Less than a week ago, Intervention raised the centrality of elite reunion as a key condition for confronting the degree of underdevelopment in the Benue State. The platform thought and still thinks that Senator George Akume, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation who is from the state should take up that challenge because, Benue State is, like in violence deformed states such as Plateau, Kaduna, Taraba and Zamfara, in need of an unusual scale of infusion of development well beyond the capacity of a typical state government in Nigeria except the wealthier states of Lagos, Kano and Rivers. Such level of underdevelopment can only be responded to more successfully if it is politicised and taken up beyond the tame concept of development that define state governments’ approach across Nigeria.
This week, the United Nations, UN, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mathias Shemale has declared the humanitarian crisis in Benue State to be worse than the situation in Bornu State which has contended with Boko Haram for more than a decade.
And the Resident is asking the Benue State Government to outline it’s development agenda for the United Nations to intervene, bringing up the point about the conflict intervention pedigree of the organisation and thus its capacity to trace the root causes of the herder/farmer clashes and bring about lasting solutions to the crisis. In other words, the UN is making the State Government’s priorities its point of departure, emphatically declaring that “The conditions in the IDPs camp is worse than in Borno”.
It is doubtful if anyone will be surprised about the coincidence between Intervention’s call and the UN’s take. The state has not known peace in the past decade. As at today, the state alone has, according to the governor, 34,000 households or an equivalent of over two million IDPs residing in camps and host communities across the state. It is part of the nightmare across Africa that nothing in Nigeria’s power can shield commoners from this kind of plight.
Benue State is not poor but it is suffering from elite fragmentation and therefore the need for the kind of purposeful, all-inclusive mobilisation of resources to take a systematic shot at the state governor’s list of the most malignant manifestations of the raw deal: youth unemployment, hunger and child malnutrition. Governor Alia also added healthcare delivery and training of medical personnel’s in the state, provision of modern agriculture inputs and machineries to enable Benue return to the map as the food basket of the nation as well as the empowerment of women in the state with relevant skills that would enable them become self-reliant. He added herders/farmers clashes as well as internal crisis and dilapidated healthcare facilities.
That is a comprehensive list with only maternal mortality missing but which requires something beyond the orthodox and chaotic sense of development that are popular around the country. Resource mobilisation is always a political issue and, as someone joked to the late President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, it is not easy to build socialism on a cassava economy. We are not talking of socialism in Benue but the statement can easily be tweaked to say, you cannot eliminate poverty in a cassava economy if you don’t have political insight. Cassava here is used in the sense of an economy which no one adds any manufacturing value to raw agricultural products.