing such a strategic role down there.
It makes a provider of a solid church building a good man in any and every sense of the word. Such a building becomes a social facility with multiple utility – a meeting centre, a training centre because the church does a lot of qualitative training and a training ground for team work. An active LGC can partner with the Church to add value to such a building.
Those who may not understand the ecstatic dancing that greeted the commissioning of the church building had better do. It is about the wisdom that human beings do not live by bread alone but also by spiritual nourishing just as it also about the material and the cultural. Given the spate of rural violence in the local government area since 2016, a church building is perhaps what is most needed.
Is it possible that the military intervention in Idomaland is now taking a new and much, more qualitative turn at last? For, who knows what the next military intervention might be? What if the next retired military officer comes up with the most modern hospital somewhere in Idomaland or even a university exclusively for the best and the brightest! Did I hear someone shout elitism? But we cannot do without that in order to move from where we are to where we should be. Even if there is a revolution today, elite would be needed to push it through.